This flick had a lot going for it: A story by Robert Heinlein; a screenplay adapted by David S. Goyer (well, among others); a cast led by Donald Sutherland, Keith David, and Will Patton; and a bunch of slug-like, mind-controlling aliens. Unfortunately, these wonderful ingredients were thrown together so haphazardly that the result is typical Hollywood fare, complete with an overabundance of car chases, explosions, and choreographed fist fights. The film also demonstrates — yet again — that if you want to save the planet from malevolent alien invaders, you don’t hire young, flirty federal agents (Julie Warner and Eric Thai) to do it. Although the movie does, in fact, revolve around them, these two so-called protagonists mostly just get in the way of their veteran counterparts as their forced, pedantic sexual tension ratchets up, eventually culminating in one of the most awkward and unintentionally-funny shower scenes ever filmed.
The Puppet Masters is not without its charms, however. It does try, earnestly, to respect Heinlein’s thoughtful source material — and it’s chock full of gory, practical effects involving those icky, aforementioned alien slugs. It also features outdated technology from the 1990s, such as floppy disks and pagers, while managing to be entertaining in a so-bad-it’s-good kind of way.
I adore the genre (as well as the ’90s) but The Puppet Masters isn’t the most solid entry. It’s on-par with John Carpenter’s remake of Village of the Damned (1995). But it’s not as good as Phantoms (1998) or The Arrival (1996), and I really shouldn’t even mention true classics, like Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), in the same breath.
Even though the alien slugs were awesome and gross, I can’t, in good conscience, rate The Puppet Masters better than Klute (lol). It gets two pot leafs out of five: