on May 20, 1998 by Lisa Osborne
   The marketing campaign was brilliant; the movie is not. "Godzilla" is basically a vehicle for special effects--albeit good special effects--that lasts about 20 minutes too long and needs a script.
   To cut a long story short: Godzilla, who is pregnant, decides to travel to Manhattan to build its nest. But the only apparent reason for this move is to produce a plentiful supply of recognizable buildings for the creature to knock down. As the lead character, biologist Nick Tatopoulos (Matthew Broderick) points out that animals often travel long distances to mate. This is true, but they go home; they don't venture forth into foreign lands. Although explaining Godzilla's physiology adds interest--for example, it can't be hit by a heat-seeking missile because it's cold-blooded and thus cooler than the surrounding buildings--it makes the creature seem more human; a victim, not a menace. Godzilla is simply a new parent looking for a good place to bring up its young. And it's targeted for death solely because it's too big for the space it's chosen, proving yet again that Size Does Matter.
   Maria Pitillo plays Audrey Timmonds, a painful, would-be TV news reporter who once dated Tatopoulos for four years. Although we wouldn't want to have her trampled by Godzilla, adding 40 points to her IQ and stopping her whining would have helped. Even though Tatopoulos supposedly still loves her after she wandered off without a word eight years before, it is too much to expect us to believe that she can suddenly reappear, lie to him, steal from him, get him fired and then, with only a smile and no chemistry, start the wedding bells chiming. Please.
   Hank Azaria does what he can to keep the story together as Victor "Animal" Palotti, Timmonds' friend and a TV cameraman, who's intent on getting her a break in front of the lens. One wonders why he bothers. And, for a career cameraman, he loses his film much too easily. Jean Reno is convincing as French secret agent Philippe Roache, who's sent to clean up his country's mistakes--it was France's atomic testing that supposedly produced the radiation that created Godzilla. As his is the only character endowed with common sense and the ability to think reasonably quickly, it is a merciful relief to have him there. But this shadowy character could have done so much more. This is a big movie with a lot of potential but, unfortunately, very little of it is realized.    Starring Matthew Broderick, Jean Reno, Hank Azaria and Maria Pitillo. Directed by Roland Emmerich. Written by Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin. Produced by Dean Devlin. A TriStar release. Sci-fi/thriller. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi monster action/violence. Running time: 135 min.
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