Aliens In The Attic
As kids we were fortunate enough to grow up in the golden age of monster movies. This is in no way intended to imply that this was an era of the best constructed film or realistic special effect but it was a time when monsters ere the kind of scary that was highly enjoyable to watch. We didn’t go nearly every Saturday afternoon for matinees at the local movie house to critically examine the cinematic merits of these movies we just wanted to have a little fun. While the advances in computer technology have redefined these films in many instances they have overlooked the main reason of this kind of film replacing enjoyment with technical perfection. This line of thought came up after watching a recent monster flick ‘Aliens in the Attic’. Admittedly this film didn’t do very well among the critical community but I feel that was largely due to attempting to apply adult standards to a film that was obviously intended for a much younger audience. If you are reviewing a film that is geared towards tweens or even younger it doesn’t work to hold it to adult sensibilities. This is not to say that you can’t expect a professional level of work from the cast and crew but you should lighten up about some of the less significant aspects of the production. This is the kind of movie that makes for excellent family viewing. The younger kids in the household have some silly looking monsters, the tweens have a recognizable star and the adults can just relax and have some fun. After all some of the monster flicks we loved to watch as kids had scenes were you could see the zipper on the creature costume or in one memorable cast a hand holding a stick pushing the monster. It didn’t prevent us from enjoying the movie then and the same consideration should be afforded here.
The film has a reasonably consistent script from Mark Burton and Adam F. Goldberg. Burton also wrote ‘Madagascar’ while Goldberg provided screenplays for ‘Daddy Day Camp’ and the family sit-com ‘Still Standing ‘and ‘Aliens in America’ which featured a different kind of alien. Taking up the directorial chores was ‘Drive Me Crazy’, the 1999 Melissa Joan Hart rom-com. This movie takes on a perennial favorite of the monster genre; the earth being invaded by aliens intent on enslaving humanity. In this film, though, the creatures are more funny than scary in line with the family orientation.
Like many American fathers Stuart Pearson (Kevin Nealon) is afraid that his family is becoming increasingly disconnected. He decides that the only solution is to spend more quality time together. Along with his wife Nina (Gillian Vigman) they decide to take the family on a getaway to a nicely appointed three story house set in the middle of nowhere. Along for the sojourn is grandma Rose (Doris Roberts), Uncle Nate (Andy Richter), his 11 year old identical twins, Art (Henri Young) and Lee (Regan Young) and, of course the Pearson kids; 7-year-old Hannah (Ashley Boettcher) and 15-year-old Tom (Carter Jenkins) a technology obsessed nerd who has become disinterested in school work. Along against her will id there older Sister Bethany (Ashley Tisdale constantly followed by her older boyfriend, boyfriend Ricky Dillman (Robert Hoffman). Things take a decidedly bizarre twist when it turns out that a recent meteor shower was actually the arrival of a quartet of extraterrestrials; the Zirkonians. The vanguard force consists of the commander Skip (voiced by J.K. Simmons), heavily armed Tazer (voiced by Thomas Haden Church), their technical specialist Sparks (voiced by Josh Peck) and highly combative female warrior Razor (voiced by Kari Wahlgren). The crash landed inadvertently damaging their ship and the family’s all important TV dish. The aliens take refuge in the attic as the plot the next step in their invasion. When Tom is dispatched to fix the dish the kids come across the aliens. They shoot something at them which turns Ricky into a mindless automaton, not much of a slide down for him. As it turns out he is under the influence of an alien mind control device. Fortunately the probe is calibrated in such a way that it doesn’t work on kids. After making Ricky act in a very silly way Tom comes to a conclusion that they are not only the only hope to save the family but the last line of defense for humanity. Typical of this kind of movie the adults are blissfully unaware that the house is infested with strange, hostile aliens. Tom is serious about getting rid of them but Hannah strike up a strange friendship with the docile Sparks creating some scenes straight out of ‘E.T.’. Okay, you have to expect a couple of adorable moments in the movie but the way they are inserted they provide a nicely executed change up in the pacing. This is one of the things that help the flick straddle the age groups; it is well balanced so that all members of the family get a turn in something they can enjoy.
This movie is greatly aided by the cast. Richter id best known as the former second banana for Conon O’Brian but has managed to be a fairly regular feature in sit-coms. A couple of alumni from ‘Saturday Night Live’; Kevin Nealon and Tim Meadows lean their talents to the proceeding. Of course the appearance of Ashley Tisdale brings in the tween demographic. As one of the stars of the ‘High School Musical’ franchise her name is a potent form of product recognition. In all this may not be the best around but it is solid family fun.