MARRIED TO THE MOB (1988) screenwriter Barry Strugatz made his feature-directing debut with this pallid little comedy about aliens and alienation in contemporary Brooklyn.
Middle-class housewife Joanne Schwartzbaum (Cara Buono) shares a lovely home with her down-to-earth husband, Brian (David Lansbury), and their grade-school-aged children (Quinn Shephard, Jonah Meyerson). Her vague discontent has no focus until the fateful night when she wanders into the kitchen and is enveloped by an unearthly red light; she wakes up the next day on the patio, with no memory of how she got there and an odd, fan-shaped bruise on her ribcage. Her subsequent odd behavior leads to a round of visits to doctors and therapists, but nothing helps until she discovers a support group for alien abductees. Sure, most of them are more than a little nutty, but she befriends Abraham (Isaach De Bankole), an illegal immigrant from the Ivory Coast. They piece together the amazing truth: Aliens — real, honest-to-god extraterrestrials, not undocumented foreigners — are among us, and they've chosen Joanne and Abraham to recover a scroll thought to have been destroyed when the great library of Alexandria burned. In the wrong hands — and there are many wrong hands grasping for it — the information contained in the scroll could destroy the world.
Writer-director Strugatz's light genre spoof is weighted down by its none-too-subtle subtext — there are all kinds of aliens bubbling around in America's vaunted melting pot — and its feeble attempts at humor, none more grating than the space invader (Joel de la Fuente) who shows up dressed in a Mystery Science Theater 3000-ready "futuristic" body suit and babbling in the funny voices he and his people learned from the schlock TV broadcasts they've been intercepting for years. Had this very minor effort been released a decade before MEN IN BLACK (1997) rather than a decade after, its gentle digs at conspiracy culture and the psychosexual underpinnings of UFO mania might have seemed clever. Without the gloss of novelty, the film's underdeveloped characters and thin — though busy — story are forced into the foreground, and its 88-minute running time feels far longer. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh