Aliens in the Attic
Fox // PG // $39.99 // November 3, 2009
Review by Adam Tyner | posted November 11, 2009
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Recommended
E - M A I L
this review to a friend
R E V I E W S
Graphical Version
[click on the thumbnail to enlarge]
Audible gasp! An advance team from an invading alien race has mounted their first assault on our oversized blue mudball, and the arsenal they're lugging around includes a jabby needle that can zombify Earth's humans and turn 'em into Bluetooth-controlled marionettes. If they're able to dig up whatever it is that crashlanded eons ago, that's the cue to signal the fleet and gimme gimme world domination. On the upside, the Zirkonians' mind-control rigs only work on fully-baked humans. The junior set...? Doesn't do anything, and as luck would have it, the aliens' world-conquering whatchamadoozit is buried under an out-of-the-way summer rental teeming with kids. Think of it like a video game: the aliens are in the attic, their doomsday device is waiting down below the basement, and a small army of tykes and teens is sandwiched between 'em in the middle. All the kids have to do is stop 'em from passing "Go", and...c'mon, the aliens are, like, a foot and a half tall. No problem, right? Well, these sawtoothed little buggers have all sorts of hyperadvanced gadgetry at their split-fingertips, not to mention a human mom, dad, uncle, nana, and jerky boyfriend as potential zombie-fried minions. Don't fret, though: it's not as if the fate of our world rests in the balance or anything. Oh, wait...

Aliens in the Attic didn't exactly win over audiences or the critic crowd when it swooped into theaters this past summer, scoring indifferent shrugs straight across the board from snarky movie reviewers and not raking in all that much cash at the box office either. Me, though...? I dug it. It's not as wildly ambitious or fiercely inventive as the Pixar crowd, no, but sometimes a goofy, straightahead action/adventure fits the bill. Aliens in the Attic is exactly the movie it sets out to be, and...well, it sets out to be a ridiculous amount of fun, so there's that.

One of the things I usually find kinda grating about familykids' movies is that they have a nasty tendency to overplay everything. What Aliens in the Attic does better than anything else, really, is to keep all that in check. They've piled together a really great cast of kids: High School Musical alum Ashley Tisdale, Carter Jenkins as a mathlete trying to pass himself off as a renegade sk8er boi, troublemaker Austin Robert Butler, too-cute Ashley Boettcher, and video-game-obsessed twins Henri and Regan Young. Like pretty much everything else about the movie, they're charming without ever being precocious or mugging to the camera, it's all cute without coming across as cloying... Aliens in the Attic just
[click on the thumbnail to enlarge]
has the confidence to let things be what they ought to be rather than grabbing the audience by the shoulders and barking "this is where you laugh! This is where you're s'posed to sniffle! This is where..." the way too many kiddie flicks do. It's packing a pretty solid sense of humor too. Not all of it works -- a Punk'd nod? Take that, 2003! -- and there's still some of the usual stuff like ow-my-balls gags, a diaper joke, belching... That sort of thing only happens maybe five times, though, and the rest of it's pretty clever, such as the aliens breaking out into awkward Engrish 'cause they can't quite get the hang of our language or how deftly the kids think they are at pulling the strings of the adults around 'em.

There's nothing that's even a little bit inappropriate for little kids, and ditto for all the action that's scattered around in here. Aliens in the Attic continually serves up one skirmish after another between the kids and the pint-size invaders, straddling the line between "fun!" and "hey, thrilling!" It's all kind of exciting while still being playful...nothing overly intense, and that's exactly what it's aiming for. Robert Hoffman is absolutely Aliens...' secret weapon. That brilliantly doofy expression when the Zirkonians' mind-control rig kicks in, his hysterically exaggerated robotic movements as he's marching in lockstep with that video game controller...without him on the bill, Aliens in the Attic would probably lose a star and a half from the sidebar. The zombie hardware works pretty much exactly like a video game, and the highlight of the movie, period, is a Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon-meets-Street Fighter II brawl between Hoffman and a cane-wielding Doris Roberts (!!!). It's kind of a drag that the flick never gets around to doing much of anything with the other adults -- Tim Meadows, Kevin Nealon, Gillian Vigman, and Andy Richter are on the bill but kinda just stand around -- but it's not their movie anyway.

Aliens in the Attic doesn't heap on the sentimentality or quadruple-underline its messages about family and being proud of who you are. A little bit of that's there, sure, but the schmaltz is never overwhelming. Ashley Tisdale even plays a good girl who doesn't wanna rush into anything with her boyfriend, and the movie plays that really well too, just tossing that sort of message out there instead of flailing its arms and shouting "see what I did there...?" The CG aliens are really expressive, and although you can tell with just a quick glance that these are the bad guys (well, aside from Skip, a timid engineer who isn't keen on the whole world-ravaging thing), it's still kinda cartoonish at the same time...nothing that'll have particularly young kids pulling the bedsheets over their heads at night. I'm not that keen on the look of Razor -- the Pvt. Vasquez of this alien brigade -- whose face seems kinda pinched with that tiny mouth of hers, but otherwise, they're all really well-designed and extremely expressive.

I'm not exactly in the majority here, taking a peek at that 28% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and all, but I liked Aliens in the Attic. Cute, charming, energetic...I mean, I'm not exactly the target demographic -- it's really aimed at kids who haven't crept in the double digits quite yet -- but this is a movie I'd not only cheerfully grab for one of my younger relatives, but I'd make it a point to sit down and watch it with 'em too. Recommended.


Video
Geez. Aliens in the Attic looks phenomenal in high-def, and the 1.85:1 image is so crisp and overflowing with detail that it's kinda ridiculous, really. I mean, I can pick out each tiny, individual square in the aliens' mesh armor and practically every speck of gravel in the driveway. The cinematography is bright, glossy, and candy-colored, and all of that really sparkles on Blu-ray. This disc also retains the faintly gritty texture of the original film grain. It's never intrusive, no, but it's there, showing no signs of being smeared away through excessive digital noise reduction. Black levels don't pack quite as much of a punch as I would've expected, but other than that...? This is pretty much perfect.


Audio
[click on the thumbnail to enlarge]
I'm mostly impressed with this 24-bit, six-channel DTS-HD Master Audio track, especially the clever sound design that's showcased here. Even the construction of the effects is terrific, and they're all scattered around this extremely active 5.1 mix remarkably well. All of the speakers are constantly chattering away: a Barbie RC car zipping through an air duct, everything tumbling to the floor when gravity kicks back in, chucking fireworks into an air vent, and the snap-crackle-pop of the aliens' gear jamming all the electronics in sight, just to rattle off a few. The mix is littered with strong imaging and smooth pans from one channel to the next, and there's even a good bit of directionality to its dialogue. The creaks and rattles as the aliens skitter around the house out of sight really take advantage of all the different speakers it has at its fingertips too. Even with all the pretty frantic action tossed around in here, none of it ever overwhelms the dialogue.

The subwoofer strikes me as kinda meek this time around, though. A few sounds pack a wallop -- the low-frequency hum of that anti-gravity grenade and Ricky cranking his stereo system up past 11 -- but too many others are awfully thin. Some of the first shots splashed across the screen are alien spacecraft ping-ponging off asteroids, and those collisions barely register. A bunch of effects are reinforced by a half-scoop of bass, like the oversized jarts being planted in the climax, but they're still unexpectedly understated. This seems deliberate -- maybe they're afraid the junior set might be overwhelmed by a heftier low-end? -- but for such an action-oriented flick, the anemic bass is kind of a letdown, especially since it seems like the music is lugging around more in the lower frequencies than the effects are. This isn't a small "but other than that", no, but aside from the lackluster low-end, this really is a great soundtrack.

Aliens in the Attic also serves up Dolby Digital 5.1 dubs in French and Spanish. Subtitles are offered in English (SDH), Portuguese, Cantonese, and Thai.


Extras
  • Introductions with Ashley Tisdale (1 min.; HD):
    [click on the thumbnail to enlarge]
    The movie and the extras each score a bright-eyed and chipper intro by Ashley Tisdale, and they both clock in around 21 seconds a pop.

  • The Ashley Encounters (4 min.; HD): Oh! And the disc also delivers this Valentine to the lovely Ms. Tisdale, spending a few minutes with her co-stars gabbing about how terrific she is and Ashley pointing out how much of a blast she had on the set. There's also a snippet at the end of Ashley having to do take after take after take slapping her on-screen boyfriend on the face.

  • Alternate Ending (3 min.; HD): Most of the effects are roughly-sketched placeholders, sure, but everything else about this slightly rejiggered ending is in high-def. It doesn't play that differently than the final version, really, fiddling with when certain things happen and who's doing 'em, and this one heaps on some extra torment for Ricky.

  • Deleted Scenes (4 min.; HD): Not too much here: just some squabbling between the humans, the sheriff being flung a few hundred feet in the air, and some ::sniffles!:: family bonding.

  • Gag Reel (5 min.; HD): This Blu-ray disc is packing a pretty great gag reel, and along with all the flubbed lines, uncontrollable bursts of laughter, and stumbling around on the set, there are even some dance parties and slap fights.

  • Lights! Cameras! Aliens! (10 min.; HD): Aliens in the Attic's making-of featurette breezes through just how inhumanly fun it was to film this flick, spending most of its 10 minute runtime showcasing the stuntwork, Robert Hoffman's seemingly neverending array of talents, and...yup, the aliens themselves. Among the highlights are a few quick stunt tests, a peek at Doris Roberts' Kiwi stunt double in full makeup, and very different pieces of conceptual art for the alien invaders. It's a better than average behind-the-scenes piece, and it's kind of nice to see one of these things that doesn't seem as if it's just a shameless plug for the movie.

  • Behind the Zirkonians (15 min.; HD): The cover art touts it as a new animated short, but "Behind the Zirkonians" is basically
    [click on the thumbnail to enlarge]
    a comic book that splashes across the screen one panel at a time. It sports a pretty amazing theme song, though, so there's that. Basically, it's about how these four aliens scored the gig as the advance team to Earth -- whether they wanted it or not -- and how they prepped for the mission, plowing through everything from an otherworldly round of Bingo to breakdancing. "Behind the Zirkonians" is a barrage of really short vignettes more than anything else, and I have to admit that this didn't really grab me.

  • Meet the Zirkonians (HD): This interactive feature spins around 3D versions of Tazer, Sparks, Skip, and Razor, and you can zoom in closer on each of 'em to read about their ranks, heights, ages, marital statuses, hobbies, and...why not?...even their favorite foods. "Meet the Zirkonians" also dishes out more information about the aliens' hardware, personalities, and physiology, complete with picture-in-picture interviews.

  • Music Video (2 min.; HD): A short video for Brian Anthony's "Electricity" has also been tossed on here. I thought it was gonna be a cover of the OMD song, but...nope.

  • Life After Film School (28 min.; SD): This half hour installment from the Fox Movie Channel series chats up producer Barry Josephson, and it spends quite a bit of time diving in detail into an illustrious career that spans music, television, film, and even an exceptionally high-profile gig as a production executive at Columbia Pictures. Josephson also explores what a producer does, exactly, and he uses this effects-heavy film he'd helped shepherd as a case-in-point. It kind of goes with saying that "Life After Film School" is the only extra on this disc that won't appeal so much to kids, but I really enjoyed it.

  • Kung Fu Grandma (1 min.; SD): Last up is a video game commercial spoof about...well, you can read the title.

Aliens in the Attic opens with 11 minutes of high-def plugs, and a second disc in the set includes a digital copy for use on iTunes and Windows Media-powered devices.


The Final Word
I know, I know... Pretty much every reviewer and armchair critic the world over chucked a scathing write-up Aliens in the Attic's way when it swooped into theaters this past summer, but I'll be that guy on the other side of the fence who kinda liked it. It's cute and charming without ever coming across as too precious, and the movie heaps on enough action to keep the pace screaming along. It's definitely aimed squarely at really young kids, sure, but would I grab Aliens in the Attic as a gift...? Yup. It's even something I'd sit down and watch with one of my pint-sized relatives rather than putting it on and sloooowly tiptoeing out of the room too. Recommended.


Ooooh! I Have a Few Leftover Screengrabs


Copyright 2014 Kleinman.com Inc. All Rights Reserved. Legal Info, Privacy Policy DVDTalk.com is a Trademark of Kleinman.com Inc.