My Stepmother Is an Alien

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Synopsis

He married a girl from out of town… Way out of town.

Dan Aykroyd (Ghostbusters), Kim Basinger (The Nice Guys) and Jon Lovitz (Southland Tales) star in a fish-out-of-water comedy with a sci-fi twist that questions whether a romance between two star-crossed lovers who are literally worlds apart can ever work.

When widowed astronomer Steve Mills (Aykroyd) inadvertently causes a gravitational disruption in deep space, a race of hyper-advanced alien lifeforms sends one of their own to investigate, disguised in the alluring human form of Celeste (Basinger). Tasked with seducing the lovelorn Steve in a bid to gain access to his scientific research, Celeste finds herself falling for the man she’s been sent to swindle. But they’ve reckoned without Steve’s young daughter Jessie (Alyson Hannigan, Buffy the Vampire Slayer), who’s none too thrilled by the prospect of a new mother – especially not one from another planet.

Funny and touching in equal measure, My Stepmother is an Alien is an offbeat and at times surprisingly risqué comedy that confirms the adage that what unites us is far greater than what divides us… even if what divides us happens to be an entire galaxy.

Picture 8/10

Arrow Video presents Richard Benjamin’s My Stepmother is an Alien on Blu-ray in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on a dual-layer disc. The 1080p/24hz high-definition presentation is sourced from a new 2K restoration performed by Sony. The 35mm original camera negative was scanned in 4K.

It's a shock, at the very least, to see this film receive such attention, but here we are and I’m happy to say the end results are very good! The restoration has cleaned things up almost perfectly, a majority of the film looking clean and immaculate. As expected, some of the optical effects in the film can look a bit rough around the edges, and a scratch or two pops up, but that's about it.

The digital presentation is also clean and stable. The film ends up being grainier than I would have ever expected yet it’s rendered in a clean and natural looking manner. Details are good, though the finer ones rarely pop all that much, which I think is more of a limitation of the film stock and the original photography. Colours are bright and lively, with some gorgeous blues and violets, and 80’s aquas in a few places. Reds also look rich and clean, that unfortunate red dress Basinger wears early on sticking out. Blacks and shadows are also rendered cleanly.

It's limited a bit by the original photography and some of the dated effects, but this still comes out looking surprisingly good. It’s a level of effort I would never have expected to go into restoring the film.

Audio 8/10

Arrow includes the film’s original stereo soundtrack, presented here in lossless 2.0 linear PCM. It’s sharp and clear, no noise or damage present. Sound effects move naturally between the speakers while the film’s score (by Alan Silversti no less) and the Tom Jones cover of Prince’s Kiss push the volume levels. Voices are clear and sharp as well.

Extras 5/10

Arrow’s special edition ends up being a bit of a disappointment, yet to be fair I’m not sure what material could be added. At the very least there’s a decent 14-minute audio interview with Richard Benjamin, the director sharing his memories around the production, from its early draft as a more serious sci-fi film to it bombing in theaters. He still feels blessed that he was able to get Basinger in the key role, knowing no one else would have come close to pulling it off, and he mentions his surprise at how “sexy” the film is now. It’s a fine reflection, but admittedly doesn’t delve too deeply into the material.

Arrow also includes a new audio commentary for the film, recorded by Bryan Reesman. Reesman tries to milk what he can from the film, talking about its production, effects work (which includes early CGI), its PG-13 rating, the elements younger generations may not understand (including the references to Jimmy Durante) and then the critical reactions to it, with Gene Siskel being one of the few to have genuinely liked the film. He also tries to look at the film in the context of the period it was released and how it represents the American middle-class in the 80’s, as well as how the film works as a time capsule of the era in other ways. There’s also mention around what sounds to have been a planned sequel. Sadly, there isn’t much of a focus and the track goes a little all over the place, with little segues and tangents that come out of nowhere, including constant mentions of how movies nowadays lack certain qualities of the films of this period, and then Reesman even manages to work in completely unrelated topics, like the running gag Paul Rudd and Conan O’Brien had around Rudd’s use of a clip from Mac & Me. I’ve enjoyed other tracks by Reesman (I thought his tracks for Arrow’s own editions of Apprentice to Murder and The Andromeda Strain were good, despite the former being an absolute dud of a film), and I get the sense he enjoys the film for what it is, thanks mostly to Basinger just going with the material, yet it seems that Reesman is having a hard time pulling interesting topics from the film that are worth discussing.

Arrow then includes the film’s original trailer along with a small image gallery. The included booklet (limited to first pressings that also include an O-sleeve) then features a short essay by film historian Amanda Reyes. Reyes touches on some of the same topics Reesman does in his track (even opening with mention of the presidential screening for President-elect George Bush), though the concise nature of the essay, which also touches on other “stepparent” films of the period like The Stepfather and Wicked Stepmother—and how this film taps into the same subject matter that those more sinister films contain—makes it a better academic addition to the release.

And that closes things off. Basinger’s or Aykroyd’s participation would have been a hoot, though I’m sure the chances of that happening would have been especially slim. The supplements feel a bit slight, but again I’m not sure what else could have been added.

Closing

As a special edition the release is a bit slim, but the restoration and final presentation look absolutely great.

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Directed by: Richard Benjamin
Year: 1988
Time: 105 min.
 
Series: Arrow Video
Licensor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Release Date: December 14 2021
MSRP: $39.95
 
Blu-ray
1 Disc | BD-50
1.85:1 ratio
English 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo
Subtitles: English
Regions A/B/C
 
 Brand new audio commentary by critic Bryan Reesman   Cosmetic Encounters: Directing My Stepmother is An Alien, a brand new interview with director Richard Benjamin   Original trailer   Image gallery   FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Amanda Reyes