Coneheads (1993, Steve Barron)

Coneheads (1993, Steve Barron)Coneheads, like the Blues Brothers and Wayne’s World films, is based on a popular recurring Saturday Night Live sketch starring Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin (probably best-known for her role of Dr. Mary Albright in 3rd Rock From The Sun). Aykroyd and Curtin play an alien family stranded on Earth. They appear human except for their heads which are – surprise, surprise – shaped like cones. Of course there are other differences as well, not just anatomical (although the physical anomalies don’t stop with their skulls). They eat massive amounts of food and when the mood is right indulge in some cone-honing (just watch the movie). Conveniently enough, they do speak English but in a very nasal, monotone voice supplementing it with their own quirky phrases referring to e.g. parents as “parental units”. But nobody ever wonders about their weird shape or any of their other blatantly obvious deviations from what’s normal and everybody happily accepts them just for who they are because this is America, darnit! (right?)

So anyway, the movie starts off with Beldar (Aykroyd) and Prymaat (Curtin) crashing their ship on Earth. Apparently their rescue is not of the highest priority so while waiting for another ship to come and rescue them, they try to blend in on Earth and make the best of it. Along the way Prymaat gets pregnant which means that besides being illegal aliens trying to pursue the American dream, they now also have the added responsibility of becoming parents and everything that entails.

On paper Coneheads looks like a dud. It’s a 90’s movie based on a number of sketches from the 70’s and has a director, Steve Barron, who is best-known for his music videos. But Barron didn’t just make any old music videos. Actually, he made some of the 80’s most seminal videos, including Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean, Dire Straits’ Money For Nothing and A-HA’s Take On Me. Still, from the handful of movies he did direct, you’ll probably only recognize one, though it’s one you most likely will have fond childhood memories of as it is in fact the very first live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! And luckily some of that style and the effects his music videos are known for, shows through in Coneheads as well.

So Coneheads surprisingly beat the odds, turning out to be a very entertaining movie. It’s got a decent script which is actually funny. It’s got a fine cast of actors with this probably being Aykroyd’s funniest movie – no matter if it’s starring in or written by – in the past 20 years. And perhaps because of Barron’s experience shooting his music videos, it’s got some great special effects for the time as well. You’d be hard-pressed to find a shot where Beldar and Prymaat’s cones don’t look extremely convincing and I love the stop-motion animation they use.

Furthermore, it would seem that almost every successful American comedian from the 90’s appears in this movie. Of course there are the Saturday Night Live’ers like e.g. Chris Farley, Adam Sandler, Jon Lovitz and many others. But there are also Eddie Griffin, Ellen Degeneres, Drew Carey, Tom Arnold, Jason Alexander, Michael Richards and the list goes on. If you’re into cameo-spotting, Coneheads is your movie.

Coneheads surprised me in a good way. I went into it not expecting all that much but was left thoroughly entertained. Sometimes a project just comes together and this is definitely one of those times.

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