A Simple Sci-Fi Story Is Saved By Excellent Visuals
Feb 14, 2023
Audiences love a good adventure film about kids going on fantastical and sci-fi journey. It is the type of story that made Steven Spielberg a legend to many young generations of filmmakers. Later, that premise would get the likes of Netflix’s Stranger Things off to a fantastic start with viewership. Kids vs. Aliens is a good ol’ fashioned kids vs. alien story with a great deal of profanity and gore.
Kids vs. Aliens follows Gary (Dominic Mariche) and his friends as they make a homemade movie of epic proportions. Of course, the kids are fighting dinosaurs with guns and swords alongside Gary’s sister, Sam (Phoebe Rex), who is particularly interested in wielding the latter. Things go off the rails with the production as Sam starts to feel awkward about playing with kids, a couple of bullies decide to pick on Gary and his friends, Gary gets injured, and a house party that should not be happening happens. Plus, aliens, the kind kids always pictured them, decide to crash the party. They come charging in, causing a scene and swipe a few party-goers, including Gary and his crew. Sam is now called to action. Does she sit back and hope an adult fixes the situation, or will she save the day herself like her favorite wrestler, Valora?
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Right off the bat, Kids vs. Aliens is a fun watch. Director Jason Eisener nails that kinetic energy that comes with just having a bunch of overexcited and imaginative kids in one space. There is a real love for sci-fi & fantasy that is never obnoxious or overbearing. The film is inviting, allowing kids to resonate with the leads. Eisener also edited the film, which helps keep his vision cohesive; it is a non-stop rollercoaster ride from beginning to end. Matt Barkley’s cinematography is vibrant and engaging. He evokes the cinematography of kid adventure films of the 80s, which is exemplified by Andre Gordon Macpherson’s synth-based score. The collective creative team gives off strong “we were kids in the 80s/90s” energy.
In this kids vs. aliens story, the aliens get up close and personal with the characters, which means the makeup and visual effects departments had to work in tandem to create believable scary creatures that are also comically accurate to what kids imagine aliens to look like. Clever camera movements and lighting mask any significant clues that these aliens are just people in prosthetics and suits, but that ingenuity makes small indie films like this stand the test of time. Practical application will always be leagues better than a CGI-rendered construction, and these creatures’ tangibility heightens the sense of fear and thrill. Even more commendable is what happens when the aliens catch their prey, and this is when this fun, kid-friendly B-movie pushes the envelope because, wow, this gets pretty gory. But in a fun, kid-friendly way, (don’t worry, adults!). The practical effects won’t scare the kids off.
However, what might scare some folks away from this movie is the profanity-laced dialogue. It is no surprise to anyone that kids like to use the F-word, especially when they want to come across as tough or grown. That is all fine, but when it feels too much, it probably is too much. Eisener also has a writing credit alongside John Davies. Mostly, they write a compelling story about sibling rivalry and the strength of kids’ friendship, but the dialogue between them leaves much to be desired. Visually, the film is a ten, but the words on the page are a solid five, which brings the enjoyment to a grinding halt.
For some, the profanity will conjure a few eye-rolls, but for others, it is enough to turn the whole thing off. Especially now, when parents are more sensitive about what their kids consume, it’s a shame that the F-word would be the thing that deprives kids of watching an entertaining movie that encourages creativity and storytelling. This is an excellent film to show kids interested in movie-making because there are many fun lessons to learn, but the lack of substantive writing and the excessive use of foul language does little favors for what should be a rollicking good time.
All in all, Kids vs. Aliens is tremendous fun. The story is simple, but visually speaking the execution goes above and beyond. Bringing the B-movie horror genre to kids is an excellent idea because there is no better audience for a rad story about fighting to survive an alien invasion. The only thing hindering this film’s long-term viability is the language and the ineffectual writing, but for something that feels like it is intentionally campy, ridiculous, and childlike, Kids vs. Aliens is hardly worth being greatly offended over. Kids vs. Aliens is an overall good time, and though it could have been better, it’s still enjoyable.
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Kids vs. Aliens released in theaters, on demand and digital Friday, January 20, 2023. It is 75 minutes long and not rated.
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