Trading cards are not normally the first port of call for Hollywood development-types looking for a premise for a film - and perhaps that's just as well. For while Tim Burton's "Mars Attacks!" manages to capture much of the anarchic wit of its bubble gum origins, it also has about as much structure, characterisation, and plot as a piece of said chewing stuff.
The Martians are coming to Earth in thousands of flying saucers. They talk like ducks and enjoy large weapons, comedy incinerations, human (and dog) experimentation, and, well, pornography. Ready to greet them is a motley group of Hollywood icons, up-and-comers, and Tom Jones.
The CGI Martians carry the whole picture - they may not be terribly convincing, but they are considerably more believable than most of the human talent on display. And they have better comic timing as well. Lukas Haas and the bizarre Fox-Parker-Brosnan love triangle are worth a passing mention, but they are very much the exception. The more illustrious presences - Nicholson, Benning, and Close - camp up their screen time until they are neither funny nor interesting.
"Mars Attacks!" wants to be the "Dr Strangelove" of alien B-movies, but isn't up to the challenge. Instead it's a paceless, overlong, and campy film partly redeemed by a number of hilarious and gruesome alien invasion skits.