Barbarella ★★


This thing was just oozing with imagination, filled to the brim and overflowing with creativity…problematic in the sense that its individuality is really the single thing working in its favor. Some strange combination of narratively weak sci-fi, retro sexploitation, and secret agent thriller, only with the camp-factor cranked way up to overdrive with no chance of turning back. Still unsure of how much of BARBARELLA is supposed to be "satire" and how much is simply "second rate," and a times, I don't think the film even knows what it's trying to be. As a sci-fi, it's too harebrained and thematically weak to carry water (creativity can only take you so far); as a retro sexploitation flick, it's too tame to offer anything worthwhile; as a secret agent thriller… well, just imagine if someone showed you AUSTIN POWERS: INTERNATIONAL MAN OF MYSTERY, replaced Michael Myers with Jane Fonda and told you, "this was a legitimate effort." I'm not saying this isn't fair game as a total mockery, but its humor is so unconfident and dour that I'd be hard-pressed to think anyone would consider this a "comedy" first and foremost (I'm having an even harder time believing that one of the screenplay writers for this was also the main writer for DR. STRANGELOVE, a script that exhibits sardonic perfection; BARBARELLA is almost a polar opposite in that regard). I'd be more inclined to have a halfhearted enjoyment of its B-rate cheesiness if anything had been able to resonate, but the movie misfires on pretty much every cylinder in its downtrodden engine—acting (atrocious); pacing (jagged); humor (nonexistent); sex appeal (unnecessary); cinematography (amateurish); story (nonsensical). Listen, I understand the allure of low-budget B-rate movies, but you can't just attribute every single flaw to, "well, that's part of the charm!"—I'm not buying it. It's gotta have something for me to latch onto. Interesting characters, an enticing premise, fascinating set pieces, anything. It's got an expressive vision but has absolutely no idea how to put it to good use. And no, scantily-clad-space-suit Jane Fonda being flown through the air by a bronzed and chiseled angel-man isn't exactly my idea of proper utilization.

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