My Stepmother Is An Alien, 1988.
Directed by Richard Benjamin.
Starring Dan Aykroyd, Kim Basinger, Jon Lovitz, Seth Green, Alyson Hannigan, Harry Shearer, and Juliette Lewis.
A scientist sends a signal out into space and gets a visit from an alien looking to learn more about Earth, and they fall in love.
In another case of ‘its all in the title’ 1988s My Stepmother is an Alien is literally a movie where the stepmother of a teenage girl is an extra-terrestrial being… and that’s it. Somebody somewhere decided that plot detail was enough to build a story around but clearly it wasn’t as what we have in this latest release from Arrow Video is a movie with one idea (or a bit of one), a willing cast and an attempt at making an Amblin-style romantic comedy with a sci-fi edge that only really manages to vaguely grasp one of those genres (and it isn’t romance or comedy, since you’re asking).
Dan Aykroyd recreates his Ray Stantz character from Ghostbusters but here he is called Steven Mills, an eccentric scientist desperate to prove the existence of aliens by sending a beam of lightning into space. Lo and behold, the call is answered by Celeste (Kim Basinger) and the phallic-looking creature she keeps in her handbag who race to Earth to find out who Steven Mills is and generally be a bit silly in a fish-out-of-water way, but not telling him that she is from another galaxy because that would make things a bit difficult.
Oh, the ‘Stepmother’ bit of the title? Widower Mills has a 13-year-old daughter, Jessie (Alyson Hannigan), who misses her deceased mother, is hitting puberty and generally needs a bit of female guidance in her life, which daddy cannot provide as he is a bit of a fool; a well-meaning fool but a fool nonetheless. Naturally, Mills falls in love with Celeste – because who wouldn’t? – and hilarity (nearly) ensues as he sees her as a bit quirky, doing things like eating cigarette butts at a party because she thinks they’re snacks, and he eventually asks her to marry him, which she does.
So, you see? She’s now a stepmother, but the script doesn’t do much with this, making the title a little misleading as Jessie is basically relegated to a secondary character and the bulk of the movie is Aykroyd doing impressions of Jimmy Durante as Basinger consults the creature in her bag about sex, kissing and general human behaviour. Those scenes are the most fun as Celeste asks a question – such as “What is sex?” – and is then treated to a slide show of images as ‘Bag’ shows all the detailed files it has on the subject, and whilst the kissing scene between Mills and Celeste is quite amusing as Celeste is trying to see what the beamed image is showing as Mills kisses her, this type of gag is never expanded upon. It also doesn’t help that, despite their best efforts, the chemistry between Dan Aykroyd and Kim Basinger is as electrifying as one of Steven Mills’ failed experiments.
It’s a shame because there is some real potential at the core of this movie but the dire script lets it down to the point where Aykroyd’s comic talents are neutered so he is basically a straight man to Basinger, who handles the physical comedy well, if a little awkwardly (although being from another planet she would be a bit awkward), but the lack of sizzle between her and Aykroyd, combined with the workmanlike direction and underdeveloped gags, means the movie just never takes off, and comedies that play over 90 minutes always run the risk of running out of steam – unfunny ones even more so – and at 107 minutes My Stepmother is an Alien overstays its welcome by at least 20 minutes.
An odd choice for an Arrow Video release, the extras are fairly minimal, consisting of a brand new audio commentary by critic Bryan Reesman, an interview with director Richard Benjamin, a trailer, reversible sleeve and an illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic and author Amanda Reyes, whose insights are always worth reading and will provide a more rewarding and heartfelt experience than sitting through the actual movie does. There are dozens – hundreds, even – of kooky ‘80s comedies that still hold up and provide the magic they did if you saw them way back when – My Stepmother is an Alien is not one of them.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★