Grade: D

The number following the monster’s name in this twenty-third installment of the series starring Toho Studio’s venerable irradiated dinosaur is undoubtedly meant to refer to the calendar year of the picture’s release, but it could just as easily be taken to reflect the amount of cash expended on the movie’s special effects (in dollars, not yen). “G2000” looks just about like any standard episode of “Power Rangers.” What we get (just as was the case in the original 1954 flick) is still just a guy plodding around in a rubber suit, periodically lumbering into cardboard buildings and other miniature models or setting them ablaze with a fiery breath.

This is all supposed to be charmingly quaint, even campy, of course; and after the grotesquely overdone Emmerich-Devlin remake of 1998, it does possess a certain refreshing homeliness. But all the good will in the world can’t change the reality that “Godzilla 2000” is, by any reasonable measure, perfectly awful. It might appeal to the Japanese tykes who have come to cherish the beast over the course of the last 45 years, but almost everybody else will find him a frightful bore. The plot, if one cares to dignify the script by that name, is largely incoherent, having something to do with ‘Zilla rising from the sea once again to attack Japanese power plants (his distaste for things nuclear is about the only characteristic he’s retained throughout the series), only to be challenged by an alien creature apparently out to destroy humanity. The two beasties eventually have a showdown in Tokyo; it’s the Old Geezer against the New Kid on the Block for the right to smash human structures to smithereens, and you can guess who wins.

Meanwhile, an assemblage of superficially human figures watch the confrontation. Some belong to a private outfit called, ludicrously enough, the Godzilla Prediction Society; others are government and military wonks from the CCI (Crisis Control Institute) who are out to destroy the poor dino. The various roles are played, mostly stone-facedly, by an array of performers who, as you can tell from the listing above, are hardly big box-office names in the U.S. The best one can say about most of them is that they generally get through the thing without bursting out laughing or becoming intensely irritating. There are, however, two exceptions, both on the distaff side. Naomi Nishida is screechingly annoying as a reporter appropriately named Yuki (though it’s wrongly pronounced with a long “u”). Even worse is Mayu Suzuki, as the twelve-year old “genius” daughter of the Godzilla Prediction team’s leader (and obviously the picture’s intended stand-in for its kid audience); she’s so insufferable that if Godzilla were truly a friend of humanity, as he’s often portrayed in these pictures, surely he would gobble up the obnoxious little brat and spit out her bones in reel one.

Of course, no actors, however talented, could make anything of such material, the absurdity of which is accentuated by the deliberately poor dubbing job–another tradition handed down from 1954. Howlers predominate in the English dialogue (“Did you see that flying rock?” and “I’ve never seen Godzilla up so close” are especially memorable), and on those occasions when there’s an obvious attempt to wink knowingly at adult viewers by inserting lines that recall “Dr. Strangelove” or “Patton,” the effort falls flat.

We cannot close, however, without singling out the yeoman service of two members of the cast–Tsutomu Kitagawa and Makoto Ito. Kitagawa once again captures every nuance of Godzilla, endowing the old boy with an intensity and pathos that are truly remarkable, especially when his fins and tail light up preparatory to loosening a fiery breath. And Ito brings a sense of vulnerability and purpose to Orga, as his misunderstood outer-space foe is called. Together they make an exceptional pair. (I trust that sarcasm is still an acceptable crutical tool.)

Those who have grown up on the Toho Godzilla movies and treasure them for their cheesiness and imbecility may embrace the newest installment. But the unhappy truth is that, in its own chintzy, ostentatiously jokey way it’s every bit as boring and silly as the 1998 American retelling. We might be grateful that at least Matthew Broderick is absent from this tedious bit of nostalgia, but that’s not enough to make it any more watchable.