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Phil the Alien: Mark's Take

06/12/2004. Contributed by Mark R. Leeper

Buy Phil the Alien in the USA - or Buy Phil the Alien in the UK

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Amateurish and low-budget skit on film has its moments, but mostly in its first half. The film outstays its welcome.

The Toronto Film Festival has an understandable de facto policy of encouraging new Canadian filmmakers. Rob Stefaniuk is a promising local talent. He wrote and directed this film as well as took the title role and then edited the result. That is a lot for a single young filmmaker.

He manages each task with professional competence. He has a good wit and there are many clever touches in this film. But this extended skit more shows promise than really delivers.

PHIL THE ALIEN is a low-brow film about what happens when an alien invades a hard-drinking Northern Ontario town. The film is shot less than artfully on grainy 16mm. It has one redeeming virtue as a film. It is in genuinely funny. It wears thin in the second half, but I was laughing out loud in the first half.

The title creature comes from outer space as a horrible, ugly thingee, but quickly shape-shifts into looking (gasp) like a typical good-old-boy Canadian. After a run-in with a talking beaver he ends up in a bar sharing his depression with other typical good old boys. The film satirizes small-town life where the big entertainment comes in bottles. Graham Greene, the one actor of more than local stature, plays the bartender.

Phil makes several friends in town including an intelligent talking beaver. Things would go well except for the United States Government getting involved. From a secret base under Niagara Falls they send out agents to capture the alien. The film has more action later in the plot, but the humor wears a little thin. This film could be a lot more polished but the Canadian humor is genuinely funny.

Mark R Leeper

(c) Mark R Leeper 2004

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