Listlessly recycling pop-culture touchstones, first-time director Jorge Blanco’s nonsensical toon plays like an inverted hybrid of E.T. and The Day the Earth Stood Still. A parody of watch-the-skies clichs and Norman Rockwell Americana, this sci-fi comedy takes place on a planet of white picket fences—like a 1950s version of small-town USA, only populated by noseless green tadpoles. That an alien race might have followed our exact evolutionary trajectory and cultural obsessions (Marilyn Monroe--esque sex symbols, space-invader blockbuster movies, protesting protohippies) could have made a prime Twilight Zone--ish conceit; here, it’s just an excuse for classic-cinema shout-outs and roller-coaster-like commotion.
When a narcissistic human astronaut (Johnson) crash-lands on this planet, he tries to return to his orbiting space station, befriending an awkward alien teen (Long) while avoiding a maniacal villain (Oldman). Neither the film’s main players nor its random period spoofery has any personality. What’s futile isn’t resistance, but rather any chance of feeling invested in the humdrum action; the only passionate response engendered at all is one of horror, courtesy of Planet 51 reducing H.R. Giger’s iconic Alien monster to a jokey extraterrestrial pet.—Nick Schager
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