An alien lands on our planet. Citizens respond in fear, while the military desperately searches for it with plans to dissect the creature for scientific study. Meanwhile, the alien hides out in suburbia and befriends a local boy, who tries to help the creature find a way back home.
Sounds like the outline for E.T. and numerous other movies, right? Planet 51 follows the formula with one key alteration: This time, man is the alien who finds himself the target of fear and paranoia on another inhabited planet.
It's a simple premise that has intriguing potential—a fish-out-of-water comedy with Star Trek-styled ideals concerning the perils of prejudice and paranoia. Unfortunately, Planet 51 aims low, lazily relying on all-too-familiar clichés from every sci-fi and animated feature you've ever seen.
The movie's opening scene is its most clever, depicting a standard '50s sci-fi B-movie—a War of the Worlds-styled monster flick involving a teen couple at "Make-Out Point," the giant one-eyed monster that terrorizes them, and the massive alien warship using disintegrator rays to annihilate the army. But all the main characters are in silhouette; a few minutes later, they're finally lit well enough for us to note the green skin, webbed feet, antennae, and lack of a nose.
These actors are clearly not human—nor are the moviegoers watching. Then we cut to life outside the theater, which resembles '50s suburbia with picket fences, neighborly citizens, and a pristine town square resembling the one in Back to the Future. You'd swear it was Earth—if it weren't for the green-skinned citizens, the friendly dog that looks like the Alien creature, and the fact that it rains rocks instead of water.
Life is certainly familiar ...1