Project: ALF (1996)

“What’s going on? Oh, wait, now I remember, I’m being kidnapped by humans. There’s a switch.”

Justin’s rating: All of the cats were harmed in the making of this film.

Justin’s review: In March 1990, the flash-in-the-pan TV sitcom hit ALF went out on the worst note ever. A cliffhanger left its titular alien in the hands of the government while one of its principles stormed off the set after years of pent-up frustration over the production. NBC went back on its promise to resolve the story with an extra episode, and so the great ALF saga lingered for years until ABC aired a made-for-TV movie that wrapped things up.

1996’s Project: ALF is only tethered to the ’80s sitcom by the presence of the smart-talking, heavy-eating alien Gordon Shumway. The Tanners are relocated to Iceland in the Witness Protection Program, apparently eager to be in any country where ALF is not, and the military is doing all sorts of experiments on what it considers a hostile intruder. Martin Sheen is here in a pre-West Wing role, vowing to kill the little furry guy, who only escapes the base thanks to the clumsy exploits of two officers who think ALF should have a chance to live.

From then on, Project: ALF becomes a meandering road trip with very low stakes and even lower tension. If you like extended scenes in motel rooms and very PG-rated strip clubs, this is the movie you’ve been seeking. Eventually, the trio ends up at the home of a rich ex-astronaut (Miguel Ferrer) who wants to expose ALF to the world to get back at the government. Will ALF escape or not? I don’t think the country really cared by the mid-1990s — or even remembered who ALF was at that point.

If there’s a highlight of these 90 minutes, and I think there is, it’s the verbal patter of ALF. You either like the guy or you don’t. He’s kind of a jerk, but I appreciate his dry wit, and I won’t deny that there are several lines here that coaxed a chuckle from me. Plus, there’s a darkly sarcastic robot butler in the last half of the film that’s well worth the price of your time.

I guess if you watch Project: ALF on its own merits, well, it’s not the worst thing you’ll ever see. But it is a jarring non-transition from the TV series and a very strange way to put a cap on a very strange little alien life form.

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