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Originally published April 2, 2009 at 3:20 PM | Page modified April 2, 2009 at 3:21 PM

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Movie review

It came from outer space — as a remake

"Alien Trespass," R.W. Goodwin's silly homage to 1950s science-fiction movies, stars Eric McCormack as an astronomer who discovers a UFO in his backyard.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 2 stars

"Alien Trespass," with Eric McCormack, Jody Thompson, Robert Patrick. Directed by R.W. Goodwin, from a screenplay by Steven Fisher. 96 minutes. Rated PG for sci-fi action and brief historical smoking. Metro, Meridian.

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Why would anyone wish to remake 1953's less-than-classic science-fiction thriller "It Came From Outer Space"?

The creators of "Alien Trespass" have certainly done a painstaking job of it, right down to the bumpy back-projection techniques, the body-snatcher subplot, the tacky one-eyed monster from deep space and the iffy peace message delivered in the finale.

This is clearly a labor of love.

The 1953 film, an early 3-D movie directed by Jack Arnold, is about a UFO that lands in the backyard of a semi-nerdy scientist. In no time, he's fighting ignorance and bigotry in his attempts to communicate with the alien.

In addition to their homage to "It Came From Outer Space," director R.W. Goodwin, producer and co-story writer James Swift (both of Bellingham) and screenwriter Steven Fisher (of the Seattle area) have added references to plenty of other 1950s sci-fi films (footage lifted from 1958's "The Blob" is used to empty a crowded theater). And they've tweaked enough plot points to keep you from guessing exactly where the story line is headed.

A Mojave Desert sheriff (Dan Lauria) now goes through a nervous breakdown when he learns that aliens have ruined his retirement plans. A local waitress (Jenni Baird) is smart enough to listen to the astronomer hero, Ted (Eric McCormack from "Will & Grace"), who turns Spock-like when an alien borrows his body.

McCormack and Baird play most of their scenes with a straight face. So do Jody Thompson as Ted's seductive wife, Robert Patrick as a bullheaded policeman and Andrew Dunbar and Sarah Smyth as a teenage couple terrorized by the monster. Still, the tone is often self- consciously campy, perhaps more so than it needs to be.

Goodwin, a veteran of "The X-Files," has added plenty of peripheral stuff to keep the script from collapsing. The movie opens with a 1957 newsreel, inspired by Sputnik, that pooh-poohs the idea of an alien invasion by showing Santa Claus emerging from a cardboard flying saucer.

Then McCormack is introduced as "McCormack," a 1950s movie star nicknamed "Merrick" who starred in a science-fiction blockbuster that was shelved and possibly destroyed by its studio. Then the title "Alien Trespass" appears, and supposedly we're about to be treated to the forbidden film. Bewildered? You won't be alone.

John Hartl: johnhartl@yahoo.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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