Aliens in the Attic
2009, PG, 86 min. Directed by John Schultz. Voices by J.K. Simmons, Kari Wahlgren, Thomas Haden Church, Josh Peck. Starring Carter Jenkins, Ashley Tisdale, Robert Hoffman, Austin Butler, Ashley Boettcher, Kevin Nealon, Andy Richter, Doris Roberts, Gillian Vigman, Tim Meadows.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Aug. 7, 2009
It's a sorry state of affairs when even films that aren’t remakes of old television series or Eighties-era sci-fi/horror semiclassics still arrive in theatres looking and feeling like remakes. That's certainly the déjà vibe behind this annoying glob of tweens vs. aliens piffle, which borrows heavily from such earlier, better films as Joe Dante's Gremlins and Small Soldiers, and earlier, marginally worse films such as the Charles and Albert Band Ghoulies franchise. The concept and execution here is strictly DVD-worthy, although to be fair, the younger members of the audience at the screening I caught seemed to be moderately amused, if not outright entertained, during a sequence in which Everyone Loves Raymond's octogenarian Roberts goes head-to-toe-to-jaw with the half-century-younger Hoffman in a Street Fighter-esque, mind-control brawl. The ramshackle plot sends the Pearsons, an extended Nickelodeon-nuclear family, on a summer vacation to their snappy Maine getaway home. In a rare case of truth in advertising, an alien vanguard of four pint-sized BEMs – that'd be Bug-Eyed Monsters – lands in the Pearsons’ attic. A battle for the fate of the Earth quickly ensues between the Pearson brood and the CGI beasties. Unsurprisingly, the adult characters (ex-SNLer Nealon, The Hangover's Vigman, and a pointlessly underused Richter among them) are utterly oblivious to the chaos above them, while the wily teens, tweens, and pretweens rapidly adapt and utilize their specialized skills (honed by hours of video-gameplay) to combat the alien menace. The youth-oriented cast includes Jenkins as the film's mathlete protagonist Tom and High School Musical's Tisdale as his sister Bethany, but only the aforementioned Hoffman, who plays Bethany’s horn-dog lust interest, elicits any real notice, manipulated as he is by the aliens' PS3-like control device. Lest I forget, there's also a damnably cutesy, E.T.-mirroring subplot in which the littlest sister (Boettcher) befriends the littlest alien with the cutest name, Sparks (voiced by Peck, of Nickelodeon's Drake & Josh). The real problem with this Aliens encounter is that it's patently a Nick at Night midweek movie that inadvertently got green-lighted for a big-screen opening. Co-scripters Mark Burton (Madagascar) and Adam F. Goldberg (Fanboys) toss a heck of a lot of jokes at the screen, but very few manage to stick, ultimately making something like the similarly themed 1957 B-movie Invasion of the Saucer Men a vastly more entertaining shot of aliens vs. teens hokum.