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Monday, August 19, 1996 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Dave Barry

`Independence Day,' The Thinking Man's Movie

Knight-Ridder Newspapers

COULD alien beings from another galaxy come here and obliterate human civilization? If so, would this be covered by our homeowners' insurance? These troubling questions are on the minds of the millions of people who are being exposed this summer to the spectacle of grotesque, repulsive, inhuman creatures that would stop at nothing in their determination to dominate the Earth. I am referring, of course, to the Democratic and Republican conventions.

But the public was also troubled by the blockbuster motion picture "Independence Day." It definitely had a powerful effect on me. I had been skeptical about all the "hype," but when the 2 1/2-hour movie was over, I found myself sitting pensively in the theater for quite a while, pondering the question: How am I going to get out of here, when my shoes are bonded in place by one of the most powerful adhesives known to science, Movie Floor Crud, which is a mixture of Pepsi, Milk Duds and year-old nasal secretions snorted out by distraught moviegoers during the ending of "The Bridges of Madison County?" A lot of people just leave their shoes on the theater floor and walk out barefoot. But getting back to "Independence Day": What happens is, these aliens from millions of light-years away arrive in our solar system in a fantastically huge spaceship manufactured by the Winnebago Corp. When they reach Earth, they are in a bad mood, possibly because their luggage has not arrived, so they attack New York City, causing the population to panic and run around screaming. In my opinion, this is the only unrealistic part of the movie. I mean, we're talking about NEW YORKERS, here. These are tough people. These are people who, every day, without even thinking about it, voluntarily go down into dark, steaming, noisy, extremely aromatic holes containing the New York City subway system. People who do that are not going to get bent out of shape just because an alien invasion force is obliterating their city. They are merely going to shrug and continue reading The New York Post (front-page headline: UFO ATTACK DESTROYS BUTTAFUOCO HOME).

At the same time as they hit New York, the aliens destroy Los Angeles - a clear indication that they had been monitoring the O.J. Simpson trial. They also wipe out Washington, D.C., apparently believing - this just shows that even a highly advanced species can be stupid - that wiping out the federal government would somehow make it more difficult for the country to function.

While millions of Americans take to the streets to celebrate the fact that they will probably not have to file income-tax returns for several years, the president of the United States, played by a weenie, escapes, along with several key actors, to an ultra-secret government installation.

There they learn that scientists have been trying to repair an alien flying saucer that crashed in 1947, which means the warranty has expired. (This crash was hushed up, except for a brief statement from the Federal Aviation Administration assuring the public that flying-saucer travel is perfectly safe.) The secret installation also contains the bodies of deceased aliens, which have likewise been kept completely hidden away except for one brief incident in 1977 when one of them showed up as part of a science-fair project submitted by Amy Carter.

The plot thickens when Jeff Goldblum, who plays a brilliant cable-TV scientist, discovers, by analyzing signals coming from the extraterrestrial mother ship, that the aliens are the source of all "infomercials." This makes the Earth so mad that it decides to fight back. There is a spectacular aerial battle between a fleet of scale-model alien saucers and a fleet of scale-model Air Force fighters, led by President Weenie. Meanwhile, Jeff Goldblum, flying in the crashed enemy saucer, which is piloted by the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, gets inside the mother ship and uses his laptop computer to put a virus into the aliens' main computer system. He can do this because the aliens, like every other life form in the galaxy, have basically no choice but to use the "Windows 95" operating system; in fact the whole reason why they have attacked the Earth is to destroy Bill Gates.

Goldblum's virus easily disables the aliens' main computer. Perhaps you're wondering why aliens who can travel millions of light years can't fix a computer virus. The answer is that, like any large organization, the mother ship has only one individual who actually understands the computer system, and that individual is not available. The alien computer nerd is hiding in the bowels of the Mother Ship, playing the alien version of Space Invaders, in which the object is to kill little attacking figures that look like Keanu Reeves. So the alien ships, their defenses disabled, are all shot down, and the movie ends with people all over the world celebrating. Of course the cheering will stop soon enough, when millions of attorneys crawl out of the smoking rubble of America's cities, contact the surviving aliens, put neck braces on them and start suing the Earth in general for trillions of dollars. THAT'S when we should really get worried.

Dave Barry is a humor columnist for the Miami Herald. His column appears Monday on editorial pages of The Times.

Copyright (c) 1996 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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