Case Number 17618: Small Claims Court

ALIENS IN THE ATTIC

Fox // 2009 // 86 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Daniel Kelly (Retired) // November 3rd, 2009

The Charge

They came from upstairs

The Case

Aliens in the Attic is a pretty joyless children's film. A few moments of well executed physical comedy aside, it fails to generate much in the way of laughs or charm. The movie has been constructed with the under-10 market in mind; anyone over that age will be bored stiff, and in truth even the younger audience members might have their attention span maxed out by this dreary summer effort. The movie didn't perform particularly strongly during its theatrical run, and I have to say I'm glad; the prospect of a sequel to this insipid kiddy flick would pretty much highlight everything that's wrong with current mainstream cinema.

The story (though I fear that's too generous a description for the narrative here) follows the Pearson clan as they head on vacation, only for the non-adult members to find out that a group of diminutive but vicious aliens have landed in their destination's attic. The aliens want to take over the world, the kids obviously don't like this, and so a goofy little battle occurs between the two factions. Thrown into the mix are a teenage romance, a cute and non-violent alien, and a kung-fu interlude involving an elderly woman. If it all sounds plodding and predictably cringe inducing, that's because it mostly is.

Prior to tearing Aliens in the Attic apart, I should point out there are two performances I liked in the movie: Ashley Tisdale (High School Musical 3) playing the older Pearson sister and Robert Hoffman (She's the Man) portraying her jerky and cocksure boyfriend. Some of the sparring matches between the two are pretty amusing and through a plot device deployed about 20 minutes in, Hoffman gets a real chance to display some wacky physical comedy. They only appear sporadically but easily represent the best the movie has to offer in terms of entertainment value. Both have to parade around for large portions of the movie in swimwear (Tisdale in particular), which seems a little unnecessary given the target audience. Still got to give the parents who sit through this thing something...right?

The other performances are bland to the point of invisibility; none of the other young actors struck me as passable let alone talented. The voice work for the aliens is a little more creative, though their characterization is just as lame as anybody else, particularly an unfunny and thoroughly wince-inducing E.T. romance that seems to brew as a comical subplot. The action scenes are generically constructed and rely heavily on some pretty mediocre CGI, whilst the screenplay is peppered with some of the broadest and most embarrassing jokes I've seen all year. The direction is weak and fails to infuse much of a tempo into proceedings, the rushed and obvious finish proof enough that this is assembly line cinema, built to make a fast buck, rather than offer an enjoyable time for kids. Aliens in the Attic is plain and simply a very bad film, soon to be forgotten and completely undeserving of the prime July release date it received earlier this year. The film would from a quality perspective be much more at home in the dismal February/September windows, though admittedly it made less than expected so justice was properly served.

The DVD provided was a screener so the technical aspects have not been considered in the final score. The bonus content on this release is very much aimed at children, something I have no great problem with, but it ultimately descends to the same levels of unintelligent blandness as the feature. Ashley Tisdale clearly feigns enthusiasm in both intros to the film and the extras, whilst the featurettes available are a muddle of hug and love celebration between cast and crew combined with basic filmmaking insight. An alternate ending is present which doesn't really change very much (and features a lot of incomplete FX work) whilst the deleted scenes are no more monotonous than anything in the actual film. There is quite a bit here for nippers to work through but ultimately it all feels too bland and inconsequential to deserve a recommendation.

The Verdict

Aliens in the Attic is the sort of effort that gives kids' movies a bad name. It's utterly contrived and lacks any sort of ambition, and even at 86 minutes feels punishing in length. Save your money and wait for UP or a few of the other better summer movies to appear on DVD.

Oh and if you hadn't guessed, it's Guilty.

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Scales of Justice
Judgment: 58

Perp Profile
Studio: Fox
Video Formats:
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)

Subtitles:
* English
* Spanish

Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated PG

Distinguishing Marks
* Intros
* Alternate Ending
* Deleted Scenes
* Featurettes

Accomplices
* IMDb
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0775552/combined