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Stopped By Wood

Movie Title: Aliens in the Attic (2009)
Spoilers: No

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I never thought I'd see anything like it again. This is the second film I've seen where space aliens get stopped dead in their tracks by wood. Yes, by wood. Who knew that the stuff composing cabinets, benches, coffee tables, and most household furniture possessed such kryptonite-like power!

Go back a few years to 2002 when M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs was new. There was so much suspense. The only thing you remember about the movie was how afraid you felt of those aliens who flew all the way to earth to eat humans—those aliens who were super strong, and yet – incredibly – could be trapped in wooden pantries and kept out by ordinary wooden doors. The plot had enough holes in it to strain the leaves out of your pool. Signs died. Cause: plot-hole death.

I took it upon myself to believe that no director since Shyamalan would make such a massive mistake, but I was wrong. One did. That director is director John Schultz, director of Aliens in the Attic. It's as if I was being forced to watch Signs all over again. Once was soooooo enough!

Signs is a serious film. Aliens in the Attic is not. Oddly, in reference to Signs, there is a moment when one of the kids says to an alien: “Are you allergic to water?” Har, har…very funny, considering Aliens in the Attic is nearly a clone of Signs, with a partial cinematic overhaul to ensure that it will appeal to those who dig Power Rangers.

Honestly, I don't know which I hate more – a movie for kids, with stupid, Crazy Frog-like aliens, or a serious movie where the excrement-for-brains director didn't see a problem having aliens allergic to water fly across the galaxy to consume human beings who are 90% water on a planet that is 75% covered with water. I can't make up my mind, so I will be vocal about my seething hatred for both.

Aliens in the Attic is about two families who rent a house next to a lake to do some good ole' family fishing. There's Stuart Pearson (Kevin Nealon) and his brother Nathan Pearson (Andy Ricther), along with a very charismatic cast of kids, including Carter Jenkins and Ashley Tisdale as Tom and Bethany. There's “Nana” Rose Pearson (Doris Roberts) and a Chevy Camaro-loving boyfriend (Robert Hoffman) of Bethany’s who is taking his time robbing the cradle by going after dad's little princess. Tim Meadows is Officer Doug Armstrong, a small town sheriff. He takes the place of those normally pear-shaped female Peace Officers who sit in police stations with headsets on in front of computers and take 911 calls. He takes the calls himself. It’s a good thing there aren’t many.

The stupidity flows like a river…of stupidity. But the film is finely written and the directing is better than good. The scene cuts are in the right places. The camerawork is to be envied. Like love handles in PE class, the fat budget shows right through. The special affects are amazingly well done. Now, if only the content would measure up.

There's a 1980s bias. I can’t tell whether it’s positive or negative. On the one hand, there are references to “minds fried with bad 80s music,” but on the other hand, the writing is saturated with “pyscheeeeeek!” mock handshakes and a cultural vibe that was dead as a doormat by 1990. Go figure.

Just as in Signs, the aliens are not seeking man’s best interest. These aliens are dumber than ten bags of hammers, but they've got technology on their side. The aliens seem to have the advantage. Only problem is, they are confounded by their two archenemies, wood and sheetrock. They stay in the attic for most of the film, taking over people's minds and getting kicked around by (to them) giant human children.

And the parents...they have no clue that their kids have turned into collaborating cousins who are hunkered down upstairs to stop an invasion of potentially catastrophic proportions. Rather than hide out in cornfields like the aliens from Signs, these miniature versions find it a good strategy to take over the world by snooping around humdrum houses out in the middle of nowhere. Maybe that's a subtle message about how technology can make us stupid. Well, I don’t think. I know it is.

That is what the film is saying. Having technology isn't having everything. Take away the aliens and the attics and granny doing flips and jump-kicks because her mind has been taken over by an alien mind control dart, and what do you have left? You've got a child's movie that vigorously promotes family values.

I'd take your whole family out to dinner to avoid having to sit through this painfully ridiculous film again, but then, I'm not trying to get it through my 10-year-old's head that breaking away from MySpace for more than two hours won't kill you!

(JH)

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Grade: D+ (1 ½ stars)
Rated: PG
Summation: A family of kids must stop a worldwide invasion of aliens who begin their attack in an attic.
Director: John Schultz
Starring: Carter Jenkins “Tom Pearson,” Austin Robert Butler “Jake Pearson,” Ashley Tisdale “Bethany Pearson,” Ashley Boettcher “Hannah Pearson,” Henri Young “Art Pearson,” Regan Young “Lee Pearson,” Doris Roberts “Nana Rose Pearson,” Robert Hoffman “Ricky Dillman,” Kevin Nealon “Stuart Pearson,” Gillian Vigman “Nina Pearson,” Andy Richter “Uncle Nathan Pearson,” Tim Meadows “Sheriff Doug Armstrong”
Genre: Adventure / Comedy / Family / Fantasy

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