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Saturday
Aug012009

Aliens in the Attic

Aliens in the Attic is inoffensive. Kids will love it and adults will find no reason to keep them from flocking to the theater to see it. But it must be said that it is mind numbing, pandering directly to the children with little intent to bring in adult audiences. While not necessarily a bad thing, there's nothing holding it together in regards to plot, acting, humor or relevance. Those looking for a stupid, fun time at the movies will enjoy themselves, but anyone with a desire for something with substance need to look elsewhere.

Tom (Carter Jenkins) is a high school student whose grades are suffering despite his above average intelligence and his parents aren't sure why. They eventually come to the conclusion that what he needs is family interaction, away from all of the technology that engulfs his life, and forces him on a vacation to a secluded lake house in the middle of nowhere. Along with his sisters Bethany (Ashley Tisdale) and Hannah (Ashley Boettcher), and his cousins, Art (Henri Young), Lee (Regan Young), and Jake (Austin Butler), he is stuck with his extended family for a whole week with nothing to do. Just after arriving, Bethany's college boyfriend, Ricky (Robert Hoffman) arrives, much to the dismay of Tom who hates Ricky and his deceitful ways of tricking his parents and sister into accepting him. As their grandmother, who they so affectionately call Nana (Doris Roberts), watches television, the screen scrambles and the family deduces that something is wrong with the antenna on the roof, so Tom and Ricky go up to fix it and find a group of aliens who begin to attack them. Using some type of mind control device, they take control of Ricky while Tom escapes. He tells the other kids and discovers that the aliens want something in the basement, but the children intend on keeping them from getting it.

I apologize. In my first paragraph I say there is nothing in regards to plot and then go on to detail one of the longest plot descriptions I think I've ever written, but there are lots of characters in the movie and I felt like I needed to mention them all, so you could see how so many people can make so little difference. Nevertheless, I failed to acknowledge work from otherwise hilarious actors like Andy Richter, Kevin Nealon and Tim Meadows, whom all have minor roles. While the kids are relative no names outside of the increasingly beautiful Ashley Tisdale, everyone else has done some great work: Roberts in "Everybody Loves Raymond," Meadows in the more recent Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, and Nealon with great supporting roles in everything from 1996's Happy Gilmore to last year's underrated comedy, Get Smart. Yet I just couldn't find it in myself to care about any of them.

Aliens in the Attic plays a little bit like a kid's horror movie, with cheap jump scares and tired clichés like the slow, cautious walk and the "None of our cell phones have any service!" plot turn. Boy, that never gets old. Of course, it doesn't get too scary. It is a children's movie after all. There are moments of humorous tranquility so as not to disturb the kiddies' nightmares, featuring multiple jokes about getting hit in the groin and slapstick humor so tired that I'm pretty sure the actors were falling asleep. None of these kids are funny or have any type of comedic chemistry. With around five or six actors onscreen together at all times, it becomes embarrassing to see how quickly their shtick turns into a bad Disney Channel program complete with idiotic dialogue and exaggerated mannerisms. The only worthwhile jokes in the film come from the adults and Robert Hoffman, who unabashedly ridicules himself while his character is in mind control mode, to an entertaining effect.

"I don't want to be like you! I want to be cool!" Tom screams at his father at one point in the movie, explaining that he tanked his grades on purpose because he was tired of being picked on for being smart, which is a self-contradiction because if he were so smart, he would have realized how awesome it is that he will one day go somewhere in life while his peers will be scraping gum off of the underbelly of his private business toilet. Is this what we're teaching our kids? That being smart is less valuable than being cool? After vanquishing the aliens, Tom explains to his father that he has some type of understanding that being smart is cool, but he's only saying this because he's in a state of euphoria from kicking alien ass. It wasn't his intelligence he prided himself on, it was his combat skills. Swing and a miss.

Aliens in the Attic shamelessly plays to kids, shifting the balance of power in their favor because the child characters are the only ones capable of staving off the invasion. You see, the mind control device works only on adults! Which makes no sense! Wouldn't it be easier to capture a child's feeble mind, one that hasn't had the time to maturely develop? But I digress. It takes this childhood fantasy of gaining control over a situation and shoves it in our faces, much to the delight of children and much to the disdain of adults.

I would be surprised to find that the 13 and under crowd didn't like Aliens in the Attic, but then again I'm not a child anymore, so maybe I'm not giving them enough credit. Perhaps they've matured and future generations will get increasingly more intelligent as the years go by. Maybe they will be able to see how banal this silly little adventure is and look for more grown up offerings that actually deal with important life lessons. Or maybe they'll eat it up like it's candy. Either way.

Aliens in the Attic receives 1.5/5

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