Aliens Abducted My Parents and Now I Feel Kinda Left Out is easily the best-titled movie at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. It’s silly, evokes a laugh, and sets you up for a fun time. I say “sets you up”.
17-year-old Itsy (Emma Tremblay) is forced to move away from her home in the city by her lackadaisical parents and her obnoxious, adventure-obsessed younger brother. Her transition is made worse by the school’s mean girl (Landry Townsend) and her awkward first encounter with a space-obsessed kid named Calvin (Jacob Buster). He intrigues her, claiming his parents were abducted by aliens 10 years prior.
Tremblay and Buster give endearing performances that are only negated by the film’s Disney Channel dialogue and plot. The latter especially has leading man potential somewhere in his future. Will Forte shows up for a hot minute playing Calvin’s father but is so underutilized that you spend your time longing for his return.
Indie writer Austin Everett and director Jake Van Wagoner have a lot of promising ideas here: the problem is that there are too many. The script could use a few more edits to clean up some of the cluttered dialogue. So many of the jokes don’t land, that they hinder the ones that do.
Everett also tries to be too saccharine with the plot’s emotional beats, making the ending cringey. He tries so hard to make Calvin’s story a tragic one, living by himself after his grandmother’s death, being a social outcast, and having one parent who decided to abandon him. There’s too much going on in one movie. Subtlety is not this film’s strong suit (it is a kid’s movie after all), but this could have been an ode to ET or a well-done kid’s version of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Instead,Everett and Van Wagoner take the obvious route, providing all of the answers with no nuance. This includes very dated CGI and some poorly done fantasy costuming. Yes, you do see the aliens (and not to make a third Spielberg reference), I wish the filmmakers decided to take the Jaws approach, only showing glimpses of the extraterrestrials, leaving it up to the viewer’s imagination.
Ultimately Aliens Abducted My Parents and Now I Feel Kinda Left Out is a fun idea with great potential that needs grounding. Kids movies don’t need to be ridiculous to be compelling. Sometimes a simple idea can open up the whole universe.