Friday, October 9, 2015

Spaced Invaders Review

When I was little Dad would rent some of the weirdest and most obscure movies from the video rental stores. Recently I've looked up some of the titles I remember and found some of them on the internet here and there. One of these weird and obscure movies was a terrible movie from 1990 called Spaced Invaders. It was a produced by Touchstone Pictures, a division of Walt Disney studios, and was so bad that no one remembers it other than some Millennials who happened to get a kick out of is as small children. Sure, I laughed a few times, but it's still really bad.
The space armada from Mars is fighting an interstellar war against their long-time enemy, the Arcturans. An incompetent crew of a small Martian spaceship intercept a distress signal from the fleet, followed by a Halloween rebroadcast of Orson Welles' 1938 The War of the Worlds radio dramatization from Earth. Mistaking this for a real invasion and not wanting to miss out on the glory, they land their ship in the tiny community of Big Bean, Illinois. It happens to be Halloween and it happens the invaders are only about four feet tall. As the bumbling aliens wander around the countryside, they are taken to be children in Halloween costumes and they make friends with two children, Kathy (Ariana Richards) and Brian (J.J. Anderson), one of whom is the daughter of the Sheriff Sam Hoxly (Douglas Barr). As their troubles mount (it's difficult for five aliens to conquer a world) they begin to give up their plans of conquest, but then there is that nasty Enforcer Droid, tasked to keep the Martian soldiers in line.
Upon this recent viewing of Spaced Invaders I noticed Ariana Richards at once. She's probably best known for play Lex Murphy (one of the two kids) in Jurassic Park. Jurassic Park was released three years after Spaced Invaders, so she looks particularly young in this movie. I looked up several other cast members. J.J. Anderson went on to play an extra in the Casper movie five years later. Spaced Invaders seems to be the height of Douglas Barr's acting career, which is really sad. It seems there was a Royal Dano in the movie who plays the local "old coot." He had a filmography comprising a bunch of old western films that I doubt anyone remembers. It seems that the whole cast was B-list material.
Spaced Invaders seems like a late summer cash grab. It's the kind of movie that is completely without value and was made to earn some money in the box office between major titles that have better production value. The effects were not bad, but hardly state of the art for its day. The props and effects deserve some notice for being frankly phony in the spirit of low-budget space movies from the 1950's; the Marians look like they bought their costumes at a local novelty shop. The characters are stock characters you've all seen before; the hopeful girl, the weird friend, the struggling single parent, etc.
The premise of the plot is amusing enough, but about half way through there is a profoundly illogical plot twist. Something about the space-time continuum causing a black hole that will destroy the solar system if the Marians don't leave Earth by a certain time. Spaced Invaders really is an attempt to make some money with a cut-and-paste family comedy that has no soul and is terrible any way you look at it. It exists solely to get kids to drag their parents to the movie theater, not unlike the many Alvin and the Chipmunks and Smurfs movies that have been clogging up theaters over the last few summer like a backed up truck stop toilet.
I remember finding Spaced Invaders funny as a kid, so in that regard the movie succeeded in what it set out to do. Seven-year-old me enjoyed the silly, brainless entertainment it provided. I now contend that the reason for growing up and getting an education is to learn why movies like Spaced Invaders is a waste of time. And yet, a small, far-away voice inside of me reminds me there once was a time when I liked this movie, when I was young and open to wonderment. Most of the weird humor falls flat and the sparse few lines I remember from childhood simply aren't funny anymore. There were a number of wacky slapstick gags that utilized cartoon physics to wonderful effect, and some of those still got a boisterous laugh out of me. Everything else was so lousy and juvenile I'm almost embarrassed to say I re-watched this.
I liked Spaced Invaders as a kid, I don't think it holds up today, though. It's so full of movie family comedy clich├ęs you could almost say you've seen it before even if you have not. There is a certain charm in the movie's naive look; it lets kids know it's all play, and they don't have to worry too much about being unpleasantly scared. Even as an adult, there were a couple of things I still laughed at, so it's worth a few laughs if you must see it. It is otherwise a goofy, bubble-headed comedy that probably would not hold the attention of anyone over the age of 10. This certainly isn't worth seeking out a copy to add to your collection. But if you do want to see it, or show it to your kids, I'll have a link posted below.

I saw Spaced Invaders on YouTube. Like most full-length movies to be found there, it probably wasn't posted with Touchstone's consent, so I don't know how long it will be up there. But here's the link if you want to check it out yourself:

What are some really bad movies you remember enjoying as a kid that you don't care for so much as an adult? Comment below and let me know!

1 comment:

  1. If there's any movie that lost its appeal with age, it's Surf Ninjas.
    Though I've always wondered, would kids today like the poorly-aged kid flicks of yesteryear as much as we did at the time?