The Arrival

Directed by David Twohy. Starring Charlie Sheen, Ron Silver, Lindsay Crouse, Teri Polo, Tony T. Johnson. (1996, PG-13, 109 min.)

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., June 7, 1996

Screenwriter Twohy (The Fugitive, Waterworld, Alien3) takes the directing helm in this above-average tale of alien invasion that's less concerned with the invasion itself and more worried about giving the junior Sheen a “departure role” (as the press kit trumpets). Then again, a departure role for Charlie Sheen is pretty much anything not involving Heidi Fleiss and a sports car. Cheap shot, I know, but did you sit through The Chase? I thought not. Sheen is radio astronomer Zane Zaminski (!), who intercepts a transmission from a distant star that could very well prove to be the first genuine proof that “we are not alone.” When he reports the discovery to his unctuous boss at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (Ron Silver, who seems to be making a career out of this sort of role of late), he finds himself suddenly out of a job, the tape confiscated, and his partner dead. Rightly fearing a conspiracy of epic proportions, Zaminski heads down to Mexico where he manages to locate an alien power station that is the vanguard of an interstellar invasion intent on “terraforming” the earth to make it more hospitable to the visitors. Framed for murder by the powers that be, it's up to Zaminski to save the earth, dodging alien spies and operatives while trying to clear his name and convince his girlfriend he's not a nutcase. Just try and tell me Charlie Sheen wasn't made for this role. Surprisingly, The Arrival works. While Sheen may never master the fine art of acting like a normal person, The Arrival's never less than silly script lets him run wild; it's sci-fi, so he's not bound by the constraints of normalcy. With his squinty eyes and perpetually pursed lips, he's made to play the part of the beleaguered scientist caught up in events beyond his control. Twohy's script is a black hole of needless plot complications and inanities, but it's so genial in its dorky presentation that you don't mind. Goofy summer fun that makes Earth vs. the Flying Saucers look like Citizen Kane.

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