An American documentary maker (Bill Pullman) has travelled to London with his crew to investigate a story that an agent there thinks will make an absorbing film. He is sceptical when he hasn't heard of either Gary Shoefield (Ant McPartlin) or Ray Santilli (Declan Donnelly), but when they arrive, they suggest he type Ray's name into an Internet search engine, and when this receives over three million hits he's interested. Ray and Gary's unlikely tale starts in 1995 when Ray was selling dodgy merchandise from his stall in Hackney, including Elvis Presley momentos and pirated video tapes, and Gary was attempting to be promoted in his job to a lawyer at a biscuit manufacturers. But soon they would be looking to the stars... literally.
The "Alien Autopsy" footage was an infamous case in 1990s ufology, at a time when the subject was winning a renewed popularity what with The X Files on television and alien-themed blockbusters like Independence Day in the cinemas. This film is loosely based on Santilli and Shoefield's exploits, but they're really the only real people depicted, everything else is invented to adorn the basic plot of selling the footage and making a huge amount of money from it, as scripted by Will Davies. Note the name of Ealing in the opening titles, as this seems to want to court associations with the quaint comedies of that British studio.
And in the starring roles, no, not as the aliens, are Ant and Dec, UK light entertainment titans of the 1990s and 2000s, having previously made careers in television drama for kids, comedy for families and music for teenagers, who had comparisons made as successors to Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise. Like that legendary duo, they wanted to make films, films which it turned out were welcomed with a similarly lukewarm respsonse by critics and public alike, preferring to see them on the small screen than adopting characters and roles elsewhere.
Not that the characters they play here were massively removed from the ones they essayed on television, with both managing to exasperate each other to humorous effect - Dec winding up Ant here more than vice versa, it must be said. Gary is the sensible one, who gets a rum deal while Ray travels the world and enjoys the comforts of first class due to his newfound fame and all down to a faked film of an extraterrestrial corpse being examined by anonymous scientists that they conjured up. The film makes it clear - and bear in mind Santilli and Shoefield are the producers of this - that Santilli really did buy genuine footage of the autopsy but it deteriorated to the point of unwatchability.
Hence the need to make something that was first intended to appease the credulous, crop-circle loving Eastern European gangster (Götz Otto) who put up the money to buy it from the retired, U.S. Army cameraman (Harry Dean Stanton) who shot it. But once they successfully fooled the gangster, word went around and finally they were selling the clips for thousands to TV stations in every territory, all the while claiming them as the real thing, although what isn't mentioned is the amount of ridicule the footage suffered at the time. Director Jonny Campbell offers the format of a tall story for his narrative, and in the main it works pretty well even if it starts to get scrappy eventually. It's rarely laugh out loud funny, more wryly amusing, and the way it attempts to have its cake and eat it too is offputting with a coda that tells us the original footage still exists, so it's best to approach it as a well presented practical joke. Music by Murray Gold (in amongst the hits of '95).