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From Under A Rock: Bio-Dome

April 22, 2017 | Posted by Michael Ornelas
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From Under A Rock: Bio-Dome  


Sometimes, for better or for worse, we attach ourselves to movies from our childhood or teenage years. This week’s pick is an example of a movie from earlier in my life sticking with me and earning the true title of “guilty pleasure” among my viewing catalogue.

You only get one first time, and for some people, it comes later than it does for others. This particular column is about documenting the first viewing of a “classic” movie or TV show determined at the discretion of Aaron Hubbard and Michael Ornelas in alternation.

Last week Aaron chose Seven Samurai. This week Michael takes Aaron out from under the proverbial rock to show him Bio-Dome.

Released: January 12th, 1996
Directed by: Jason Bloom
Written by: Kip Koenig & Scott Marcano
Pauly Shore as Bud Macintosh
Stephen Baldwin as Doyle Johnson
William Atherton as Dr. Noah Faulkner
Joey Lauren Adams as Monique
Teresa Hill as Jen
Kylie Minogue as Dr. Petra von Kant

Michael Ornelas: I get it, I get it. This movie is “terrible.” The problem with that mindset is that I wholeheartedly disagree. I went into this assuming that this would be the rewatching that tipped the scales against it in terms of how I view it, but Bio-Dome really has several redeeming qualities and most of what people dislike comes down to taste.

Aaron Hubbard: This movie is dumb, and I don’t mean that as criticism. Bio-Dome is trying to be dumb, and while I get why many people consider it absolutely awful, I didn’t mind watching it. Aside from the opening credits.
Mahi Mahi
Subjectivity vs. Objectivity
Michael: I stand behind the idea that Bio-Dome actually has a decent script. It has a smooth flow, interesting character dynamics (amongst a cast of characters who all have their own unique ways in which they tick), and a plot that works relative to what they’ve established. So why is it that this film is sitting at a 5% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 1% on MetaCritic? Easy: it’s ridiculously stupid. The humor is juvenile. Pauly Shore’s acting is full of interesting choices, to say the least (this movie earned him the Golden Raspberry award for Worst Actor). But is it really that bad? I argue no. If you remove the subjective side of what you do or don’t find funny, you’ll find a movie with its head in the right place and decent execution.

Aaron: I… don’t know if I’d go that far. Personally, I really didn’t care for the plot, which doesn’t make any sense. I have a hard time believing young men would try so hard to get out of Earth Day volunteer work when women that attractive and eager to have sex are pushing them. I also think the whole concept of the Bio-Dome experiment is far too costly to be feasible, and if they spent that much on it, there would be too much security for these idiots to get in. And that back door… so dumb. I actually had to rewind and make sure I saw them get out the back door in a building that is supposed to be impossible to leave. I think that removing the objective lenses and just enjoying the film for what it is is the only way I was able to glean any fun from it.

Michael: Oh, it definitely requires a massive amount of disbelief suspension. I won’t argue that. But I never said the solutions are smart. I just said they work because there’s technically an answer for the plot obstacles. It’s ridiculous on every level, but it’s not trying to be…not ridiculous. Regardless, after this viewing, I’ll defend this movie until the day I die (even if I’m sacrificing all of my credibility in the process) as way more passable than most are willing to give it credit for. I’m not calling it a masterpiece by any means. I just enjoy it.
Not A Great Environment
Aaron: So, what most stuck out to me about this was the timeframe in which it came out. The early to mid-1990’s had a massive amount of media that was promoting kids to protect the environment. From after school specials to comic books, from Captain Planet to FernGully (a guilty pleasure of mine), it was all over the place. Whether the message was actually received or not, I can say that it got grating after awhile and eventually it was so pervasive that you just didn’t want to listen to it. This whole movie seems designed to poke fun at all of that, and it certainly makes the film feel like a product of its time.

Michael: I feel it’s simultaneously poking fun of those movies while also being one of those movies. At the end of the day, our protagonists learn their lesson (the importance of maintaining the environment) and ironically become national figureheads for environmentalism. I actually think it was really smart to frame this movie in which the main characters are actually the cause of environmental harm (which serves to juxtapose the scientists as the subjects of ridicule and parody for being too “uptight” about the environment) before then saving it. It allows those with disdain for “hippie environmentalists” (which was a very real sentiment in the ‘90s. Hell, still is) to be put in a position where they can root for characters who share their viewpoint before having those characters have a change of heart and show ignorant viewers the error of their ways. I know it’s ridiculous to think a movie as stupid as Bio-Dome could have that profound an impact on anyone, but I’m just saying that’s the psychology behind the character arcs of Bud and Doyle. And that’s pretty cool.

Aaron: Hey, sometimes it doesn’t hurt to bring something up in a new way. I mean, I didn’t care for Captain Planet, but stuff like FernGully and The Secret of NIMH put animal experimentation in the forefront of my mind as a kid. I’m more of a practical “humans first” sort of person, but I firmly believe we have to take better care of this planet, especially since it gets more obvious every year that I won’t be enlisting in Starfleet in this lifetime.
Just Have Fun
Michael: This movie, in my opinion, has the 90s comedy formula down pat. I’ve gotten tired of the modern trend of comedies where we watch a 90-page script turn into a 2+ hour movie because we’re subjected to minutes-long scenes full of improv. I feel that the 90s was the golden age for comedy because jokes were tightly-scripted and then move on. As dumb as a lot of the jokes were in Bio-Dome, they never lingered or outstayed their welcome and some were truly way funnier than most will give them credit for. My favorite comedy is full of details/specifics that spice up delivery to make them feel more relatable, and that works best in buddy comedies. The chemistry between Bud and Doyle comes from their familiarity with one another and they have carte blanche when reminiscing to paint a picture with words and it usually landed with me. I loved the part where they’re confined to the desert and confess their past transgressions to one another. The Great Chipmunk Fire of ‘79 is a joke I’ll always love and pays off later in the film when it’s referenced by the dude who financed the dome.

Aaron: That scene was probably the most amusing from start to finish. For me, the comedic highlight is William Atherton, who is memorable and funny in pretty much anything he says or does. I think he elevates the movie a bit with his performance and I enjoyed him turning villainous. I also laughed at the poor guy with his insect experiments blowing up in smoke, and the rock-paper-scissors set-up and payoff. Atherton’s one liner afterward is also cheesy villainous brilliance.

Michael: “Don’t feel bad. I was going to do it anyway.” Great. I also love that minutes later, Doyle ends up putting Noah down by throwing a real rock at him. That’s the kind of brilliance people overlook in this movie (I say that half tongue-in-cheek, don’t worry). But it’s still quite clever. There is also a fair share of “boys will be boys” humor in the film that doesn’t age well, but I like to think that they’d have been sensible enough to exclude that if the movie came out today.

Aaron: I will never consider myself qualified to appraise comedy, since I enjoy such a small number of things that identifies exclusively as a comedy. What I can say about Bio-Dome is that I expected worse based on its reputation and I chuckled more than once without irony. I can’t see myself revisiting it but I actually sort of enjoyed the experience.


Michael: I’m not delusional. I will defend this film from the 5% it holds on Rotten Tomatoes, but that doesn’t mean I don’t realize it’s nothing more than a ridiculously stupid Pauly Shore comedy. It has a lot of moments that I enjoy because of nostalgic reasons, and the plot works for me because I have no issues suspending my disbelief most of the time, but it’s merely just above average for me in the grand scheme of things.


Aaron: I’m trying to figure out if this film’s reputation as absolute garbage made me easier on it or harder on it.

Michael: I’m not sure. I think it gets a worse rap than it deserve, as I’ve made abundantly clear. I think it was also the result of audiences developing a “Pauly Shore fatigue” of sorts, as it was his 7th film in just 4 years, and he was pretty much the same character in everything he did with very small variations. I have the benefit of only having seen this and Goofy Movie, and I saw this first, so it wasn’t as much of a “one-trick pony” deal to me.

Is there any merit to Bio-Dome?

Next week:

Aaron: Michael asked me to pick this, I believe, but it’s been a long time since I watched it and I’m looking forward. Or backward, maybe.
Michael: Full disclosure, this is a movie I’ve kind of seen before. The issue was that I wasn’t paying attention and had a bias against it because the guy who made me watch it wasn’t someone I was very fond of. I’m looking forward to seeing it and actually giving it a chance with fresh eyes almost 10 years after my initial attempted viewing.

Aaron: I’m sure your hatred of me won’t have any bearing on your experience this time.

What do you think is the most underrated Christopher Nolan film?

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Aaron Has Another Column!
Taken For Granted (still looking for a new name, by the way) has its first sequel edition, as I covered The Godfather, Part II after reviewing the original the week before.

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Check me out here to see my star ratings for over 800 films. Recent reviews include Martin Scorsese’s Silence. If you want a longer, more depressing movie with Liam Neeson, I also reviewed Schindler’s List.

The final score: review Average
The 411
We think Bio-Dome is more average than truly bad. It's certainly not good, but it is the kind of film that can be a guilty pleasure if you allow it to be. Call it a mild recommendation; if you like "kind of okay, but just barely" film experiences once in awhile, this might be worth tracking down and seeing.