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Sci-fi parody never reaches comic stratosphere

 Eric McCormack, who stars in the film
Eric McCormack, who stars in the film 'Alien Trespass', poses for a portrait in Los Angeles March 30, 2009. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
— image credit: Reuters

By Frank Scheck

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - Fans of '50s-era sci-fi movies would be well advised to stock up their Netflix queue with the originals rather than checking out director R.W. Goodwin's technically expert but dreadfully dull parody. Although it's refreshing that "Alien Trespass" doesn't indulge in the sort of mindless, gross-out humor that afflicts so many current cinematic spoofs, it errs too much on the other side, offering mere pastiche instead of witty satire.

Encompassing ideas borrowed from a plethora of genre offerings, especially the oft-satirized "The Day the Earth Stood Still," the film -- which Roadside Attractions releases Friday (April 3) -- certainly looks and sounds like the real thing. The proceedings begin with a faux 1957 newsreel documenting the studio scrapping of a finished sci-fi movie called "Alien Trespass," which is then unspooled.

Shot in vivid Technicolor-style hues, the movie depicts the arrival in the California desert of the proverbial flying saucer, which naturally attracts the attention of bespectacled, pipe-smoking astronomer Ted Lewis (Eric McCormack). When he emerges from the ship and returns home, it quickly becomes apparent that Ted's body has been inhabited by an alien. The extraterrestrial, Urp, is attempting to recapture a more malevolent space creature who looks like a one-eyed Mr. Potato Head and who soon starts vaporizing the local townspeople into small piles of goo.

With the assistance of comely waitress Tammy (Jenni Baird), Ted/Urp attempts to hunt down the creature, receiving little help from a world-weary police chief (Dan Lauria) and his gung ho officer (Robert Patrick).

The film recaptures the cheesy dialogue and visual absurdities of its inspirations to a precise degree, and the use of a theremin for the eerie musical score is a nice touch. But ultimately -- despite such clever moments as a theater full of teenagers being scared silly watching "The Blob" even while a similar creature is in their midst -- "Trespass" is too droll and deadpan for its own good.

By the time the tedious proceedings reach their conclusion, one has long begun wishing for a little Mel Brooks-style comic anarchy.

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