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'Aliens in the Attic': Smart is the new cool

Posted By Drew Zahn's column On 08/03/2009 @ 1:53 am In Diversions | Comments Disabled

Tom Pearson has a problem: He’s smart. And being smart, he’s convinced, is so not cool.

“I’m tired of getting picked on for being a brainiac!” the 15-year-old shouts at his geeky, accountant father. “I don’t want to be like you; I want to be cool.”

Ouch. Dad, you are also … so not cool.

Playing on the old comic standby of a dysfunctional family dragged off reluctantly to a backwoods family vacation, “Aliens in the Attic” then presents a farcical proposition: What if on this vacation to a country home in Michigan, an alien invasion begins in the attic of the house? And what if the adults are helpless against the aliens’ brain control devices, and it’s up to the kids to save the world?

Seriously, I wonder how much pizza the scriptwriters consumed late at night before they dreamed this up.

Naturally, hilarity must therefore ensue.

The film, which then wavered somewhere between a funny, if campy, flick for 10-year-olds – complete with grandma pulling some seriously awesome ninja moves – and an overly cliché after-school special, nonetheless manages an uplifting and family-affirming message when Tom realizes Dad isn’t so bad. In fact, being smart has its advantages.

I confess, these are not profound cosmological and theological issues the film is dealing with. But it’s “Aliens in the Attic.” What did you expect?

The only other widely available new film this week was Adam Sandler’s miserable “Funny People,” which boasted a script filled with over 150 “f” words and more penis jokes than Sandler told in his 88 appearances on “Saturday Night Live” combined.

“Aliens in the Attic,” however, is one of those rare, fun family films that’s good for a few laughs and doesn’t push an agenda of undermining parents as morons, guilting us into saving the planet from the evils of human overpopulation or convincing us that “gay is OK.”

What “Aliens” does do is show how Tom – and, incidentally, the one geeky-smart alien in the invasion force – discovers that getting good grades and being the smart one is a good thing.

The movie also challenges the 15-year-old to step up to the plate and be a man to protect his family. It teaches teamwork, humility and deference to others. The film even puts the “cool” cousin in the place where he realizes taking time to stop and think … actually makes a lot of sense.

Eventually the aliens, as you might expect, are no match for combined intelligence of the children, working together with their thinking caps on. The bumbling dimwits from outer space are bested by a teenage hero that learns to stop tanking his grades to fit in with the “cool” crowd and start taking pride in how much he’s like his braniac dad.

The aliens had best think again before tangling with Tom Pearson, for, as he tells his vanquished foes, “You messed with the wrong Math-lete.”

Geeks and braniacs arise!

Content advisory:

  • “Aliens in the Attic” contains a significant amount of slapstick and video game violence, even depicting humans fighting like the popular martial arts characters from Playstation. Boys are likely to think this is “awesome!”; moms, not so much.
  • Tom’s slightly older teen sister parades about in the film in low-cut shirts and even a string bikini for a time, exposing quite a bit more skin than the typical kids’ movie. Her relationship with a duplicitous boyfriend also delves into some slightly more mature themes and phrases, such as “hooking up” and “smoking hot.”
  • The aliens engage in a few “burps, butts and booger” jokes, and there are several instances played for laughs where male characters are struck in the crotch.
  • Some viewers might find the carelessness and enthusiasm with which the children play with firecrackers to be disconcerting.
  • There film contains little to no profanity, sex or occultic content.


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