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.