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Watch It! : Independence Day: An Appreciation

Hey Everybody, Rick here with a special edition of Watch It, just in time for the 4th of July!  What better thing to do on July 4th than kick back, relax, have a couple of beers (if you are 21 or over of course), eat some hot dogs, and watch what is arguably one of the greatest cinematic guilty pleasures known to man.

There is only one movie that I could possibly be referring to.  That movie is Independence Day, A.K.A. ID4, A.K.A. that movie where aliens attack Earth, kick our butts but we come back with a plan so implausible it takes the director of such cinematic spectacle trash like The Day After Tomorrow and 2012 to make a movie this awesome.  The film is from 1996 and actually holds up pretty well for a fourteen year old movie. Wow 14 years? Good crap I feel old.

Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin sought to make a movie that was a crowd pleaser and at the same time a fun tribute to the classic disaster movies of the 60s and 70s.  I do believe they succeeded in ways that we could have never anticipated.  The cast features Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, and Bill Pullman as the three leads.  Pullman plays the President of the U.S.A. and he delivers one of my favorite performances that I have seen him do.  He is both funny and at the same time able to play serious.  Absolutely excellent work on his part.  Jeff Goldblum plays essentially himself.  He plays one of the roles that is just preposterous in ways that one cannot imagine.  That being said however, he does a fine job with the role and is one of the better characters in the movie and his character arc is interesting enough to keep you engaged throughout.

And then there is Will Smith who plays an ace Marine jet fighter pilot.  Every scene he is in, he owns it.  Smith had only done a couple of smaller movies at this point with the exception of another of my favorite guilty pleasures, Bad Boys.  Bad Boys may have made him a viable action star.  Independence Day skyrocketed him into the stratosphere that is superstardom.  He is clearly having a blast making this movie and it shows on screen and it makes his character all the more likeable and make one wish that he were the lead over the other characters.

Hoo boy those other characters.  They go from really great characters who you wish would have been in the movie more to walking, talking stereotypes.  Randy Quaid in particular is quite annoying as the drunken trailer park trash redneck who redeems himself and saves the day.  But even more annoying as stereotypes are Vivica A. Fox, the stripper with a heart of gold and a single mom, Harvey Firestein as a flamboyantly gay character, and possibly the most offensive of them all, Judd Hirsch playing a rabbi who has lost his faith.  It's not so much their performances, because they are all great in their roles, it's the way they are written and their dialogue that makes them just so ridiculously offensive.

But the whole reason for seeing this movie is for the aliens and the special effects involving the attack.  They are a combination of practical and CG effects and they are absolutely stunning.  The fight between the jet fighters and the alien fleet is pretty great though completely implausible.  And how they figure out how to defeat the aliens has been the subject of debate and ridicule for the past fourteen years!

Yes, I acknowledge that this movie is incredibly tacky, implausible, and even offensive.  The only thing missing was a Mexican farm worker as a main character to just take the movie even more into stereotype land.  That being said, this movie is fun and makes for an annual tradition in this house for us to watch.  And you absolutely can't go wrong with Bill Pullman's inspirational speech to the survivors is an absolute highlight of the movie.  Makes you wish that he were president! If you like movies where stuff blows up and aliens attack major cities and then the U.S. comes back as the heroes that save the day for the rest of the world, then this movie is definitely for you!    If you don't like any of those things, then watch this movie anyway, if nothing else for the comedy value. 

We at the USG would like to wish you all a happy and safe 4th of July!

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