Before I get started, I gotta say that I'm never going to another free screening in San Francisco. I get that this isn't exactly a big movie, but please don't give away free ticket passes at the local homeless shelter. Dudes were bringing in their bindles to the theater and I had the dubious pleasure of smelling a lot of pee and horrible body odor throughout the movie.
My first reaction after the lights went up was "How the hell am I gonna write about this." I like fifties stuff, I have a soft spot for retro kitsch, and I absolutely want more of these kinds of movies to be produced. It's probably why I'm so excited about Monsters Vs. Aliens. However, this movie is trying too hard to be a cult classic. As my faithful co-watcher hater#1 pointed out, you can't set out to make a cult movie. It has to be an organic process of something quirky finding a loyal audience. You try to make something deliberately quirky and it becomes self-aware and awkward.
Having said that, I really dug the relationships between the alien Marshall and the bored waitress with the big dreams. Eric McCormack did a heckuva job in his dual role as the doctor and the alien who inhabits his body and I liked his weird way of looking out at the world. Jenni Baird worked as the small town dreamer stuck in a dead end life. She brought the fifties nostalgia element without being corny, and when the chips were down she brought moxie to her salt-armed alien fighter. If the movie paid more attention to this type of character development and less time being deliberately hokey I think I would have enjoyed the movie more.
So, yeah, go see it. It's cute. It deserves a pat on the head. Points also go out to Robert Patrick, who plays a really sleazy, really fun crumb bum, and to the girl who played the biggest killjoy girlfriend I've ever seen in a movie. "No, I don't wanna make out. No, I don't wanna go up the big scary hill. No, I don't wanna have a soda. No, I don't wanna see a monster movie." Boo on her, yay on the actress.
Side note: I get that this movie is in a very small town and all, but everything I know from my fifties era rumble movies tells me that no greaser would ever hang out with a preppy. It's like Tom and Jerry buddying around, solving mysteries. It ain't gonna happen.