A big empty Space

JIM SLOTEK

, Last Updated: 2:54 PM ET

While it may be true that "In space, no one can hear you laugh," the fact is, there are no laughs in the Leslie Nielsen flick 2001: A Space Travesty. Like space itself, it is a perfect, airless vacuum, devoid -- as nearly as we can tell -- of intelligent life.

To be fair to Nielsen -- who has squeezed the comedic second act of his career like matter in a neutron star -- he saw this extinction level disaster coming.

In March, I interviewed him about coming projects, and this is all he had to say about the movie (which is hurtling toward that shelf in your video store where they keep stuff you may settle for on a Saturday evening when everything else is rented): "I saw it once and decided I didn't need to see it a second time. I have not pursued any information about it."

Now that's promotion!

Directed by someone named Allan A. Goldstein, and starring no one else you've ever heard of, this German/Canadian/American co-production (!) is horrible on so many levels, it verges on Ed Wood-bad. Here are a few flaws:

n It's not really a spoof of 2001, or anything in particular. There's a brief homage at the start, and one scene in a shuttle en route to the moon that uses The Blue Danube (and allows a weightless Nielsen to launch himself out of the lavatory with an errant fart). The rest is a patched together plot of Nielsen as Frank Drebin -- er, as Marshall Dick Dix, who's assigned to find a kidnapped President Clinton on moon base Vegan.

Yes, I said President Clinton. Just try to imagine all the sex and sax jokes written by Germans.

Apparently, they ran out of money for effects halfway through, so the plot takes everybody back to Earth, where Drebin, er Dix, has to try to put the real president Clinton back in office where an evil clone is in place. The switcheroo is to take place at a Three Tenors Command Performance where the audience, inexplicably, features bad celebrity impersonators of the Pope, Prince, George Bush Sr. and Hulk Hogan. It's like an out-of-date pop culture clearance sale.

There's an insatiable sex-babe scientist and an insatiable sex-babe agent, one of whom is good and one is secretly bad. English is both actress' second language, and it shows. The aliens look like their costumes were bought at a dollar store.

The fun, such as it is, comes in trying to figure out where the German comedy writers are coming from. Like the scene where Dix impersonates Pavarotti and emerges from the rack of clothes with two used condoms in his beard. I can't even begin to think why.

I know, don't ask why. Some anomalies defy explanation.

(This film is rated PG)


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