Review for My Stepmother is an Alien
It shouldn’t come as a shock when I say that there are movies from the 1980s that I have yet to see, after all, I’m only human, and time is finite. But when it’s a sci-fi rom-com, then I should be hanging my head in shame. This is the kind of movie I was exclusively watching back in the eighties. It’s had more than one matinee TV showing over the years, but somehow I’ve only caught the last few minutes each time. And my determination to watch it has only intensified since I saw Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and realised that My Stepmother is an Alien has Willow and Oz before they were Willow and Oz, with Alyson Hannigan getting an ‘introducing’ credit. It’s only now that Arrow Video are giving it a Blu-ray release that I can make the time to watch a copy for review, and coincidentally scratch that 34 year old itch.
Steven Mills is a widowed astronomer with a passion for SETI, the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence. His enthusiasm isn’t appreciated by his employers though when he tends to damage the equipment at the radio telescope. When he tries to send a message during a thunderstorm towards the Magellenic Clouds, the nearest galactic neighbours to The Milky Way, the damage that ensues gets him fired, and there’s no proof that his experiment even worked.
Someone got the message however. Celeste arrives on Earth, and she’s on an urgent mission to find the sender of the message, who has apparently used technology way in advance of where Earth should be. It turns out that a twenty minute briefing is hardly enough to let her blend in seamlessly into this primitive society. But she sure has an effect on Steven Mills!
My Stepmother is an Alien gets a 1.85:1 widescreen 1080p transfer with a PCM 2.0 Stereo English audio track, with optional SDH English subtitles. There are no complaints with the transfer, with a nice faithful representation of the original film experience, cleaned up, stabilised, and free of signs of age. The image is clean, crisp, and makes the most of the detail, and late eighties colour palette. This is defiantly old school when it comes to special effects, all accomplished optically, with no CGI at all. The audio is clear and well balanced, albeit at a rather low volume level. The dialogue is clear, the action comes across well, and the eclectic pop music soundtrack will have you looking for a CD or download to buy, although the Alan Silvestri score is rather familiar if you’ve seen films like Predator, Back to the Future and the like.
The disc presents the film with an animated menu.
On the disc you’ll find a stream of consciousness audio commentary from film author Bryan Reesman which I found a little hard to get along with.
Cosmetic Encounters: Directing My Stepmother is an Alien lasts 14:08.
The Trailer lasts 0:32.
The Image Gallery has a handful of images.
Apparently the first run release will also get a booklet with writing on the film.
I can hardly believe that this film got matinee and early afternoon showings on TV back in the day, obviously aimed at younger audiences, as there are elements to My Stepmother is an Alien that are definitely targeted at more adult demographics. I can guess why this film passed me by though, as by 1988, my film preferences had shifted away from the family oriented sci-fi comedy. My Stepmother is an Alien isn’t as good as films like Innerspace, Batteries are Not Included and the like but it does succeed at what it sets out to do. It’s a warm, entertaining, and unchallenging film, with a rather well worn premise, which succeeds largely on the strength of the main character performance. Kim Basinger as Celeste has the requisite alien allure, but has a masterful comedy timing and delivery that makes this film work, so much so that Dan Aykroyd has to keep up with her energy.
While Celeste gets a Barbarella-lite entrance as she prepares for her mission on Earth, the film itself feels more like Weird Science but with a twist. Scientist Steven Mills conducts an ill-advised experiment, and gets a sexy and kooky alien girl as a result. He’s no repressed hormonal teenager though. A widower raising his thirteen year old daughter alone, she’s the centre of the universe for him, that and his devotion to his work. That’s despite his obnoxious and self-centred brother Ron trying to set him up with women. It’s Ron’s lackadaisical approach that sends the experiment off the rails, and gets Steven fired to begin with.
It’s also at a party hosted by Ron where Steven meets Celeste, a woman unlike any he’s ever known. She’s on Earth to find the person that sent that dangerous signal, as she needs him to repeat the experiment. But she’s had just the most minimal preparation for Earth society, doesn’t understand how people interact, or how things work, so she makes a whole lot of noticeable faux pas. Looking the way she does, such goofiness is endearing and attractive, which certainly gets Steven’s attention. And given that she’ll do whatever it takes to complete her mission, and Steven’s obvious attraction to her is the easy way in, things get pretty raunchy pretty quickly for a PG-13 film.
Steven’s daughter Jessie is initially happy to see her father find happiness, but the more odd things that she sees happening around Celeste, the more she gets suspicious, which increases the tension between her and her father, who is currently whirlwinding his way through a weird romance with Celeste. And of course the more time Celeste spends on Earth, the more she leans about humanity. Naturally that becomes more important towards the end of the film.
My Stepmother is an Alien feels like a small film, more of a TV sitcom with movie production values, belonging in the same genre as Bewitched or I Dream of Jeannie, but there is that sexy edge to the film, some wonderful characters and some delightful comedy. It is a quintessential eighties movie, made at a time when cinema audiences were looking forward to the nineties, but thankfully that means next to nothing over thirty years down the line. It’s well worth seeking out for a nostalgia kick.