From the moment I first saw the trailer for Kids vs. Aliens, I knew I had to check this film out. It looked like an absolute blast, so when I got the chance to review it, I jumped on it. I had high hopes that it would kick off the new year with a bang, and after finally getting the chance to see it, I’m happy to report that it’s pretty much everything I hoped it would be.
Kids vs. Aliens was directed and co-written by Jason Eisener, and it stars Dominic Mariche, Phoebe Rex, Calem MacDonald, Asher Grayson Percival, and Ben Tector. As the title suggests, it’s about a trio of preteen kids named Gary, Miles, and Jack who have to team up with Gary’s older sister Sam to survive an alien invasion.
Right from the get-go, the thing that struck me most about Kids vs. Aliens was just how much I loved Gary and his friends. Child actors are notoriously hit or miss, but these three absolutely nail their roles. Sure, there are a couple of moments that feel a bit unnatural, but for the most part, I had no trouble at all buying into their characters.
On top of that, they all have great chemistry together too, and their interactions with each other are exactly what you’d expect from kids their age, so I totally believed that these three boys were absolute best friends. Because of all that, I enjoyed seeing these characters on screen no matter what they were doing, and they pretty much carried the movie for the entire first half.
On the flipside, I wasn’t quite so enamored with Gary’s sister Sam. Don’t get me wrong, actress Phoebe Rex does an excellent job playing the character, but I had trouble buying into some of her decisions in the first half of Kids vs. Aliens.
When the film begins, she loves Gary and enjoys hanging out with him and his friends, but that all changes when she meets a boy her age named Billy. She’s instantly infatuated with him, and she changes her personality and her look to impress him. Now, I get that teenagers can be like that sometimes, so I don’t fault the character for trying to impress a handsome boy. However, I had a lot of trouble believing she would try to impress this particular boy.
See, Billy is an absolute jerk, and that’s very apparent from the moment he steps on screen. In particular, he’s a jerk to Gary and his friends, so I honestly don’t get how Sam could be so irresistibly attracted to him. Maybe it’s just been too long since I was a teenager myself, or maybe it’s a girl thing that I simply can’t understand, but I didn’t buy into her infatuation with Billy at all.
It bothered me so much that it actually took me out of the story a bit, but thankfully, the good in the first half of Kids vs. Aliens far outweighs that one flaw. I totally loved the three kids, and Phoebe Rex’s performance allowed me to tolerate Sam despite her stupid decisions, so on the whole, I still really enjoyed this part of the film.
Then, at about the halfway point, the story changes gears pretty drastically. Up until then, the horror takes a back seat to the characters, so you never really get a good look at the aliens. You just get brief glimpses of them here and there, but they’re very much in the background. However, once they make their presence known to the main characters, the horror ramps up to 10, and it stays there the entire rest of the way.
Seriously, the second half of Kids vs. Aliens is pretty much all monster action all the time, and it’s super fun. It only stops to let you breathe a couple of times, and even then, it always goes back to the action very quickly. It’s an absolute blast, and I loved just about every second of it.
On top of that, the aliens themselves have a really cool “low-budget 1980s creature feature” feel to them, and I enjoyed the hell out of that too. Granted, if you’re looking for high-quality verisimilitude or state-of-the-art creature effects, you’re going to be disappointed. But if you’re like me and you appreciate that throwback aesthetic, you’re really going to get a kick out of these monsters.
And last but not least, there are also some really cool gore moments that caught me a bit off guard. It’s tough to put my finger on exactly why, but for some reason, this just doesn’t feel like the kind of movie that would feature hardcore gore. And for the most part, it doesn’t. Compared to a lot of other films, this one is relatively bloodless. But there are a handful of exceptions, and when Kids vs. Aliens goes for the gore, it’s a thing of grotesque beauty.
All that being said, I have to admit that even the action-packed second half of the movie isn’t perfect. While I had a ton of fun with it, the ending left me a bit underwhelmed. I’m not going to spoil anything, but I will say that it feels very much like a deus ex machina, and it doesn’t entirely fit with the preceding narrative. In fact, it almost feels like a severely undercooked M. Night Shyamalan-esque mini twist, and it left me scratching my head and wondering why the filmmakers included it.
But in the grand scheme of things, that’s a very minor complaint, and even when you combine it with Sam’s far-fetched decisions in the first half of the film, it’s still not enough to ruin the movie. On the whole, Kids vs. Aliens is a super fun, throwback-style creature feature, and if this sounds like the kind of film you’d enjoy, I highly recommend that you check it out.
Kids vs. Aliens hits VOD and select theaters on January 20.