PG-13, for just enough raunch to make you uncomfortable in front of your kids. MST3K has always been pretty tame, but I think the movie format gave them just enough guts to add the smallest amount of swearing and innuendo. It's pretty tame for a PG-13 film, but when you were mentally prepped for G-rating, it can make you a little uncomfortable. My kids didn't pick up on anything offensive, which may be telling about the audience it's aimed at. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Jim Mallon
How do you possibly write about the Mystery Science Theater 3000 movie? There's not a lot of actual film outside of the movie that they are mocking and I'm not really watching This Island Earth. Like, I was just excited to find an excuse to watch a Mystery Science Theater episode while adding a movie to my blog, but I didn't think of the problems that I would encounter. I have a feeling that this movie will be representative of Mystery Science Theater as a whole, so that's part of where I'm going with this.
I loved this movie back in the day. I suppose I still love it. But Mystery Science Theater is really hard to share. It's kind of like forcing someone to sit down and watch an old Star Trek television episode. Most of the people who would enjoy it have found it on their own, so trying to get new fans to understand what makes it so great can kind of be a tall order. This is probably what happened to my eight-year-old daughter and my six-year-old son. Henry absolutely loved what he watched of it. He giggled so hard that I thought he was going to pee himself. But at one point, he was giggling at a Wilt Chamberlain reference and I realized, "He thinks that people talking over the movie is funny." My daughter had a harder time getting into it. One of the jokes finally landed and she started laughing. She then stopped and kept asking me to explain jokes. I told her that one of the things about Mystery Science Theater is that she wasn't going to get all of the jokes and that's okay. She then started asking why these guys were making fun of the movie, so I showed her the opening credits of the TV show, which she probably enjoyed more than the entire movie. At one point, I think she was laughing because Henry was laughing uncontrollably. I honestly thought she was laughing at the movie, but between gasps, she would exclaim "I don't get any of this."
That's kind of the thing about Mystery Science Theater. I wonder if this was a product of a time that was itching for stuff like this. I know that early millennials tend to look down on later millennials and zoomers for their obsession with irony, but MST3K was the gateway to hatewatching stuff. There's something really charming about Mystery Science Theater that makes it more good-natured than anything else, but that same itch is being scratched. The people who make these episodes seem to enjoy bad movies both ironically and unironically. There's only so much you could do if you honestly hated these movies. With the case of This Island Earth, I think that there's an understanding that this movie isn't terrible so much as it is "of that era". I remember as a kid, pre-MST, that my dad showed me This Island Earth for family movie night and we all thought it was fine. It actually is one of those Universal classics and everyone had to pretend that the movie is fairly terrible because Universal actually let them have a REAL movie. The fact that This Island Earth has a modicum of quality may be the reason that the commentary is actually way funnier. One of my theories, coming from a guy who has watched a lot of MST, is that the better the movie, the better the commentary. There are some MST episodes that are borderline unwatchable. The commentary does nothing for the film and it is a chore to sit through. Because This Island Earth has a degree of respectability, the entire experience is a good time.
But in recent years, I've gotten aboard the RiffTrax train. I secretly kind of like it better. Part of it comes in because they are making fun of all movies, not just terrible ones. But I'm going to be honest, and this makes me feel like a bully, it's because the skits aren't funny. They almost never are. There's something very public access about the whole thing, which makes sense considering the origins of the show itself. The film starts off with Dr. Clayton Forrester doing his things. The production value is pretty impressive (although Cambot has been wiped from existence because there are multiple camera angles now). It's just that it is the same community theater acting and bits that pushed the narrative of the TV show on. The scene literally ends with Forrester spanking himself with his clipboard. It's the stuff that made the Ghoul famous and I don't know if that humor is necessarily...the most crafted? The odd thing is that you have these absolutely genius jokes during the films and these absolutely boring banal jokes during the skits. Part of it comes from the guys just having fun. Part of my brain is flashing to perhaps an imaginary special feature talking about the skits. The part of my brain that is really undercooked is telling me that the team enjoyed making those skits more than the actual movies themselves. But those bits really don't really scream "quality." Even with the enhanced budget for a feature length film, the skits are probably the hardest to sell to anyone.
Really, Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie is just a really good episode of the show. And that's probably okay. Because this was going to be released in theaters, albeit on a smaller scale than other films, the movie never really feels boring. Those jokes land a lot more than they did in other episodes. The mythology is mostly non-existent, with the exception of the disappearance of Dr. Forrester. But watching a better movie with a slightly bigger budget and jokes that overall land pretty nice creates a nice sense of rewatchablility. Heck, there's a ton of jokes that I remember seeing from previous watches that still made me giggle a ton. It's a great film. If you aren't familiar with MST3K, I still want you to give it a chance. But as I said, it might be a harder sell.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.