Encountering ‘Aliens in the Attic’

August 21, 2009

No you don’t need to see Aliens in the Attic (2009). It’s pretty much what the title conjures up: A topsy-turvy version of Home Alone (1990), except that instead of one child there are several, the home invaders are extraterrestrials, and the grownups are actually present (if still oblivious to what’s happening). Otherwise, it’s a fantasy of juvenile heroism and derringdo for a juvenile audience

Following a number of other movies such as ET (1982), Men in Black (1997), and Signs (2002), Aliens taps into our culture’s developing extraterrestrial mythology, wherein futuristic entities visit Earth and interact with humans in ways that are cosmically powerful. In Aliens , the beings intend to invade and subjugate us, much as Spanish Conquistadors did the Aztecs of Mexico. Yet the advance guard are not all bad: one is a friendly alien who, taking a cue from ET , forms an endearing bond with Hannah (Ashley Boettcher). He shows a picture of his alien family that he’s eager to return to.

Naturally, in keeping with the alien mythology, the entities are rubber-faced humanoids. They evoke the iconographically evolved little big-headed “greys” (albeit crossed with Hollywood gremlins). While they announce they are “the Zirkonian species,” their animationary DNA reveals they are clearly from the distant planet Latex.

Aliens in the Attic will probably entertain the kids. Adults can amuse themselves by looking for—and occasionally finding—redeeming bits. For instance, I was delighted at how the children (who are impervious to the aliens’ mind-control devices because they are “wired differently”) effectively use toys against the invaders. For example, the aliens are kept under surveillance with a little radio-controlled car fitted with a camera, and they are routed with a paintball gun; one is befuddled by means of a soap-bubble maker, then captured with a butterfly net. Laughter and cheers in the theater!

Not surprisingly, the film pokes some satirical fun at UFO skeptics. When father Stuart Pearson (Kevin Nealon) proclaims, “There’s no such thing as aliens,” moviegoers can see how stupidly wrong he is. And when the aliens are zooming off in a visually unique display of spaceship flight, a cop attempts to explain away the incredible aerial phenomenon as only a “meteor shower.”

Aliens in the Attic does not really take us beyond the movie house. Outside, it’s a different world—and, no doubt, a different universe.