The remake of The Day the Earth Stood Around Doing NOTHING opens this weekend. Those hardworking film critics can be counted on to trot out two of their favorite space-fillers: 1. Keanu Reeves lacks expression (They will be sure to quote him saying “Whoa!”), and 2. How DARE Hollywood desecrate a classic movie by attempting a remake?
Well, Keanu Reeves is chugging along just fine without paying any attention to professional movie watchers — not even the movie watchers with college degrees in movie watching. And so far as “classic” movies are concerned, let’s be honest: the 1951 Day the Earth, etc. was cornball hokey hokum garbagio junk rubbish trash fit for no one but dim children and the nostalgic dim adults they grew up to be.
Come, let us revisit my appreciation of the original “classic” that graced this web log in April, 2008:
SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!
The story takes place in a time long ago when men on radio-television wore hats while broadcasting.
What happens is, after the unexpected failure of Wendell Wilkie to make One World out of the the warring factions of Earth, the Federation of Planets sends Klaatu (played by Adlai Stevenson) to sort things out. Even though he wears a glittery jumpsuit and speaks in a cultured Space-ish accent, no one on Earth listens to him beyond the demands of politeness.
Alas! His message of peace is not heeded. Earth’s cigar-chompin’ generals, who like nothing more than what Klaatu terms their “petty squabbles,” continue to squabble pettily. Klaatu is ignored. Worse, he is actively opposed by, of all people, Aunt Bea!
He makes friends with an eerie child (played by Brian Wilson) who steals Klaatu’s space diamonds and inexplicably hides a train set underneath his bed.
This gives Klaatu the idea to visit nearby Princeton. There he gets his peaceful message through to the genius Albert Einstein who plays himself in his only major film role.
But it’s too late. Earth won’t listen. No, not even to SCIENTISTS! Klaatu is shot by American Army Men because… well, that’s what American Army Men do. Klaatu dies in the arms of Patricia Neal. Fortunately he is resuscitated by Gort the Vinyl Robot. Gort becomes wildly indignant at the rough treatment meted out to his beloved spaceman, but Patricia smooths his ruffled feathers. She purrs “Klaatu Barada Nicto” and he simmers down. Oh, he’s still plenty mad, but he’s in control of himself.
The revived Klaatu climbs back into his glittery jumpsuit and from the ramp of his flying saucer, with Gort glowering behind him, he gives Earth a few home truths. Everyone goes back where they came from.
So. How many stars do I give The Day the Earth Stood Still? Let’s see. Exactly one star for every time Gort’s visor opens up and that menacing bead of light flickers and rolls from side to side.