Extraterrestrial (Extraterrestre)
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When you go to see an alien invasion movie, you probably expect to see lots of big-budget action and effects, with all kinds of big, scary aliens wreaking havoc on Earth and its inhabitants. You probably expect heart-pounding thrills, too. But Spanish director Nacho Vigalondo’s quirky new film, Extraterrestrial (Extraterrestre), is anything but the same old alien invasion movie.

Following a wild night that he just can’t remember, Julio (Julián Villagrán) finds himself in an unfamiliar apartment with a gorgeous girl named Julia (Michelle Jenner). It seems that they’ve both slept the day away—and they wake to find the city streets strangely empty. Then, from Julia’s window, Julio spots the gigantic UFO that’s hovering nearby.

It turns out, though, that the two aren’t entirely alone. Julia’s creepy neighbor, Angel (Carlos Areces), has stayed behind to keep an eye on the pretty girl next door. And Julia’s boyfriend, Carlos (Raúl Cimas), soon arrives to check in on her, complicating matters even more.

With a jealous neighbor next door, a clueless boyfriend in the next room, and aliens hovering overhead, Julia and Julio have to think quickly to survive the invasion—and their own indiscretions.

The story may revolve around an alien invasion, but Extraterrestrial is actually a zany romantic comedy that’s thinly disguised as science fiction. So whether you’re judging the film based on its title, its poster, or even its director (whose last feature, Timecrimes, was a brilliant sci-fi mystery), Extraterrestrial is definitely unexpected. It’s unexpectedly hilarious. It’s unexpectedly romantic. And it’s unexpectedly (and even delightfully) alien-free. Sure, there’s a gigantic UFO hovering overhead. Sure, everyone else has been rounded up by the government and taken to safety. But the real story is about Julio and Julia—about their mysterious one-night stand, their budding romance, and the two men who just keep getting in their way.

The film may not have a whole lot aliens wandering around the city, but it does have a cast full of lovably odd characters. The whole situation is pretty outlandish, and the wacky characters make it downright uproarious—especially Areces’s Angel, Julia’s neighbor/stalker, who will do anything to tear her relationship with Carlos to shreds. Other characters, meanwhile, are simply lovable—like Villagrán’s Julio, who’s perfectly content to lie, cheat, steal, and convince everyone else that Angel is actually an alien in disguise in order to win the woman of his dreams. And the characters’ strange relationships and outrageous interactions make Extraterrestrial such an entertainingly eccentric romantic comedy that you’ll happily overlook some weaknesses in the development—not to mention the fact that the aliens actually have little or nothing to do with the story.

Fans of Vigalondo’s Timecrimes may be rather perplexed by the outrageous comedy and charming romance of the follow-up. And if you’re looking for lots of alien action (or any of it, for that matter), you’ll probably be disappointed. But the fun-filled story and quirky characters make Extraterrestrial an enjoyably absurd and utterly charming rom-com—one that’s worth gassing up the spaceship and heading out to see, as soon as it invades a theater near you.

Ed. Note: Kristin screened Extraterrestrial at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival. Be sure to check your local listings to find out if/when it’s coming to a theater near you.

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