A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 474 – Earth Girls Are Easy

Earth Girls Are Easy – June 17th, 2011

This is one of those movies that Andy and I have agreed to disagree on. I first saw it at his behest and I wasn’t taken with it at the time and he bought it on his own and he enjoys it. And it simply does nothing for me. It takes up space in my life. That’s what it does. It’s not something I would put in on my own or stop on if I was flipping channels, but I don’t object to owning it. I don’t even really object to watching it. I just have better things to do.

I find it really hard to pinpoint just what about this movie falls flat for me. I mean, the whole movie does, but I’m not sure of the exact problems. I mean, I’m not crazy about the musical numbers or the sex scene or the zany madcap plot, but there’s something else I can’t put my finger on and it’s bothering me. Because usually when I’m not fond of a movie I can point to a reason and feel satisfied by it. Here? It’s just not fun for me to watch.

The plot follows Valerie, a young manicurist living and working in LA. She’s engaged to Ted, who’s a doctor. He’s also a total douche and I really can’t stand to see him on screen. He cheats on Valerie and treats her like she’s nothing and he’s generally the villain of the movie. Valerie catches him cheating on her, throws him out and proceeds to trash all his stuff. And then a trio of furry aliens crash land their ship in her backyard pool. So her rebound involves giving the aliens makeovers and teaching them about Earth while they pick up the language by watching television. Oh, and she has a fling with the alien played by Jeff Goldblum.

Along the way two of the aliens get arrested, Ted tries to get Valerie back and ends up escorted away by the police for being the douche that he is, Valerie moans a lot about Ted, Ted eventually tries to dissect two of the aliens and there’s more music. I’d kind of blocked out the musical aspect to this movie. Totally forgot there were any musical numbers at all. They’re mostly Julie Brown bouncing around doing the California Girl thing that Moon Unit Zappa skewered so perfectly. They don’t engage me much and you would think that being the nail polish nut that I am, I’d at least enjoy the makeover number, but I admit I spent the whole thing playing a game on my DS. Told you I had better things to do.

I think part of the problem for me when it comes to this movie is that I’m fairly sure that it’s making fun of the whole Valley Girl thing, but it also trades on it in a way that isn’t entirely parody. So it’s very hard for me to watch it without seeing it as a bit of a failure in that respect. It falls too firmly outside the realm of parody for me and I blame the character of Valerie for it. Valerie is a competent young woman who ends up taking care of quite a lot of the problems the movie throws at her. She’s also a stereotypical flake, but she’s not quite played for laughs. She wavers between being mad at Ted, who tries to slice up her new friends, after all, to being so thrilled that he might take her back that she’s willing to run away to Las Vegas with him to get married right away. In fact, I think how Valerie is presented in relation to Ted is a huge part of the problem for me. Play the character for the humor of her explaining 80s LA culture to three goofy aliens, but don’t have her mope about her lousy ex.

In addition to the 80s LA thing the movie has going on, there’s also plenty of just plain goofball humor. The aliens, particularly the two played by Damon Wayans and Jim Carrey, spend much of their time totally misunderstanding everything they come across except girls, whom they ogle and flirt with. They drink a lava lamp and eat tropical fish (though none of them were named Wanda, so they’re safe from Ken’s wrath) and accidentally hold up a convenience store for candy and a porno mag. Goldblum’s the only serious one and even he has his moments of absurdity.

I just don’t really care about this movie. I could delve deeper into the issues presented by how the female characters are presented and treated. I could go into a discussion of the difficulties of marrying parody and homage (but to sum up my opinion: John Waters pulls it off and this movie doesn’t). I could complain about the aliens’ full body waxing revealing totally normal (for a Hollywood value of normal) humanoids. Or I could just shrug and go back to my game. Because I just don’t have a hell of a lot of energy at the moment and I don’t want to expend what I have on poking this movie to pieces. I can see why people might like it and I won’t insist that Andy never watch it. I just don’t really care.

June 17, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment

Earth Girls Are Easy

June 17, 2011

Earth Girls are Easy

I have no shame in saying that I saw this in the theater because of the Doctor Demento show. Julie Brown (not the MTV one) was on the show one Sunday promoting her new movie, and I was just enough of a Dr. D. fan to go see a movie inspired by a novelty song. (A song, by the way that doesn’t appear in the film.) That was long before I knew anything about Jim Carrey or knew what a Wayans is. Of course I knew who Jeff Goldblum was because I was already a huge fan of Buckaroo Banzai, but otherwise I didn’t really know what to expect.

What I got was a lot of laughs. I was sixteen years old when this came out, and it’s pretty much aimed at that age, so it was the perfect kind of silliness for me. The fact of the matter is that I still chuckle while I watch this even today. I can see that it’s sexist and dated and stupid, but it’s also just so much fun.

Geena Davis is Valerie, a soon-to-be-married manicurist living in LA. Her fiance is an obnoxious ass who has been cheating on her and doesn’t actually seem to care very much for her. (It’s not made clear why he’s with her in the first place. She eventually throws him out of the house so maybe she owns the home and has money from a trust fund or something? It doesn’t come up.) Soon after she has broken up with her cad of a boyfriend a space ship crash lands in her swimming pool, bringing a trio of hirsute aliens into her life.

These aliens know nothing of Earth and cause general havoc in her home eating fish from the fish tank, threatening to use the cat box, chewing on records and being generally curious and alien. They watch a lot of TV. Two of the aliens – Wiplock and Zeebo – are general horndogs (the whole reason they crash landed in LA in the first place is that they were seeking out hairless females to ogle.) Their captain Mac though is considerably more calm and suave – if a blue hairy alien can be such a thing.

It’s only when Valerie brings the aliens to the salon she works at for a makeover so they can pass for human until the pool can be drained that we discover that Wiplock is Jim Carrey, Zeebo is Damon Wayans and Mac is Jeff Goldblum. Valerie’s co-worker Candy (Julie Brown, the writer of the song this movie was based on) then takes the aliens and Valerie out for a night on the town. Wackiness ensues.

What makes this movie fun is the liberal application of stupid slapstick humor and the general idiocy of just about every single character. Valerie is a new age mystical ditz. Candy is a valley girl. Wiploc and Zeebo act like horny kids, and of course both Jim Carrey and Damon Wayans were already rubber-faced masters of physical comedy by this time. (Strange to think that this was two years before they worked together on In Living Color.) Mac is generally well meaning but doesn’t understand things very well. Valerie’s pool cleaner Woody is a burnt out hippie surfer (played like every stoner stereotype rolled into one character by Michael McKean.) There’s not a single reasonable, rational or intelligent character in the whole movie. I know Amanda was put off by the general empty-headedness of Valerie as a lead character, but honestly I think the movie is pretty even handed in the way it portrays absolutely everybody as unbelievably stupid – from the police to the gas station attendants to the night club patrons.

Geena Davis is an unlikely actress to play a sexpot bimbo who only wants to find Mr. Right so she can settle down. It’s kind of strange to see her wandering around for so much of the movie in underwear and bikinis. (The character of Valerie has some of the worst Eighties fashion sense ever. Even I know that a frilly baby-doll top and stockings with bows on the knees is not something any real person ever wore.) She’s generally a smarter woman than that. It’s also odd to see Jeff Goldblum, who I generally think of as kind of nebbish and nerdy, put forth as a dreamy suave hunk. He pulls it off pretty well, but it’s still strange to watch. I have to think that this movie in some way acted as a part of Geena and Jeff’s courtship since they had been a well-known couple ever since they appeared together in the John Carpenter re-make of The Fly two years before this film came out.

Both Amanda and I had forgotten until we put this in tonight that it is a musical. It features song and dance numbers in the salon, on the beach, and in Valerie’s house. Some of the songs I remember from Dr. Demento’s funny five countdowns, so I can’t imagine how I had forgotten that they were in the movie.

What a strange combination this movie is. It’s a very eighties film in aesthetic and in the LA it portrays. It also tries to spoof the sci-fi tropes of the forties and fifties with its retro spacecraft and animated opening credits. There are some comedic devices that seem tiresome, like the way that the aliens mimic sounds perfectly, sort of acting as living foley artists. There’s also a lot of sketchy comedy involving Mac’s “love touch” which he can use to throw people and animals into a state of rapture and lust. It’s played for laughs, but I know Amanda will have a lot to say in her review about sexual coercion. Still – I can’t help laughing at the movie. It doesn’t take itself seriously at all, and for me it’s fun just to see Michael McKean, Jim Carrey, Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis all in the same movie. And Julie Brown. It’s her movie, after all. Back in 1988 I had an entire year to wait before another frequent guest on the Doctor Demento show would release a movie in theaters. We’ve already reviewed UHF though.

June 17, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment