The 1951 version of The Day the Earth Stood Still still holds up beautifully as a science fiction classic (see this issue's View From The Couch column for a review of the new DVD reissue), but I'll refrain from taking the usual route of using a cherished original to bludgeon a shoddy remake to death. In the case of the new The Day the Earth Stood Still (*1/2 out of four), there's no need: The film mostly fails on its own terms.
In fact, this feels less like a remake of that '50s gem than a companion piece to the Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth. The difference is that Al Gore was a lot more fun to watch than Keanu Reeves, who's so stiff in this outing that you fear rigor mortis will set in before the movie comes to an end. Reeves plays Klaatu, an alien who arrives on Earth with the intention of -- what exactly? Initially, he asks to speak to our planet's leaders (as the original's Klaatu did), presumably to provide them with an ultimatum: Shape up or face the dire consequences. But the next minute, he's already settled on wiping out the human race, because all he knows about us is that we love war and violence and death. It actually comes as a shock to him that humans, as repped by sympathetic scientist Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly) and her stepson Jacob (a self-conscious Jaden Smith), are capable of love and affection and devotion. I dunno, you'd think a visitor from a far advanced civilization would have done a little bit of intergalactic homework before stopping by -- at least a cursory glance through the best-selling Earthling Customs for Dummies or something.
This inconsequential production strives to seem important by railing against humankind's destruction of our natural resources and intrinsic need to pollute the planet. And yet one of the movie's key scenes is set inside a McDonald's. Nice.