Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 2 hours 6 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Intense Sci-Fi Violence, some Sexuality and brief Nudity

Directed by: Luc Besson

Written by: Luc Besson & Robert Mark Kamen

Starring: Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman, Milla Jovovich, Ian Holm, Chris Tucker, Charlie Creed-Miles, Brion James, Tricky, Tommy Lister Jr., Christopher Fairbank & Lee Evans

There are people who love THE FIFTH ELEMENT and people who loathe it. This sci-fi cult classic is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary and has been enjoying a big screen revival at various movie theaters. Having never actually sat through this entire movie (I know, shame on me) and being (mostly) a fan of director/writer Luc Besson, I decided to give his odd opus a go. THE FIFTH ELEMENT is goofy and some elements haven’t stood the test of time, but it remains fun and humorous nonetheless.

In the distant future of 2263, an ancient prophecy is coming to light. The fate of the world is near as a planet-sized evil approaches Earth. The only thing that can stop the deadly giant orb has come in the form of four ancient stones and a gibberish-speaking alien, nicknamed Leeloo (Milla Jovovich). When Leeloo crashes through the roof of down-on-his-luck cabbie Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis), this average guy is sucked into an adventure that involves a rogue priest (Ian Holm), an obnoxious radio host (Chris Tucker), a violent alien race, and evil weapons-dealer Zorg (Gary Oldman).

THE FIFTH ELEMENT doesn’t take itself seriously at all. The film opens with a prologue that nicely sets up the main premise, but also includes loads of comic relief and silly-looking aliens (they appear like they inspired the a few designs in 2005’s HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY). There’s a constant sense of cheesiness throughout the film that feels deliberate and there’s rarely (if ever) a dramatic moment. Besson’s focus is on fun and he nails that aspect of this film, even if others fall by the wayside.

The visuals, aided by many special effects, bring an imaginative vision of the distant future to life. There are space cruises, layers upon layers of traffic (cars literally passing above each other), and compact apartments (that push furniture into the walls). Besson’s cinematic universe is cool to look at, but not all of the effects hold up. This is mainly true of CGI that looks very dated. The menacing evil planet appears to have come out of a Syfy Channel movie, though to be fair it was created with 1997 computer graphics. The evil alien race is brought to life through a combination of occasionally crappy CG, but mostly giant rubber suits that look pretty damn good.

THE FIFTH ELEMENT has two modes: action-packed and funny. It’s occasionally the former, until it reaches the end of a chaotic crescendo on a massive spaceship that sees many subplots colliding. The latter is a constant in the film as even gunfights have laugh-out-loud bits. One running joke about Korben’s nagging mother never ceases to be funny, while there are visual gags that are sure to guarantee a few giggles. Another series of mishaps at a space airport (in which many people claim to be Korben) is easily my favorite comedic scene in the entire film. With so much humor and action set pieces, the plot seems almost inconsequential. That’s a plus in this case, because there are convenient developments, half-assed mythologies and minor plot holes.

As far as performances go, everybody seems to be having a good time and that comes across in their acting. Bruce Willis plays Korben with his usual tough guy persona, serving as both an action hero and delivering well-timed comic zingers (a few of his best bits were improvised). Model-turned-actress Milla Jovovich gives probably the best performance of her career as an incoherent alien. Though she gets a few lines of English as the plot goes on, Jovovich’s heroine mainly acts through body language and facial expressions.

On the supporting side of things, Ian Holm is goofy as an exposition-spouting priest and occasionally gets to deliver a good laugh. Gary Oldman is allowed to ham it up as the villainous Zorg and effectively steals the show. Oldman’s over-the-top baddie gets many great scenes and I sort of wish that he had been the main antagonist, as opposed to the badly animated fiery planet that’s heading towards Earth. Mark my words, Chris Tucker (who usually annoys me to no end) actually made me laugh frequently throughout this film. This and the RUSH HOUR series might be the only films where Chris Tucker is actually funny. So there’s something to be said for that alone.

THE FIFTH ELEMENT suffers from cheesy CGI, muddled writing, and convenient plot developments. Still, this is a fun watch for viewers who are craving sci-fi entertainment that doesn’t take itself too seriously in any way, shape or form. Action and laughter are the two main elements of THE FIFTH ELEMENT. For the most part, it delivers both of those in spades. If this sounds up your alley, then this love-it-or-hate-it sci-fi cult classic may just be for you. You won’t know quite where you stand on it until you’ve seen it.

Grade: B


Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 38 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG for Language, Comic Sensuality and Mayhem

Mousehunt poster

Directed by: Gore Verbinski

Written by: Adam Rifkin

Starring: Nathan Lane, Lee Evans, Vicki Lewis, Maury Chaykin, Camilla Soeberg, Debra Christofferson, Christopher Walken & William Hickey

MOUSE HUNT has the distinction of being the first-ever family film from DreamWorks. Despite being intended for kids as well as adults, the movie tries too hard to make things equally enjoyable for both age groups but in very different ways. Sometimes, the movie is a well-intentioned and genuinely funny romp that has a surprising level of sophistication around it. About an equal amount, the film turns into a live-action TOM & JERRY episode. Sadly, both approaches don’t blend together well or coherently. There are a decent amount of laughs in the well-intentioned parts of the movie that focus on a creative screenplay where everything doesn’t result in a pratfall.


Lars and Ernie Smuntz are the two sons of a formerly rich proprietor of a string factory. Leaving not much of an inheritance to his sons (some knick-knacks, a rundown factory, and an abandoned house in the middle of nowhere), Lars and Ernie find their lives upended through two separate acts of fate. Things seem to be changing for the better when the brothers find out that their father’s countryside property is actually the legendary abandoned house of a famed architect that’s worth millions. Blinded by the possibility of a fortune, the Smuntz siblings embark on renovating the house. This process is made difficult and destructive by a mouse that’s smarter than your average rodent.


MOUSE HUNT has an identity crisis between being a kids movie about a mouse outwitting two grown men or a raunchy comedy that happens to have a seemingly indestructible rodent as a plot device. The former doesn’t work quite as well as it wants to and the latter feels like it’s pushing the boundaries for what’s appropriate in a family flick. There are utterances of notable swear words that I’m sure parents don’t want their young ones picking up. Also there’s frank talk about sex and some risqué humor. One stand-out scene is a moment near the end that made me laugh hard, but didn’t fit at all within the boundaries of a PG-rated family flick. It’s like how CASPER (a film that came out a couple of years prior) threw in curse words for the sake of being edgy and was bound to irritate some parents. I almost always praise family entertainment that takes risks, but there’s also a certain level of content that should be avoided if you’re making a movie that’s specifically geared towards children and MOUSE HUNT rubbed me the wrong way in a few areas.


The performances from the cast are well above the level of material they’ve ended up working with. Nathan Lane and Lee Evans are a good comedic duo and it makes you wonder that if this film had been more well-received, they could have possibly have gone on starring in more family films together. At any rate, they both highlight different styles of comedy. Nathan Lane is Ernie and the more brash of the brothers. Lee Evans delivered more laughs as Lars, but came off as the goofy screw-up. The late William Hickey also makes his last film appearance as their father, seen in one flashback and appearing in a painting with multiple expressions. Christopher Walken also takes a brief cameo-length role that has a few chuckles, but ultimately winds up being entirely pointless. It literally felt like someone felt they should hire Walken for a day to be an exterminator and he’s in the film for about five minutes at the most.


It may sound like I’m bad mouthing MOUSE HUNT quite a bit. It’s true that I don’t consider it to be a necessarily good movie and I found it a lot funnier when I was a kid watching this on the old-fashioned VCR, but there are still some solid laughs in the film. Ironically, the best scenes don’t involve the title animal at all. The opening is solid enough and showcases dark humor that may have pushed the envelope for kids material at the time. My favorite part is a three-minute bit with Lee Evans at the string factory that was filled with stellar slapstick. I had fun revisiting this movie, but I don’t think I’ll ever go out of my way to watch it again.


MOUSE HUNT feels too episodic in moving from one set piece to another. It also can’t make up its mind about whether it wants to be for kids or adults. It doesn’t seem to have the level of talent down to please both demographics and it’s doubtful to completely satisfy anyone. There’s a fun pieces of slapstick here or there and some jokes are legitimately funny. The actors all do well in their roles, but the identity crisis and confusing tonal shifts of the film will throw many off completely liking it. Nostalgia be damned, MOUSE HUNT is not a good movie. I can say it’s an okay effort that isn’t horrible or mediocre. That’s hardly the praise you’d want for family entertainment though, especially in an era where there are so many better options from the past and present.

Grade: C+

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