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Aliens In The Attic

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Aliens In The Attic
Released on Wednesday, Aug 12 2009

Director: John Schultz
Screenwriters: Mark Burton, Adam F. Goldberg
Starring: Robert Hoffman, Ashley Tisdale, Kevin Nealon, Doris Roberts, Tim Meadows, Carter Jenkins, Austin Butler, Ashley Boettcher, Henri Young, Regan Young, Gillian Vigman, Andy Richter
Running time: 86 mins
Certificate: PG

Let's face it, with a title like Aliens In The Attic you pretty much know what to expect before you even set foot in the cinema - and that's exactly what you get. It's a kid-friendly mix of Men In Black crossed with Gremlins with a healthy dose of Home Alone-style violence thrown in as we follow the plucky Pearson kids in their efforts to save the world from an alien invasion (if you call four knee-high, argumentative creatures an invasion). The only catch? They have to wage their war without their parents finding out. There's not much here for adults, or even slightly more mature children, but young kids will no doubt find a handful of giggle-worthy moments in this slapstick comedy from the writer behind Madagascar and Wallace And Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit.

The action begins with hormonal teen Bethany (Tisdale) sneaking through younger brother Tom's (Jenkins) bedroom window after enjoying an illicit date with her questionably-aged boyfriend Ricky (Hoffman). In doing so, she inadvertently disrupts him hacking into the school's computer system in a desperate attempt to switch his failing grades - and so the scene is set. The angelic sister versus the disappointing son and the oblivious parents who can't see through them (oblivion being a key factor throughout proceedings). Deciding the family needs to reconnect, dad Stuart (Nealon) packs them off to a house in the middle of nowhere to spend some quality time together, along with their immature uncle (an underused Richter), pyrotechnic-obsessed cousin Jake (Butler) and television-loving Nana Rose (Roberts). Alas, their holiday is soon rudely interrupted when an alien spaceship crashes on their roof and its four slimy occupants begin their mission to recover a secret artefact from somewhere within the house.

And so the battle begins - humans versus aliens in a showdown for supremacy on Earth that involves a lot of bumping, banging, crashing, Bugsy Malone-style weapons and conveniently acquired fireworks. Sadly, it's nowhere near as clever nor original as Home Alone and lacks the charm of Men In Black. There's little on offer for adults to muse, other than the baffling inability of the parents to figure out what's really going on. Nevertheless, younger kids will be won over by the physical comedy which comes in the form of people falling off roofs, getting whacked in the genitals, a karate-expert Nana and the fabulous antics of Ricky, who unwittingly finds himself completely under the control of the aliens. Cue plenty of walking into walls, somersaulting elaborately and inappropriate comments. Unfortunately, while there's no denying some of the set pieces are genuinely funny (a rotary phone scene springs to mind), more often than not the jokes come across as tired or just off the mark (evidenced by references to dentures and adult diapers).

One of the biggest disappointments in the movie is the lack of screen time given to Tisdale, billed as one of the leading actors. She gets a promising start as she rebels against her parents and struts around in her bikini, but she's quickly relegated to background fodder purely there to provide excess opportunities for the alien-controlled Ricky to shine. It seems a bizarre and sad waste of her obvious comedic talent, as evidenced in the Disney franchise that propelled her to stardom. Likewise, the dialogue lacks the sparkle and wit that films like Shrek and WALL-E have shown can exist in children's films to make them more appealing to adults. Most of the humour comes from the physical comedy and set pieces, which begin to get slightly repetitive towards the end as yet more people fall off roofs or tumble down stairs.

But Aliens In The Attic is a movie solely aimed at children and it does exactly what it sets out to do. It's nothing more than a harmless comedy for kids and tweenagers chock full of slapstick comedy, cute-as-pie aliens and appealing child stars. There are some good moral messages among the faux violence, such as Bethany learning to appreciate her family and Tom realising that being smart can be cool, and they're delivered in such sugary-sweet scenarios that it's hard not to be sucked in. Likewise, the importance of teamwork is a major factor throughout and mixed with the overall premise and some genuinely impressive special effects, it's a perfectly pleasant way to wile away a few hours with your family.


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