Normally the entries in the Morbid Curiosity Files are not films that I’ve spent any money on. While I enjoy watching the occasional comically bad film, I’d prefer that any of my hard-earned dollars go to movies that are actually good. Nevertheless, I couldn’t pass up Morons From Outer Space when I saw it in a 2-pack for only $3 for a new copy. (And yes, that does mean there’s another MCF entry already on the horizon as well.) Comedic science-fiction isn’t attempted nearly enough, and it’s always worth a shot. Besides, it’s from 1985, and we all know I love the 80s.
Morons From Outer Space was directed by Mike Hodges, who you might possibly recognize as the director from Flash Gordon and the original Get Carter, which are better known and better acclaimed, respectively, than this film. It was written by British comedians Griff Rhys Jones and Mel Smith, who, perhaps not coincidentally, play two of the more interesting characters in the film.
The heroes protagonists morons of the film.
The eponymous morons are Sandra, Desmond, and Julian, a trio of human-like aliens from planet Blob who crash-land on Earth after accidentally abandoning their friend, leader, and pilot Bernard in space. Their human appearance is hand-waved by a scientist who explains the theory of parallel evolution “as seen in the literature” — an issue of Amazing Stories. As implied by the title, the three of them have an IQ of perhaps 90 — if they’re all totaled up together. Sandra (Joanne Pearce) is a vapid, needy airhead. Her husband Desmond (Jimmy Nail) is a drunk. Julian (Paul Brown) is just plain spaced out. They are quickly seized by government agents, including the alien-hating American Col. Laribee (James Sikking) and the alien-loving British Commander Matteson (Dinsdale Landen). Most of the humor comes from the aliens’ interactions with them and the press agent who has snuck in, Graham Sweetley (Griff Rhys Jones).
The basic problem this film has is that its main characters are both unsympathetic and largely uninteresting. There are some definite amusing bits in the interrogations, with the questioners trying their best to get the aliens to understand the questions, let alone answer them, but there’s not much to work with here beyond “they’re morons”. The one-line character descriptions I gave above are pretty much all there is to any of these characters, and most of the jokes that work with one character work just as well (or just as poorly) with another. So while the scenes involving these characters are moderately amusing, they’re not as funny as they could have been had there been something more to distinguish one alien’s oddities from the next. The film’s saving grace is Bernard, the fourth alien, played by Mel Smith. Being a bit smarter than his compatriots allows the writers to enact that age-old comedy trope of the smart guy being put in the dumb situation. I was smiling when the trio were on screen, but most of my laughter came from Bernard’s efforts to round up his friends.
Convincing people you’re an alien is difficult even when it’s true.
The film is aware of its roots, and plays riffs on classics both from its own genre (such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind) and from outside the genre (such as One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest). These are usually pretty funny and help to give the film a bit more of a rounded source of laughs. The story is simple, starts abruptly, and ends abruptly, and is fairly transparently there just to serve as a vehicle for the attempted laughs; on the other hand, it does manage to get in some commentary on how humans would likely treat actual aliens and about the nature of celebrity in general.
This isn’t a great film by any stretch, but if you’re willing to take it as it is, there are some laughs to be had. I’ve certainly seen a lot worse when it comes to films I’ve watched out of curiosity.
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