Mars Attacks! (1996)

I don’t know if “Mars Attacks!” holds any value to new viewers, but I grew up watching it over and over, so I’ll always have a soft spot for it. From the opening credits, we know we’re in for the most Tim Burton-esque movie of all Tim Burton movies: Danny Elfman’s score has the same deliberately chaotic and anthemic swing as “Edward Scissorhands” and “Ed Wood,” there’s an all-star cast camping it up like nothing could be more fun, and an off-kilter sense of humor that’s alternately juvenile and mean-spirited. In particular, the invading Martians are surprisingly cruel to the point where it’s actually a little jarring but in the best possible way, because Burton serves up his A-list cast for slaughter and the result is an electrifying tone that suggests that anything could happen at anytime. The juxtaposition of the juvenile humor with the often grisly fates of the A-list cast gives the whole movie an edge that’s fairly unique among mainstream Hollywood comedies, and reminds you what a distinctive, winning auteur Burton used to be before he was swallowed up by mainstream mediocrity. Casual viewers might enjoy the show, but this is unapologetically for Burtonesque devotees and those that share similar sensibilities, and is all the more admirable for it.

Rating: ★★★★ (out of 5)

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