Fox // 2009 // 86 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // November 13th, 2009
They are home, but they are not alone.
"We're gonna need a bigger potato."
Things have been a little stressful around the Pearson household lately, so Mom (Gillian Vigman, Step Brothers) and Dad (Kevin Nealon, Weeds) decide to take a family vacation over the weekend. Teenager Bethany (Ashley Tisdale, High School Musical), her younger brother Tom (Carter Jenkins, Keeping Up With the Steins), little sister Hannah (Ashley Boettcher), Bethany's boyfriend Ricky (Robert Hoffman, Step Up 2: The Streets), and several other relatives pile into the car and head to a somewhat charming yet beat-up lake house for the weekend.
After they arrive, Tom sees something strange...very strange. There seem to be little green aliens on the roof of the lake house. Though the aliens initially appear to be friendly, things quickly take a hostile turn. Before anyone can say, "Take me to your leader," Tom's siblings and cousins find themselves engaged in all-out war against the sorta-savage beings from outer space. The worst part? The grown-ups think the kids are making the whole thing up.
Aliens in the Attic is one of those thoroughly inoffensive, mediocre films that there just isn't a whole lot to say about. It's a cute little family movie that more or less does exactly what you expect it to do, being well-crafted just enough to satisfy on a very basic level, but rarely bringing anything fresh or inventive to the proceedings. I can just about guarantee you that anyone under the age of 12 will find it entertaining, though I imagine most adults will probably find their minds wandering pretty quickly. The best compliment I can pay the film is that the inevitable pop culture references are perhaps a bit more tolerable than usual, and that the movie generally avoids toilet humor.
The aliens themselves are curious little creatures. I suppose if I had to describe them, I would say that they look like hairless green puppies which are just ugly enough to look potentially threatening but not ugly enough to scare many young children. Their mission seems rather vague, as they initially tell the humans, "We come in peace," before growing frustrated with the complexities of the English language and simply barking, "Attack!" There's talk of wanting to enslave the humans, there's talk of wanting to kill the humans, and there's talk of the aliens attempting to eat the humans before the humans can eat them. It's an ominous-yet-undefined plan, but the teens and pre-teens in this film are able to provide their own analysis very quickly: "They're here to take over the world!" Only after this has been determined do the aliens seem to start attempting to do just that.
Much of the running time is devoted to a series of rather harmless battles, as the aliens and young humans fight each other with harmless weapons (the aliens use gadgets that seem destined to become $9.99 toys, while the humans go wild with product placement: Barbies, Diet Coke and Mentos FTW!). The aliens have the most interesting device; a little machine that fires some sort of electronic spark plug into the back of someone's neck. After the spark plug is implanted, the aliens can use a little remote control to take over the victim's mind and force them to do whatever they want. Predictably enough, the humans eventually get their hands on one of these devices, and a video-game-style battle featuring the bodies of unwitting participants ensues. I was surprised that some of those wild karate kicks didn't kill poor old Grandma (Doris Roberts, who is clearly a good sport). It's during these moments that the film reaches that dreaded, "It's like watching your best friend play a video game," vibe.
The Affordable-Yet-Recognizable cast is reasonably solid, though no one is going to win any Oscars for this flick. For younger viewers, the biggest draw is surely High School Musical star Ashley Tisdale (who greets viewers with a dopey introduction to the film when they pop in this Blu-ray disc). She spends the first half of the film getting mad at her brother and being sweet to her boyfriend; she spends the second half of the film being mad at her boyfriend and being sweet to her brother. She doesn't sing, though she does spend a good bit of her screen time in a bikini. Kevin Nealon does his affable-yet-slightly dense thing as the clueless Dad, and Robert Hoffman has a few fun moments as the even more dim-witted Ricky. Ricky is the film's obligatory jerk, and as such he spends most of his time being remote-controlled by either the aliens or the humans. When he isn't being remote-controlled, he's being hit in the balls. The funniest members of the cast are Andy Richter (Andy Barker, P.I.) and Tim Meadows (The Ladies Man), but unfortunately both men are completely wasted. The actors voicing the aliens (J.K. Simmons, Thomas Haden Church, Kari Wahlgren and Josh Peck) are all perfectly fine but rather unmemorable.
The hi-def transfer veers between stellar and spectacular. Detail is solid throughout the film, the vibrant color palette is conveyed with warmth and clarity, blacks are satisfactorily deep, shading is stellar, and the intricacies of the CGI aliens are captured quite nicely. However, there are a handful of knockout moments, particularly the scenic shots that soak in the surroundings of the lake house. The audio is solid as well, though I honestly expected a slightly more aggressive mix given the high quotient of action in the film. Still, considering that the film places an emphasis on being light fun rather than intense excitement, I suppose it's understandable. The score by John Debney (shamelessly ripping a variety of '90s Danny Elfman efforts) comes through with aggressive clarity early on, but sort of gets lost in the shuffle as the film progresses. Dialogue is clean throughout.
Most of the extras are pretty lightweight. The EPK-style making of featurette is "Lights, Camera, Aliens!" (9 minutes), which offers the usual fluff n' stuff. After that, you can check out the 15-minute "Behind the Zirkonians," a lightly animated "motion comic" of sorts that explains the origins of the film's little green creatures. The most substantial bonus is "Life After Film School with Barry Josephson" (27 minutes), in which the executive producer offers a rather technical explanation of his role in the film's creations. It's dry, but meaty (that's what she said). Finally, the disc is filled out with an alternate ending, deleted scenes, a gag reel, some bonus clips of Ashley Tisdale, the aforementioned Tisdale intro, a fake commercial for a video game called "Kung Fu Grandma," and a wretched music video featuring Brian Anthony. Oh, and you get a Digital Copy of the film.
There are a handful of genuinely clever little moments to be found scattered throughout Aliens in the Attic. I love the bit when all of the kids despair at the fact that none of them can get a signal on their cell phones, only to breath a sigh of relief when they discover the house has a land line. Unfortunately, no one knows how to use a rotary phone. There's also a cute bit in which the aliens study the nature of humanity by watching The Mask of Zorro, and some dialogue exchanges that give the modern generation a gentle ribbing:
Kid A: "This is just like playing X-Box!"
Kid B: "This isn't X-Box, this is real...like Wii!"
Ordinary, banal, and competently crafted, Aliens in the Attic is a mediocre film but a capable babysitter. The Blu-ray is solid.
Guilty, but the sentence is reduced for good behavior.
Review content copyright © 2009 Clark Douglas; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Alternate Ending
* Deleted Scenes
* Gag Reel
* Music Video
* Digital Copy