C-

Aliens In The Attic

Given its particularly aggressive blend of wackiness and inoffensiveness, Aliens In The Attic could pass for a Disney movie of a long-ago decade, with just two exceptions: the reliance on special effects, and the way the kids take center stage. Aliens has all the modern “kids rule, adults drool” mentality of Home Alone or Spy Kids, but the broad acting, hammy physical comedy, and relentlessly G-rated language would be at home in a Don Knotts vehicle or a Herbie The Love Bug movie.

Carter Jenkins stars as a gawky, ineffectual pill of a teenager who’s evidently smart, but tanking at school, for transparent reasons destined to come out in a rush of emotion when the film needs a little extra conflict. His many frustrations include his too-perfect sister Ashley Tisdale (the High School Musical series’ villainous Sharpay) and her smugly duplicitous boyfriend (Step Up 2 The Streets heartthrob Robert Hoffman), but really, his problem is that he’s at that age where everything and everyone seems exhaustingly lame, and the only way to rise above the lameness is by loudly rejecting everything.

Unfortunately, he loses that luxury when a quartet of klutzy but murderous CGI aliens descends on the rental home where his extended family (including obnoxious single-dad uncle Andy Richter and a crowd of cousins) is vacationing. When the aliens implant a mind-control device in Hoffman’s neck and turn him into a flailing living weapon, the kids realize their parents, grandma, and local cop Tim Meadows are all in danger of a similar fate. Since the device doesn’t work on the younger set, it’s up to them to fight back with makeshift weapons and youthful cleverness.

Adults will likely find Aliens pretty tiresome, given that there isn’t much going on but kiddie-power validation and slapstick humor, though Hoffman’s remote-controlled-robot act is agreeably game, and a Stephen Chow-esque martial-arts face-off between him and similarly remote-controlled granny Doris Roberts is fairly diverting. But at least the film doesn’t go out of its way to insult anyone’s intelligence, and apart from the occasional crotch-focused attack, it’s about the cleanest kids’ adventure around, short of a Walden Media production. Like those mild old Disney comedies of the ’60s and ’70s, it seems perfectly content with being a harmless distraction.

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