|Raindance film review: Earthbound|
|Written by Ivan Radford|
|Friday, 27 September 2013 00:13|
Director: Alan Brennan
Meet Joe (Spall). He's a normal, nerdy kind of guy. He's quiet. He wears glasses. He spends his days working in a comic book shop, avoiding contact with humans and wondering what to do when talking to women. And every night he goes home and talks to a hologram of his dead father. Doesn't sound normal? That's because he isn't. Joe, it turns out, is some kind of alien or something.
Stranded on Earth after his home Zalaxon was taken over, Joe has to hide from bounty hunters working for the planet's evil empire. But one day, he meets Marie and, after falling head over She-Ra dolls in love, decides to share his secret.
Doesn't sound normal? That's because Earthbound isn't. Alan Brennan's sci-fi-rom-com crosses its genres with a cheeky air, sending up old 50s TV shows (a cheesy spoof called Space Commander makes an appearance) without losing hold of sentiment.
That partly comes from the cast: all specs and gormless expression, Rafe Spall is wonderfully awkward as our twenty-something E.T., while Jenn Murray manages to be cynical and sweet as his doubting partner. Is it love? Is it because she's a 90% DNA match who can guarantee the future of the Zalaxion race? Or is it just all in his head?
From the stylish opening credits, done out like a comic book, Gordon makes it pretty clear which side he wants to stand on, but his smart script raises serious questions of belief and mental illness - a balance of tone helped by a grizzled David Morrissey as Joe's dad. Even when they ramp up the SFX budget (read: order toy ray guns off the Internet), that low-key believability manages to stay in tact. As for the com-part, the humour takes a while to land, but once Joe finds himself head-hunted by a shady corporation and working alongside John Lynn's hilarious colleague Phil, the film makes contact with your funny bone.
Everything manages to stay unpredictable right up until the end, second guessing itself with the kind of self-aware grin that made last year's Safety Not Guaranteed so fun. Coupled with a grand score from Liam Bates, this epic sci-fi sets phasers to charm. And if they don't work on you? You must be some kind of alien or something.