Aliens in the Attic (UK - BD RB)
Chris reviews his second family feature in a week and is less than impressed ...
Stuart Pearson (Kevin Nealon) and his wife Nina (Gillian Vigman) live a comfortable suburban existence with their three children: fifteen-year-old techno-geek Tom (Carter Jenkins), older sister Bethany (Ashley Tisdale), and seven-year-old Hannah (Ashley Boettcher). One day Stuart decides to take the whole family on a holiday to remote Michigan lake house in order for them to bond. Joining them at the house are his brother Nate (Andy Richter), Nate's son’s Jake (Austin Butler) and twelve-year-old identical twins Art (Henri Young) and Lee (Regan Young), and Nana Rose (Doris Roberts). A late and unexpected addition to the party is Bethany’s boyfriend Ricky (Robert Hoffman), who manages to con Mr. Pearson into letting him stay the night by faking car trouble.
As night approaches storm clouds start swirling around the house and four glowing objects shoot towards the roof. It turns out that these mysterious objects are tiny alien spacecraft complete with a miniature alien crew in the form of Commander Skip, weapons expert Tazer, deadly female warrior Razor, and timid engineer Sparks. The aliens’ arrival knocks out the house’s satellite dish, so Ricky and Tom head off to fix it, but while on the roof Tom learns that Ricky has lied about pretty much everything in an attempt to sleep with Ashley. Before a horrified Tom can do anything with this knowledge, the aliens reveal themselves and use their sophisticated technology to turn Ricky into a mindless drone.
The alien ‘Zirkonians’ intend to take planet Earth for their own, and using their mind control device they make Ricky attack Tom and Jake, who narrowly manage to escape. Before long all five kids are wise to the aliens’ plans and they set about defending their holiday home. Unable to turn to their parents for fear that they too will become mindless zombies (the mind control device only works on adults), the kids construct makeshift weapons out of household items as they try to keep the invaders confined to the attic. Can the children stop the aliens from achieving their goal of world domination? You’ll just have to watch the film to find out.
This is my second review of a ‘family’ film in the last seven days, but unlike the imaginative and highly amusing Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, I found Aliens in the Attic rather dull. For one thing it’s aimed at a much younger audience than Cloudy, or indeed any of the family films that I still enjoy as an adult. There are few truly memorable moments, and I'm struggling to think of anything remotely interesting scarcely and hour after watching the film. About the only thing that sticks in the mind is the silly fight between Nana Rose and Ricky, but even that was just your average slapstick sequence. The aliens are fairly bland, both in design and characterisation, and the humans adhere closely to all of the major stereotypes (the geek, the jock, the oddball, the princess and so on). The performances are okay, but despite being billed as one of the leads Tisdale has relatively little screen time, which is a waste given her obvious talent for comedy. Given that the majority of her fan-base is around the target audience's age, marginalising her character seems like an odd decision. It's not a terrible film, but there are much better family features for you to spend your money on.
Aliens in the Attic arrives with a solid 1.85:1 widescreen transfer (1080/24p AVC). Colour is the most impressive element; the palette is very warm—especially the skin tones—and there are some beautifully bold primaries on display. Fine detail is very impressive and contrast is exemplary, with incredibly inky blacks and great shadow delineation. There’s a fine layer of film grain throughout, but it never becomes intrusive and on the whole the image looks very clean. The downside of this clarity is that some of the digital effects look a little bit obvious and the CGI isn’t the best I’ve ever seen, but it’s not terrible by any means. Overall I’d say that the transfer surpassed my expectations, and it definitely shouldn’t disappoint fans.
I admit that I didn’t expect much from the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack, and that preconception wasn’t really challenged. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad track per se, but it never really delivers the sorts of thrills and spills that the action demands. Surprisingly, the strongest element of the mix is the dialogue, which is always clear and intelligible above the other elements. Effects and music are a little quiet by comparison, but there is some occasional utilisation of the surround channels. This is mainly limited to ambient effects like rainfall and the chirping of crickets, but the rears also come alive during some of the livelier sequences. Bass isn’t as powerful as some scenes demand, but there are one or two ground-shaking moments (Ricky’s car, the fight between Ricky and Nana). The orchestral score bubbles away in the background nicely enough, without ever really doing anything particularly memorable. This is a solid track, but it's not going to rock your world.
Introduction to film with Ashley Tisdale (00:22 HD): A fairly redundant introduction from the High School Musical star thant's almost 'blink and you'll miss it' short.
Introduction to Special Features with Ashley Tisdale (00:21 HD): Another incredibly short introduction by Tisdale, in which she outlines what you can expect to find in the extras menu.
Alternate Ending (02:48 HD): This is an alternate ending to the film, featuring a mixture of both complete and incomplete effects. It's not particularly memorable.
Deleted Scenes (03:32 HD): Three deleted scenes are included—The Basement, Anti-Gravity Sheriff, Alternate Resolution—but none of them would really have added anything to the proceedings.
Gag Reel (04:54 HD): A pretty standard gag reel in which the actors flub their lines, goof around, props break, and so on.
Behind the Zirkonians (15:28 HD): This is an animated comic detailing the events that brought the aliens to Earth in the first place. It'll probably interest younger children, if no one else.
Meet the Zirkonians: This menu provides access to characters profiles for Tazer, Sparks, Skip, and Razor. Each profile allows you to explore various attributes, complete with accompanying video footage.
The Ashley Encounters (04:09 HD): This is a short behind-the-scenes piece with Ashley Tisdale, in which the camera follows her around set as she goes about her daily routine.
Lights, Camera, Aliens! (09:31 HD): A relatively short making of featurette with cast and crew interviews, on-set footage and more. This is a little more in-depth than the other features, but not by much.
Kung Fu Grandma (01:21 SD): A very short spoof trailer for a 'Kung Fu Grandma' control system, marketed like a videogame.
Brian Anthony 'Electricity' Music Video (01:36 HD): Never heard of him and hated the song.
Fox Movie Channel Presents: Life After Film School with Barry Josephson (27:32 SD): The the title is definitely a mouthful. Three film school students put questions to the producer and he does his best to answer them. Great if you ever wondered what a producer does, but not so hot if you couldn't care less.
Finally, this Triple Play Edition includes a DVD copy of the film on a second disc. The DVD copy also houses a Digital Copy, should you be one of the eight people who actually finds them useful.
I'd like to say that my age played a part in my indifference towards Aliens in the Attic, but I don't think it did. I like 'family' films just as much as the next guy, but I don't think this particular slice of entertainment will be enjoyed by anyone other than very young children. It's not really scary enough to threaten older kids, or funny enough to get them laughing. It's certainly not on a par with something like the recently-reviewed Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs or classic live action films like Labyrinth, which cater for younger viewers while still providing plenty for adults to enjoy. This is more like an average Home Alone clone with aliens... Given my opinion (or lack thereof) of the film it's difficult to recommend the Blu-ray, but if you are a fan you can at least enjoy a pleasing visual transfer and solid audio. The extras are a little too fluffy for my liking, but the very young are generally more forgiving of such things. Even so, this is one occasion where the DVD might be a better (read: cheaper) option.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Chris Gould
General viewing, but some scenes may be unsuitable for young children
Release Date: 1st February 2010
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, Audio Description DTS 5.1 English, DTS 5.1 Italian, DTS 5.1 Spanish
Subtitles: English HoH, Danish, Finnish, Italian, Norwegian, Spanish
Extras: Ashley Tisdale Disc and Special Features Intros, Alternate Ending, Deleted Scenes, Gag Reel, Behind the Zirkonians, Meet the Zirkonians, The Ashley Encounters, Lights, Camera, Aliens!, Kung Fu Grandma, Brian Anthony Music Video, Life After Film School with Barry Josephson, DVD Copy, Digital Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: John Schultz
Cast: Carter Jenkins, Austin Butler, Ashley Tisdale, Ashley Boettcher, Henri Young, Regan Young, Doris Roberts, Robert Hoffman, Kevin Nealon, Gillian Vigman, Andy Richter, Tim Meadows
Genre: Action, Family and Sci-Fi
Length: 86 minutes
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