Aliens in the Attic -- Film Review

Once again movie aliens invade Earth, only this time they must battle a bunch of kids and suffer the ignominy of getting locked in an attic.

"Aliens in the Attic," a comic family film so long as one narrowly defines "family" as very young, is mostly tongue-in-cheek and takes good advantage of digital effects and an athletic cast to make the action virtually nonstop. The movie is awfully close to a video game with its own specific rules, but its characters are appealing and funny, so "Aliens" doesn't have a mechanical feel that drags down most video-game movies.

Writers Mark Burton and Adam F. Goldberg pretty much let their imaginations go wild. A group of adults and youngsters is swiftly defined en route to a family fishing vacation at a large two-story lakeside house in the middle of Michigan. (Actually it's a very picturesque New Zealand.)

Family No. 1 has cool but clueless parents (Kevin Nealon and Gillian Vigman); a brainiac teen (Carter Jenkins) who is mysteriously failing math; a hormonal older daughter (Ashley Tisdale) with a creepy boyfriend (Robert Hoffman); and a young daughter (Ashley Boettcher), whose job is to be adorable.

Family No. 2 has a beer-drinking dad (Andy Richter), an alpha-male teen (Austin Butler), identical 12-year-old twins (Henri and Regan Young) and an off-center grandmother (Doris Roberts).

A meteor shower leaves tiny but pesky aliens in the house's attic. These are the kind of aliens that can fly across the universe but can't get out of an attic. They also fight among themselves more than they fight Earthlings.

These small, green CGI creatures are commander Skip (voiced by J.K. Simmons), girl warrior Razor (Kari Wahlgren), muscular Tazer (Thomas Haden Church) and Sparks (Josh Peek), a four-armed geek who means no harm.

Running, throwing and firing things is the order of the long day. Weaponry ranges from paintball guns and a homemade spud gun to rakes and fire extinguishers. The aliens also have a few neat tricks including a gravity-eliminating grenade and a mind-control device.

It seems the mind-controller can only be used on adults, not youngsters. So this means the adults must be "protected" -- kept out of harm's way and sent on wild-goose-chase missions without knowing about this alien invasion. In the film's best gag, the mind-control device gets used against the sister's despised boyfriend.

Under its influence, Hoffman, a dancer and actor, contorts, flips, twists and jerks his body all over the set. He slaps himself silly, seriously damages his own sports car and -- in the movie's piece de resistance -- engages Roberts' sweet grandma, now also under the influence of the device, in a full-contact, gravity-defying kung-fu battle that demolishes the lower house.

Director John Schultz ("Drive Me Crazy") plays everything for laughs and earns a more than a few. Meanwhile, tech effects deliver a fair number of those laughs.

Opened: Friday, July 31 (20th Century Fox)
Production: 20th Century Fox and Regency Enterprises present a Josephson Entertainment production
Cast: Carter Jenkins, Ashley Tisdale, Austin Butler, Kevin Nealon, Robert Hoffman, Doris Roberts, Tim Meadows, Andy Richter, Henri Young, Regan Young, Gillian Vigman
Director: John Schultz
Screenwriters: Mark Burton, Adam F. Goldberg
Story by: Mark Burton
Producer: Barry Josephson
Executive producers: Arnon Milchan, Marc S. Fischer
Director of photography: Don Burgess
Production designer: Barry Chusid
Music: John Debney
Visual effects supervisor: Douglas Hans Smith
Costume designer: Mona May
Editor: John Pace
Rated PG, 85 minutes