My Favourite Martian (My Favorite Martian) (1999)

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Released 7-Aug-2000

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy None
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1999
Running Time 89:43
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (55:36) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Donald Petrie
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Jeff Daniels
Christopher Lloyd
Elizabeth Hurley
Daryl Hannah
Wallace Shawn
Christine Ebersole
Ray Walston
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $36.95 Music John Debney


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Hungarian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles German
Dutch
Polish
English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes, Perrier and Mars feature prominently in two scenes
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    My Favourite Martian is a fabulous remake of the popular TV show starring Ray Walston and the late Bill Bixby. Written with vigour by Sherri Stoner and Deanna Oliver (Casper), the movie rockets through a compact story that crash-lands a new martian on present-day Earth. Christopher Lloyd plays the extraterrestrial expatriate 'Uncle Martin', who this time comes with an unusual offsider: his space suit, Zoot (the uncredited voice of Seinfeld's Wayne Knight). Together they create mayhem for Tim O'Hara (Jeff Daniels), a bumbling TV news producer with a crush on his curvaceous reporter Brace Channing (Elizabeth Hurley), at least until Martin unwittingly allows the shy technician Lizzie (Daryl Hannah) to make her feelings known. Hounded by a militant version of SETI, Martin must blast off before Earth itself is blasted into oblivion.

    While this Disney production was obviously conceived with children in mind, there are enough obscure references, sight gags, and one-liners to keep attentive adults entertained. My favourite bits include Lizzie asking Tim if he is a Trekkie, and Martin's derogatory remarks about Earthlings: calling us "the amoebas of the universe" and referring to ice cream as "coloured buckets of frozen lard", all of which is delivered with Lloyd's signature eccentricity. The Zoot character in particular benefits from the writer's sharp quill with some hilarious fabric-inspired sequences, such as bathing in a washing machine while drinking detergent from a martini glass, and courting a polyester summer dress in a clothing shop. I also cracked up when Martin drank the lava lamp, due to my flatmate's on-going saga with buying dud lava lamps. In fact, there are too many gems to mention here without ruining the surprises and blowing Michael's webspace allocation.

    All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed My Favourite Martian, both times I watched it. I had very low expectations because of its remake status, and because I was never a fan of the original show. The criminally bland DVD cover artwork (rendered in shades of blue, for god's sake) didn't help either. Critics generally dismissed the film as trite and below Disney's usual standards. My opinion is that the polished script, which includes (or at least attempts) the thread of emotional content common to all Disney films, is worthy of the Disney banner. The uneasy mixture of adult and children's elements rattled some viewer's sensibilities, so be warned that the film earns its PG rating.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Framed at 1.78:1, although clearly composed for 1.85:1, this 16x9 enhanced transfer by Warner Advanced Media Operations is virtually perfect thanks to the pristine source material.

    Without any hint of edge enhancement, the image is very sharp indeed. Foreground and background details are utterly photorealistic. Everything from the opening shot of Mars, to clothing textures, CGI special effects composites, hair threads, and crowd shots all scream high resolution.

    Shadow detail is immaculate, while preserving solid blacks. There is not much more to say, really. The balance is perfect.

    In keeping with the cartoonish approach of the production, the colours are garish without going to excess. There is no colour bleed and skin tones are natural. Liz Hurley's red dress practically jumped off the screen. I saw no kind of distortion around its border, while subtle tones and textures were always apparent. Overall, the colours were strong yet stable.

    The icing on the cake is the total lack of film or compression artefacts. WAMO have delivered a brilliant, reference quality transfer. You just don't get the sense that you are watching a 'video' image, and even on the second viewing I fell easily into the story because the glitches I was watching for just didn't eventuate. This is a transparent transfer in the best sense of the word.

    The layer change at 55:36 is not disruptive.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The DVD boasts a lively Dolby Digital 5.1 track compressed at 384 Kb/s in English, as well as a German 5.1 track and a Hungarian Dolby Digital 2.0 track.

     Dialogue is crystal clear at all times. Even though ADR was obviously used in many scenes, the recordings always sounded natural. Both spoken word audio and foley effects were in synch with the action.

     The generic music score by John Debney is presented cleanly across the front soundstage, regardless of whether the music was classical or closer to rock, which was used mainly during the first reel.

     The surrounds were employed selectively to pan helicopter fly-overs from one side of the soundstage to the other, spray bullets past the viewer's head, and to distribute neighbourhood dog barks beyond the Gyprock walls of the lounge room. Generally though, the action is presented across a wide, dynamic front stage.

     The low frequency effects channel chipped in to assist the kick drum bass notes, as well as to add punch as Martin's spaceship flew past our point of view.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menus

    16x9 enhanced. No animation or music.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 DVD misses out on:     The Region 1 DVD misses out on:     Given that the video transfer is 16x9 enhanced on our DVD, and that the featurette is not made specifically for a special edition, the Region 4 disc is recommended unless the temptation to have the featurette proves too great. My guess is that a feature-laden special edition will appear down the track if the sales can be secured. The featurette could have been dumped in favour of leaving as much room as possible for the PAL video compression. Note that the US DVD cover artwork is better.

Summary

    Many people hated My Favourite Martian. I thought that I would be one of them, but as things turned out, I ended up watching this DVD twice before reviewing it - a rare phenomenon. If you can settle into the zany groove, swallow the obvious CGI and prosthetic effects, relish the Policy Academy level toilet humour (a scene I loved), enjoy the sight of Liz Hurley getting tied up three times, and empathize with Tim, Uncle Martin, and Zoot (who laments still being "virgin wool") then this little picture might be right up your exhaust nozzle.

    The Region 4 DVD, with its flawless video transfer and visceral Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track, just misses out on being definitive by the exclusion of a featurette. This may not be a big loss based on past examples of the art, but it is worth considering. My Favourite Martian (note the British spelling) may get special edition treatment down the road. I for one would be tempted by such a package. Until then, this DVD should suffice.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Rod Williams (Suss out my biography if you dare)
Monday, September 25, 2000
Review Equipment
DVDMarantz DV-7000 (European model), using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Ergo (81cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderDenon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital decoder.
AmplificationArcam AV50 5 x 50W amplifier
SpeakersFront: ALR/Jordan Entry 5M, Centre: ALR/Jordan 4M, Rear: ALR/Jordan Entry 2M, Subwoofer: B&W ASW-1000 (active)

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