Posted on August 10, 2023 at 5:49 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for strong language
Profanity: Strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Alcohol
Violence/ Scariness: Character attacked, sad death of a pet, violent murder off-screen
Diversity Issues: Ageism
Date Released to Theaters: August 11, 2023

Copyright Bleeker Street 2023
Martin (Ben Kingsley) goes to every meeting of the town council in his western Pennsylvania community. Given one minute to express his views, he points out that he believes the town motto, “A place to call home,” is confusing and an intersection needs a crosswalk. Martin’s daughter Denise (Zoë Winters), a veterinarian, worries about him because his memory is slipping. She found a can of beans in the upstairs bathroom medicine cabinet and a newspaper in the freezer. But he stubbornly insists that he is doing fine.

And then a spaceship lands in Martin’s back yard, and his primary concern at first seems to be that it crushed his azaleas. He calls 911 but they think it’s a prank and hang up on him. And then something or someone from the spaceship is lying on on his porch.

Martin puts a blanket over his new visitor, and the next day invites him/her/it/them inside the house to get warm. (The characters in the movie call the visitor “him,” so I will, too.). Martin offers him snacks, but the only food the creature will eat are apple slices. Martin goes to the grocery store to buy more apples, explaining to the cashier that there is an alien in his house. “Like an illegal alien?” No, like someone from outer space. Zoe hears about it and gets more concerned.

Sandy (Harriet Sansom Harris) sees the alien and cautions Martin to keep him a secret. They decide to call him Jules. Another neighbor, Joyce (Jane Curtin) thinks he looks more like a Gary.

This is a low-key charmer, a kind of “E.T” for AARP. Jules does not speak and it is not clear how much he understands, but the look of his character is well designed (with movement by Jade Quon) to gain the trust and affection of Martin, Sandy, and Joyce, and of us in the audience. He is small in stature but humanoid in shape, with arms, legs, and face that look familiar to earthlings, and a peaceful blue skin color. His eyes seem knowing and his expression is solemn. He draws pictures of cats for Martin, and eventually the three senior citizens will figure out why.

Although there is an (off-camera) moment of violence and a sad loss, there’s a gentleness to the story that is very endearing. Because Jules is silent, people around him tend to open up to fill the silence, sharing confidences with him. Harris and Curtin are wonderful in those scenes. Director Marc Turtletaub’s understated tone allows these performances to bloom so that finally we feel that Jules’ superior intelligence is proven by his choice of a landing spot.

Parents should know that characters use strong language, and assault, and a violent death offscreen that is graphically described.

Family discussion: Do you think you will ever meet an alien? How will Tim react to his father’s message?

If you like this, try: “Cocoon” and “E.T.”

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