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Enemy Mine

For a talky '80s sci-fi flick with decidedly unimpressive special effects and a generous share of really cheesy dialogue, Enemy Mine isn't half bad. Indeed, the early part of the movie is actually pretty good — director Wolfgang Petersen (U-571, Air Force One) more or less lets the "sci" part of the film fade into the background while he focuses on the "fi" aspect. Sure, Dennis Quaid is a futuristic fighter pilot who crash lands his spaceship on a bleak, Dagobah-meets-the Fire Swamp planet with his sworn enemy, a Drac pilot played by a heavily-made up Louis Gossett Jr. But since the first half of the movie focuses on the two of them gradually moving from hatred and fear to friendship as they fight to stay alive in harsh conditions, it feels much more like Cast Away (or maybe "Survivor 20: Lost in Space") than Star Wars. Quaid's Will Davidge even grows a Hanks-ian beard and mane of hair as time passes, and he finds himself loving the reptilian Drac (whom he calls Jerry) like a brother. For his part, Jerry ultimately entrusts Will with his language, his sacred teachings, his lineage, and, most significantly, his child Zammis (Bumper Robinson). Unfortunately, the switch from the Will-Jerry dynamic to the Will-Zammis pairing isn't good news for the movie. Will and Jerry were able to trade sarcastic barbs and have somewhat complex conversations; Will's interactions with Zammis consist of teaching the "little tadpole" about football and explaining why the kid only has three fingers to Will's five with the stunning revelation that "you're a Drac; I'm human." Things deteriorate even further when Will has to rescue Zammis from some evil human miners/slavers, bad guys who are so cartoonishly evil that they're not scary for a second. And then there are the special effects, some of which apparently came from the talented folks at ILM; by the looks of things, working on this film was a one-day job, tops. All that aside, though, Enemy Mine (based on a story by Barry Longyear) is worth watching for the first hour, a thoughtful, often funny look at friendship, understanding, and tolerance — subjects that tend to be glossed over in more traditional lasers-and-aliens sci-fi films. Petersen deserves credit for trying something different with the genre, even if his efforts get muddled toward the end. The film looks pretty good on Fox's DVD release, considering its age; the anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) is mostly clear, and those special effects would look low-rent in any format. It sounds fine, too — language options include Dolby Digital 4.0 and Dolby 2.0 Surround, along with English and Spanish subtitles. The only extras are the theatrical trailer, trailers for other Fox sci-fi flicks on DVD, and a whopping three production stills. Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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