Usually, on-screen E.T.s are presented as either nurturing, evolved beings from another planet, sent here to help mankind, or vicious world domination types, intent on colonizing or destroying Earth. But movies often encounter a third kind of movie alien, the goofy intergalactic visitor.
In this weekend’s Paul, nerd superstars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost play Brit sci-fi geeks on a pilgrimage to some of America’s UFO hot spots. Along the way they help Paul (voice of Seth Rogen), an irreverent alien with a taste for silly gags and Bob Dylan jokes, get back to his home planet. Think of it as E.T. for frat boys and you get the idea.
In the world the movie creates, the idea of a wisecracking alien makes perfect sense, but adding an E.T. doesn’t always fit so well. Take Meatballs Part 2, for instance. The addition of Meathead, a grey, rubber-skinned alien sent to Camp Sasquash to earn an Earth merit badge, hardly improves on the original Bill Murray classic.
The fun -loving aliens of Earth Girls Are Easy are put to better use. The movie’s plot is best summed up by manicurist Valerie (Geena Davis) as she enlists her friend Candy (Julie Brown) to give the aliens a makeover: “A UFO landed in my pool and they captured me but we made friends and I fed them Pop-Tarts and… we’ve got to cut their hair.”
Once shaved, the former red, blue and yellow-furred wookies look a lot like Jeff Goldblum, Jim Carrey and Damon Wayans and are ready to hit the L.A. clubs in search for love. They may be aliens, Candy says, “but they can still be dates!”
In Phil the Alien, Rob Stefaniuk plays a stranded space-shape-shifter who hides in plain sight on Earth as the singer of a Christian rock band. Best line? “I’m staying with a beaver,” says Phil, “down by the brook.”
One of the most memorable movie aliens is Mathesar, the haute-contre voiced Thermian leader played by Enrico Colantoni in Galaxy Quest. Learning everything he knows about Earth from television transmissions, he turns to the cast of a cancelled sci fi show to help save his planet.
Favourite scene? When one of the actors, Gwen DeMarco (Sigourney Weaver), explains that TV shows are not “historical documents” she says, “Surely, you don’t think Gilligan’s Island is a…”
“Those poor people,” Mathesar interrupts, moaning in despair.
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