Consuming mass quantities of Coneheads (1993) is highly recommended

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When I first discovered CONEHEADS (1993), I was entirely ignorant of its origins as a recurring SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE sketch whose origins were almost as old as I was. Part of the short-lived 1990s boom of SNL sketch-based movies, unlike its catalyst and stablemate WAYNE’S WORLD (1992) – which went on to cement a place in pop culture – CONEHEADS barely registered at the time of release and quickly fell into obscurity only to be rediscovered later by, well, the likes of me.

An pair of aliens from the planet Remulak, Beldar (Dan Aykroyd) and Prymatt (Jane Curtin) are shot down and crash during a scouting mission to the planet Earth. With no way to contact their home world, the two try to make a life for themselves in New Jersey while attempting to repair their communications equipment. Discovering life on Earth is quite comfortable, the two settle down and start a family but with the US immigration services hot on their trail and the Remulak fleet bearing down on Earth, it seems their cosy suburban lifestyle is in for quite a few close encounters.

Despite its bizarre premise and its lead characters hilariously conspicuous appearances – dismissed easily by the explanation they are ‘from France’ – CONEHEADS is, at heart, a sentimental movie about the importance and enduring bond of family. As the Conehead family make their way in the world, they hold up a mirror to the many foibles of upward mobility and the pursuit of the American Dream. There’s an old-fashioned sweetness to the Conehead’s adopted culture, rooted in rose-tinted fifties nostalgia with a Reagan-esque twist while their daughter Connie (Michelle Burke) yearns for a more liberated nineties existence. The sitcom set-up provides plenty of opportunities for laughs, as does the continual fish-out-of-water comedy of aliens trying to blend inconspicuously into the picket fenced perfection of middle class suburbia.

Although lost on audiences at the time of release, its view of the triumphs and follies of American life through the eyes of literal illegal aliens takes on a more potent thematic heft in the darkening sociopolitcal atmosphere post-9/11. It’s played with lightness, of course, by the great Michael McKean as INS Deputy Commissioner Gorman Seedling, aided and abetted by his sycophantic sidekick  INS Agent Eli Turnbull (David Spade). The immigration subplot does kind of disappear during the middle of the movie but returns in a nicely judged finale which brings the forces of Remulak and the US Immigration Service face to face.

Aykroyd and Curtin are perfect as the awkward, mannered aliens and the film will provide plenty of repeatable quotable moments for viewers who like that sort of thing. For fans of SNL, there are cameos aplenty, too, such as Adam Sandler, Phil Hartman and Chris Farley, as well as early appearances for the likes of Parker Posey and Ellen DeGeneres (who makes her feature debut here).

As well as being about as close-knit a family as you could hope to have, CONEHEADS is also a welcome comedy which is wholly suitable for family viewing, with silliness and sharpness enough to keep the ribs of any age tickled. If you’re able to embrace the whacky yet deceptively clever comedy of the adventures of an immigrant family taking to life on earth like a Remulakian to consuming mass quantities, this is a movie that will reward repeated viewings, revealing new gags and little details every time you watch it. I’d call it a guilty pleasure but there’s absolutely nothing to feel guilty about.


6 thoughts on “Consuming mass quantities of Coneheads (1993) is highly recommended”

  1. I vaguely remember the SNL skit, which is probably why I never sought this movie out, but I might try it now–it looks cute. Thanks for joining the blogathon with this great review! 🙂

  2. As a kid, I loved watching the Coneheads on SNL (my mom didn’t seem to mind letting me stay up late on Saturday nights to laugh at the TV), but I studiously avoided the movie that came out 20 years later. I suspected that it would not have aged well in the decades and the move from small screen to big screen.

    I have to say, though, that your review does make me curious to finally give it a try. If nothing else, I miss Phil Hartman and would always welcome the opportunity for him to make me laugh. Thanks for the review!

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