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  My Stepmother is an Alien The Extra-Terrible
Year: 1988
Director: Richard Benjamin
Stars: Dan Aykroyd, Kim Basinger, Jon Lovitz, Alyson Hannigan, Joseph Maher, Seth Green, Ann Prentiss, Wesley Mann, Tony Jay, Peter Bromilow, Nina Henderson, Harry Shearer, Adrian Sparks, Juliette Lewis, Tanya Fenmore, Karen Haber
Genre: Comedy, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 2 votes)
Review: It is a dark and stormy night, and scientist Steven Mills (Dan Aykroyd) is about to conduct an experiment for which these weather conditions are absolutely perfect: he plans to send a signal to the stars, to be exact the galaxy closest to ours where he believes there could be extraterrestrial lfe. His boss is Mr Budlong (Joseph Maher), and he is far more sceptical, so seeing as how there is an event being held in the building tonight he is more concerned about that than Mills' harebrained schemes, or rather he is concerned Mills will mess up the evening when his endeavours prove too energy-sapping. He is proven correct when as the signal is broadcast, the building is shaken to its foundations - but it does reach its target.

Nineteen-eighties high concept movies didn't come much more high concept than My Stepmother is an Alien, the nadir of the sort of film where it looked as if they came up with the title first and struggled to work out anything substantial to back it up. So lightweight was this that though it wasn't adapted from a sixties sitcom, it might as well have been, it was the My Mother the Car of this decade's science fiction where the alien could basically do anything she wanted because her science was so advanced that it was essentially magical powers she was wielding. That alien was cast as Kim Basinger, another example of strained thinking as to what to cast who was at the time the world's sexiest woman.

Or she was according to the media, but you just had to watch this to understand how constricting that award was because she was effectively only called on to be decorative, never mind whether she could act or not. In fact, the business she was made to get up to here was borderline insulting, not just to the actress but to the audience as it posited the universe's most desirable woman had to be a moron to reach her full potential. When her Celeste character (Celeste... celestial, geddit?) arrives on Earth to trace the signal which for no reason other than it plonks her down on this planet to kick off the plot has placed her home world in peril, the script (by four writers) truly overdid it with the fish out of water gags.

To the extent that Celeste came across as less charmingly naïve and more brain damaged during her trip, maybe the radiation got to her but this was so contrived she had no idea what a daughter was, for instance, just for the sake of more lame jokes. As the title suggests, she has to get married to Mills, who is a widower with a thirteen-year-old offspring called Jessie (Alyson Hannigan getting an introducing credit at the start which for once was not the kiss of death to a promising career), and in time honoured fashion, or laborious cliché fashion alternatively, she twigs her new stepmother is not of this Earth but her father refuses to believe it. Given the whole movie could have been over in ten minutes if Celeste had simply told Mills why she was there and what she wanted (another signal to stop the calamity), you can imagine how tedious this is.

Richard Benjamin was the director, who in spite of accomplishments in front of the camera in comedy, did not exactly have a great success rate behind it. This was about the level of his Saturday the 14th, the sort of film you'd enjoy if you were under the age of ten and not asking too many awkward questions, but once you grew up unless you were seriously easily pleased you'd find it lacking. And yet, for a project that seemed kid-friendly, there were a lot of sex jokes, with Celeste learning how to pleasure Mills by watching hardcore pornography; fair enough, there was nothing explicit shown, but it summed up the tone deaf approach to humour throughout - even the alien's handbag companion was a one-eyed trouser snake (voiced by a snarky Ann Prentiss). With an entirely unearned bid for sentimentality by invoking the name (and part of the act) of Jimmy Durante, and a lot of false drama and false uplift but nothing to laugh at, it’s little wonder most audiences turned their noses up at this in 1988. It only has interest as a relic of how Hollywood was floundering in the late eighties. Music by Alan Silvestri.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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