Mutant Aliens, 2001, ¼ star

Misguided mutants

From The Orlando Weekly, 2001

Animator Bill Plympton’s work is a combination of a crude, sketchy Salvador Dali and a biting political cartoon. His exaggerated and expressive if somewhat simple and jerky drawings are well suited to magazines, short films and MTV clips, and that is precisely where he has had success. Unfortunately, this unique artistry doesn’t always translate well into feature-length storytelling, as his new film, Mutant Aliens, proves.

For a film with such a bold style, it focuses too heavily on its rambling plot. Earl Jensen is an astronaut whose mission is sabotaged by the evil Dr. Frubar, who is more intent on profits than scientific exploration. Jensen floats in space for 20 years plotting his revenge on his nemesis with the help of several cute but deadly alien animals. Apparently Plympton became fascinated with Laike, the real-life cosmonaut dog, and wondered what would happen if animals sent into space mutated and returned to earth for revenge.

Waiting on earth for Jensen’s return is his daughter Josie, who, in true Plympton fashion, divides her time between astronomy and graphic sex with her boyfriend. Most of these elements by themselves would make fascinating shorts, especially Jensen’s visit with aliens shaped as human body parts, but when combined, they make a confusing muddle and detract from the political and religious satire.

Plympton’s fourth independent feature is a bizarre glimpse into the mind of its creator. Although it is filled with surreal characters, satirical commentary and humorous – if rather gratuitous – sex and violence, it fails because we don’t care about what Plympton is trying to say. We appreciate the artist’s imagination, but because the story and its symbolism and too confusing, Aliens becomes the last thing you would expect from a film with that title or indeed any Plymptom film: boring.