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MOVIE REVIEW

Alien Trespass

This B-movie tribute deserves a B-plus

Eric McCormack (with Jody Thompson) plays an astrophysicist in ''Alien Trespass.'' Eric McCormack (with Jody Thompson) plays an astrophysicist in ''Alien Trespass.'' (Roadside attractions)
By Ty Burr
Globe Staff / April 3, 2009
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Does the world really need a fond, precise parody of 1950s alien-invasion movies right now? No, but we've got one with "Alien Trespass," and it's pretty endearing - a low-budget labor of schlock.

The guiding hand appears to belong to director R.W. Goodwin, who produced an awful lot of "X-Files" episodes back in the day and who here bows low to the craptastic sci-fi B-movies of his youth: venerable swill like "It Conquered the World" (1956) and "Attack of the Crab Monsters" (1957). Because Goodwin is torn between his love of deep Eisenhower-era cheese and the need to tell a good story, "Alien Trespass" never breaks free into truly demented inspiration. It's a good cheap thrill, though, which may be all that was intended.

Slumming Hollywood star Eric McCormack ("Will and Grace") has a plum dual role as Dr. Ted Lewis, a befuddled, pipe-smoking astrophysicist, and Urp, the robotic alien who temporarily inhabits Ted's body after his spaceship crash-lands in the desert near the tiny town of Mojave. Urp has lost an intergalactic prisoner called the Ghota, a 7-foot-tall purple phallic symbol with a giant red eyeball who can reduce humans to puddles of goo in seconds.

The good townspeople of Mojave are a gallery of B-movie types: the blowhard town cop (Robert Patrick), the sheriff three days from retirement (Dan Lauria), the perky, resourceful diner waitress (Jenni Baird, delightful) who gets an unholy romance going with Urp. Three teens cover the gamut from squeaky-clean types modeled on Troy Donahue (Andrew Dunbar) and Sandra Dee (Sarah Smyth) to a greasy Sal Mineo-alike (Aaron Brooks). Everyone plays it straight, which is fine; the theremin on the soundtrack does the overacting for them.

The script by James Swift and Steven P. Fisher plunders the trash-cinema past: The Ghota bears a distinct resemblance to the ice cream cone-shaped alien in "It Conquered the World," and McCormack's Urp is halfway between Michael Rennie's Klaatu and Keanu Reeves's. The movie's looking-glass high point comes when the Ghota invades a movie theater showing 1958's "The Blob" during the scene in that film where the Blob invades a movie theater. . . You can imagine this spiraling on forever at the M.C. Escher Drive-In.

I'm tempted to say that "Alien Trespass" is the real "Monsters vs. Aliens." Instead of state-of-the-art CGI, "Trespass" lovingly lays on the bad special effects: period-specific rear projection, rubber monster suits, UFOs that look like transmogrified hubcaps. There's more simple joy to be found here than in all of DreamWorks' 3-D extravaganza, though - a pleasure that comes from laughing at the movie and with it at the same time. "Alien Trespass" could be the latest bulletin from "Mystery Science Theatre 3000" except that we're the silhouetted heads and the filmmakers are sitting right there next to us.

Ty Burr can be reached at tburr@globe.com. For more on movies, go to www.boston.com/movienation.

ALIEN TRESPASS Directed by: R.W. Goodwin

Written by: James Swift, Steven P. Fisher

Starring: Eric McCormack, Jenni Baird, Robert Patrick

At: Kendall Square

Running time: 88 minutes

Rated: PG (sci-fi action and "brief historical smoking")