Saturday, January 22

Listen to me: why Coneheads isn’t a bad movie | Comedy movies


In the summer of 1993, the movie Coneheads arrived with great expectations. Its producers had good reason to believe that it could ride in the queue for one of the highest-grossing films of the previous year, Wayne’s World, which grossed more than $ 180 million worldwide. After all, both films translated beloved characters from the classic Saturday Night Live television show into the widescreen world of Hollywood. Additionally, SNL had enjoyed parallel success with its first attempt to move its franchise from the small screen to the big screen: The Blues Brothers. That 1980 film became one of the year’s top-grossing hits, and the Library of Congress recognized it as a “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” work.

Things didn’t work out that way for SNL’s Pointy Aliens film adaptation. The comments compiled Rotten Tomatoes summed up the screen version of these charming intergalactic creatures as “listless, crude, and uninspired.” Roger Ebert took a more alliterative direction, calling it “grim, grim, and desperate.”

It’s no wonder the Coneheads lost money in the US and didn’t even launch internationally back in the day. That’s a baffling answer considering the depth of the film’s themes, the variety of its sub-texts, and most importantly, the uproarious laugh of its script. Far from being an exaggerated exploitation of a television snippet, or a silly comedy, Coneheads had a sociopolitical resonance and a verbal inventiveness that apparently went above what its main characters would call “the blunt skulls.” ”(That is, human beings). It’s true that Coneheads was harder to sell than Wayne’s World or The Blues Brothers. The previous two films featured character types we all know well: suburban stoner teens in Wayne and soul-loving baby boomers in The Blues Brothers. Coneheads asked further, challenging a number of our most basic assumptions, including our notions of beauty, our approach to “otherness,” our attachment to the American dream, as well as our most common expressions of prejudice.

From its inception, the film took on big goals. In one of the first scenes, the aliens Beldar and Prymaat Conehead (beautifully played by Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin) crash-land their space vehicle in Jersey City, where they soon check into a local motel. Noticing the Bible in the drawer, Ms. Conehead begins to read, which instantly sends her uproarious laughter. When it comes to religious excavations, that’s on a par with Monty Python’s Life of Brian. The plot of the film centers on two absurdities: the Coneheads’ attempts to integrate into society and the machinations of a jealous immigration agent who wants to expel them as illegal aliens. (Only later does he discover that they are literal aliens.) The film’s immigration theme reflects the writers’ criticism of then-President Reagan’s policies, an attitude that would turn apoplectic if it were updated to the days of Donald Trump. In fact, the INS agent in the film does Trump better by proposing an electrified fence on the southern border prepared to attack anyone trying to enter the country.

Meanwhile, Beldar Conehead presents the most empathetic portrayal of the immigrant imaginable. He’s incredibly hard-working, efficient, and has no complaints. As such, he earns the respect of fellow wrestlers he meets in New York’s black and South Asian communities. Beldar’s ambition allows his family to move to the suburbs, where they try to cover up their unusual appearance and behavior by claiming they come from France. The fact that they get away with this howler cleverly sends American provincialism. Likewise, the way Coneheads eat – “consuming massive amounts” in their jargon – presents a tongue-in-cheek comment on American greed.

The location of the Coneheads in the suburbs mirrors the setting of the original SNL skit. It was inspired by two popular American television shows from the mid-1960s: The Addams Family and The Munsters. Each featured “strange” characters that were considered completely normal. His confidence served as a cold rebuke to the Eisenhower era of Leave It to Beaver conformity, while heralding the “let the flag fly” spirit of the counterculture to come. The Coneheads’ parallel ability to assimilate into society while remaining true to their eccentric identity also subverted the whole notion of “the outsider.” The most fascinating part is that, aside from the hideous folks at INS, everyone who comes across the Coneheads is totally accepting of them. It is a perfect example of the disparity between the positive way most people treat outsiders they really know and the negative way they are manipulated into being considered once they are demonized by politicians and experts as a threatening force.

If that sounds heavy for a comedy, the film maintains its lightness through the delight of its language. Because the Coneheads don’t understand local idioms, they speak in hilariously tortured descriptions. They refer to lunch as “a noon cessation of protein carbohydrate activities” and to cheese pizza as “a starch disk topped by the molten lactate extract of hoofed animals.” The language they add from their home planet, such as “torg,” “smordid,” and “Lorpslap,” sounds like drunk Swedish. Together, their perspective achieves the goal of the greatest satires: to present an alternate universe that allows us to see our own more clearly.


www.theguardian.com

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