Review in a Hurry: Hollywood remakes a classic movie about saving humanity but leaves the humanity out of it. The irony! This soulless, overblown extravaganza stars Keanu Reeves as an E.T. who travels to Earth to warn of an impending global crisis. You've been warned—rent the superior 1951 version instead.
The Bigger Picture: Perhaps Al Gore was unavailable—or passed on the script. Which Reeves should have done. Instead, The Matrix dude suits up as eco-friendly Klaatu (the introductions: "Keanu, Klaatu...Klaatu, Keanu"), who lands in Manhattan via glowing orb and demands to meet with world leaders.
But the U.N. can't handle his inconvenient truth, and scared U.S. officials interrogate the "hostile" alien. Sympathetic scientist Dr. Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly) helps Klaatu escape but then has to persuade him to spare the human race.
It's impossible to take any of this very seriously, though the film certainly does. Only John Cleese provides levity in a brief cameo as a genius professor. Reeves, with his intense gaze and pale pallor, appears otherworldly enough but delivers every line like Rod Serling. Though Connelly has the acting chops, she's not the warmest of actresses, so she doesn't provide balance to an equally chilly Reeves. Nor does she establish an affecting rapport with her stepson, played by Jaden Smith, guilty of Movie Kid Syndrome: cute and precocious, then weepy on cue. Their forced connection is supposed to convince Klaatu not to kill us?
For all its leaden dialog and flat characters, this remake—er, reimagining—offers some intriguing updates: the threat of environmental catastrophe instead of nuclear annihilation, and Klaatu's "birth" in human form. But as in most modern-day sci-fi, they OD on the CGI. The robot Gort, so cool and creepy in the original, is reduced to a dull special effect, and the trumped-up climax with gratuitous destruction by swarms of metallic bugs is downright dumb.
Worse, how could they deep-six the famous quote, "Klaatu barada nikto"? For that alone, Earth should be hurled into outer space.
The 180—a Second Opinion: Kathy Bates classes up this act as secretary of defense, though she spends too much time talking on the phone and gaping at TV monitors.