July 08, 1996 12:00 PM

Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Judd Hirsch

Day 1. The movie finally arrives. It has loomed over the American landscape for months, sending out media signals that scramble citizens’ thoughts. One can scarcely recall the names of all the lesser summer blockbusters.

Day 2. Now, at last, we know the worst. It’s The War of the Worlds with a Poseidon Adventure sensibility—a big, mechanical enterprise with a dried pea of a brain rattling around in the hull. Vast alien spaceships slowly creep into position, then explode the world’s cities into flame. A core group of survivors—including the President (Pullman), who actually has a daughter nicknamed Munchkin; a Marine pilot (Smith); a computer expert (Goldblum); and his funny, crinkly-crotchety old Jewish papa (Hirsch)—are brought together and pitted against the enemy by a script that is nine-tenths padding and 10 percent filler. The dialogue is cavernously broad and empty. (“A lot of people died today,” says Pullman, sulking aboard Air Force One. “Many of them didn’t have to.”)

The special effects aren’t bad, but they don’t compare to those in Twister. In a colossal aerial battle between Americans and aliens, hundreds of tiny fighter planes litter the air like confetti tossed from a stadium bleacher. The aliens have wide hammerhead skulls and small oval faces that suggest wolverines.

Day 3. The movie, directed by Roland Emmerich (StarGate), has run through one’s system like popcorn buttered with olestra. The mind, now freed, can turn in anticipation to the August release of the next Brady Bunch movie. (PG-13)

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