There are very few movies that will make me repeatedly laugh out loud no matter how many times I've seen them, but this is one of them. With any good comedy, you absolutely have to have three things: 1) characters you can identify with; 2) good drama to make you care about them; and 3) good writing that makes you laugh.
This movie definitely has all three.
In examining the many levels of this DVD, let’s start with:
The Science Fiction
Mars is determined to defeat the Arcturans in out-and-out galactic war. The problem is that their fleet captains keep running from the battle when times get tough. To solve this problem the Martian High Command has installed enforcer drones on each of their ships to make sure that battle plans are followed to the letter. Any deviation from orders results in the entire crew being incinerated.
With the bloody war going badly and the Martians losing ships faster than they can replace them, the Martian High Command calls up shiploads of enthusiastic space cadets out on asteroid training missions with little or no experience. One such ship just barely leaves Martian orbit when they pick up a distress signal from Earth, saying that the Martians are losing the battle there, have suffered heavy casualties and need desperate help in a hurry.
Captain Bipto changes course and rushes to the aide of their comrades stranded on Earth. The young enthusiastic crew of the brave ship risks the wrath of their enforcer drone by not heading directly to Arcturus as ordered, but the pilot makes an uneasy deal with his deadly overseer and hopes for the best.
Unaccustomed to maneuvering in Earth’s atmosphere, Blaznee (the pilot) crashes into a barn in the quiet (until now) little town of Big Bean, Illinois. They’re near the source of the radio distress call but can’t find it without going out on foot. While the captain leads his brave crew on a rescue mission to save the Martian soldiers that called for help, the pilot tries to repair the ship.
While investigating what they think is a minefield, their captain gets hit by a truck and swept away, leaving the cadets to fend for themselves without a leader.
Determined to carry the fight back to the Earthlings in his absence, Captain Bipto’s men encounter fierce human resistance in the form of townsfolk armed with shotguns chasing them across the Illinois countryside. After battling their way to the source of the distress call, the Martians discover that the signal was false and now have to battle their way back to their ship without being captured, killed or scientifically dissected.
Meanwhile Blaznee has problems of his own with a farmer trying to blow up his ship with dynamite before he can escape. The local Deputy Sheriff finally finds the ship too, just as the enforcer drone decides that they have failed and begins to take action. Blaznee has to flee or be captured and/or killed. Just when things can’t possibly get worse, the ship’s space drive begins to overload and if they don’t get it into zero gravity within an hour the explosion will take out not only earth, but also the entire solar system — including Mars!
In the end they get the reluctant help of a few humans, and the enforcer drone gets tricked into a trap by the farmer and destroyed. The Martians rocket their repaired ship back into orbit and enthusiastically head towards the Arcturus star system, enthusiastically hoping to be in time to torture some helpless prisoners.
And everyone lives happily ever after?
Widower Mr. Wrenchmuller (Royal Dano) is getting old and frail and can’t take care of his bean farm any more. He lives a solitary and lonely life with his dog Jim and yearns for the good old days. It’s gotten so bad he’s down to splitting dog biscuits with his pet in order to survive.
On his first day on the job, the town’s young new sheriff Sam Oxley (Douglas Barr) comes up against Mr. Wrenchmuller approaching the local bank, shotgun in hand, and is surprised to discover he’s not there to rob it. The old man is about to be evicted from his farm and he can’t make payments on his loan because his bean crop has failed. Wrenchmuller just wants to scare the callous banker into giving him some more time.
Sheriff Sam Oxley should’ve taken that as a sign of things to come.
With the entire town decked out in Halloween costumes and in a party mood, Deputy Russell Pillsbury (Fred Applegate) decides to set up a radar trap at the end of Big Bean’s brand new expressway off ramp. He’s brought his video camera with him to ham it up in a tape to his parents documenting his giving out the town’s very first speeding ticket… little does he know!
Sam’s daughter just recently lost her mother and is miserable. She and her father have recently moved to Illinois from Los Angeles where her uncle worked making monster costumes for all the major movie studios. At the local Halloween party she showed up in an incredibly realistic alien get-up, while the other kids came dressed as wedges of cheese, ducks, and various farm animals. She spends her time lonely out on the porch, fearing this will be the most boring night of her life until she’s befriended by a little kid in a duck costume named Brian… little do they know!
After the UFO reports start coming in, Sam finds his deputy’s car on the side of the road burned to a crisp and his friend is nowhere to be found. Lying on the road next to the squad car is Russell’s video camera.
Imagine that a group of little green men with antennae show up in rural America, but for some unexplainable reason they can’t convince anyone that they’re Martians. Why? Because they’ve unfortunately picked Halloween night to invade and conquer the Earth!
This whole movie can be summed up in one scene: The cadets carefully pick a house as their first target for destruction but before they can get their annihilation weapon activated, a woman comes along. Thinking they’re reluctant trick-or-treaters, she physically picks them up and puts them in her station wagon with the rest of the kids, complimenting them on their great costumes.
“Shouldn’t this pitiful human be quivering in terror at the sight of our menacing faces and sinister looking weaponry?”
To which the other replies offhandedly, “You’d think so, wouldn’t you?”
In the back seat of Mrs. Vanderspool's Country Squire station wagon, Pez looks at Dr. Ziplock incredulously. Still trying to make sense of their situation he blurts out, “How can they not know we’re Martians — we’re little green men with antennas!
There are scenes in this movie that’ll stick with you long after you’ve seen them.
In the heat of a losing battle against the Arcturan fleet, with explosions pounding their Martian intergalactic battle cruiser, a huge enforcer drone looks down at a puny Martian and boldly declares, “I have not yet begun to fight!”
Unfazed, the frustrated little guy answers back angrily, “Well, NOW would be a great time to start!”
A poor deputy sheriff can’t grasp the reality of what he’s just seen with his own eyes and chases down an alien ship on foot after his cruiser has been destroyed… in order to give them a ticket for going 2,945 miles an hour over the speed limit.
Pilot Blaznee (Kevin Thompson doing a hilarious and spot-on Jack Nicholson impression) explains what’s wrong with the ship: “Well, let’s see, we’ve got a torqued out digiframus, our megaspazz redundancy pile is on the blink, and it looks like we bruised our boo-boo!” This of course convinces his comrades that he's just making the whole thing up because he's too chicken to go with them.
The poor farmer has just realized that it’s Martians and not noisy termites that are destroying his barn. Looking forlornly down at the dog he moans, “Oh well Jim, it looks like me and you is the Earth’s only hope.” He thinks about it a moment and adds, “That’s kind of sad ain’t it?” to which the dog barks agreement.
Mrs. Vanderspool (joyfully played perfectly by Patrika Darbo) is completely oblivious to the fact that her Country Squire station wagon is loaded with Martians. At one point when the “boys” refuse to identify themselves, she threatens to take their little heads off to see who they are. One panics and accidentally fires an Earth domination rocket out her car window. With her car filled with smoke, and still unaware of whom she’s dealing with, she angrily kicks them out on the side of the road and calls it a night for her trick-or-treaters.
The only calm and reasonable person in the movie seems to be a little kid named Brian (J.J. Anderson) in a duck suit with a missing-toothed lisp trying desperately not to sound like “Daffy Duck” and unfortunately not succeeding.
Getting impatient, the cadets decide to blow up something/anything and choose what they think is an Earth defense missile. After putting their Earth domination death ray weapon back together wrong – again – they merely heat the targeted rocket up until it grows red. Only then do they realize that it’s a corn silo and it explodes, burying them in freshly popped popcorn!
After finally finding the source of the distress signal, the cadets get a radio station manager to explain to them that they’d only been listening to Orson Welles' “War of the Worlds” original radio broadcast.
Sam sends the kids behind a tractor to hide as the farmer gets ready to explode a dozen boxes of dynamite under their damaged ship to give them a boost into orbit. One child looks at the other and then incredulously at the tractor and asks “THIS is supposed to save us from the end of the world?”
In the end all turns out well. The Martians get off the planet but have to lighten the load, which entails Giggy flushing the toilet tank reservoir, unloading it all over the farmer’s fields, producing huge beans the next day and saving his farm.
The only disappointment I have is that the DVD comes with no extras like outtakes. That and Disney (Touchstone Pictures) seems to have cleaned up the language from the original theatrical version. In one scene the deputy falls victim to one of the farmer’s Martian traps and Blaznee looks at him and says, “Ain’t life a bust?” which of course originally was “Ain’t life a bitch?”
I wholeheartedly recommend watching this every Halloween, or any other time you need a good laugh to lift your spirits.