Aliens In The Attic

Aliens In The Attic


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

It's a classic children's adventure plot. The world is threatened. Adults don't know about it, or would never believe it. Kids have to get together and use all their resources to fend off the threat by themselves, in the process overcoming their differences and learning that they're more capable than they thought. It's reasonable that this essential story should be told repeatedly because, each time, there's a new generation of kids ready to learn from it. The trouble is that, each time, there's a new generation of adults who imagine it should somehow be bigger, better, brighter, flashier than it was before, and the result can be truly awful.

In Aliens In The Attic, the threat comes from outer space, landing (as the title suggests) on the roof of an isolated house where a family and assorted hangers-on have gone to spend some quality time together. The aliens are low-rent Gremlins, without the ingenuity of Spielberg's monsters (once thought too scary for kids) yet with a nastiness that would make them more reminiscent of Critters if they weren't comedically inept. The violence they perform is all cartoonish, of course, so we're not supposed to worry about it (any more than we're supposed to consider the adolescent heroine's wet T-shirt inappropriate), and by and large the film does get away with this.

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The trouble is that the alien characters are so formulaic - the dastardly one, the tough but stupid one, the nice one, and the one who is defined by being a girl - that it's difficult to take much interest in their side of things and they become mere stock baddies for a group of kids not all of whom have been provided with personalities.

When reviewing a kids' movie, one always tries to be fair and to see it from their point of view; after all, kids want very different things from a trip to the cinema. For younger ones, this seems to work - there's plenty of slapstick, with people falling over and some nicely choreographed chain reaction sequences, but the same devices very quickly wear the patience of anyone over about eight. Again, a successful formula bears repeating, but what ought to be fondly familiar here is just annoying. Everything is overblown, from the soundtrack to the forced humour. There are a few pleasingly sharp lines but they too often force the kids to slip out of character.

What makes this work, to the extent that it does, are the performances of the younger children, who are solid enough for young viewers to identify with and who do manage to come across as people rather than mere cyphers. Despite a heavy dose of all-American cutesiness they manage to suggest genuine feelings of vulnerability and alarm, essential to give the story some balance before it descends into a frantic arms race. The danger adults face is that this will make kids want to obtain the film on DVD, whereas they're unlikely to want to see it again as long as they live.

Reviewed on: 16 Aug 2009
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Kids take on an alien invasion.
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Director: John Schultz

Writer: Mark Burton, Adam F Goldberg

Starring: Carter Jenkins, Austin Robert Butler, Ashley Tisdale, Ashley Boettcher, Henri Young, Regan Young, Doris Roberts, Robert Hoffman, Kevin Nealon, Gillian Vigman, Andy Richter, Tim Meadows, Malese Jow, Megan Parker, Maggie VandenBerghe

Year: 2009

Runtime: 86 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US, Canada


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