Mutant Aliens

Mutant Aliens

2001, NR, 81 min. Directed by Bill Plympton. Starring George Casden, Matthew Brown, Francine Lobis, Dan McComas.

REVIEWED By Marrit Ingman, Fri., July 5, 2002

Only in the mind of animator Plympton will you find a man tenderly making love to a giant disembodied nose from outer space. (At least, I hope so.) Juxtaposing the sentimental and the bizarre comes naturally to Plympton, whose films are truly singular -- surreal, lovably crude, and sweet-natured but grosser than heck, with blown-up heads and bitten-off fingers galore. Mutant Aliens is no exception. The film originated as a graphic novel and is hewn in the pulp tradition, goofily larger than life. Our hero is Earl Jensen (McComas), a block-jawed astronaut stranded in space by the nefarious Dr. Frubar (Casden), who's so evil he wears a bolo tie and so greedy he literally fellates a scale model of his latest creation, a billboard that orbits the earth. But he hasn't seen the last of Earl, who wreaks revenge with the help of his daughter Josie (Lobis) and six mutant animal friends. There's an excitable swine with a spear for a nose, a flying fish with feet, a giant caterpillar, a 10-foot-high frog, a blue biped lizard, and a sweet-eyed chipmunk who devours men whole and extrudes enormous turds moments later. Weird stuff, I tell you, but it's terribly cute and good-natured somehow. Just the same, Plympton's imagination is used to best effect when rendering the mundane, as when Josie's boyfriend (Brown) sports a raging woody -- it metamorphoses into a stick of dynamite, a chainsaw, a jackhammer, the Empire State Building, and other titanic, powerful items. The question is how much of this wackiness a viewer can stand. Mutant Aliens would have been brilliant as a short; there's just not enough story for a full-length feature, so the film seems strung together. One musical interlude from the film (“You Can't Drag Race with Jesus”) was in fact released as a short to festivals. It's great fun (a hot-roddin' Jesus plays Hendrix guitar to the delight of onlookers at a tent revival) but it doesn't fit here, tonally or visually. Moreover, the lowbrow pitch of the film -- Plympton sure loves to draw boobies -- probably limits its appeal beyond the Spike & Mike crowd, and I don't have to tell you folks to leave the kiddies at home.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Bill Plympton
One Letter Short for 'ABCs of Death 2'
One Letter Short for 'ABCs of Death 2'
25 director teams announced: Can you bring the mayhem for 'M'?

Richard Whittaker, Aug. 14, 2013

More Bill Plympton Films
Hair High
Cult filmmaker Plympton (25 Ways to Quit Smoking) is fresh off his massively popular animation tour with co-conspirator Don Hertzfeldt and ready to warp both ...

Marc Savlov, Jan. 24, 2021

Cheatin' and "The World of Tomorrow"

Jan. 24, 2021

More by Marrit Ingman
Wonder Stories
Wonder Stories

July 25, 2008

King Corn
The film’s light hand, appealing style, and simple exposition make it an eminently watchable inquiry into the politics of food, public health, and the reasons why corn has become an ingredient in virtually everything we eat.

Nov. 9, 2007


Mutant Aliens, Bill Plympton, George Casden, Matthew Brown, Francine Lobis, Dan McComas

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle