Two unoffending mice with the voices of John Ritter and Pam Dawber are relentlessly pursued through an appliance-gutted suburban tract house by a heartlessly mechanical Robocat, who performs his mission with such cold-blooded purpose that the automaton ends up destroying both itself and
the suburban home as the two mice escape into another dimension. This wonderful, six-minute animated reprieve by the great Chuck Jones is the nearest Peter Hyams's spineless and dull comedy STAY TUNED ever gets to any sense of true satire, invention, or style.
Seattle couple Roy (John Ritter) and Helen (Pam Dawber) Knable get sucked into a satanic cable-TV dimension after Roy agrees to try out a satellite dish promoted by the devil's own right-hand man, Spike (Jeffrey Jones). Trapped into a heinous 666 channel, ricochetting from one nightmarish program
to another, they must find their way back to the reality of suburban Seattle within 24 hours or their souls become the property of Beelzebub. With help from their electronics whiz son Darryl (David Tom), the Knables defeat Spike and rejoin their family in "reality."
Director Peter Hyams (OUTLAND, 2010, NARROW MARGIN) proves himself capable of displaying low voltage special effects but distinctly incapable of providing a context or a point of view. Hyams and screenwriters Tom S. Parker and Jim Jennewein seem to be angling for a more light-humored RUNNING MAN
tinged with the existential thrust of a SHERLOCK JR. But the satiric point is ground down to a nub by the film's pointless "Saturday Night Live"-type sketch parodies ("Meet the Mansons," "Wayne's Underworld") whose weakly humorous premises become nothing more than that, flashing into view with
labored joke and then vanishing like the thin wispy gags they are. Hyams's dim-witted blandness belies the toothless comedy, so that rather than exposing the dangerously homogenous pablum of current cable-TV programming, STAY TUNED has the look of the cable-TV gristle itself.
In its strange and convoluted way, STAY TUNED caves in to the same bilge that it wants to criticize. This deadening negation is further intensified by the casting of John Ritter ("Three's Company," "Hearts Afire") and Pam Dawber ("Mork and Mindy," "My Sister Sam"). Battle-scarred veterans of
Sitcom Hell themselves, they play the Knables' Seattle reality as if already sucked into Spike's satellite dish. False and zombielike at the outset, it is with little surprise that they are less than horrified when confronted by the devil's own programming. Ritter and Dawber play their parts with
a TV performer's even-tempered and empty-headed placidity, depriving the film of any depth or subtext.
With Hyams's direction, Parker and Jennewein's screenplay and Ritter and Dawber's performances, STAY TUNED is nothing more than the bland leading the bland, collapsing upon itself and disappearing into the TV screen like an electronic blip among the 625 scan lines.
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- Released: 1992
- Rating: PG
- Review: Two unoffending mice with the voices of John Ritter and Pam Dawber are relentlessly pursued through an appliance-gutted suburban tract house by a heartlessly mechanical Robocat, who performs his mission with such cold-blooded purpose that the automaton end… (more)