Klaatu Barada Neo

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

As a rule with few exceptions, remakes are the lazy way out. For this and other reasons, you probably won't hear anyone assigning brilliance to The Day the Earth Stood Still, the remake of the classic 1951 sci-fi cautionary tale.

Yet there is brilliance within it, and it's centered, of all places, around star Keanu Reeves.

He's been a running gag for years for his limited range, his monosyllabic persona and his attempts at rock stardom, but the man has an uncanny ability to choose the right roles to keep his career aloft.

Here, as in the Matrix trilogy, Reeves does what he does best: play human but not. An alien in human form, Reeves' Klaatu emotionlessly but splashily arrives on Earth, dropping his giant, spherical space vessel down in Central Park.

He's arrived to save the planet - not how first-response astro-biologist Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly) hopes, but rather, how U.S. Secretary of Defense Jackson (Kathy Bates) fears.

Once the propulsive setup is out of the way and the thrill of a new version of Klaatu's robot protector Gort is gone, the film's emotional side prevails, with Benson and her stepson (Jaden Smith) showing Klaatu the part of humanity worth saving. Since Smith is sort of grating and self-conscious, this is hard to swallow and even harder to stay engaged in.

That is, until the climactic destruction of U.S. landmarks inevitably starts. Less predictable and more fascinating is what Reeves the actor might do next.

"The Day the Earth Stood Still"

Opens Friday

Grade: C+