The midnight-movie success of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” in the late 1970s and the publication of “The Golden Turkey Awards” in 1980 firmly established that, yes, those old 1950s creature features sure were hokey, what with the stiff acting and the crappy special effects and all.
So why, in 2009, does the movie “Alien Trespass” pretend that this is new and fresh territory for satire?
Trafficking in arch, winking jokes that even the laziest improv comics would consider beneath them, “Alien Trespass” is a handsomely mounted, and occasionally well-acted, snooze. We’ve seen this kind of homage and spoofery a thousand times before, and this one brings zilch to the table.
Eric McCormack stars as Ted, an astronomer whose anniversary dinner with his wife Lana (Jody Thompson) is interrupted by the sudden appearance of a falling star crashing to Earth near their desert home. (McCormack also plays the actor who plays Ted in a useless film-within-a-film subplot that goes nowhere.)
The shooting star is actually a spacecraft carrying alien Urp, who is transporting a hideous creature called the Ghota. In order to recapture the Ghota, Urp must take over Ted’s body. Once he arrives in town, Urp/Ted enlists the support of waitress Tammy (Jenni Baird) to help him out, leading to complications when Tammy thinks she’s falling in love with Ted even though she’s really attracted to the alien occupying Ted’s body.
Throw in all the other stock characters — necking teenagers who saw the crash, bored lawmen who don’t believe them — and “Alien Trespass” tries its darndest to be a note-for-note play on the classic monster movies of yore.
Except it isn’t. There was maybe enough material here to yield a clever short film, but 88 minutes of this kind of elbow-in-ribs jocularity becomes exhausting. And while the art department and cinematographer give the film an attractive sheen, it’s too shiny and well-maintained to look like the kind of movies — often black-and-white, often low-budget — that it’s trying to ape.
McCormack seems game and does what he can with this moth-eaten material. (He’s much more fun to watch in another sci-fi-influenced comedy, the nerdy rom-com “Free Enterprise.”) Movie and TV vets Dan Lauria and Robert Patrick turn up as members of the local police force, and you’d never guess that Baird, as the waitress, is actually Australian. She provides more oomph than “Alien Trespass” deserves, making you wonder how she’d fare in a better-written movie.
If you’re aching for a movie that pays tribute to the great creepy-crawlies of Hollywood’s past and that also boasts a great scripts, bypass “Alien Trespass” and go directly to “Monsters vs. Aliens.”