Monday, February 25, 2013


I understand that Seth MacFarlane has gotten poor reviews online for his stint as Oscar host last night. I’m no particular MacFarlane fan, but I thought he did just fine. He made some of the mildly tasteless jokes that were, of course, precisely why he was hired, and he made a solid effort at old-school song-and-dance showmanship. His opening routine, opposite William Shatner, went on a little too long, but I thought it was pretty funny all the same.

I maintain, as I wrote here about last year’s show, that the reason that middle-aged viewers so often react with cranky petulance toward the Oscars isn’t that the show is on the lame side—though it usually is—but that they fail to feel the excitement that the spectacle gave them as kids. Many viewers in my own circle are also show-biz wannabes, wash-outs or bush-leaguers ourselves, so there’s often an unacknowledged streak of career envy behind the Oscar-hatin’. The fault, dear Brutus, is typically not in these overhyped stars, but in our tired-ass selves.

This weekend The Kid and I also caught up with Escape From Planet Earth, a computer-animated flick that wasn’t screened for critics, in Phoenix at least, prior to its release.

It’s the story of a milquetoast, blue-skinned, nose-less alien (voiced by Robb Corddry) from the planet Baab who travels to Earth to rescue his hotshot brother (Brendan Fraser), and winds up imprisoned with him and other wacky aliens at Area 51 in Nevada by an evil General (Shatner again!) who’s running a technology sweatshop there.

The movie is watchable and pleasant but mostly routine. The conflicts are standard for the genre—caution versus recklessness, the desire to seem heroic to your kid—but there are some odd, almost free-standing episodes that struck me as curiously witty and erudite. Then, in the end credits, I noticed an “additional material by” credit, and the first writer listed was Stephen Fry. That probably explains the erudition.

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