Worth A Look: 39.13%
Just Average: 0%
Pretty Crappy: 8.7%
1 review, 17 user ratings
|Phil the Alien
by Scott Weinberg
SCREENED AT THE 2004 TORONTO FILM FESTIVAL: When people talk about which nations do comedy the best (which nobody really does besides movie nerds like me), the U.S. and the UK often earn the most attention. But just a little bit north of California is a country that's been turning out the laughs with admirable consistency, and "Phil the Alien" is just its most recent export.Mike Myers, Jim Carrey, Martin Short, the SCTV gang (which includes names like John Candy, Eugene Levy & Catherine O'Hara), the Kids in the Hall... all from Canada. Ditto Dan Aykroyd, Rich Little, Tommy Chong, Leslie Nielsen, Howie Mandel, William Shatner and Keanu Reeves. All born under the Maple Leaf flag and all extremely funny in their own peculiar way.
"Canada: A nation of beer-drinking, hockey-lovin' comedians"
It may be a bit too early in Rob Stefaniuk's career to tell if he can join the ranks of the Canado-Comedy elite, but if his debut feature is any indication, the guy knows how deliver the goofball yuks in a light and entirely amiable fashion. A talented young jack-of-all-trades moviemaker (he's already worked as an actor, writer, director, editor, line producer and puppeteer!,) Stefaniuk anchors his farce by portraying a clueless-yet-likeable (and newly alcoholic) visitor from another planet.
Plus any flick that has an opening credit that reads "And Joe Flaherty as The Beaver" is already starting off on the right foot.
Man: "I respect you even though you're a prostitute..."
Woman: "That's nice. I respect you even though you have to pay for sex."
It's this sort of wry and dry material that elicits the most giggles, though Rob and his crew (which also includes the very funny John Kapelos, the glowering Graham Greene and the achingly beautiful Nicole de Boer) are certainly not above getting really silly when the occasion calls for it.
Evil Government Agent: "...and lay off the booze! No one ever found an alien at the bottom of a bottle of whiskey!"
The plot is a threadbare little concept: a shape-shifting alien crash-lands in the Great White North, prompting a collection of inane alien hunters to jump into action. Although Rob does very little besides get drunk, he quickly makes a whole bunch of friends. (He is a drinker, after all, and this is Canada.)
Teen: "Can you do anything cool?"
Teen: "Can you shape-shift?"
Teen: "...what? You don't consider shape-shifting cool?"
So these nefarious U.S. agents (who have a keen hideout nestled beneath Niagara Falls) send out a handful of operatives in the hopes of snatching the alcoholic E.T. - but Phil's managed to build himself a little fan club which consists of rock musicians, backwoods drunkards, clueless virgins, religious zealots and a verbose beaver...and they're not about to let their interstellar buddy get snatched without a fight.
Drunk man: "You're a great father! My dad never bought me any whores!"
Like any comedy in which the jokes are tossed around at a rapid clip, some of 'em are great, some are duds, and most fall right in between. But considering that we're talking about a low-budget comedy from a first-time director, the laughs per minute (LPM) ratio is pretty damn impressive. There's an irrepressible silliness and a palpable sense of kitsch that runs through much of Phil the Alien, which makes you laugh at the gags much more easily. It's like hearing a good joke from a beloved pal; you laugh a little harder because you've grown to like the guy telling it. If your ex-wife's lawyer told you the same joke, you'd be a tough nut to crack.Further proof that you don't need billion-dollar budgets to deliver some well-conceived yuks, "Phil the Alien" might never make it to your local multiplex, but it still works exceedingly well as an early stepping stone for a funny young filmmaker. Once Rob Stefaniuk moves on to bigger and more expensive projects, this is the movie everyone will rent so they can see if he's the real deal or not. I think he is.
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originally posted: 09/29/04 15:07:08
|OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Toronto Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Slamdance Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Slamdance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Brisbane Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Brisbane Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 FilmFest Kansas City For more in the 2005 FilmFest Kansas City series, click here.