Morons from Outer Space

July 17, 2012

Morons from Outer Space doesn’t quite prove worthy of its inspired title, but it does have some laughs in a typically British vein. It takes off from this premise: We always assume that extraterrestrial visitors would be of a higher intelligence than we earthlings. But what if the only representatives who made it to our planet were among the stupidest people from their world?

This happens when three moronic spaceship workers strand their commander (Mel Smith) in space and land in England. The aliens are quickly scooped up by the military, with a little help from gung-ho American allies (led by James B. Sikking, who plays Hunter on “Hill Street Blues”).

One journalist (Griff Rhys Jones) penetrates the press blackout, and watches as the aliens are interrogated. Slowly, the truth comes out. They can’t remember the name of their planet. They sing imbecilic songs. They yearn for a green beer called Loob. That does it: These aliens are clearly morons.

However, by virtue of being aliens, they are celebrities. When Rhys Jones saves them from the brutal military, he introduces them to the world and becomes their business manager. They roll up big bucks in endorsement fees, and set their first live performance for New York City.

Meanwhile the commander has crash-landed in the American Southwest, where he attempts to make contact with the entity he perceives to be the planet’s leader: a garbage can in an Arizona national park. When he reaches civilization and sees the other aliens on TV, he starts ranting about being the fourth alien—whereupon he lands in an insane asylum.

From there, he organizes an escape with his fellow inmates, most of whom think they are Hitler or Christ. He gets out and heads to New York, eager to establish that the people from his planet are not all cretins.

Smith and Jones are two of England’s most popular TV comics, and they’ve written the script for Morons. In so doing, they’ve quite generously given many of the funniest bits to the supporting players, especially the three aliens.

This may have been a mistake, since their own parts are underwritten. The rotund Smith, in particular, seems to have inexhaustibly funny body language, but he isn’t actually on screen for much of the movie. (His sight gag involving the effect of a sneeze inside a space helmet is perhaps regrettable, but it gets the biggest laugh of the show.)

The humor may sometimes be broad, but it’s hardly broad enough to appeal to someone who doesn’t already have a taste for English humor. And even if you do, you may find the jokes here a bit too few and far between.

First published in the Herald, November 17, 1985

It’s tough when a movie has to live up to its title. But there was every reason to expect this picture to be better; or at least, you know, funny.