Beasts of Burden


In space, nobody can hear you scream as you feverishly impregnate a panting harem of Laika-like test critters—but somebody might want to watch the results. Or so veteran gross-out animator Bill Plympton assumes in birthing Mutant Aliens (opens April 19 at Cinema Village), whose titular boogums are the hapless product of just such an astronaut-animal orgy. Perhaps Plympton assumes too much.

Mutant Aliens‘ basic components might’ve made for the kind of agreeably perverse short Plympton’s rep rests on: Shuttle jockey marooned in orbit by scheming superior makes zero-gravity free love with freed beasties, returns to Earth for revenge/redemption. In his fourth long-form, however, the director’s twitchy sketchbook style and adroit perspective shifts grow wearisome amid leaden pacing and indifferent craftsmanship (most notably wretched sound design). Likewise, the film’s cheerful and extravagant violence, a Plympton stock-in-trade, pales before his earlier character mutilations, while frequent sub-Hustler moments invariably posit sex as a case of Dumb humping Dumber. (The goo-goo-eyed hamster mutant who gulps soldiers whole and then craps them out as perfect cubes is one welcome respite from the lackluster carnage; the coitus between a cosmonaut and a gigantic disembodied nose is a perfect illustration of sexual stoopidity.) Character motivations, meanwhile, exist near Teletubbies level if they exist at all, and pokey attempts at social satire—soulless military spending, ruthless commercialization, raging boners—grate, then sputter.

All told, the events in question are less outré than overwrought; good gags and bad are all plodded out with the same fastidiously rumpled manner. Curiosities are rendered less curious by constant overtures to the viewer’s rapidly waning attention. Anything goes in Plympton’s world; but in Mutant Aliens such aberrance is generally too slow to shock and too muddled to matter.

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