DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
BROTHER FROM ANOTHER PLANET, THE (director/writer: John Sayles; cinematographer: Ernest Dickerson; editor: John Sayles; music: Mason Daring; cast: Joe Morton (The Brother), John Sayles (Man in Black, Uno), David Strathairn (Man in Black, Dos), Darry Edwards (Fly), Leonard Jackson (Smokey), Caroline Aaron (Randy Sue Carter), Dee Dee Bridgewater (Malverne Davis), Tom Wright (Sam Prescott, social worker), Steve James (Odell, bartender), Jaimi Tirelli (Hector), Carl Gordon (Mr. Price), Ray Ramirez (Hispanic Man), Herbert Newsome (Earl), Bill Cobbs (Warren), Minnie Gentry (Mrs. Brown), Fisher Stevens (Card Trickster), Edward Baran (Mr. Vance), Deborah Taylor (Vance's gabby Receptionist), Maggie Renzi (Noreen), Ren Woods (Bernice), Sidney Sheriff, Jr. (Virgil); Runtime: 108; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Peggy Rajski/Maggie Renzi; Cinecom Internatonal Films; 1984)

 
"Quirky urban spaceman comedy, that's only moderately funny and observant."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Writer-director John Sayles's ("Return of the Secaucus 7"/"City of Hope"/"Matewan") first box office hit is this quirky urban spaceman comedy, that's only moderately funny and observant. The gimmicky premise uses up its initial good will rather fast and chugs along on the local tracks to say obvious social commentary things (about drugs, slavery, technology, human relationships and community) that seem as if the director was on a soapbox. It uses its alien hero for a satirical look at race relationships, at the poverty and drugs of Harlem and the ills of the world through his non-judgmental eyes.

The Brother (Joe Morton) is a mute black escaped slave from an unnamed planet, who crash-lands his space capsule off Ellis Island and then finds himself in Harlem after swimming ashore. Dressed in rags, he's viewed as a homeless man. After some heavy reactions from some whites and Harlem residents, he finds his way to Odell's friendly local pub. The regular patrons (Bill Cobbs, Darryl Edwards, Carl Gordon, Leonard Jackson, and Steve James) think him odd, but when he fixes a video game with his healing powers social worker Sam (Tom Wright) hooks him up with job as a technician in a Times Square video arcade and the bartender gets him a place to stay as a border with a single white mom with a black child (Herbert Newsome) he fully identifies with. The alien's best adventure, is spending a night in the sack with a one time hot club soul-singer (Dee Dee Bridgewater) who is now in decline. On the alien's trail, to bring him back to their planet, are two robotic white alien extraterrestrial bounty hunters who are dressed in black uniforms (David Strathairn and John Sayles).

Aside from Morton's expressive and sensitive performance, a few pointed vignettes that get over with a little sting and a few sight gags that are amusing, this bogus fable on the immigrant experience is pretty thin stuff and fails to cohere into a whole.

REVIEWED ON 12/31/2007        GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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