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IN SHORT: Guano. Perfect for 10 year olds. [Rated [PG-13], 91 minutes]
Here we have a timed-for-Halloween-release scareflick about killer bats. We're not talking small, potentially frightening domestic bats, which don't eat meat. We're talking imported, endangered species variety, genetically engineered to become perfect, controllable soldiers in the war against who the hell knows what.
From the pounding music accompanying the fast visual cuts slashing across the screen, even before the opening credits hit, Cranky knew (from experience) that this was going to be painful. A random attack somewhere in Texas takes down two teens who had been debating whether he was scum and whether she should put out. Typical teen stuff. Then, in a flash, something attacks their car, fast cut, fast cut, fast cut, and they're dead. A terrible start.
We meet eminent bat researcher Sheila Casper (Dina Meyer) and her assistant Jimmy (Leon), pulled from a research assignment by a high powered suit (Carlos Jacott) from the Center for Disease Control. With him is the mysterious scientist, Dr. Alexander McCabe (Bob Gunton), who bears a remarkable resemblance to a guy who used to sell frozen peas on TV for a local supermarket chain. But I digress...
Down in Texas, the local badge belongs to Sheriff Emmett Kimsey (Lou Diamond Phillips) who appreciates the high tech equipment that's been choppered into his town. Problem is, anyone who has sat through any number of would be scary flicks can see almost everything coming a thousand miles away. The scientist has a secret. Check. The government is somehow involved (but I'm not telling how). Check. One character sacrifices him/herself to save another. Check. The black guy makes jokes. Check. The dialog is funny without meaning to be. Double check. Cranky, and the other reviewers, were almost rolling in the aisles -- we weren't supposed to, but when you get lines like "I'm a Scientist. It's What We Do." pronounced with all the self-importance of a Papal decree, well, that's how incredibly tacky and dumb John Logan's screenplay is.
Director Louis Morneau uses a special lens to give us the "bat's eye view" from time to time. Problem is, he uses the effect when there aren't bats around, wasting the concept.
Now remember that bats, the animal, move with stealth and can attack before you know they're there. Bats are supposed to instill fear and scare folk, and we all know what they did to a young Bruce Wayne, which led Joel Schumacher to make to a pair of movies even worse than this one. I'll be blunt about this. The only saving grace of Bats, the movie, is to be found in the special effects. I'm talking about swarms of bats attacking trucks, buildings, battering their way into locked off spaces. With effects split between different companies, some of 'em work. Some of 'em look cheesy. The models of the bats themselves, are so damned ugly they're almost funny to look at, as they stalk their victims.
But the first major attack, on a truck bearing our beloved pair of heroes, is so damned cool looking that Cranky wonders what this thing could've become if better hands where on the wheel.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Bats, he would have paid...
Dumb dialog. Little tension. Some nice effects. If you don't care about story and just want the effects, fine. If my nephew were ten, he'd gobble this up with a spoon.
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