I missed the beginning but was fortunate to catch most of this on TV last night. I had never heard of it but it made my night.
This 1985 send up of “first contact” movies is a thousand times funnier than others like Mars Attacks! because it satirizes culture rather than sci-fi. Indeed there’s very little sci-fi, given that the four aliens who arrive on earth have heavy regional British accents. The movie’s best scenes are the initial interviews with the new arrivals (“You guys will probably be interested in this. We use a narrow instrument to make marks on a surface, called letters. We call it a pen, P-E-N.”)
Its sense of humor is a combination of Dr Strangelove and the Simpsons, with dozens of jokes and references that pass without slowing down to give you time to laugh. The characters aren’t single-note caricatures either, for example Griff Rhys Jones as the Deep Throat-esque leaker (codenamed Teabag!) who is unable to leak the arrival of aliens (because somebody always walks by the phone at the wrong time) and later turns into the aliens’ Brian Eptstein-like manager wearing Phil Spector glasses.
That’s right: after escaping the military compound, the aliens — Jimmy Nail, Joanna Pearce, and Paul Brown — find celebrity and form a glam rock band (until they break up citing creative differences) while the fourth alien who had crash landed in Arizona, Mel Smith, tries to reach England to reunite with his buddies.
I’m surprised that most reviewers on IMDB seem to hate it, echoing the critical consensus upon release, because I found it a clever comedy that deserves to be considered a credit to the career of Mike Hodges, better known for Get Carter, Flash Gordon, and Clive Owen’s best movie Croupier.