June 01, 1998 12:00 PM

Matthew Broderick, Jean Reno

Featured Attraction

What’s big, gray-green, has scaly skin and is wet all over? Godzilla, that mutant reptile spawned as a result of nuclear testing in the South Pacific, has risen from the ocean yet again to menace folks in a movie equally large and lumbering. This latest and costliest (a reported $130 million) Godzilla, from the hyperventilating Independence Day producer-director team of Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich, may look better than its 22 low-budget Japanese and American predecessors, but it’s still nothing more than a dopey monster movie about a really big lizard looking to do lunch at mankind’s expense. Hamlet this ain’t. Or even King Kong.

At least the oversize gorilla had feelings. In Godzilla the big guy just roams Manhattan stomping on skyscrapers and letting loose an occasional roar. And it’s not only the monster who lacks personality. Excepting Broderick as a biologist tracking Godzilla, Reno as a Frenchman also trailing the lizard and Hank Azaria as a TV news cameraman, the casting here is seriously lackluster. You couldn’t care less what happens to the movie’s flimsy characters. Some audiences, I suspect, will actually root for Reptile Boy to win.

What’s left to admire then are the computer-generated special effects, which are plentiful and eye-popping. Particularly impressive is the way Godzilla’s massive tail whips about, gouging giant furrows in New York City landmarks, rather like a vandal scraping a car’s paint job with keys. Still, although the special effects are more abundant, they aren’t anything audiences didn’t already see last summer in the equally rainsoaked Jurassic Park: The Lost World. In fact, this Godzilla looks and behaves like an especially glum escapee from Steven Spielberg’s amusement park. (PG-13)

Bottom Line: Leapin’ lizards and nothing more

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