Don't Ask Don't Tell

"OK"

Don't Ask Don't Tell Review


It's very, very broad, but then Woody Allen's What's Up, Tiger Lily? was broad, too. The latter title comes to mind because the concept is the same: Comic writers take an existing movie - something bad, and in the public domain - and dub new dialogue onto it. In the case of the new film Don't Ask Don't Tell, the source material is the 1954 B-thriller Killers from Space; in that film, a scientist (Peter Graves) is reanimated by aliens following his death in a plane crash in order that he can aid them in their plans to conquer Earth. Don't Ask Don't Tell uses the same material, mostly, to bring the conflict up-to-date: Graves, following the same crash, is forced by aliens to undergo a procedure that swaps out his sexual orientation. The aliens' goal this time isn't so much to conquer Earth as to turn it more fabulous, if you see what I mean.

I wrote What's Up, Tiger Lily? above, but was it Mystery Science Theater I really wanted? The presence of bobble-eyed aliens in the (apparently incredibly bad) original footage forces the comparison. Did the first director really use ping pong balls for eyes, as the new director (Doug Miles) suggests? The jokes here connect with less frequency than Allen's did, and the humor runs the gamut from pretty good to dinner theater, with the occasional obscure reference thrown in, just as it was MST. (It seemed to me that Hannah Arendt, author of Eichmann in Jerusalem, was mentioned any time I tuned in to MST; in Don't Ask Don't Tell, James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room is brought into the fray, and although I wish to be corrected if I'm wrong, I don't believe that the title is one that comes up every day.)

MST originated on television, and What's Up, Tiger Lily? came out in 1966. The difference in forum and year gives Miles and his writer Tex Hauser access to a wealth of content that their forebears simply couldn't have used. (They also insert newly-filmed footage; that this includes a few gratuitous boob shots that reflect the filmmakers' hopes, I'm guessing, of attracting the lucrative 18- to 25-year-old male demographic.) Part of the payoff for this is that it's startling - and thus funny - in any context to see Peter Graves deliver the line, "I've got to go down on a man right away. Don't you agree?" The downside is that much of Don't Ask Don't Tell is sophomoric even beyond what the premise requires.

Speaking of the premise, if it makes you uneasy to think that you might be asked, in Don't Ask Don't Tell, to enjoy one too many laughs at the expense of gay men, you can relax. In the opinion of this critic, the film is ultimately rather charming in its inclusiveness, its primary target being homophobia as opposed to homosexuals.

Don't Ask Don't Tell gets off to a rocky start; it conveys a franticness in these opening scenes, as though the writer was afraid of losing you if he didn't come out of the gate with a bang. But it calms down and, although a plot is slow in developing, the scenes that would have been filler in Killers from Space are the funniest in Don't Ask Don't Tell. Here we have regular conversation, and the freedom from plot advancement gives Hauser the opportunity to script a few zingers: A subplot about dope, in particular, flies.

Ultimately, Don't Ask Don't Tell comes off as a little strained and there is little of the new footage that I couldn't have lived without. So be it. It's harmless at worst and at best a good time. The DVD edition includes undoctored scenes from Killers from Space (these few clips make you grateful to be spared the feature), as well as a rather too madcap commentary track.

Aka Aliens from Space, Killers from Space.



Don't Ask Don't Tell

Facts and Figures

Run time: 75 mins

In Theaters: Friday 5th April 2002

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 36%
Fresh: 4 Rotten: 7

IMDB: 4.4 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Hampstead Movie Review

Hampstead Movie Review

Deliberately appealing to older audiences, this undemanding comedy-drama comes with a hint of social relevance...

The Book of Henry Movie Review

The Book of Henry Movie Review

Apparently, this offbeat script had been making the rounds in Hollywood for some 20 years...

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

With this fifth Transformers movie, it seems clear that Michael Bay is still trying to...

Churchill Movie Review

Churchill Movie Review

This drama about the iconic British prime minister tells a darkly personal story set over...

Gifted Movie Review

Gifted Movie Review

This is one of those films that dances right up to the edge of soapy...

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Notorious British filmmaker Nick Broomfield teams up with Austrian music documentary producer Rudi Dolezal to...

The Mummy Movie Review

The Mummy Movie Review

To launch their new Dark Universe franchise, Universal has taken an approach that mixes murky...

Advertisement
My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

Daphne du Maurier's 1951 mystery-romance novel has been adapted for theatre, radio, TV and film,...

Wilson Movie Review

Wilson Movie Review

It's never helpful when a comedy becomes a bit too smug about its own quirkiness....

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

A fictionalised story from the life of Wolfgang Mozart, this lavishly produced period drama is...

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

This British satirical comedy may be a bit of a mess, but since it's based...

Detour Movie Review

Detour Movie Review

This may look like a rather typical American indie thriller, but British filmmaker Christopher Smith...

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Boldly optimistic, this action-packed adventure breathes fresh life into the DC universe with a welcome...

Baywatch Movie Review

Baywatch Movie Review

Clearly, it's a risky proposition adapting a cheesy vintage TV series for the big screen:...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.