Now I’m going to state right up front that I never really noticed Bruce Coville or his Rod Allbright series of book before. I’m not one of his many big fans, and don’t recall reading this book or any of his others.
Frankly, I’ve always thought its a lot easier to review an adaptation of something you’ve never read than one based on a story you like — or love.
After all, there’s no way any movie is going to completely live up to your expectations of your all-time favorite book, no matter how good the adaptation might be.
It’s hard to set aside your notions of what the movie should be and review the movie they actually made. That should always be our goal, although it is hard under the best circumstances.
So let me be as clear as possible here: when I say that I found this film a wonderfully entertaining children’s Science Fiction film, I have no idea how one of Bruce’s fans might react. Now, from what I’ve heard, it was made by a big fan of the series.
That’s encouraging. Although it doesn’t always turns out that well.
And, let’s face it, there are a lot of Hollywood people willing to make that claim about a book they actually hate.
Rod is (at least on the surface), a fairly ordinary sort of kid. He’s still struggling to deal with his father’s mysterious disappearance, has a science project to finish, and is constantly being bullied by the biggest and meanest kid in his class.
Then one day an alien spaceship crashes into his science project.
A miniaturized spaceship at that.
And its crew needs his help to stop the most dangerous alien criminal at large.
Who just happens to be the boy who is bullying Rod…
The director, Sean McNamara, remembers all those great, family-oriented science fiction movies from the Eighties, and the film gives a lot of nods to such films as E.T., Back to the Future, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, and many more.
Aliens Ate My Homework could almost be a lost film from that era: I grew up with a lot of these films but I never noticed at the time that their basic pattern was almost unique.
But then, it is always hard to see trends when you are living through them.
However, I don’t think you need to have survived the Eighties to enjoy this film.
I have to applaud the choice to use makeup and practical effects to bring the aliens to life. Phil the plant, the constantly upbeat navigator with a non-stop string of bad puns and jokes is apparently a puppet or perhaps a guy in a suit. He doesn’t exactly give the impression of a real plant, but he does project his goofy and likeable personality (as played by no less than William Shatner).
On the whole the aliens are never too real: there’s no Lord of the Rings-style outporing of sweat and grime. But that doesn’t stop them from becoming very real personalities.
Most of the other effects however, are digital and far from memorable (except, perhaps for the evil alien traveling through the streets in a floating bubble.
Not that it really matters that they aren’t that extravagant. After all, this is a children’s film, and any child — no matter how old or decrepit — will delight in the often goofy and inventive ways that those effects do get used.
Thanks to Coville’s original story we have several strong and well-written child characters. Back in the Eighties, Sean Astin would have played Rod and Jonathan Ke Quan would have played his best friend, Mickey. But Jayden Greig and Sean Quan do quite well instead.
And, no, I have no idea whether Jonathan and Sean are related.
One could say a lot more, but the bottom line is that Aliens Ate My Homework is as entertaining and unexpected as its title suggests.
So fun in fact that the adults should enjoy it as much as the kids.
And that’s always welcome in any children’s film…