Paramount // 1993 // 86 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Harold Gervais (Retired) // June 7th, 2001
They're from France.
Superstar, A Night At The Roxbury, The Ladies Man, Wayne's World 2, Stuart Saves His Family...and now, Coneheads. Need I really say anything more?
Traveling to Earth from the planet Remulak, Beldar and Prymaat Conehead (Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtain), are bent on world domination when their plans of conquest are foiled as their ship is shot down over the New Jersey shoreline. And I thought I had bad days.
Making the best of a difficult situation the couple take up residence in Pyramus, New Jersey, where they assimilate into suburban culture until a rescue ship can be sent for them. Living the American dream, the strange couple will bring a little Cone into the world as they experience many odd Earth customs and ways. Let it not be said their time here is not without danger, as the very zealous Gordon Seedling (Michael McKean -- Young Doctors in Love, Best in Show) of the INS is hot on their trail and eager to deport the family as illegal aliens. Many happy things do occur however but while watching I became too drunk remember them.
It should be noted that the film does raise many questions and answers at least some of them...How will Beldar and family get home? What is up with Dan Aykroyd's ass? How many people out there think Jason Alexander is funny? Will young Connie Conehead (Michelle Burke -- Dazed and Confused) let her boyfriend Ronnie (Chris Farley -- Tommy Boy) make it to second base? In a fit of parental rage, will Beldar eat Ronnie's car? How much money did the producers pay to get Tom Arnold to make a cameo appearance? Would they still do it today? Remember when Laraine Newman was attractive? Isn't this the part of the review where we detail the plot? I would go on but it's time I pop another Sam Adams.
It's funny how time flies. I remember being 10 or 11 years old when "Saturday Night Live" and the Not Ready for Prime-time Players made their way onto the late night, counterculture scene. This country was still recovering from the shock waves brought on by Watergate and Tricky Dick's resignation. People were unsure of their place in the world, and a peanut farmer from Georgia was about to turn the political landscape upside down. The show that premiered with George Carlin as its first host was edgy, angry and highly subversive. To quote Eric Cartman, the material that was regularly on display Saturday nights forever "warped my fragile little mind." The early years possessed the stuff of legend and it is material that still holds up today. One of the series' most famous recurring skits was one that involved an alien family stranded on Earth and the trials and tribulations associated with life in the suburbs outside of New York. There was an absurdity about the Coneheads and the sense that the SNL writers were turning a mirror onto American life and the things we always took for granted. The feeling that the days of the Ozzie and Harriet lifestyle were truly and finally dead was palpable in these sketches. Yet for all the deep biting satire, as well as the serious underlying themes, there was also a feeling of wistful sweetness to the best of the bunch. At its creative zenith, this was the kind of work "Saturday Night Live" was capable of producing. Which at this point begs the question, what has all of this got to do with the 1993 film version of Coneheads? Unfortunately, very little.
If the best of "Saturday Night Live" had a bite and a feeling that it was always flipping the bird at America, this film version of Coneheads has none of that. The movie is so afraid to offend anyone or anything that a fog of blandness hangs over the entire proceedings. At 86 minutes, the movie more than wears out its welcome shortly after its opening credits. I can in fact point to the exact moment when I knew the movie was over for me. It was with the first appearance of the comedian Sinbad in a supporting role. I mean, if any actor represents the anti-SNL school of comedy, it has got to be Sinbad. Yet, there he was with other such flavor-of-the-month actors like Jason Alexander, Michael Richards, Ellen DeGeneres, and, in a bone thrown by his old boss, Garrett Morris. This is not to say there are not a couple of laughs to be had. In fact I counted three laughs, one chuckle and two smirks. It should also be noted that the film engages in some fairly ambitious special effects for its final, Remulak set minutes. Alas, it is not enough to save Coneheads from being a ghastly waste of time, energy and money.
For their part, Paramount has given Coneheads an anamorphic transfer that maintains the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. This is a nice transfer that is free of most visible defects such as nicks or scratches. The image boasts strong colors, good saturation, nice detail and strong black levels. Edge enhancement and pixel breakup are both held to a minimum, and I suppose if someone must own Coneheads on DVD -- members of the cast and crew do not count -- then it should look this good.
There are three sound options: a Dolby 5.1 surround mix that is fairly active and involving, with good use of the rear channels; a Dolby 2.0 Surround track that is not bad, but not nearly as good as the 5.1; and finally, the all too fitting Dolby 2.0 Surround option in French. Since the Coneheads come to Earth via Remulak and through France, I was hoping to find something new and different about the movie to make me like it better. All I got was more dumb dialogue in a language that sounds funny and that I don't understand. I mean, the French are so rude. It's like they have a different word for EVERYTHING! Thanks to Mr. Steve Martin for that observation. Give me a call, Steve, and let's do lunch sometime. I think bunny ears are on the way back.
As far as extras go, you will find no deleted scenes, no commentary track featuring any one of note, no story boards, no extended or lost endings. Search as hard as you might, and you will not even find a glowing, self-serving production featurette. In fact, you will find nothing beyond the film's original trailer. For this I give Paramount a heartfelt thank you. There is a nice sense of equality at work here. It's good to know that crappy movies and great movies alike are treated with the same lack of regard in their corporate eyes.
The funniest thing I could find about Coneheads is on the packaging for the disc where that bastion of critical reportage, Joel Siegel, is quoted as saying that this movie is and I quote, " Hysterically funny!" What crack pipe was this guy smoking? I am more inclined to believe he was working on his review for "Good Morning America" in the mirror and was actually talking about his hair.
Seriously though, I suppose there is nothing harder than competing with the memory of a younger, fresher time when rules were not an issue. Personally, I don't find movies like The Ladies Man and Superstar nearly as offensive because the source material is bland to begin with. In the case of Coneheads, the original skits were so much funnier that the movie was almost doomed from the beginning.
If I took away any feeling after watching Coneheads, it was one of sadness. Sadness to see a once talented giant of comedy (I mean, face it, in his day Aykroyd was a superstar in the comedy world), puttering along, trying so hard to be funny and failing so miserably. Sadness of seeing Aykroyd and always having my moment when I think of where I was when I heard Belushi had passed away. Sadness to see the wasted talent of Chris Farley. Sadness to see the tragedy of Phil Hartman, never quite achieving the superstardom he so richly deserved, stuck in yet another supporting role. All the out-of-place special effects and stop motion trickery in the world is enough to take that sense of melancholy away.
I think it would be best if all the copies of this movie, along with most of the other "Saturday Night Live" film adaptations, were herded together and launched into an unknown part of the galaxy. That way, if found and viewed, the Earth would be safe from an alien invasion in perpetuity.
This is a movie that is best avoided, either as a rental or as a purchase. To watch it is to waste 86 precious minutes of your time. 86 minutes that would be better spent doing just about anything else. 86 minutes that could be spent watching Comedy Central hoping to catch some SNL back in the day when it was actually funny AND had something to say about the world we lived in
Let there be no doubt. Coneheads is guilty as charged. All involved, especially repeat offender Lorne Micheals is sentenced to 7 to 10 years of hard labor at a comedic penal colony on the moon of the planet Remulak. Maybe being away from the pressures of "PC" Earth these writers and actors will remember that sharp and relevant comedy works without a net and is not afraid of failure.
If there is nothing else, I am going to retreat to my chambers where I am going to put on one of my old "Blues Brothers" albums and think about better days.
Review content copyright © 2001 Harold Gervais; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 1993
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Theatrical Trailer
* SNL Official Site