I saw a blurb about “Aliens in the Attic” describing it as “the perfect children’s movie.” My first thought was whoever said that was being sarcastic. But no; I read further, and to my extreme disappointment, I saw that the writer was dead serious. Really? The perfect children’s movie? I don’t know–“The Wizard of Oz” has been beloved for generations, as have “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and “Pinocchio,” and I’m pretty sure “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Little Mermaid,” and “The Lion King” will be remembered for years to come. If such a thing happens to “Aliens in the Attic,” then let me apologize now for failing to see the wonder and magic it supposedly has in spades. Maybe I’m too grown up to appreciate kid-friendly entertainment.
Or maybe this is one movie that even the kids shouldn’t be watching. This is a goofy, sterile, inconsequential film that has no ambition other than to turn the minds of children into mush. It’s about as enlightening as a cereal commercial aired during the Saturday Morning Cartoons lineup, and not even half as entertaining. The problems have nothing to do with the premise; believe me, I can buy into the idea of tiny green aliens invading earth as easily as the next guy. But when the most clever scene you can come up with is a ridiculous video-game/kung fu brawl between twenty-eight year-old Robert Hoffman and seventy-eight year-old Doris Roberts, you’ve officially proven that you possess the imagination of a tree stump.
“Aliens in the Attic” follows a formula where the children are resourceful, the adults are clueless, and the situations are nothing close to possible. And I mean besides the whole aliens-are-attacking gimmick. Consider the moment the local sheriff (Tim Meadows) stops by the house to reprimand the children for making a fraudulent 911 call; the parents (Kevin Nealon and Gillian Vigman) suddenly show up and invite the sheriff to join them for their backyard barbecue, because, obviously, even an officer on duty needs to take a hot dog and burger break every once in a while. The sheriff accepts the invitation, naturally. No wonder the kids in these movies can’t take the adults seriously; they make a lot of rules, but they never seem to follow them.
The plot: Reluctant math genius Tom Pearson (Tom Jenkins) is dragged by his Atta Boy Sport father Stuart and Play Friendly Everyone mother Nina on a fishing trip to a lakeside summerhouse in Michigan. Along for the ride are Tom’s bratty teenage sister, Bethany (Ashley Tisdale), and his cute-as-a-button younger sister, Hannah (Ashley Boettcher). When they arrive, the Pearsons are joined by Nana Rose (Roberts), Uncle Nathan (Andy Richter), and his three sons–the militant Jake (Austin Robert Butler) and identical twin video game experts Art and Lee (Henry and Regan Young). To Tom’s horror, Bethany’s boyfriend, Ricky (Hoffman), also arrives. Ricky is a preppy jerk who wins favor with the Pearsons while secretly being mean to Tom. He’s also lying to Bethany about something, but she’s too love struck to notice.
When Tom finds himself on the roof trying to fix a broken satellite dish, he makes a startling discovery: Four well armed, knee-high, green, goblin-like aliens (voiced by Thomas Haden Church, Josh Peck, Ashley Peldon, and Kari Wahlgren) getting ready to plan an invasion of Earth. Oh no, they’ve shot a mind-control chip into Ricky’s neck, and now the aliens can move his body with a handheld remote! As the aliens scurry through the ventilation system trying to get to the basement, the children immediately form a plan of attack, part of which involves tricking the adults into leaving the house. Not that it would have mattered; earlier scenes between the children and the aliens make it clear that, if anything noisy happens upstairs, the adults are under no obligation to take notice.
What a dumb, vacant movie this is, so lacking in style, originality, neatness, and plausibility, so innocuous, so devoid of anything even remotely fun or exciting. The filmmakers seemed to labor under the delusion that children aren’t smart enough for something more fulfilling and mature. A tornado takes a girl from Kansas to a faraway land with witches, an Emerald City, and Munchkins? A boy discovers he’s a wizard and goes to a special school of magic? A puppet is brought to life and must go on a mission to become a real boy? A young woman falls in love with a prince transformed into a hideous beast? All nonsense, apparently. But not “Aliens in the Attic.” Because it’s the perfect children’s movie.
No, I won’t accept that, and neither should you. Do not subject your kids to this movie. There are so many other choices to better stimulate their imaginations. They deserve something that actually makes an effort to tell a story, free from the maddening clichés of smart kids and idiotic parents and life lessons that don’t go beyond the maturity level of a “Full House” episode. I recently had to sit through the mind-numbingly innocent Disney film “G-Force,” and I would rather they see that than “Aliens in the Attic.”
– Chris Pandolfi (www.GoneWithTheTwins.com)