Movie News & Reviews

'The Ice Pirates' ends up an exercise in what might have been

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but what theydon't say is your imitators will by definition be undertalented squadof hacks who drag your work down with crummy-by-association.

My bindle-tying skills are admired far and wide, yet if your onlyexposure to it is "One-Tooth" Joe's shoddy knotwork, you'd take me fora real greenhorn. On the other hand, witnessing a derivative butsometimes-funny copycat like 1984's The Ice Pirates can remindyou just why you fell in love with the original in the first place.

In a galaxy where war has stripped the worlds of nearly all theirwater, ice pirate Robert Urich and his outlaw crew try to kidnapprincess Mary Crosby, only to be captured and sold into slavery toher. But their purchase isn't fueled by vengeance: Crosby's fatherdisappeared looking for a lost water world, and Urich's band may havewhat it takes to track him down.

Complete with clumsy droids, personal spacecraft, and ill-definedroyalty, The Ice Pirates has an awful lot in common withanother movie that rhymes with Bar Bores. Only goofier.

Like when Urich and buddy Michael D. Roberts are tossed on an assemblyline to be turned into lobotomized eunuch servants. I can't rememberthe last time I heard so many castration jokes, and I've seenSnips: The Musical. Their ship's defense computer is a parodyof Space Invaders. It's a little like if Spaceballs weremade three years earlier and about twenty years cruddier.

Yet it's not completely worthless. The supporting cast includesAngelica Huston, early-career Ron Perlman (his only film role prior tothis was as a caveman. It was a documentary), and, in the part he wasborn to play, the severed head of Bruce Vilanch. Also it has lots ofswords. Not lightsabers or beam-claymores, but pirate cutlasses.Rather than being a mindless stylistic choice, this is surely a nod tothe harsh realities of space travel: you can't go shooting gunsinside a pressurized ship! Except when they do that, too.

Yet somehow silly, uneven romps like this always pull together for asmasher of an ending that makes you wonder why the whole thing wasn'tthat great. The Ice Pirates is no exception, barreling througha time-bending climax that, for just a few minutes, feels like awonderful clip from the parallel universe of What Might Have Been.