There are a few admissions one should not make as a reporter at Variety, and I’m going to tell you the biggest one: “Independence Day” is my favorite movie of all time.
I know how this sounds, and it’s terrible. I sit a few desks away from our film critics and they’re probably worried I’m going to infect them with my bad taste. But the truth is that I’ve never had more fun in a movie theater than I did during “Independence Day,” and here are ten of my best reasons why.
1. Worrisome attraction to Bill Pullman.
Nine-year-old me didn’t understand the feelings she had for Bill Pullman, and 26-year-old me doesn’t quite get them, either. Perhaps it’s because he’s got an earnest version of Alec Baldwin’s fake-gravelly voice from “30 Rock,” and this tricks me into thinking he is dark and mysterious (26-year-old me and 9-year-old me fall for the same men, apparently). Whatever’s going on, he’s fun to watch.
2. Jeff Goldblum is among the closest we’ve gotten to a Jewish superhero.
That heading almost read that Goldblum is THE closest we’ve gotten, but apparently Wikipedia has a whole list of Jewish superheroes, and he’s on it (along with Judd Hirsch’s character!). Goldblum may also be the original hipster: plaid-clad, bike-riding, environmentally conscious and tormented — the thinking woman’s sex symbol. Only Goldblum’s geeky genius and increasingly protruding chest hair save earth.
3. Randy Quaid’s loser-turned-winner story.
Quaid plays an alcoholic crop duster who can’t even manage to spray the right field. But by the end of the movie, he quits drinking and miraculously flies his plane into juuuuuuuuuuuuuust the right spot on the alien spacecraft, thereby igniting a chain reaction that blows the whole thing up into massive spacecraft fireballs which land on earth. This brings me to my next point:
4. Massive fireballs.
No one knows how to blow up the White House quite like Roland Emmerich, and “Independence Day” is the best evidence of that (although to be fair, I haven’t seen his latest pic “White House Down”). The special effects are impressive and earned “Independence Day” the VFX Oscar in 1997. And they still hold up pretty well in a CGI-saturated world.
5. Will Smith punching an alien.
I think you will agree with me that this requires no further explanation. “Welcome to Earth,” Smith barks at the alien, which is probably the best thing one COULD say after punching an alien. Smith then DRAGS the alien through the desert, referring to its tentacles as “dreadlocks.” I’m going to ignore the racial undertones of this, because it’s July 4th and that means America is perfect. When a caravan of Quaid’s trailer buddies finds him, Smith knows EXACTLY how to get to Area 51, even though the president doesn’t even know it exists.
But the president is still amazing because of —
6. Bill Pullman’s speech.
American presidents have made a lot of moving speeches throughout history. I’m not saying that Pullman’s pep talk is more inspiring than the Gettysburg Address. I’ve just never seen a drunken film major with an American flag cape climb to the roof of a West Philly house party and recite that ENTIRE THING.
7. Judd Hirsch’s Yiddishisms and accent.
“If I knew I was going to meet the president, I would have worn a tie. Look at me, I look like a schlemiel.” It’s like I’m watching my own grandfather hunch over a steering wheel as he argues with Goldblum about how fast to drive to the White House. “What’s the rush? You think we’ll get to Washington, it won’t be there?”
8. Words of wisdom.
“You’re never going to get to fly the space shuttle if you marry a stripper,” Harry Connick Jr. says after he finds out that Smith wants to propose to his exotic dancer girlfriend. Not exactly the type of advice my mother would give me, but perhaps it will be useful one day.
9. Story arcs.
The four guys who save the world all have little story arcs, and you care about them: SPOILER ALERT FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVEN’T SEEN THIS MOVIE IN THE LAST 20 YEARS: Smith gets to fly into space after all. Goldblum wins back his ex. Pullman becomes the kind of leader every U.S. president dreams of being, and nobody ever manages in real life. Quaid kind of comes out on top, despite the fact that he dies: He redeems himself to his kids, quits drinking AND blows up a giant ship full of aliens.
10. But maybe the best thing about “Independence Day” is:
20th Century Fox is developing another “Independence Day.” I predict two versions: One patriotic event film, and one film that Fox hopes will get into China: U.S. forces team up with the Chinese to save the world while teaching us a lesson about the perils of the West along the way.