Batteries Not Included

Not long ago, Steven Spielberg was offering his own feel-good whimsies with movies like E.T.; now that he’s usually more in the throes of feel-bad Serious Art, he generally farms the lighthearted fantasies out to others. Matthew Robbins, coscripter of The Sugarland Express and director of Corvette Summer, Dragonslayer, and The Legend of Billie Jean, acquits himself honorably here as cowriter and director of a gentle fantasy about miniature spaceships that land on a tenement in Manhattan’s Lower East Side and save the tenants from imminent expulsion and disaster at the hands of greedy real estate developers. The likable Capra-esque victims are Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy, who run a cafe, a quiet ex-boxer (Frank McRae), a pregnant Hispanic (Elizabeth Pena), and a painter (Dennis Boutsikaris). The extraterrestrial elves, who thrive on electricity and replicate themselves out of scrap metal, are no less charming, and the special effects show them off gracefully. (JR)

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