Mike Nelson of Mystery Science Theater 3000 Reviews:

Sphere (1998)

The cheese rolls on
movie poster If you know anything about Joe Bob Briggs, then you know how much he loves underwater movies. Don’t believe me? Check out his comments for The Neptune Factor or his MonsterVision host segments for Leviathan. So naturally, we asked him what he thought of “Sphere.” The last time I saw him, he was running screaming down the street. So next we sent a DVD* of the film to Mike Nelson of Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Here's Mike Nelson:

Sphere (formerly titled “Ball” and “Round Thing”) is the Barry Levinson movie starring Dustin Hoffman of Tootsie, Sharon Stone, and Samuel L. Jackson that was out for 78-minutes in theaters. Sphere’s luke-warm reception may be due in part to the tag line on the lobby card that reads, “Terror Can Fill Any Space.” To my mind it sounds too much like an Earl Schieb commercial--Terror can fill any space, for $49.95!

Sphere, based on the Michael Crichton novel, is the story of a group of scientists investigating an alien spacecraft that has crashed deep beneath the ocean (they were probably on a manatee mutilating expedition). The craft has picked up a large golden medicine ball, the purpose of which eludes the brainy scientists, played by Hoffman, Stone, and Jackson. Not one of them arrives at the most likely solution: that it’s simply a ball, probably used by some alien phys-ed teacher to smash into the face of the smart but slightly corpulent kid who threatens his own masculinity.

“As the less than brilliant scientists try to sort it out, people start dying, of course, until there are only a few of them left, etc., you know the drill. Sphere is the kind of movie that gives sci-fi in general its well-deserved reputation as the smelly, unemployed cousin of the entertainment family. Simple, half-baked moral messages are dressed up in wan intrigue, all of it shot on superdark sets so no one notices how bad it all is. Truly the central message of Sphere is the type that makes even the lesser stories on the original Star Trek seem profound.

“The DVD features many extras, including an audio track with the voices of Dustin Hoffman and Samuel L. Jackson sharing their experiences in making the film. As talented as there two are, I’d frankly rather sit thru Senator Orrin Hatch reading The Uniform Commercial Code. I did manage to get thru a few Samuel Jackson stories before I realized I had bullion cubes that need sorting.

“Once I had the beefs separated from the chickens and the vegetables on their own shelf, I took a crack at the docu on the making of the special effects for the film. I’d frankly rather sit thru a 10-hour tape of The World’s Greatest Aviation Weather Reports as read by Garrick Utley. Fully half an hour or more is given over to a thin, pale man who stares at a computer screen all day making digital jellyfish. As necessary as digital jellyfish are, I personally haven’t the patience for lengthy lucubrations on their makeup.

"Sphere" availabilty on video and on DVD from Amazon.com

Books by Michael Nelson available from Amazon.com include Movie Megacheese. Mike's episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 are available from Amazon.com on both video and on DVD, and he co-wrote the MST3000 book

The last time I checked they had several used copies of Megacheese for sale. I won't sell you my copy. Don't even ask. I haven't read the Jackie Chan chapter yet, or even the Van Damme chapter and you know how much I like Van Dammege. "The Muscles from Brussels. Kick boxer. Actor. Restauranteur. Dumber than a bag of hammers...Makes Steven Seagal look like Richard Burbage." Well ok, I did read the intro to the Van Damme chapter...

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* DVD stands for “Digital Versatile Disc” or “Digital Video Disc,” or maybe it’s “Digital Velocity Dog” or “Debbie’s Velcro Davenport.” Actually, I should have asked Mike Nelson what it stands for before he got so dizzy from reviewing “Sphere.”

© 2000 Michael J. Nelson. All rights reserved, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles & reviews. Mike Nelson is no relation to Lloyd Bridges and has never run low on air while hunting around under the sea for spheres.