Coneheads

1993, Movie, PG, 86 mins

Review

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Spurred by the success of WAYNE'S WORLD, producer Lorne Michaels dusted off another "Saturday Night Live" sketch and expanded it to feature length in a grab for big-screen success. But this uninspired comedy has no more laughs in 90 minutes than the original sketches had in three, and contains little more in the way of story value.

Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin reprise their TV roles as Beldar and Prymaat, aliens from the planet Remulak, where all the inhabitants bear large cones on their heads. Intended as the spearhead of an invasion force targeting Earth, they run into some Air Force jets and crash their spaceship in the waters near the Statue of Liberty, and come ashore in New Jersey. There they take up residence at a motel and construct a communication device to try to reach Remulak. They are told it will be 18 years before others from their planet will be able to come for them.

In the meantime, the Coneheads make the best of things and, like millions of immigrants before them, start to work their way up the ladder of the American dream. Beldar's wizardry with things mechanical makes him a success as a repairman, and soon he and Prymaat are working their way from a basement apartment to a house in the suburbs, assimilating quite nicely along the way. All the time, they are staying one step ahead of ambitious, ruthless INS official Seedling (Michael McKean), who takes a personal interest in busting these particular illegal aliens.

Before long, Prymaat is "with cone" and gives birth to a lovely daughter. She apparently grows up fast and, as a teenager, Connie (Michelle Burke) attracts the romantic attentions of corpulent, leather-clad Ronnie (Chris Farley). The attraction is mutual, though Beldar disapproves. He eventually comes around, but soon has worse things to worry about: Seedling and his men have finally tracked down the Coneheads and arrive with a squad of police. At that moment a Remulakian spaceship descends to bring Beldar and his family home, taking along the zealous Seedling and his assistant Turnbull (David Spade) as unintended tagalongs.

Back on Remulak, Beldar is sentenced by the Conehead Highmaster (Dave Thomas) to enter a pit of combat where he is to face the huge and hungry monster Garthok. The two fighters who enter ahead of him meet horrible deaths, but Beldar manages to use golfing strategies he learned on Earth to defeat the monster. While Seedling and Turnbull are informed that they must stay on Remulak forever, Beldar is made head of a new invasion force and sent back with Prymaat and Connie. But all three have taken a liking to planet Earth, and Beldar sends a transmission to the rest of the fleet claiming to be faced with incredible Earth weapons. He then sets the ship to self-destruct, and he and his family return to suburban bliss while the explosion leads the Remulakian fleet to abandon their invasion plans and return home.

CONEHEADS represents a prime example of opportunistic commercial filmmaking, with plot and character sacrificed to an endless series of comic ideas that are never developed. Some of the story elements make no sense, even in a comic context (no time seems to have passed between Connie's birth and her scenes as a teenager) and the fish-out-of-water possibilities of the story are never even touched upon, because the filmmakers apparently wanted to make a movie in which the Coneheads are accepted as regular people.

The main joke is the fact that nobody treats the odd-looking visitors differently from anyone else--far too slim a comic premise upon which to build an entire feature. And it's a clear sign that the CONEHEADS' makers didn't trust their material when all the characters are shunted back to Remulak, a diversion that serves no story purpose whatsoever and exists only to throw some expensive-looking special effects on the screen. These sequences do bring back Aykroyd and Curtin's old co-stars Garrett Morris and Laraine Newman, but their parts have been trimmed down to practically nothing.

Whether on Earth or in space, the jokes are either flat or hopelessly crude (the running gag of the Coneheads confusing condoms with chewing gum), and in an attempt to give the film some cachet with the current "Saturday Night Live" audience, a whole bunch of early-'90s "SNL" players are dragged in for cameos. But it's emblematic of the movie's problems that nothing is done with them; they're simply brought on for a laugh of recognition then shuttled off again. Only the neophyte Burke, an appealing young actress who later appeared unburdened by latex in DAZED AND CONFUSED, escapes unscathed; the talented Curtin is given little to do, and Aykroyd is apparently still afflicted by the notion that the sight of him topless or nude (only from behind, thank goodness) is intrinsically funny. All they prove in this case is that he's the one most guilty of the Conehead credo of "consuming mass quantities." (Nudity, sexual situations, profanity.) leave a comment

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