By Nick Krewen
In Godzilla , size doesn't matter.
A good script does, and unfortunately the one for Godzilla lacks three vital components -- heart, intelligence and common sense. Considering that the creators who wrote, directed and produced the return of the big, honkin' Japanese lizard are Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin, the duo behind the smart and entertaining sci-fi flicks Independence Day and StarGate , it's a bigger tragedy than the film's razing of Manhattan.
Character development is non-existent, the dialogue laughably convenient, the performances stilted and the humor so contrived that midway through the two-hour 18-minute flick one yearns for antacid and the Japanese B-movies that spawned the series in the first place.
At least that Godzilla knew how to have fun, even if he was a bully. The 1998 computer animated version -- designed by Patrick Tatapolous and seemingly plucked from Jurassic Park -- is all business. He's also asexual and born pregnant. No wonder he's pissed.
Matthew Broderick plays Nick Tatapolous (you read that correctly), a biologist working for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission who seems as naive as he is intellectually deprived. Plucked from his radioactive earthworm experiments in Chernobyl by stern U.S. army commander Colonel Hicks (Kevin Dunn) when the creature is first discovered in the South Pacific, Tatapolous is the brain that links the mutant reptile by association with nuclear tests previously conducted by the French government, and later advances the theory that the beast may be heading to the Big Apple to catch a little dinner, a show and some new digs.
Broderick's Tatapolous seems indirectly influenced by master Cinderfella thespian Jerry Lewis, best observed when Tatapolous walks innocently into one of Godzilla's three-toed imprints.
"Hey! That was a footprint back there!" Lewis...ahem, Tatapolous reports to Hicks, barely restraining himself from comic stuttering and babbling.
Soon after landing in New York during a torrential downpour that lasts through the remainder of the picture, Godzilla takes the town and disappears into the subway system as the city is quickly and cleanly evacuated.
Hick, Tatapolous and their crew, tailed by sober French secret service agent Philippe Roache (a grizzled Jean Reno), soon follow and set up base camp in nearby New Jersey.
Tatapolous eventually runs into the ex-girlfriend (Maria Pitillo) that abandoned him eight years earlier. He should count his blessings.
Audrey Timmonds, an ambitious assistant researcher for arrogant reporter Charles Caiman (a purposeless Harry Shearer) is a dolt, and Pitillo blandly plays her as a whiny, clueless Valley Girl who after three years on the job still hasn't figured out that her boss is a self-serving, sexist slimeball.
Godzilla is so full of Hollywood stereotypes, clichés and caricatures that one wonders whether Emmerich and Devlin were suffering from cerebral hemorrhage. Aside from the horrid script, there are painfully obvious stabs at humor: obnoxious Mayor Ebert (Michael Lerner), his bald assistant Gene (Lorry Goldman), and a French agent named Roache. There's the inept hi-tech army that can't shoot straight and takes out more of New York than the monster himself. There's an incredulous escape scene from Madison Square Garden involving Tatapoulous, Timmonds, Roache and TV camera man Animal ( a credible Hank Azaria) outrunning 200 baby lizards.
But there's no escaping that Godzilla is a monstrous travesty.
Pity the big lizard for starring in a big turkey.
A Sony/Tri-Star Release. Now Playing (Opened May 19.)
THANKS: Beth Rimmels
© 1998, 1999 Nick Krewen
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