There has been lots for the kiddies at the multiplex this summer from Harry Potter, Ice Age and Transformers sequels, to G-Force to Up. Some of those were excellent and some were down right terrible. This weekend's 20th Century Fox's Aliens in the Attic falls somewhere in the middle.
Completely bearable for mom and dad while totally enjoyable for the kids, this live-action/CGI film contains bits and pieces of 80s movies parents will recognize like National Lampoon's Vacation, Gremlins, Goonies and Monster Squad. Except the whole thing has been smartly updated for the video game generation as the kids in Attic are all about the X-Box and Wii and have never seen a rotary telephone before in their lives.
The film centers on kids -- siblings and cousins -- battling aliens who've invaded their summer home in an attempt to take over the world. Meanwhile, the adults around them are clueless as to what's going on and assume the youths are just playing around. So while dad has taken them on a family Vacation, the kids have their own Goonies adventure with pesky aliens, but one little green guy is actually good, like Gizmo in Gremlins, and the whole thing culminates in a Monster Squad battle. Oh yeah, did I mention this all takes place in one day?
The cast is filled with youngsters who are no doubt current or future Teen Beat and Bop Magazine pin-up favorites, including High School Musical's Ashley Tisdale as Bethany, the eldest of the group. The adults are all familiar comedians including Kevin Nealon (channeling Clark Griswold) and Gillian Vigman as the parents, Andy Richter as the uncle, Doris Roberts as grandma and Tim Meadows as the local sheriff. Though they are not the focus of the film, they are clearly there to keep parents firmly in their seats.
Much of the comedy is derived from a device the aliens have: a high-tech mind-control chip they shoot in humans' skulls to take over the body and control it with a video game-like joystick. The one caveat is that it only works on adults, not kids. That's how the youngsters quickly find out Bethany's boyfriend, Ricky (Robert Hoffman), has been lying about his age when the 18-year old becomes the first victim. Since the kids all hate him anyway, when they steal the controlling device from the aliens, they have their own fun torturing poor old Ricky.
When Grandma becomes the second victim of this chip, it's kids vs. aliens with their respective joysticks as Ricky and Grandma have a Matrix-style battle in the home. It's pretty amusing to watch an elderly lady like Roberts twirling through the air in slow-motion like a Samurai. After seeing Betty White give it all she's got in The Proposal, Roberts shows she's still in the game as well.
The most gifted newcomer here turns out to be Hoffman, whose comedic skills -- no doubt much of it improvised -- are on full display when his body is taken over by the device. Playing the abducted Ricky, one can only imagine what it took for him to film some of those hilariously self-abusive scenes over and over again during the production while keeping a straight, robotic face. Stay for the end credits and there are plenty more outtakes featuring him slapping himself and doing other goofy antics.
Though Aliens in the Attic is far from being a classic like most of the aforementioned films it borrows from, it fun enough to sit through for the kids without torturing the folks.