The Relic (1997)

REVIEWS - Movie Reviews

I have this friend named Lana-better known as Lana Banana to her 70 million girlfriends-who never has mastered parallel parking but still considers herself the expert on every topic since the invention of the travel version of Scrabble.

But when you ask her HOW she knows something is true, it's always because of a story from her personal life that happened in 1973 and requires 45 minutes to tell.

For example. You might just say something harmless, like, "Isn't it funny the way wives just hate it when their husbands talk to pretty women at parties?"

And suddenly Lana is all over the topic. "That's not the way my relationship with Sven works at all. I think it's natural that women are attracted to him, but it doesn't threaten me because we know each other so well."

Well, hon, that's GREAT and everything, but that was NOT the topic.

Or you might say, "Most people who grew up in the '70s really hate disco now, but teen-agers are into it."

And Lana jumps up and says, "I have this friend Natalie who graduated high school in 1980, and she still organizes disco parties for the people who worked on the school paper together."

And she sorta sits there, like, "Wasn't that an amazing story?"

And you're thinking, "Is there more?"

But that's THE WHOLE STORY. In other words, it's an important story because it happened to her. So after a while, you realize that she's not having a conversation-she's having a permanent personal therapy session that YOU'RE INVITED TO, whether you wanna be or not.

If you say, "My whole family was killed in a car accident last week," Lana Banana is gonna say something like: "I have a car. It's a 1993 Lexus." Or, if she's listening ESPECIALLY close that day, she might say, "Nobody in my family has been seriously hurt in a car accident, because my mom always insisted on seat belts and air bags."

But what's really amazing is that she believes she's giving out SCIENTIFIC INFORMATION. Every time she says, "I knew this guy that I met at a deli in Boulder, Colo., and he told me that all Iranian men fantasize about having big blond girlfriends," she thinks she's just come up with a citation out of the Encyclopedia Britannica. She thinks she's actually PASSING ON KNOWLEDGE.

Sometimes it'll just pop up out of the blue. She'll say, "My sister and I really love each other." And you're thinking, "Yeah?" And she says, "We're really close." And you're going: "Good. You're close." And she says, "One time at the mall a woman saw us together and thought we must be best friends instead of sisters."

And so I'm tempted to say, "I have a sister." But I know what she'd say. She'd say, "I have a sister and a brother and a mother and a father and three grandparents still living."

I don't know why I'm talking about this. I think it's because I'm trying to decide whether to execute her or not.

And speaking of rampaging subhuman genetic mutations, this week's flick is "The Relic," which is just about theTALKIEST horror movie ever made. I counted nine separate discussions of genetic DNA, including one in the last 20 minutes when the giant half-beetle/half-lizard galloping humanoid has already eaten most of the supporting cast and is closing in on Penelope Ann Miller.

This is one of those Snappy Patter movies. Everybody talks in Snappy Patter. The cops bark Snappy Patter at one another. The scientists in the Chicago natural history museum talk in nerdy Snappy Patter. Even the mayor has his own form of obscene Snappy Patter. These are Clever People. Cool People. Excuse me while I barf all over a polo shirt.

The idea is that a big-deal anthropologist goes down to Brazil and drinks some jungle acid with the Amazon Indians, and pretty soon he gets turned into either a reptile or an insect or a fungus or SOMETHING, and then an empty ship turns up on Lake Michigan with a bunch of gooey bodies inside. And Tom Sizemore, as the tough snappy-pattered police lieutenant, finds out that all the bodies have the rear part of their brains eaten away because the creature feeds on the hypothalamus gland. The reason I remember it's the hypothalamus gland is that they refer to the hypothalamus gland about 97 times before the movie is over. "Hmmmmm...missing hypothalamus? I thought so."

Meanwhile, down at the museum, Penelope Ann Miller just wants to do her molecular biology projects in peace. She really doesn't have time for a 3-ton jungle creature to go galumphing through the museum cocktail party, eating extras and slurping stuff out of their cranial cavities.

The only reason the movie exists really is so we can see the last half hour of Stan Winston special effects, with this toothy. crab-headed Lollapalooza Lizard partying through Chi-town. Will we be forced to watch another hour of poorly lit scenes featuring cops with flashlights leading tuxedoed guests through sewer tunnels in a vain effort to escape, or will Penelope Ann be able to do the proper computer work in time to figure out What It Is and How To Kill It? While we're waiting to find out, a wheelchair-bound James Whitmore, as the crusty old museum curator, becomes Hamburger Helper while grinning ear to ear at the majestic sociological implications of it all.

They actually tried to make a horror movie with a goldurn MESSAGE. Please. Don't let it happen again.

Seventeen dead bodies. One dead dog. No breasts. (Shame on you, Penelope Ann.)
Jungle drugfest.
Security-guard-chomping. Flesh-eating beetles. Brain-sucking. Slimy beetle-smashing. Headless-body iron-spike impalement.
Multiple decapitations. Giant-lizard face-licking. Exploding creature.
Gratuitous Linda Hunt.
Heads roll.
Fungus fu.

Drive-In Academy Award nominations for...

Chi Muoi Lo, as the oily museum researcher who steals other people's grant money.

Tom Sizemore, as the wisecracking detective who sizes up a crime scene and orders "a full splatter pack."

And Penelope Ann Miller, as the feisty little molecular biologist who really CARES ABOUT PEOPLE.

Two stars.

Joe Bob says check it out.