Some years ago, an unidentified flying object was spotted on the radar of a New Jersey Air Force base, and the jets were scrambled to intercept, but it suddenly disappeared, never to be seen again. What had actually happened was the craft crashed in a river, and the occupants bailed out to see what they could do about being rescued: first they had to contact their authority which was easier said than done when the bosses were on a different planet entirely. These two visitors were the Coneheads, Beldar (Dan Aykroyd) and Prymatt (Jane Curtin), and they had some fitting in to do...
After the success of Wayne's World, producer Lorne Michaels thought he could do the same with other recurring sketches from Saturday Night Live, and so a whole bunch of comedies appeared starring cast members old and new, and penned by their team of writers. It's safe to say not many of these took off with the public, whether because they resented paying for something they were happier to watch for free on television, or more likely what had been funny for a five minute skit was overstretched on a big screen outing.
Coneheads was based on one of the original running jokes from the SNL of the seventies, where Dan Aykroyd, Jane Curtin (who would appear in the suspiciously conceptually similar sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun for a number of years) and Laraine Newman as their daughter would act weird in the face of normal suburbia thanks to them being from the planet Remulac. It was a good idea, and assuredly one of the highlights of the show's early years, yet the problem remained: never mind if it was about fifteen years too late for such a spin-off, was it possible to draw out a whole ninety minutes of the same joke repeated and indeed hammered into the ground?
Aykroyd was a well-known fan of all things UFO, and must have relished the chance to co-write a screenplay (or in this case dust one off from the failed cartoon pilot) which plunged him into that landscape, though oddly he didn't see to it that a shadowy government agency was trying to track down the Coneheads, he had immigration officials led by Michael McKean attempting to succeed in a face-saving exercise by exposing the aliens as just that. In the meantime, Beldar and Prymatt await their rescue and he gets a job or two to support them, first as a Mr Fixit, and then as a driving instructor, all the better to place them in the quiet, bland surroundings which would make their comical otherness stand out. Most of the laughs may have been from sketch-like gags, but surprisingly there were quite a few.
Maybe not that surprising when you considered the talent involved, as Michaels had hired a large number of ex-SNL comedians and humour merchants of a similar vintage to fill out the supporting roles. Some got more to do than others: Newman gets a single scene near the end, for example, but then up and coming talent Chris Farley merited a co-starring credit for his work. He played the slobbish, awkward boyfriend of the Coneheads' daughter Connie (Michelle Burke during her "next big thing" phase, so much for that), leading to a typical spoof of equally typical sitcom scenes such as the disapproving father taking steps to defend the virtue of his teenage offspring. With a sympathy for the immigration experience which might not have been fashionable but was quite sweet, this escalated to a finale packed with special effects, including a stop motion monster, which came across as reaching for a dazzling denouement it didn't especially require but for the most part this wasn't bad at all, gum jokes included. Music by David Newman.