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Thoughts on the Mooninite invasion

Posted by Wesley Morris  February 2, 2007 01:11 AM

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In the end, the call wasn’t very close at all. The bombs were mercifully imaginary. But what happened was not a hoax. The advertising, however obscure, was real, inspiring a comic faux-science-fiction misapprehension. The Mooninites came for profit, but they also came in peace, which is how these b-pictures usually begin. These promotional visitors managed to protract ye olde generation gap. Boston was safe, but alas it was sorry, too, brought to a halt by trustafarians on an excellent adventure.

Under different political circumstances, another regime perhaps (in southern Mexico, Sri Lanka, or suburban France), they’d be real guerillas. Fox News and CNN made them look like chimps, but only for making the networks look like the fearmongers they so love to be. The chimp is the preferred movie animal of the 1980s, the decade from which this plot seemed to unfold. We were back to the future. Even the affronting props our perps placed around town (three towns, in fact) paid rude homage to an antique toy: the Lite-Brite, and the cartoon character the toy advertised paid homage to crude videogame characters of two decades ago.

Our protagonists-antagonists were Bill and Ted. But they were also “Weird Science” and “Real Genius.” Ferris Bueller, too. Their crime wasn’t terrorism. It was forcing grown-ups to look humorless and uncool and not appearing to give a damn about it. They stood in front of television cameras and goofed off. Across town, Mayor Menino did his best Principal Rooney and blew a gasket, insisting that these two go to jail, since he couldn’t possibly suspend them from school. To the mayor’s credit, his post-facto overreaction included a demand that Bill and Ted’s corporate bosses at Turner Broadcasting be locked up, too.

Neither punk had Ferris’s charm or his fashion sense. They seemed to be living out the ultimate stoner comedy, where everything is funny and nothing is real. Yet to conflate Matthew Broderick movies: it all felt like a farce of “WarGames,” where Broderick and Ally Sheedy discover a computer program that could trigger WWWIII. At the time it was Hollywood propaganda against the burgeoning videogame industry. This time the paranoia seemed justified. But the same misunderstanding could have happened in any of the other cities where these winking advertisements also live. Why is this movie playing in Boston?

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Ty Burr is a film critic with The Boston Globe.

Mark Feeney is an arts writer for The Boston Globe.

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