Another week, another perfectly satisfactory, perfectly harmless, perfectly unmemorable kids movie. This isn’t to say the prospects of Aliens in the Attic were anything to get excited over. The trailer relies heavily on goofy slapstick and some cheesy CGI aliens. And while these things play a major part in the film itself, there’s an occasional flit of cleverness that filters through that’s pleasantly unanticipated. A lot of this is due to the good-natured and occasionally witty screenplay co-written by Mark Burton—who cut his teeth in British television and helped pen Wallace and Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)—and Adam F. Goldberg (Fanboys). But something funny happened from the page to the multiplex.
The movie itself is one of those preteen-fantasy-empowerment films (think Richard Donner’s The Goonies (1985) or even Robert Rodriguez’s Spy Kids) where seemingly normal kids are thrown into some outrageous adventure. In the case of Aliens in the Attic, the adventure involves, well, aliens in the attic. The film follows Tom (Carter Jenkins, Bad News Bears), a seemingly intelligent nerd who’s underachieving in school. After being forced to go on vacation with his family to a remote lake house, Tom discovers that a small squad of tiny, knee-high aliens have just landed on the roof.
Of course, from there on out, it’s up to Tom, his cousins and his little sister (Ashley Boettcher) to stop the aliens from taking over the Earth for no good reason. This responsibility falls on the kids partly as a result of the parents being of the bumbling, oblivious sort and partly due to the fact that alien mind-control devices only work on mature adults. On the whole, the basic premise of Aliens in the Attic works well, especially where preteen escapism is concerned. What kid wouldn’t want to fight aliens with potato guns and Diet Coke/Mentos bombs?
Burton and Goldberg’s script, with its comments on our technology-based world, actually makes one feel like some time was taken to craft it into a well thought-out movie instead of one where odds-and-ends are thrown together to conform to the hot trend of the day. And while this is refreshing, this doesn’t mean that the movie is groundbreaking in any way, let alone that original. The cleverer aspects are all buried inside a movie that has been done before.
Schultz’s (The Honeymooners) direction moves along briskly, but ends up just sort of airless and uneventful, while the CGI aliens feel hokier than usual. This certainly doesn’t cripple the movie, but it does keep it from being anything more than generic. Rated PG for action violence, some suggestive humor and language.