We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
Imagine that a man got pregnant—and not just any man either, but a hunky Austrian biotechnologist, Dr. Alex Hesse, modeled on hunky Austrian ex-bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger. Now imagine your own jokes for this premise, since Kevin Wade and Chris Conrad, who scripted Junior, didn’t write any.
For laughs, Wade, Conrad, and director Ivan Reitman apparently figured that nothing more would be required than the sight of the Terminator with—as his colleague Dr. Larry Arbogast (Danny DeVito) elegantly puts it—“a bun in the oven.” Just in case Alex’s experiences with morning sickness, food cravings, mood swings, and breathing exercises (the latter done in drag for maximum effect) prove insufficient, the filmmakers also created a colleague, Dr. Diana Reddin (Emma Thompson), who is—can your funny bone stand it?—extremely clumsy.
There are a few other wrinkles, like a prying department head (Frank Langella) who wants to know what Alex and Larry are up to, and Larry’s ex-wife (Pamela Reed), who after years of barren marriage got pregnant in a one-night stand. The focus, however, is on Alex’s pregnancy, which begins when Larry convinces him to test an FDA-unapproved drug on himself, and on Alex’s desire to, like any respectable unwed father, find a mother for his child.
The filmmakers have rendered all this just about as sticky as they possibly could, as befits the family-values subtext; Alex was only supposed to test the drug for three months, but can’t bring himself to end the experiment because he’s bonded with the fetus: He can’t kill his baby! To make the test-tube premise even more cuddly, Alex is falling in love with Diana, only to discover (excuse me for revealing one of the script’s nonsurprises) that the frozen egg his partner swiped to begin the drug trial was Diana’s own: He’s having her baby! Futuristic genetic engineering could hardly have a more traditional outcome than this; while Alex and Larry play God, the film devises a resolution that might please the Pope.
For Schwarzenegger this is just another kindergarten cop-out, but it’s hard to reckon what Thompson is doing in this film; it seems an awfully roundabout way of getting to play Mrs. Frankenstein, a role for which she presumably could have lobbied in her husband’s remake. Not even the team of Mary Shelley, Kenneth Branagh, and Robert DeNiro could have fabricated anything so gruesome as Junior, though. Remember what the militant pro-abortionists say: If men realized that their children could grow up to make movies like this, abortion would be a sacrament.
With Star Trek: Generations, the franchise’s proprietors introduce the over-the-hill gang to the erstwhile next generation, and the result doesn’t exactly produce the shock of the new. The film, the seventh in the series, is supposed to mark the changing of the guard—Kirk dies, maybe—but its mélange of religion, sentimentality, and pop psychology is decidedly old hat.
I know the Trek saga mostly from its big-screen incarnation, and my exposure to The Next Generation is limited to the series-inspired dolls used in Rod Kierkegaard’s The X Generation strip, so maybe I missed something; after all, these flicks have always played off the familiarity of the established personae. Still, the Next Generation characters seem exceptionally dull.
Characteristically, the villain—in this case, Malcolm McDowell’s Dune-looking Soran—steals much of the limelight. After his, the most engaging performances are William Shatner’s Kirk and cameos by James Doohan (Scotty) and Walter Koenig (Chekhov). (Spock and McCoy are merely name-dropped.) The only younger-generation character who gets anything going is Data (Brent Spiner), the ‘droid who’s buffeted by mood swings after implanting an emotion chip. (The role is not unlike Schwarzenegger’s in Junior.) Though the acting skill of Patrick Stewart (who plays Kirk successor Capt. Picard) is cited by Next Generation partisans as proof of the latter series’ superiority, Stewart’s big emotional showcase here is as hammy as anything Shatner’s ever done.
Adequately directed by British TV veteran David Carson, Generations is hokey fun once it finally gets started. As is curiously typical of the series, Kirk finds himself yet again sneaking a peek at the face of God, as Soran conspires to kill millions in his quest to return to the Nexus, yet another Trek phenomenon that’s just like heaven. Soran even enters the Nexus from atop a mountain, arms spread in a pose of Christlike rapture.
The movie takes just about forever to kick into gear, though; the story devised by Ronald D. Moore, Brannon Braga, and producer Rick Berman is almost all setup. After the old and new have become acquainted, and the Whoopi Goldberg part has been established, there’s barely time for Kirk to throw a few punches while his new pal Picard saves a world. If the Trek product-development division moved as slowly as the first two-thirds of this film, it would still be test-marketing The Next Generation.