A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this alien adventure comedy stars Disney Channel and Nickelodeon veterans like Ashley Tisdale (High School Musical) and Austin Robert Butler (Zoey 101), so expect tweens and younger elementary schoolers to be interested.There's a heavy dose of physical humor and action, as well as some mildperil, but it's fairly mild compared to other tween-targetedfilms. The language includes frequent use of insults like "stupid," "idiot," and "tool," while the consumerism focuses heavily onelectronics (Nintendo, Mac, X-box, etc.).
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
The six Pearson cousins are vacationing together in a rented lake house when Jake (Austin Butler) and Tom (Carter Jenkins) make a far-out discovery: There are four freaky Zirconian aliens in the attic, and they have pretty scary plans for humanity. Since the extra-terrestrials use a device that can control adults but not kids, the young Pearsons unite to save their parents -- and the rest of the world -- from the little green aliens.
Is it any good?
Since the aliens are funnier than they are frightening, the film's cartoonish nature should thrill even younger adventure-seekers. The two dads, played by comedic vets Kevin Nealon and Andy Richter, don't have much to do, although Nana (Doris Roberts) gets to star in a rather hilarious, Matrix-style fight against Bethany's (Ashley Tisdale) alien-operated boyfriend, Ricky (Robert Hoffman).
Ultimately, this is the classic formula of band-of-heroic-kids versus dangerous antagonists. In this case, one of the aliens (voiced by Josh Peck) is sympathetic to humans, so he helps the kids, too. While younger audiences will hoot and root for the Pearson clan, parents will snicker at the sight of children completely unfamiliar with a rotary phone and grown-ups so out of the loop that they'll think a descending alien force is a meteor shower. Consider this a Gremlins-lite for the X-box generation.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's cartoonish violence. Will younger kids be frightened, or do you think they'll understand from the start that the aliens aren't all that evil?
Parents can also discuss the kids' secrecy. Kids: is it generally a wise idea to keep important concerns from your parents?
An important issue is raised when Tom, a "mathlete," says he'd rather hide his intelligence and tank his grades than be labeled a nerd. Why is this a dangerous message? Why does Tom change his mind?
There's a noticeable amount of brand placement in the movie. What message do all those corporate logos send kids?
- In theaters: July 31, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: November 3, 2009
- Cast: Ashley Tisdale, Austin Robert Butler, Carter Jenkins
- Director: John Schultz
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Space and Aliens
- Run time: 86 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: action violence, some suggestive humor and language.
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