By Kyle Francis
If someone were to list the coolest things ever, aliens, talking beavers, hot French girls and shadowy government agencies would definitely appear. It stands to reason a movie with all of these elements rolled into one neat little package has enough concept-driven strength to carry it through two hours. This unapologetically Canadian epitome of awesome is Phil the Alien.
The first full-length foray by the Ontario-born Rod Stefaniuk, Phil the Alien, pulls no punches with its random, irreverent sense of humour.
The film opens with an extra terrestrial crash-landing in rural Ontario, introducing the film’s title character. The rest of the film follows Phil (the alien) through his exploits of drinking, talking to beavers and being hunted down by ridiculous fur-clad alien hunters and a hot French girl.
Phil’s main strength lies in its writing–you can’t expect a movie funded mostly by the Canadian government to blow you away with special effects. Despite its outrageous premise, the script is grounded in its likable characters who have extremely distinct personalities. Take some of the more charming characters in the movie: shady government villain types wearing vibrantly coloured fur trench coats and the aforementioned hot French girl with a penchant for killing things.
Even without a Hollywood budget, writer/director/star Stefaniuk manages to pull off professional looking shots, complete with enough indie-film camera tricks to entice old people to pair off and have sex. Though, nothing to write home about directorial or special-effects-wise, the film manages to throw in just enough eye candy to make you believe a story about space aliens.
What mars the Phil the Alien experience is the overly random humor. At one point, Phil finds Jesus and begins to use his telekinetic alien powers to convince people he’s the Messiah. Non-sequitors are perfectly acceptable humorous devices, but the whole religious parody is dropped just as quickly as it’s introduced, giving the whole joke a sort of cheap “one-shot” feel. Throw in a brief skit with Sean Cullin and the movie feels like Stefaniuk wrote a bunch of jokes, then built a script around them as an afterthought. This is a problem plaguing modern comedies, but Stefaniuk does manage to make the cliches work for him well enough.
Despite this, Phil the Alien remains perfectly enjoyable and shamelessly Canadian. Phil’s “National Lampoon meets Monty Python style humour” may be on the irreverent side for some, however anyone who doesn’t go to a Canadian movie expecting to see an art film should leave satisfied. Just leave your beavers at home.