Photos courtesy of Netflix
Usually, before I choose a movie for this column, I look at the trailer first to know what I’m supposed to expect. Good luck finding one for “Pete’s Meteor.” Even the Rotten Tomatoes page only had one sad, lonely review. It seems that nobody has heard of this movie. Maybe we’re all the better for it.
There’s nothing like a good Irish drama when you’re looking for something to cast a dark cloud over your day.
The story follows Micky Devine (Ian Costello) and his two younger siblings as they try to get back the meteor – taken by Hugh (Alfred Molina), an astronomer working for the government – that landed in their garden. The children are raised by their grandmother, Lily (Brenda Fricker), after their parents died from AIDS; the children feel that the meteor was sent to them from their parents, who now live among the stars. Mike Myers – in one of his rare dramatic performances – plays Pete, a friend of their parents and former junkie, who tries help raise them.
Think of a very sad version of “Lilo and Stitch,” in a bad Dublin neighborhood and without the added benefit of a talking pet. We get that the movie is supposed to reiterate the importance of family and friendship and that we’re never really alone in the world. If anything, it’s just plain confusing, and you’re left wondering the point of it all.
Director and writer Joe O’Byrne shouldn’t even have called it “Pete’s Meteor,” considering that Pete rarely shows up or has any real influence. He nobly takes on his deceased friends’ debt – from what we assume is some sort of criminal underground – and tries to teach the kids to play the harmonica every now and then but all he ever really does is show up for a few minutes and then leave. Even when he manages to finally bond with Micky, who has blamed him for the death of his mom and dad, we’re left feeling empty. Myers tries, but everything he does comes off flat and emotionless, neutral and uninspiring.
There are troubled children, and then there’s Micky Devine. His intentions are noble – all he wants to do is protect his siblings and get their pet space rock back – but his methods are misguided with a capital “M.” Most of the movie consists of authority figures chasing Micky around and trying to beat some sense into him. Sure, they’re awful adults, but you can’t really blame them when this exaggeratedly foul-mouthed 12-year-old steals a car, threatens to burn your house down and pulls a knife on someone trying to help. Losing parents at that age can be harmful on anyone’s psyche, but something tells me that he’s been acting that way for a while. Lily does the best she can to raise him but all she can manage is to yell at her grandchildren over and over to “not do it again.” To his credit, he’s pretty good at driving on the highway for someone who probably wouldn’t fit the height requirement for most roller coasters.
As for Molina, it does appear that there’s finally a role he can’t pull off: the well-meaning nerd with no real sense of boundaries. He takes the kids to planetariums, buys them toys and in a totally inappropriate “eureka” moment he tells Lily that he’ll marry his girlfriend (Dervla Kirwan) and adopt the kids. He’s your average savior character, the guy who comes upon a sad situation and feels a personal responsibility to raise the orphans with no regard for how they feel about his sudden involvement and the feelings for the people already present in his life. Like every other character in this movie, the intentions are noble but the methods need to be addressed. Especially when the kid he’s trying to save – I’ll say it as many times as I have to – threatens to burn his down his house. Repeatedly.
The inconsistencies are endless but the most infuriating aspect of the movie are the supernatural occurrences that are never questioned.
Anti-gravity footballs, spontaneous symbolic fireworks, a downpour of rain suddenly stopping and every other instance of deus ex machina keep happening and nobody so much as bats an eye. We’re left to assume that the deceased parents are to blame for all this, but the lack of discussion or notice keeps us questioning. The meteor, obviously, is the most explored but as far as rocks go it’s not really all that interesting.
In short, to quote “The Simpsons,” “meh”. To perk up afterward, I suggest a “Mr. Brown’s Boys” marathon or “Ondine” to regain your faith in Irish show business.