Mystery Science Theater 3000

[11 June 2008]

By George Tiller

The plot of Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie (such as it is) is relatively simple. An evil mad scientist, Dr. Clayton Forrester (Trace Beaulieu) is plotting to take over the world. By showing an appropriately awful movie, he plans to sap the spirit of the human race to the point that its members will be ready to grant him global domination.

This isn’t quite as crazy and stupid as it sounds, as anyone who’s been watching the cable news coverage of the US presidential primaries since January can tell you.  Dr. Forrester shoots Mike Nelson (Michael J. Nelson), a very amiable and mild mannered everyman, into space. Confined on a satellite, Mike must either watch any movie the evil Dr. Forrester chooses or have his air supply cut off. Mike sensibly agrees to watch the movie.

Fortunately, Mike is not alone. He has three robot companions, Gypsy (Jim Mallon), Tom Servo (Kevin Murphy) and Crow T. Robot (Trace Beaulieu). Gypsy keeps the satellite running while Servo and Crow take on the far more hazardous task of watching the movie with Mike. Though the movie starts with a pretty good spoof of 2001: A Space Odyssey the running commentary of Mike, Crow and Servo as they suffer through a cheesy movie is the real fun in this show. The comments are rather witty, keeping me in a near constant state of giggles.  Every latent reaction that a viewer can have to any aspect of the movie being parodied is anticipated by the writers. This allows the cast and the viewer to have the same reaction to the same material at the same time. It’s a bit scary to contemplate (how did they know?) but it’s quite an accomplishment.

The cheesy movie that is skewered on the satellite is the ‘50s classic This Island Earth. I rather like This Island Earth, but even so I must admit that it does lend itself to the full Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment. There’s a studly nuclear physicist who flies his own jet. There’s another physicist who’s quite buxom and screams nicely. There are aliens with huge sloping foreheads pretending to be human. There’s a doomed planet that’s losing an interstellar war and, to top it all off, there’s a race of mutant insectiod slaves that starts disobeying orders and carrying on cranky.

All of this is perfect Saturday morning fun which is exactly what Mystery Science Theater 3000 was. The show was very entertaining and has a huge cult following with a web presence that’s larger and more sophisticated than NASA’s. But for everything there is a proper place and the last place Mystery Science Theater 3000 belongs is in a movie theater. It’s as silly as making a movie of the old Speed Racer show. (Oh wait—they did that, didn’t they?)

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie is rated PG-13 which means that someone deemed its material unsuitable for children under 13 years old. Utter and complete nonsense! This movie is absolutely perfect for 11-year-olds. There’s a bit of profanity thrown around, (considerably less than heard in a fifth grade classroom, actually) which neither adds nor detracts from the enjoyment of the movie. There’s also some sexual innuendo that’s a lot tamer than what’s heard on The Simpsons. So parents needn’t worry, it’s good clean fun.

So if you are a fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and you can’t get the local comic book guy to loan you his copy, then Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie is a good buy for you. A better value would be in ordering DVDs of the old episodes, since most of them are just as good if not better than the movie. But for anyone who wants to get in touch with their inner 11-year-old, Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie, is just the thing.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/mystery-science-theater-3000/