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UFO Café (1990)

02/08/2008. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy UFO Café in the USA - or Buy UFO Café in the UK

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Region 2 DVD: Network 7952906. 91 minute film with no extras. Price: £ 7.99 (UK), stars: Richard Mulligan and Beau Bridges.

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'UFO Café' is the sort of afternoon TV movie that is safe and probably appeals more to the American audience than we outsiders.

Grandfather and local eccentric George (actor Richard Mulligan) supplies a part from his son's hardware store for a visitor in a rundown mid-American town. As it happens on Thanksgiving Day, he gives it away. The visitor, Arnold Zimmerman (played by Beau Bridges), trusts George after his generosity and confesses to not only being from out of town but out of this world. George walks Arnold out to a field but not really believing him, inviting him back for a local basketball game, until he sees a purple light flash by overhead.

He's surprised the next night when Arnold returns and joins George and a couple of his mates for the game and hangs out with them. They all see the purple light flash off this time. A third visit and Arnold isn't well. He has a cold and George and his wife help him over night.

After Arnold is gone, George and his two mates buy a piece of local land to turn into a landing base for the alien's spaceship. George is convinced that Arnold will be back for Christmas. To the rest of the town, it is a guessing game as to what the three men are building. George's son and wife think he's getting a bit nutty and have him see a psychiatrist. Make a note to only hire receptionists who understand what confidentiality means cos she leaks the news about Arnold to the National Enquirer and the town is deluged with reporters.

George's friends back off with the publicity but he doesn't, especially as it would mean condoning a lie to his grandson but Arnold is late coming back and even he begins to have doubts. He says this at a public gathering but then the spaceship returns, apologies for being late and Arnold gives him his spaceship before walking off to other field for a pick-up.

The old spaceship becomes the focal point for a UFO Café, hence the title, that George, his family and friends ultimately runs.

As I said, a safe family film. If anything, it shows more about American behaviour than being purely a Science Fiction movie. Whether it should be considered a comedy or eccentric is up to the individual. It isn't belly-laughs lets put it that way. Clearly, Richard Mulligan (whom you should remember from 'Soap') thrives on playing eccentric roles and surprisingly, he does add a decent touch of pathos when it comes to indecision and doubts about what he's seen. Beau Bridges screen time is actually very minimal and only appearing for those pivotal moments. Look out for a non-speaking cameo by Henry Jones.

Whether such films are supposed to carry a moral is hard to say. If its an indictment about mid-American towns, then be careful whom you confide in cos people will quickly turn against you if it spoils their little pocket universes. Eccentricity is only acceptable providing you benefit from it. Mind you, if you're right, you can end up profiting from it which would probably be seen as typical American behaviour. Whether 'UFO Café' will catch the British audience is hard to say and dependent on your personal taste.

GF Willmetts

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