Luis & The Aliens 'barely achieves lift-off'
LUIS AND THE ALIENS (U, 86 mins)
Featuring the voices of: Callum Maloney, Ian Coppinger, Paul Tylak, Dermot Magennis, Lea Thompson, Lucy Carolan, Simon Toal.
Directors: Wolfgang Lauenstein, Christoph Lauenstein, Sean McCormack.
Rating: 2 stars
FIRST contact with kooky extra-terrestrial visitors is second-rate family entertainment in the computer-animated yarn, Luis And The Aliens.
Co-directors Wolfgang Lauenstein, Christoph Lauenstein and Sean McCormack set their phasers to stunningly mediocre as a 12-year-old boy flees a lonely existence on Earth to live among the stars with a shape-shifting otherworldly race.
An emotionally malnourished script doesn't earn the tears it wants us to shed as a grief-stricken son reconciles with his father and feuding neighbours unite to vanquish a monstrous threat side-by-side.
Jeopardy and jest are in short order and vocal performances are one-note to match the quality of the writing, which languishes in the narrative tractor beams of Steven Spielberg's classic E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Disney's Lilo & Stitch and the 2015 animated romp Home.
Visuals ripple with colour but are light on realism and detail – human characters have impressively shiny skin and large saucer eyes – but sporadic action sequences are engineered at a brisk pace and the film's chief villain exudes a modicum of menace to convince very young audiences to fear the worst.
A heart-warming core message about spending more time with the people you love is delivered at full volume as if the fate of the galaxy depended upon it.
Luis Sonntag (voiced by Callum Maloney) celebrates his 12th birthday alone, neglected by his crazy ufologist father Armin (Dermot Magennis), who claims he was almost abducted by aliens at the age of seven.
Armin sleeps during the day and spends each night scanning the skies with a telescope for evidence of sentient life on other planets to validate his book, Aliens They Really Exist!.
Meanwhile, Luis is left to fend for himself at Walnut Hill Middle School.
The concerned principal (Simon Toal) alerts social services and Ms Diekendaker (Lea Thompson), who runs a school for neglected children, arrives with the intention of taking Luis into her immediate care.
As the boy's world spins out of orbit, three extra-terrestrials called Mog (Ian Coppinger), Nag (Paul Tylak) and Wabo (Magennis again) crash-land close to the Sonntag family home in search of a highly desirable home shopping channel item – a Nubbi Dubbi massage mat.
The googly-eyed visitors befriend Luis, who helps them track down the last remaining Nubbi Dubbi.
In return, Mog, Nag and Wabo use their incredible powers to inspire Luis to find his place in the universe and muster the courage to talk to pretty classmate Jennifer (Lucy Carolan).
Luis And The Aliens shoots for the moon but barely achieves lift-off with a linear plot and broad slapstick humour that feels rather old-fashioned in this golden age of animation.
Maloney gently plucks heartstrings as a resourceful tyke, who yearns for his father to notice him, while Coppinger, Tylak and Magennis wring a few chortles from their bickering space travellers.