Four aliens from the planet Blob are drifting lost in space, close to the planet Earth. While their ostensible leader, Bernard (Mel Smith) goes out to play a zero gravity game of space ball, Desmond (Jimmy Nail) commandeers the podule of their spacecraft and sets off to look for a drink, leaving Bernard stranded. Down on Earth, lowly TV journalist Graham (Griff Rhys Jones) has been left alone in the news studio to answer the phones, and is shocked when a report of a motorway crash comes in - aliens have landed on the M1...
Comedy team Smith and Jones scripted this big screen sci-fi spoof after their success on British television with Not the Nine O'Clock News and Alas Smith and Jones, but the end result was seen as a failure by most people, and got terrible reviews. It does seem strange that they should write a story where their two characters never meet until the last minute of the film, so there was none of the droll banter between them that marked their small screen appearances, even if there is an episodic, sketch show feel to the action that indicates their TV roots.
The main joke, which is clearly spelled out in the title, is that the visiting aliens are not super intelligent and fantastically advanced as in other science fiction movies, but they are basically idiots. Bernard is the brightest of the bunch, but as he is abandoned in the U.S.A. while his comrades are the centre of attention elsewhere, no one knows about him, and he is disbelieved and forgotten about. Meanwhile Desmond, Sandra (Joanne Pearce) and Julian (Paul Bown) are quizzed by scientists and the military, who find to their dismay that there is nothing worth learning about them.
The aliens have an ally in Graham, who has infiltrated the top secret compound where they are held, and helps them escape when the American colonel in charge (James B. Sikking) incites the scientists and soldiers to kill them. The news gets out (the crash had been explained away as an out of control hovercraft) and the aliens are now celebrities. Meanwhile Bernard, protesting that he is from outer space, is held in a mental institution for some One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest parodies.
Not all the jokes work, and the film is too concerned to draw in the Americans (spot the terrible accents), but Morons from Outer Space is by no means a disaster. There are genuinely funny moments, like Bernard's hospital trolley hitting a locked door, or the guard Graham tries to knock out by clonking him over the head - the guard just shouts, "OW!" The tone may be crude, as seen in the sneezing in your space helmet gag, or the whole of Jimmy Nail's amusing performance, but it's not as cynical as you might expect. It's more disappointed - the aliens resemble us, because we are all morons, too.
As the fame goes to the aliens' heads, they become showbiz monsters, staging a rock concert in New York City, and it takes another Close Encounters spoof to bring them back down to earth. Everyone is left feeling foolish, and you feel a bit sorry for Bernard, who alone grasps the scale of the situation, but is largely ignored. Reducing the incredible to the mundane is the line the film takes, and it won't be everyone's cup of tea. I like it though, it's not often you see a British science fiction film, even if efforts like this are probably the reason why. Music by Peter Brewis.
British director, from television, with an interesting take on crime movies. His first film was the gritty, gangster cult Get Carter, but the offbeat follow-up Pulp was not as successful. The Terminal Man was a Hollywood science fiction thriller, and Flash Gordon a gloriously over-the-top comic book epic which showed Hodges' good humour to its best effect.
Viewed as what it is - a feature-length NTNON sketch - Morons from Outer Space works very well and personally I find it consistently funny so I'm delighted to see it given a reasonably positive review. it seems to be mostly derided by people who either haven't seen it or want it to be something else - but then that's British films all over.
I know it's a minority opinion but I consider this one of the best big-screen SF comedies. I would rather watch this than Men in Black anyday.
(owner of the world's largest collection of MFOS memorabilia)