12/26/06

516 Alien from L.A.

(1988, SciFi/Adventure, color)

I’m looking for a girl with big bones.

Rating: ****


In a nutshell:

Kathy Ireland seeks her father among a subterranean race of fascist Australians.

Summary:

Glasses alone cannot convince me that Kathy is ugly.Poor Wanda (Kathy Ireland) leads an unhappy existence. She lies on the beach at Malibu all day with a T-shirt and towel over her bathing suit, wears enormous glasses, and squeaks out her lines like an importunate bat. She pines after her ex-boyfriend, who dumped her because she’s too scared to go anywhere with him. Some convertible-and-roller-skate-diner exposition reveals that her mother is dead and her father is an explorer who wanders around the world ignoring her.

Now we cut to the aforementioned inattentive father, who wanders around the African ruins in his basement. He finds the secret button in the wall and—after trying to pull an imaginary speck of dust off his nose for a long, long time—wanders inside and falls down a hole.

Back at the diner, Wanda gets a letter from one of her father’s associates, revealing that he “fell into a bottomless pit.” She journeys to Africa and stays in the very same house, eventually wandering down into the very same ruins. You’d think they’d have put up a sign or something, but no, she falls into the very same hole. She comes to at the bottom where she witnesses a pair of crazed claim jumpers about to kill Gus, the faux-Australian miner. She rescues him with a few well-placed rocks to their heads, and he gives her a lift on his winter-squash-mobile to the lost city of Atlantis.

She tips the vehicle over at first (she’s got bigger bones than the native Atlanteans, whatever that means) breaking her glasses. Good thing she apparently never needed them to see. She squeaks endlessly at him along the way about her quest, her hopes and dreams, and her life story. They make it to Atlantis, which turns out to be a large industrial basement inhabited by refugees from eighties glam-rock videos. Gus’s pale girlfriend steam-cleans them, and soon they’re out looking for Wanda’s father.

Unfortunately for Wanda, an overacting Tracy Ullman impersonator in a cape overhears her talking about Malibu. Apparently, the fascist Atlantean military (run by General Rykoff—a petite woman in a furry eye patch) offers good money for information leading to the capture of encroaching surface-world Aliens. The caped woman drugs Wanda over a screaming-worm sandwich while Gus is off to make a phone call.

The false Ullman sells her to a pint-sized Atlantean gangster with three-inch eyelashes named Mambino, boss of bosses, and then turns around and sells the information of where she sold her to the monocular general. Mambino has his clown-faced henchmen take her someplace to hide, but along the way they’re ambushed by Gus, who’s been wandering the city telling people, “I’m looking for a girl with big bones.” After a brief fight with the clown gangsters, they escape.

They’re separated when Kathy falls off a railing and eventually into the arms of another sinister clown. She’s saved this time by a Woody Harrelson impersonator in turban. He calls himself Charmin’, and proves himself worthy of the name by making fun of her voice and casting aspersions on her relationship with her father. Naturally she falls in love with him and they smooch before they too are parted by crowds of angry Atlanteans.

She’s captured and taken before the Atlantean Overlord, who spins in his chair while listening to the arguments of his advisors. The fur-patched Rykoff says Wanda and her father are spies and should be executed. A random stripe-haired politician says that they should be returned to the surface world. Kathy is brought before the rotating monarch to tell her story. They bring out her father, and have a tearful reunion before Gus bursts in (Atlantean security is apparently quite porous), punches everyone in reach, and leads them out of the city.

Rykoff chases them out of the city and catches them again just as Wanda and her dad are about to escape, but the stripe-haired politician has followed Rykoff. He’s inexplicably on their side, and knocks out the general. Wanda and her father escape up to the surface world, where Wanda takes off her glasses and T-shirt to reveal a body built for bikinis. Her ex-boyfriend tries to come back, but she won’t have him. While she’s walking away, a biker comes up beside her. He lowers his sunglasses and…ta-da! He’s Charmin’. Quoth Wanda, “Crazy!”

Introduction:

Drop and give me twenty, soldier!Drill Sergeant Crow forces Mike to field strip Tom while blindfolded, issuing insults like “you toilet-water-guzzling little mama’s boys!” and “you towheaded piece of filth!”

Host Segment One:

Mike stares into the camera with a crazed expression, holding Tom like a rifle. Quoth Dr. Forrester, “I see you’ve decided to go psycho. Godspeed.” He’s invented the Vend-A-Gut, a vending machine that sells human organs—just insert several thousand dollars in quarters. He’s removed Frank’s liver to demonstrate. Mike and the ‘Bots have invented Fridge Udders, which are teat-shaped milk dispensers on the front of the fridge. Tom and Crow get excited and say “teat” over and over again. Down in Deep 13, Frank’s body has rejected his new liver. Rather than fill out a complaint form and leave it on the machine, Frank opts to insert another $150k in quarters. Up in the satellite, the ‘Bots have tipped the fridge. It lands on Crow.

Host Segment Two:

Kathy Ireland reminds Tom and Crow of a supermodel they once saw posing in her underwear, but they can’t think of her name. Mike goes through a whole list of supermodels, but it’s not any of them. Crow finally decides that it must have been Clara Peller (the old lady of “Where’s the beef?” fame).

Host Segment Three:

Mike and the ‘Bots sing “My Wild Irish Ireland.” Sings Crow, “Oh Kathy who squeaks with the voice of an angel / I don’t think you’re so big of bone. / I’d like to come over and roll in your clover / And kiss your blarney stone.”

Host Segment Four:

Tom and Crow have invented the “Kathy Ireland Range of Emotions Guessing Game.” Faced with each surprising plot development, Mike must guess how she feels. After losing points on guesses like “Churchillian determination” and “shock and horror,” he finally figures out that the answer to every question is “dull surprise.”

Host Segment Five:

Mike and the ‘Bots can’t think of anything else to say about the movie, so they read a letter. Down in Deep 13, Frank plugs quarter after quarter into the Vend-A-Gut. He’s up to somewhere around $15k. Dr. Forrester asks him about the number for 4-1-1 and makes him lose count. Frank bursts into tears and presses the coin return button. Coins rattle out of the slot over the closing credits.

Stinger:

Faced with a screaming-worm sandwich, Kathy says, “Yuck!”

Thoughts:

Not real Australians.Kathy Ireland and James Earl Jones occupy opposite ends of the celebrity voice spectrum. They’re both nearly outside the range of human hearing, though given a choice I’d rather listen to Mr. Jones than Ms. Ireland. Kathy’s a lot easier on the eyes though, so I guess it’s a trade-off. The movie isn’t shy about the way Kathy squeaks. If anything, someone probably told her to take it even higher so that they could have the other characters make fun of her all the time. It speaks well of Kathy that she let them do that.

I’m guessing that the director of this film spent a lot of time “directing” Kathy to emote. He shouldn’t have; she’s not very good at it. I’ve seen her in other films (National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1 and Mom and Dad Save the World) and though she’s not going to win an Oscar anytime soon, she’s not so distractingly bad when she’s allowed to be herself. In one scene you can tell she’s been told to act sleepy, so she takes the energy level so far down she looks like a heroin junkie who’s just gotten her fix. It’s just one of the many times that she has a wholly inappropriate response to a situation that would have been passable if she’d just done her own thing.

The first thing we see in the host segments is a close-up of Drill Sergeant Crow, spouting creative abuse into the camera. The sudden sight of him used to send my four-year-old son into gales of hysterical laughter. It’s also not a bad host segment. The Vend-A-Gut and the Fridge Udders are two of the funniest inventions I’ve seen them do in a long time. Mike and the ‘Bots try to do the “normal conversation to bizarre extremes” thing with the Clara Peller sketch. It’s not as weird as a Joel-era conversation, but it works well. My favorite is the funny “My Wild Irish Ireland” song, with Tom dressed up as Kathy. My least favorite was the obvious “Kathy Ireland Range of Emotions guessing game.”

The film segments have a lot to mock, and the satellite crew mocks them well. When Kathy demands that her ex-boyfriend give his reasons for breaking up with her, Tom says, “It’s your helium addiction.” When Kathy wakes up from a long nap with her enormous glasses between her nose and mouth, Crow says, “The whole room smells like my eyes.” Upon seeing the bizarrely made-up Atlantean TV Host, Mike calls him, “Mr. Rogers in Cabaret.” Also noteworthy are the extremely lengthy end credits. Pausing only to ridicule an unfortunate crewmember named “Greatbatch,” Mike, Crow, and Tom spend then entire time accusing each other of watching movies that appeal to a more feminine sensibility, like Fried Green Tomatoes and Beaches (among many, many others). It’s a perfect end for a hilarious set of film segments. This is a great episode.