Saturday, April 18, 1998 Home Edition Section: Calendar Page: F-20

TV Review;

Moderate Pleasures in ‘Brave New World’;


Anti-utopian themes are so pronounced in literature that even the three best-known novels on that topic—Eugene Zamiatin’s “We,” George Orwell’s “1984" and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World”—have become somewhat obscured in this thick fog of foreboding stories about tomorrow’s societies that see individual freedom and happiness as incompatible. First published in 1932, “Brave New World” is the rosiest of this trio, with the mid-21st century foreseen by Huxley offering a much more benign hell, for example, than the totalitarian superstate depicted in Orwell’s subsequent “1984.” And hence a kinder environment for NBC’s new rendering of “Brave New World,” a likable enough movie if you approach it with limited expectations, yet one whose moderate pleasures do not include anything you’re likely to chew on or hash over afterward. God has been supplanted by pseudo science and technology in the sterile, regimented utopia designed by Huxley. Residents are defined, from Alpha to Delta, according to their lab-bred abilities. Controlled by a tasty happy drug known as Soma, they get what they want, and never want what they don’t get. There’s no crime, disease, fear or pain. State-run “hatcheries” have replaced antique concepts of parents, marriage and family, and promiscuity is a citizen’s duty—presenting ample opportunities for flesh that this movie cheerfully exploits.

In other words, what you get in this brave new world is a colorized “Night of the Living Dead” with orgasms.

Not every flame is out, however. Unextinguished are Bernard Marx (Peter Gallagher) and Lenina Crowne (Rya Kihlstedt), a pair of Alpha lovers whose mutual affection is edging perilously toward commitment. And more trouble looms after their visit to the outback of this society, where they meet a young Shakespearean (Timothy Guinee) living on a reservation of “savages,” anti-utopians who do not conform with the ways of “civilization.”

The savage’s subsequent encounters with “civilization” and its benevolent despot, Mustapha Mond (Leonard Nimoy), and director of hatcheries and conditioning (Miguel Ferrer), establish a moral crossroads for the rest of the story.

Directors Leslie Libman and Larry Williams let the pace slow to a tedious crawl at times. The teleplay by Dan Mazur and David Tausik throws in a TV-style upbeat ending, and tries to make this story more relatable by slipping in such familiarities as “Read my lips” and “Politics is the art of the possible.” In addition, news crews stalk and chase the poor savage as if he were Monica Lewinsky, but with gear that is hopelessly outdated for such a futuristic society.

Again, it’s watchable, but nothing brave, new or worldly. *

* “Brave New World” airs at 9 p.m. Sunday on NBC (Channel 4). The network has rated it TV-14 (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14).

Type of Material: Television Program Review

Copyright (c) 1998 Times Mirror Company