Ah, good. After my brief bout of insanity reviewing a good movie yesterday, I’ll return to reviewing films most people haven’t heard of.
Today’s gem is the 1990 children’s flick Spaced Invaders. I haven’t the foggiest notion when I first saw this—it might have been at the theater, but I think it was probably on HBO or something, since I distinctly remember my father cracking up while watching it at home. The film is a comedy about five Martians who accidentally crash-land in a small town on Halloween night. Chaos—and hilarity!—ensues.
The aliens, led by the Napoleonic Captain Bipto, include the mad scientist Dr. Ziplock (har har), the Jack Nicholson imitator Blaznee, the hyperactive Giggywig, and Pez, whom I don’t remember anything about. The Martians crashed after overhearing a broadcast of Orson Welles’ famous War of the Worlds radio show and thinking the Martian fleet was attacking Earth.
The diminutive Captain Bipto sets about with a plan to destroy the Earthlings—only to be run over in the road by a truck. The remaining Martians wander around the Midwestern town, being mistaken for trick-or-treaters and wreaking minor havoc with their advanced technology. Meanwhile, it turns out Captain Bipto got better, and in one of the more amusing plot twists, he turns his would-be killer, Vern the truck driver (Wayne Alexander), into a hilariously brainwashed super-slave he calls “Verndroid.” Oh, and there’s a scary robot from their ship trying to kill them all, too.
The humans involved in all this include Kathy (Ariana Richards, who would star in Jurassic Park three years later), who befriends the Martians and dresses in the coolest kid’s costume ever—the creature from Alien; her friend Brian (J.J. Anderson), a duck; Kathy’s dad Sam, the sheriff (Douglass Barr); and old Mr. Wrenchmuller (Royal Dano), who figures out what’s really going on before everyone else.
Spaced Invaders came out less than a month after the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, yet the Martian animatronic suits are much more expressive, amusing, and realistic-looking than the Turtles were. But most of the humor comes from the Martians’ constant misunderstandings regarding human culture and their general arguing amongst themselves. The dialogue is often so bizarre or offbeat as to be hilarious; pretty much anything Verndroid says makes me laugh out loud:
Verndroid: The smell of battery acid makes me thirsty. Oh with all their advanced technology, look at the pitiful conveyances these Earth people construct.
(lifts engine out of car)
This one generates a mere 250 horsepower.
It’s interesting; Roger Ebert didn’t like this movie and singled out the Martian suits as being phony-looking. Either he’s wrong or I am. Is it an opinion whether something looks “realistic”? Put it this way: the Martian outfits were good enough that I was able to put aside the thought that these were people in suits and believe they were funny Martians for ninety minutes.
Giggywig: Let me sum up the entire situation in a nutshell: there are five of us, and four billion of them. They have Strategic Air Command, nuclear powered submarines, and John Wayne. We have this.
(holds up a small rifle)
Captain Bipto: …is it loaded?
(Giggywig points the rifle at Bipto)
Giggywig: Let’s find out!
I just can’t resist laughing at scenes such as Verndroid popping his head into Captain Bipto’s makeshift lab and emitting a bizarre alarm sound from his mouth, or the Martians threatening the human populace with the mighty D.O.D.—Donut of Destruction (see below)—which of course malfunctions because Giggywig accidentally “put tab A into slot B.”
I can say with confidence that Spaced Invaders is a better film than, say, The Worst Witch. It’s a goofy children’s film and it’s not for everyone, but I’d say a good number of my readers would enjoy it, particularly if they have some rugrats to share it with. There’s also plenty of humor that will fly over kids’ heads, as it did my young noggin sixteen years ago but gives me a laugh now. In short—it’s worth a Netflix if you’re looking for a campy Halloween treat.