For the second time this year (following “Dark City”), Oscar recipient William Hurt throws himself into a science fiction extravaganza and winds up second fiddle to a plethora of high-tech special effects. Like Tom Cruise’s pounding, big budget juxtaposition of “Mission Impossible,” “Lost in Space” works effusively to pay homage to its TV roots, while jazzing things up Hollywood style — the most egregious examples being the humanistic hokum of the robot in newer, sleeker duds and the vanguarding of the unhip, boxy form of the Jupiter 2 spaceship.
Hurt captains the Jupiter 2 as Professor John Robinson, out on an intergalactic mission to find suitable habitats for humans, because Earth has been depleted by man’s environmental wastefulness. In tow are his family; wife Maureen (a sassy Mimi Rogers), Penny (an annoying Lacey Chabert from “Party of Five”) now full of 90’s teen angst, Will (Jack Johnson) a cyber nerd, and Judy (Heather Graham, playing the opposite of Roller Girl in “Boogie Nights”) who keeps the drama interesting by maintaining an on-again off-again flirtation with the ship’s pilot Don West (“Friends”‘s Matt LeBlanc fitting well into a macho role). Also on board as the unexpected stowaway is the notorious Dr. Smith (Gary Oldman, forced to play the conniving coward as a maniacal meanie), the source of all the Robinson’s woes and a constant threat to their well being. The plot is essentially a series of “out of the frying pan and into the fire” conundrums, all sparked by Smith’s meddlings. None of it really adds up to much in the end, especially after the confusing, and convoluted time warp sequence. About the only thing that is lucid, in the malestrom of wham-bam effects, is the set-up for a sequel.