Aliens Abducted My Parents and Now I Feel Kinda Left Out is one of the most attention-getting titles of the 21st century so far. (It also sounds like it could be the name of a Fall Out Boy song.) Whenever I come across a title like that, I figure the accompanying movie will either be really clever or really terrible and just using a catchy name to attract notice. In this case, it’s definitely the former. This charming, funny, family-appropriate film was the opening night selection at the 2023 Make Believe Seattle festival.
Itsy (Emma Tremblay) has just moved from the city to a very small rural town with her family. She’s not happy about the lack of stuff to do. In fact, the only interesting thing in the area is Calvin (Jacob Buster), a weird outcast teenager who routinely shows up to school in a full astronaut suit. A snooty peer suggests she and Itsy should enter a student journalism contest by writing about Calvin, convincing her to sidle up to him. What Itsy discovers is that he lives alone, believing that his parents, Cyrus (Will Forte) and Vera (Elizabeth Mitchell), were abducted by aliens while he was watching a passing comet with his telescope ten years ago. Since the comet is coming around again, he fully expects them to return.
This may sound like one of those stories that’s cloying or overly cutesy. Aliens Abducted My Parents is anything but. Although it certainly finds humor in Calvin’s quirkiness, writer Austin Everett and director Jake Van Wagoner take the character’s feelings of loss and loneliness seriously. Even when he’s engaging in his most eccentric behavior, we believe that he’s doing so from being emotionally adrift. The best part is a third act scene in which Calvin and Itsy go on a road trip. What happens gives the movie a genuine heart, driving home the pain he’s felt from not having his parents around.
Tremblay and Buster are terrific together. The material works because they bring such sincerity to their roles. Watching their chemistry is fun, especially as the characters develop feelings for each other. They feel like real teens, not “movie teens.” Will Forte is also very good, in a different sort of part. We see Cyrus in flashback, instilling a love of astronomy in his son. We’re used to finding the actor in goofy roles. Here he plays a loving dad with an issue of his own to deal with. It’s a nice, atypical performance from the comedian.
Aliens Abducted My Parents and Now I Feel Kinda Left Out builds to a conclusion that manages to be sweet and silly simultaneously – a difficult feat to pull off. The movie radiates a positive vibe, winning you over with its amiability. It plays like Close Encounters of the Third Kind melded to a John Hughes film. Not a bad combo.
Aliens Abducted My Parents and Now I Feel Kinda Left Out is unrated, but contains mild thematic material. The running time is 1 hour and 24 minutes.