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Aliens in the Attic(2009)
It’s summer vacation, but the Pearson family kids are stuck at a boring lake house with their nerdy parents. That is until feisty, little, green aliens crash-land on the roof, with plans to conquer the house AND Earth! Using only their wits, courage and video game-playing skills, the youngsters must band together to defeat the aliens and save the world -- but the toughest part might be keeping the whole thing a secret from their parents!
For more about Aliens in the Attic and the Aliens in the Attic Blu-ray release, see the Aliens in the Attic Blu-ray Review
Starring: Carter Jenkins, Ashley Tisdale, Austin Butler, Ashley Boettcher, Henry Young, Regan Young
Director: John Schultz
» See full cast & crew
Aliens in the Attic Blu-ray Review
If you’re over 13, expect to feel alienated.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, November 4, 2009
If you grew up in a large extended family, with a legion of siblings and cousins, you probably remember having imaginative adventures during get-togethers—snowball fights became epic wars between good and evil, trips to the lake played host to high-seas hijinks, and homemade table 'n blanket forts were envisioned as massive military complexes from which to stage food-raid invasions of the kitchen. Aliens in the Attic feels like that kind of make-believe playmaking—Oh no! There are space invaders upstairs! Grab the Nerf guns!—but this time it's real. Unfortunately, it's not very imaginative. Director John Shultz (The Honeymooners) paces through a meaningless but marginally fun romp that has a family of tweener kids defending Earth from alien invaders under the noses of their oblivious parents. It's basically Home Alone, but with little green men instead of easily foiled burglars.
The Pearsons are your average, run-of-the-mall nuclear family. Dad Stuart (Kevin Nealon) has a gung-ho passion for fishing and an early bird casts the worm idea about how dawn is the best time to drop a line. His wife Nina (Gillian Vigman) is devoid of personality—she's a typical movie mom—and their kids barely fare better. Young Hannah (Ashley Boettcher) is adorable enough to sell Welch's grape juice, big sis Bethany (Ashley Tisdale) hormonally charges through a relationship with her older beau Ricky (Robert Hoffman), and 15-year-old Tom (Carter Jenkins) is purposely failing his classes because he doesn't want to be picked on for being a brainiac and "mathlete." Oh, the pains of being smart. The family rents a vacation house on a lake in rural Michigan, where they're joined by grandma "Nana" Rose (Doris Roberts), Uncle Nate (Andy Richter), and his cadre of kids, including sporty teen Jake (Austin Butler). While the adults blithely while away the time downstairs, the kids discover four aliens trapped in the attic, the vanguard of a larger invasion to come later that night. The aliens possess a mind-control device that only works on adults, so the kids try to keep their parents out of the mix while battling the space creatures with cobbled together weaponry like pump-action potato guns and Mentos/Diet Coke rockets.
The titular aliens are Gremlins with anthropomorphic personalities; Skip (J.K. Simmons) is the gruff, take-no-prisoners commander, Sparks (Josh Peck) is empathetic to the humans 'cause he's got a family of his own back on planet Zirkon, and Spike (Thomas Hayden Church) butts heads with female alien Razor (Kari Wahlgren) in constant battle-of-the-sexes quarrelling. They're after some sort of beacon device buried under the house, but it doesn't really matter. The whole set-up is just an excuse for slapstick comedy. And the film is not without its moments. The alien mind-control device takes the form of a neck implant activated by remote control, and there's a fairly funny scene when the aliens are controlling Ricky, the doofus boyfriend, while the kids activate their grandma. What follows is a kung-fu fight of Jet Li versus Jackie Chan proportions, the two avatars controlled like videogame characters, a la Street Fighter II. One of the sub-themes, if you can call it that, is that the kids are able to combat the aliens because of their familiarity with technology, modern technology at least. The younger ones are baffled by a rotary telephone—it takes forever to dial a single number—but they're apt at intuitively using alien tech because they've grown up with cell-phones and handheld videogames.
Ultimately though, a few scattered funny moments and some kid-empowerment can't buoy the sinking script and deadweight performances. The young actors are uniformly passable, but there's zero charisma here, no one that stands out. Plus, they all look like kids you'd spot in a J.C. Penney catalog, holding skateboards or playing basketball. You know the sort. Teen queen Ashley Tisdale is prominently featured in the film's promos and billing—presumably to capitalize on the tweener audience of High School Musical—but she's completely adjacent to the story, and her character is exceptionally aggravating. Likewise, the adult cast members are basically set dressing. SNL-alums Tim Meadows and Kevin Nealon have both been seen in mediocre, mid-level comedies before, so it's not exactly surprising to see them telegraphing it in here. Sorry, "phoning" seems too generous. And Andy Richter! He'd be perfect as the kooky uncle, but he's given too little screen time to wrangle any meat out of the role. Only Robert Hoffman puts himself out there as the frat-boy boyfriend, spasmodically jerking and contorting his face into extreme expressions, but even this performance is stolen outright from the Jim Carrey school of slapstick. Not immune, the knee-high CGI aliens fall prey to poor scripting and flat line readings. A very narrow subset of kids may find Aliens in the Attic entertaining—the 6 to 12 crowd, I'm guessing—but younger kids may be a bit scared, proper teens will roll their eyes, and adults will be checking their watches.
Aliens in the Attic Blu-ray, Video Quality
On the upside, Aliens in the Attic features a 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that's frequently visually arresting. The whole film displays an excellent sense of clarity and detail, but there are certain scenes—like when the family goes out on the lake, or when Bethany and Ricky flirt on the dock—that display stunning presence and dimensionality, where the screen really looks like a window into the movie's world. This, of course, is aided by perfect contrast, satisfyingly deep black levels, and spot-on shadow delineation. You'll also be impressed by the depth of the colors here; primaries are exceptionally vivid—check out Ricky's yellow sports car or Stuart's red polo shirt—and all hues feel weighted and strong. Skin tones are healthy, and the film has a warm, saturated cast throughout. It's an ultra-real, slightly stylized look for sure, but it perfectly suits the nature of the film. The grain structure is fine but undeniably filmic, and the only real drawback is the artificiality of some of the digital inserts. The green screen backgrounds are a little obvious at times, especially on the rooftop, and the aliens occasionally stand out awkwardly from their live-action surroundings. The CGI isn't the best I've seen, but it is fluidly animated. Overall, the film looks far better than I was expecting.
Aliens in the Attic Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Aliens in the Attic lands on Blu-ray with solid DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track that, while not quite as involving as it could be, nonetheless broadcasts the film with a deep dynamic range and a well-balanced mix. Voices are stalwartly clear and crisp, indoor and outdoor acoustics are reproduced accurately, and the sound effects are generally excellent. I especially like the aliens' anti-gravity grenade, which disperses a low LFE purring. The orchestral score isn't incredibly memorable, but bass is quite strong and the high-end instruments sound clean and detailed. The rear channels get lots of engagement with environmental ambience—rain pours, wind whips, crickets chirp, and water drips—but I was surprised by how few discrete panning and tracking effects are used in the film. There's a great sequence when one of the kids throws some firecrackers down an air vent—they go clattering from front to back convincingly—but I found myself waiting for the film's big audio "demo" sequence, which unfortunately never came. That's not to say, however, that this track is disappointing. It's not—I was impressed by the clarity of the sound—but I guess it comes down to expectations.
Aliens in the Attic Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Introduction to Film with Ashley Tisdale (1080p, 21sec.)
Am I just old? Am I supposed to know who Ashley Tisdale is? It took me some IMDB'ing, but I eventually found out she's one of the key drama queens from High School Musical. Here, she warns the little ones that they might want to close their eyes. "Just kidding," she says, "it's not too scary."
Alternate Ending (1080p, 2:48)
I can see why they didn't go with this ending—it's kind of clumsy. Do note that the digital effects aren't complete here and there are some rough animatics in place.
Deleted Scenes (1080p, 3:34)
There are three deleted scenes, including one where Tim Meadows gets launched through the air and into the lake.
Gag Reel (1080p, 4:54)
There are a few chuckles here, but this is your standard array of flubbed lines and missed cues.
Behind the Zirkonians (1080p, 15:26)
This is a kind of comic book-style prequel that gives us the back stories on all of the aliens and shows how they came to be chosen for the mission to Earth. It's really dull, and barely animated, consisting of single panels with some slight motion.
The Ashley Encounters (1080p, 4:09)
Ashley Tisdale gives a few brief on-set interviews.
Lights, Camera, Aliens! (1080p, 9:31)
This is the film's "making of" featurette, with cast and crew interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, and a special emphasis on the stunts.
Kung Fu Grandma (SD, 1:21)
Plug in, power up, and punch out! This is a fake commercial for the "Kung Fu Grandma: Action Gaming System*," with "patented alien mind control technology."
*Nana not included. Your Nana's moves may vary.
Brian Anthony "Electricity" Music Video (1080p, 1:36)
What a horrible song. Thankfully, less than two minutes long.
Fox Movie Channel Presents Life After Film School With Barry Josephson (SD, 27:31)
In Life After Film School, three film school students ask questions to a current industry insider. Here, Aliens in the Attic executive producer Barry Josephson details his university experience and explains how he got involved in the film business. If you've ever wondered what an executive producer actually does, this will give you a pretty good idea.
Aliens in the Attic Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
It's sometimes difficult to judge kids' movies. Looking back on some of my favorites when I was a kid, many seem completely trite in retrospect, but I remember intensely loving them at the time. I imagine the same will be true for kids who like Aliens in the Attic. It's not great filmmaking —or storytelling—by any means, but it offers up a few laughs and, let's face it, a kung fu grandma is pretty funny. Adults will want to find something else to do while their kids watch this one, but parents who are also audio/videophiles may get a small kick out of the excellent Blu-ray presentation the film's been given.
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Aliens in the Attic Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Aliens in the Attic Blu-ray Announced - September 9, 2009
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment has announced that it will release the family film 'Aliens in the Attic' on Blu-ray on November 3, day-and-date with the DVD. It will be presented in 1.85:1 1080p AVC, with a DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. The Blu-ray release ...
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