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The Gods Must Be Crappy, or...

Nukie (1993)

(a.k.a. Nukie... In Search of America)
(See note regarding year of production.)

Written by Sias Odendal (story) and Ben Taylor
Directed by Odendal and Michael Pakleppa
Details at the IMDB, US.IMDB

Like a man to double business bound,
I stand in pause where I shall first begin,
And both neglect.
--
William Shakespeare (1564–1616)

Summer 2001.  A controversial announcement came from some of Steven Spielberg's associates.  They were working on a director's cut for a new re-release of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982).  Among the changes related to the press was how a post-post production crew was digitally removing firearms from characters and replacing them with cell phones.

We laughed at what sounded like another instance of political correctness run amuck.  I said that if p.c. was really the motivation for such a complicated retrofit, then, by logical extension, all firearms should be removed from all Spielberg movies.  Result: Saving Private Ryan (1998) with grown men running around World War II France pointing their fingers and making "Bang!  Bang!" noises.

Should the makers of Nukie wish to use computer graphics imaging to retroactively enhance their movie, we recommend they digitally remove the whole movie.

Contents

The Plot

1. The Muppet Who Fell to Earth

We open with a shot of a spiral galaxy and two traveling balls of light.  The pair of giddy globes talk to each other.  (Dang, didn't Cape Canaveral Monsters (1960) start out like this?  And to make matters worse, they speak like bad amateur night versions of Hervé Villechaize.)  After some sparkling repartee like "Watch out for that asteroid!" and "Water and wind are dangerous!" one of the orbs drops past a jet airliner in flight over the Earth.  

Elsewhere, two men are watching some monitors.  (We're not sure what we are looking at here.  At first glance, we'd assume they're air traffic controllers, but they have monitors showing the entire United States and a single item clearly labeled "UFO."  There are some other monitors in the room, but they have this same show on.  Perhaps this is NORAD as imagined by people limited by budget and experience.)  One of them says it's over Florida, and the other says it's going 250 miles a minute.  The track on the screen moves west, and then it's over California.  (That was done in a few seconds.  For people not familiar with the United States or basic math -- which seems to include the filmmakers -- to travel from Florida to California in a few seconds would require a speed of 250 miles per second, not minute.)  

The ball of light innocently flies over one of the great cities on the west coast.  (Or rather, a tacky special effect is achieved when they superimpose a ball of light over footage of a metropolitan area which may or may not be on the American west coast.)  Suddenly, it's over Florida again (heh), where it crashes.  An alarm goes out.  Various unidentified vehicles, at least one of them with a NASA logo, scramble out to the crash site.  (Or, rather, an actor in voiceover tells some stock footage to go to the crash site.  We're not sure if they actually go there, though, because the movie doesn't show us anything, not even stock footage, resembling this.)

But another track is on the monitors.  (No one in this monitoring center considers that this may be the same one they were following earlier.)    It flies further east than the first one and stops in central Africa.  (Or rather, instead of a cheap representation of the United States with a single track, we get a cheap representation of central Africa with a single track.)  Elsewhere, Dr. Eric Harvey (Steve Railsback) receives a call telling him to go to the landing zone of the other UFO.  (Or rather, the same voiceover as before orders some footage of Mr. Railsback to do so.  In the footage in question, the actor looks like he's just had a rude wake up call.  Must be reading this script.)

But first, in the United States (or something like that) they've recovered the thing that crashed in Florida and taken it to NASA (or something like that; it's a walled industrial compound with a sign on an arch claiming to be NASA).  At the Space Foundation™ (which seems to be a stock footage shot of some buildings and what they call NASA in these parts), a team of technicians observe the recovered thing from the crash site: a cute simian alien.  They monitor this resident alien with advanced sensors.  (Or rather, someone has applied common color polarizations from the seventies with some digital noise to some shots of a muppet that looks like the bastard child of Yoda and a chimpanzee.)  A middle aged white guy called Dr. Glynn ( Lester C. Muller) puts Dr. Barbara Rhinestone (Reed Evans) in charge of the creature, which (suddenly, inexplicably) has an oxygen mask.  The creature quietly cries out, "Nuk-ie!"

Elsewhere, another alien of the same kind lies on the ground, outdoors in the darkness with fog.  Run opening credits, superimposed mostly white Times Roman, denoting a (supposed) sense of class.  (The credits begin with "Glynnis Johns in" while showing us the alien, leaving us to fear that the lady's physical features have severely deteriorated.)  After a while, the little fellow who might as well be called Nukie opens his bright blue eyes and stumbles around looking for Miko, which we understand is the guest of the Space Foundation™.  (We were worried that Nukie was shouting for Meco and a disco version of the theme from Star Wars was about to follow.)

 
An exterior shot of The Space Foundation™.  (A subdivision of The Science Organization®, a partner with The Financial Institution, Ltd,) Just as the title for Rat Phink a Boo Boo was a typo, this movie's title was irrevocably changed when the initial "p" in the title was accidentally cropped off at the bottom.

Back at the Space Foundation™, technicians continue monitoring their own alien.  They look at a sound pattern (or rather, they look at the output from a poorly tuned spectrum analyzer).  This is the sound of the creature's heartbeat from the X-ray.  (Uh, sure.)  They also chat about the alien's lack of blood.  (And a beating heart pumps what exactly?)  Then they look at some thermal scans and determine that this creature is composed of energy.  (Or rather, like this movie, is no matter.  Silly computer "enhanced" special effects bear out this claim.)  Dr. Glynn tells Dr. Rhinestone and the rest of his staff that this resident alien is now property of the U-ni-ted States of A-mer-i-ca and top secret.  (Yes, he weightily pronounces every syllable.  Evil White Man hath spoken.)

Nukie telepathically calls out to Meco, er, Miko.  In return, the resident alien tells his free roaming counterpart that he is a prisoner of America.  (Subtle, ain't it?)  Nukie now understands he has to find America.  So off he goes.  On foot.  (Not often you see a being composed of energy forced to take the shoe leather express.)  The African sun beats down on him.  He complains about the heat.  (Not often you see a being composed of energy get a sunburn.)   

Nukie begins to meet the locals.  He meets a giraffe and asks him if he's America.  (I've been told that mistaking the tall and brightly hued for Amricans a common mistake in third world nation-states.)  The giraffe runs away.  Later, Nukie meets a herd of rhinoceroses.  (Rhinoceroses?  Rhinocerosi?  Rhinos?)  Nukie tries to strike up a conversation with the rhinoceri (rhinoceroses? rhinos?), too, but they also run away. 

Cut to the exterior shot of Space Foundation™.  A narrator tells us the day, time, and lets us know that Pamela Carter (Carin C. Tietze) and security officer Connally (Marcel Schneider) have noted something odd.  Cut to the interior, where Carter and Connally have noted something odd.  (Thanks, Mr. Narrator.)  There are signs of another alien in Africa.  Hopefully, says Carter, Dr. Harvey will find it.  (They knew about Dr. Harvey's trip way east but they didn't think there'd be another space muppet over there?)  Then she apologizes for to Connally for mentioning it.  (Apologize to us, too, maybe.)  

Cut to a shot of a helicopter.  (If you've seen this all the way through already, you know that this is supposed to be Dr. Harvey looking for Nukie.  If you've seen this all the way through already, you probably aren't seeing this again.)

Back elsewhere, Nukie sees a herd of elephants.  He doesn't strike up a conversation with them.  (Hey, this ain't Jungle Hell.  Our exposure to elephant footage will be limited.)  Two young bush boys called Tiko and Toki (Siphtwe and Sipho Mlangeni) see Nukie.  The amiable alien tries to strike up a conversation with them, but no go.  The two kids decide that talking to a weird critter might get them into trouble, so they run away.  (Talking to weird critters can get you into trouble.  Go ask Alice.)  

Cut to the exterior shot of Space Foundation™.  A narrator tells us the day, time, and lets us know that Dr. Rhinestone was running tests on biological structure of the alien.  Cut to Dr. Rhinestone running tests on the biological structure of the alien.  (Thanks again Mr. Narrator.  Don't suppose you could tell us why the biological structure of a being composed of energy is relevant to this point in story, could you?)

Back elsewhere, Nukie encounters a large tortoise (which doesn't talk) and some zebra (zebras?  zebri?).

Cut to the exterior shot of Space Foundation™.  A narrator tells us the day, time, and lets us know that the alien specimen is resting.  Cut to a shot of Miko.  Resting.  (This narrative technique didn't work in Scared to Death (1947) and it's not working here.)  Miko has visions of zebras.  (Zebra?  Zebri?)  In the control room, Carter and Dr. Glynn can see the zebras on the monitors.  (They don't debate the plural form.  They also don't debate how unlikely this is.  Must be Animal Planet channel junkies.)  Carter expresses her concern about the alien's rights.  Dr. Glynn tells her not to get too attached to U-ni-ted States Gov-ern-ment Property.  (Yes.  Once again, he excruciatingly enunciates every syllable.)

Back elsewhere.  Nukie talks to himself for a while, then sits down under a tree.  He falls asleep.  Tiko and Toki walk nearby, but they don't seem to notice that Nukie has started glowing.  Nukie wakes up surprised, and tells himself that he dreamed himself to that change.  So he concentrates and turns himself into a ball of light and flies playfully into the sky.  (Or rather, a painfully poor animation of a ball of light wiggles around in the sky while the actor doing Nukie's voice ad-libs about how wonderful it is to fly.)  After a while, he turns physical and crashes.  (Or rather, we cut to a shot of the Nukie suit on the ground while the actor doing the voice talks about how the landing wasn't very graceful.)  He's at river bank, so he examines water, which he seems to have never seen before..  (For a creature visiting a world mostly covered with the stuff, we wonder how he didn't notice it before.)

Cut to the exterior shot of Space Foundation™.  A narrator tells us the day, time, and lets us know that this narrative device has become officially annoying and that it won't be in this movie anymore.  Nah, just kidding; plenty more of it go go around.  He lets us know that Dr. Rhinestone is trying to stimulate the creature to study its reactions.  Cut to a shot her giving Miko an injection on his big toe.  (Evil White Science hath spoken.)  In a break room, Carter tries to reach Dr. Harvey.  

Cut to a shot of a helicopter.  (What the heck?  Did Dr. Harvey fly to Africa in this thing?  In one day?)
  

2. The Doctor Doolittle Raid

At a mission in Africa, Sister Anne (Glynnis Johns) talks to her associates on a radio.  They tell her to expect Dr. Harvey, who will be bringing in supplies.  The nun's grungy handyman, known only as The Corporal (Ronald France), sips on some cheap wine during this conversation.  The nun's dispatchers ask her if she's seen any unusual creatures.  She says no.  Then she tells her associates that Dr. Harvey will not be welcome.  (We don't see the logic of this, and after watching the movie a couple times, we don't think it was ever revealed.)

 
After a few moments on the set, Ms. Johns calls her agent. Wouldn't be a proper E.T. rip-off without at least one product placement.

Back elsewhere.  Nukie, tired, whines about his current existence.  (He could save everyone a lot of pain if he'd turn into a ball of light and fly to Miko.  But we've got over an hour of runtime left, so put your money on odds against that time saving insight.)

Cut to the exterior shot of Space Foundation™.  A narrator tells us the day, time, and lets us know that Dr. Rhinestone is continuing her stress tests on the subject creature.  Cut to a shot of Dr. Rhinestone continuing her stress tests on the subject creature.  (::Sigh::)  Miko cries out to Nukie.

Back elsewhere.  The ground opens up.  (But it makes the sound of branches bending.)  Nukie sticks his hand up out of the ground and calls for Miko.  The sky turns dark.  A wind starts.  The animal kingdom panics.  (Or rather, the movie shows us footage of animals in motion.)

At the mission, the windstorm knocks over a few things.  Sister Anne runs outside and watches them fall.  (This is not to say her presence during this emergency is totally inactive.  She does cross herself, which is apparently more important in this movie's form of Catholicism than actively stopping things from falling over.)  Inside, The Corporal is on the radio.  The (mysterious unseen) operator on the other end of this radio conversation tells the lackluster laborer about a ball of fire that fell from the sky.  (We suppose they mean the stuff at the beginning of this movie, as opposed to, say, the Hindenburg or the Tunguska meteorite.)

The villagers seek shelter (from the suddenly blue sky), so they run into the mission.  (It's decorated with beer advertisements, so we're left wondering if this is the public section of the mission.  We later learn The Corporal has a trading post in the mission.)  The Corporal expresses his displeasure at all these locals suddenly rushing in, and an English speaking chimpanzee wearing a tank top expresses his displeasure, too.  (Sudden talking chimp.  Fine.  Don't know what kind of dangerous drugs the filmmakers were on, but I'm glad I managed to avoid them during college.)  However, the roof starts to collapse.  (Or rather, a stage hand throws a bunch of dust at the extras.)  Sister Anne tells them to get out before the roof falls on them.  They all leave.  (So, the whole point of this scene was for us to learn that there's a talking monkey in this movie?)

Back elsewhere.  Nukie gets up and goes jogging.  No, wait.  Nukie gets up and starts running to Miko.  That's it.  He encounters a couple of baboons.  They tell him (yup, what I just said) to go talk to their king.  (We note at this point that Nukie has a runny nose.  We aren't told why.  We wish it'd stop.  Much like this movie.)  

Nukie goes to the king baboon (who's got nothing on King Louie) and asks him if he knows where America is.  The king says he doesn't know anything about an America, but he has a cousin in the human village who might.  This cousin, says the king, wears human clothes.  (The baboon' cousin is a chimpanzee?  I've heard of mixed marriages, but, well, let's not worry for who's the monkey's uncle.)  As Nukie leaves, the king tells him to beware the humans, for they have guns and like to kill.  This greatly distresses the snot nosed alien.

And Nukie is on the road again.  But it isn't long before he encounters two hunters (Nohaupe Pheto and Meshak Dlamini) armed with bows.  One of them nocks an arrow, draws, and aims.  But Nukie panics (Don't know why he'd panic, because we doubt he'd know for a bow.) and sends forth an ethereal bolt at the aiming hunter.  (Or rather, a silly animated zig-zag runs around on the actor.)  The hunter goes catatonic.  His friend tries to shake him out of it, but the targeted tribesman falls over, with his arrow still nocked in a bow still dawn.

The free hunter carries his stiff friend back to the village.  At about this time, Dr. Harvey arrives at the village in a helicopter.  (Damn, Railsback himself is coming into this picture late.  We'd suggest he might've been sleeping one off, but we've already used that gag in another article.)  While the villagers try to stand-up the immobile archer, Dr. Harvey makes small talk with Sister Anne, who tells him he should go back to America.  Dr. Harvey smiles it off while getting into a horse-drawn carriage made from the back of a car.  (Horsèd carriage?  Why not?...)

Meanwhile, Nukie arrives at the store/mission.  The chimpanzee greets him and they make cutesy small talk for a little bit.  However, just as the chimpanzee offers the alien some candy, The Corporal enters with a hunting rifle.  This frightens Nukie into his energy state, and he flees.  (Or rather, a poorly conceived animation is applied to his image in the film and an even worse animation "flies" away.)  The chimpanzee calls the human an idiot and tells him to leave, but the human doesn't seem to know what the shirty simian is shouting.  (Where's Mowgli when you need him?)  After The Corporal leaves in pursuit of the light, Nukie comes back in the other way.

Elsewhere, Tiko and Toki are walking in the bush.  They see a lioness and properly freak.  They try to get away, but the lioness corners them.  Enter Nukie, stage right, in a hurry.  (We don't know who he was running from.  Perhaps the chimpanzee tried to give him fashion tips.)  He sees the big carnivorous kitty and gestures to her to calm down.  She mistakes him for a big fat mouse and eats him.  The end.  No, sorry, that'd be wishful thinking over here.  The big cat responds to Nukie's calming gestures by lying down and going to sleep.  The boys make a run for it, but Nukie yells at them in a variety of human languages.  (Gee, Nukie's a proto Pentecostal.  Who knew?)  Finally he shouts in English and the boys stop running.  (Or he shouts at them in their native language.  Which might have been English.  Yes.  One of those lost civilizations you keep hearing about in movies, where they've never had contact with Western civilization yet they already speak English when the Brits show up.  We digress...)

Nukie explains to Toki and Tiko that he's looking for America to get to his brother Miko.  The boys agree to help him find America if he will go to their village and explain that he is not a bad god.

Cut to the exterior shot of Space Foundation™.  A narrator tells us the day, time, and lets us know that the researchers are finished for the night and that the alien is being monitored by the Electronic Digital Data Intelligence computer-- EDDI (pat. pend.).  Cut to the control room which is empty ('cause, you know, the researches are, like, finished for the night, etc.).  Enter Miko.  Alarms go off, and a voice (presumably the EDDI (pat. pend.) computer, but it sounds like the narrator) tells Miko that he's not allowed in there, so he should leave.  (Can we be told to leave too?  No?  OK...)  Miko doesn't leave.  One of the monitors flashes, and the voice of the EDDI (pat. pend.) computer tells Miko to look at him, followed by "You are getting very sleepy."  (Yeah, no lie.)  Finally, Miko droops over while the voice of the EDDI (pat. pend.) computer laughs maniacally.  (Nope.  Sorry.  Not making any of this up.)

Back elsewhere.  Nukie arrives at the village and mutters to himself regarding the various artifacts.  He sees Dr. Henry's helicopter and assumes it's some type of spacecraft.  (Not sure how this works.  He passes by a car which, on the wide-scale evolution of science view of an energy being, is as close as a helicopter as a space vehicle.)  Nukie decides he can use it to fly to Miko.  (Again, we'd ask why an energy being who can turn into a flying ball of light needs a helicopter to get around, but right now we're still working on the last question.)  He gets inside, pushes a few buttons at random, and is soon up in the air (much like this plot).

Inside the mission, Sister Anne is browbeating Dr. Henry for not praying.  (He should be praying, if only for the sake of his career.  See Escape 2000.)  The American hears his helicopter taking off and runs outside just in time to see it begin flitting around.  After a few comedic (?) passes, it crashes.  (Or rather, it flies off screen and the editor adds the sound of some trees falling over.  Cut to a shot of he helicopter on the ground with a smoke bomb doing its thing under it.)  The Corporal comes outside with his rifle and takes deadly aim at the unseen pilot.  (Oh please oh please oh please oh please....)  Sister Anne stops him, saying that it could be one of the children at the controls.  (Drat!)  By the time they get to the cockpit, no one's there.

In America (or what passes for it in this movie), the voice of the EDDI (pat. pend.) computer tells Miko to wake up.  (Wow, we didn't have a "Cut to the exterior shot of Space Foundation™.  A narrator tells us the day, time, and lets us know that," etc.  Somebody's been cutting corners....)  When Miko gets up, he makes cutesy chit chat with the EDDI (pat. pend.) computer, who doesn't seem to care for this.  That's when the amiable alien starts to telepathically reprogram the cybernetic cad into a reasonable guy.  (No.  Sorry.  We're not kidding.  Miko also uses the keyboard while resetting the EDDI (pat. pend.) computer.  We're not sure which of this we get less.)  Then Miko talks his new friend into scanning the world for Nukie.  (If he could scan for a better movie, so be it.)  But the EDDI (pat. pend.) computer fails (on many levels).  Miko figures Nukie must be asleep.
  

3. Crime and Pun-ishment (or, The Rages of Cine is Dreck)

Back elsewhere.  Nukie is at the village.  He sees Sangoma (Sam Ntsinyi), the tribal chief, whose mark of singularity is his mirrored shades.  Nukie tries to talk to him, deny that bad god rap, sorry about the earthquakes and windstorms and all that.  However, Sangoma can't hear him.  (Or he ignores him.  Can't tell.  Can't deny an urge to do the same.)  So Nukie telekinetically knocks over a few gourds (the Cucurbitaceous kind).  This gets Sangoma's attention.  (That's why we don't get this next bit.)  Nukie telekinetically starts blowing up some of the gourds, which are full of water.  Sangoma looks up and shouts, "What are you doing?"  (Or "Water you doing."  In this context, bad puns don't seem so horrid.)

Sangoma quickly assembles his tribe and retires to a hut with two spearmen.  Nukie runs through the village yelling, "Sangoma, wait!  I'm talking to you."  Cut to Nukie running through the bush while pursued by about ten or so spearmen in fast motion.  (Which part troubles you most?  The sudden, inexplicable cut to the chase or the open technique rip-off-or-homage from The Gods Must Be Crazy?)  Nukie leads them on a merry chase, giggling and occasionally turning invisible.  (His stout body bobbing along over grassy terrain in medium-long shots, plus his cutesy laugh, sets up a bad flashback to The Teletubbies.  We catch ourselves looking for bunnies and a robot vacuum cleaner.)

At the village, Dr. Harvey pulls some electrical wires out of their lay.  He puts the bare ends of two together.  The connection sparks, and the helicopter blades begin to rotate.  (Or rather, Railsback smiles while someone blows some smoke in his face and the editor mixes in a helicopter sound.)  He takes off.  (And Harvey's doctorate is in, what?  Electrical Serendipity?)  From the air, he sees Nukie.  The little fellow begins to run away.  Dr. Harvey touches a control that says "FIRE" and twin Vulcan machineguns chew the little rat alien to bits with uranium weighted hellfire.  The end.  No, wait.  Wishful thinking again.  Dr. Harvey follows Nukie.

Cut to the exterior shot of Space Foundation™.  A narrator (ah, like the return of an old friend -- or possibly acne) tells us the day, time, and lets us know that nothing unusual is happening.  (The movie's frame of reference may be a bit off.)  Carter and Connally enter the control center and see Miko asleep.  They freak at first, but then they're too amused to be frightened.  The EDDI (pat. pend.) computer scolds them for waking Miko, and then, with a cutesy voice, tells the two humans to approach.  (Seriously, we think it might be that the EDDI (pat. pend.) computer ran that hypnosis module on them, but given the haphazard way they present the scene, we're not sure.)  Miko goes back to his holding area (or something like that.)  Dr. Glynn enters, sees his staff having fun, and tells them to be more serious.  (Fortunately, his lines don't include another ritualistic enunciation of "U-ni-ted States of A-mer-i-ca.")

Back elsewhere.  Several of the villagers are pushing Tiko and Toki through the village toward a ritual.  A large woman (presumably their mother) weeps bitterly.  (Yeah, stage mothers are alike all over....)  Sister Anne explains to The Corporal (and, we suppose, us too) that Sangoma has determined that the boys must be banished for bringing a bad god upon them.  (Were the filmmakers banished for bringing this movie upon us?  Could elemental justice in this Universe be so dependable?)  She hustles outside where Sangoma casts some mystic stones and announces that the boys will be banished for...that thing.  (Yes, this feels like a minor continuity flaw.  The way the scene is presented, Sangoma didn't announce the banishment until just now.  Perhaps everyone else in the village had already tossed some of those fickle flints of fate and gotten the same result.  We digress....)  Addenda: Only one of them will be allowed to return.  The twins walk out of the village alone, vanishing into a cloud of (questionably dramatic) smoke.  ("The tribe has spoken.")

Sister Anne goes back to the mission and tells The Corporal to put some food and water in his jeep and go look for the twins.  She pilfers a bottle of (cheap table) wine and goes to talk to Dr. Harvey.  After some discussion about his mission here for the Space Foundation™, she tells him about the twins and their trial by ordeal.  Dr. Harvey shouts, "Helter-skelter!  Kill you now for the blackbird!"  No, just kidding.  Had a memory of a better Railsback role.  Besides, Americans in this picture tend to be evil, but not the (supposedly) photogenic ones.  Dr. Harvey nods in sympathy.

Taylor: "Doctor, I'd like to kiss you goodbye."
Dr. Zira: "All right, but...you're so damned ugly."

Out in the bush, the twins trudge along.  Night falls.  They stop walking and start to make a fire.  A beautiful ball of light floats along overhead.  (Or rather, somebody mattes another unconvincing cartoon light ball into the shot.)  It drops to the ground and turns into Nukie.  He walks to the small mound the boys put together for their fire while they tell him about their banishment.  Nukie demonstrates his warmth by heating up the rocks in the mound until the fire starts.  (Or rather, the filmmakers regurgitate E.T.'s trademark glowing finger trick with a poorly executed cartoon lightshow.)  

The alien asks the boys why they were banished.  They explain how Sangoma was guided by the spirits of their ancestors, the ones who've died and gone up to the sky.  Nukie says he's from the stars but never saw these mythological ancestors.  "Liar!" shout the boys as they rip the evil, heretical demon to pieces and scatter the parts throughout the bush.  No, sorry; that'd be another audience fantasy.  

Nukie tells the boys to go to sleep, but they don't want to.  (We suppose it's because they think Nukie is really cool, not because they think he's as uncoool and untrustworthy as the average child molester.)  But the cutesy alien tells the boys to go to sleep while he tells them the story of how they discovered sleep at his home world.  (We suspect it coincided with the premier of The Postman (1997), but no go.)  He presents this story as an interpretive dance (or rather, the small actor in the suit jumps around in the fog) wherein he reveals his true form (cheesy cartoon fireball) with a dazzling climax (stock footage of skyrockets exploding).  (Put it all together, and it could be grotesquely Freudian.  Maybe the boys will think Nukie is uncoool and untrustworthy after all.)

Cut to the exterior shot of Space Foundation™.  A narrator tells us the day, time, and lets us know that Carter is working on the EDDI (pat. pend.) computer.  Cut...to...Carter working...on the...EDDI...(pat. pend.)...computer.  (Feel...my...pain.)  The computer interrupts the technician by saying, "You smell good."  (Given Miko's previous interaction with EDDI (pat. pend.), we now realize that the alien is one of those illegitimate children of Captain James T. Kirk, who often broke computers by just talking to them.)  After some conversation, the EDDI (pat. pend.) computer professes his childlike love for Carter.  (Correct me if I'm wrong, but the when something like this happened before, didn't the computer kidnap and rape the girl?)

Back elsewhere.  At the village late at night, the locals are dancing around a fire.  Nukie sneaks up on the party, and the boys are even sneakier nearby.  (Weren't they supposed to be asleep?)  Sangoma and company see the "bad god" and attack him.  (Sorry, but saying "see the bad suit and attack it" is too derivative for even me.)  A moment later, the alien is under a scrum of villagers.  When they get up (guess what?), the alien is (guessed it yet?) gone (did you have to peek ahead?).  However, a nearby motorcycle (where in the Honda did that come from?) starts up and rolls away.  It runs into a jeep driven by the returning Corporal.  When the motorcycle falls over, a ball of light flies away.  (If he could turn into a ball of light, then why did he need the motor--aw, to Hell with it.)

Cut to the exterior shot of Space Foundation™.  A narrator tells us the day, time, and lets us know that the EDDI (pat. pend.) computer is analyzing data.  Cut to the EDDI (pat. pend.) computer analyzing data by reciting 1's and 0's out loud.  (What the hell is it doing?  Loading a serial buffer one bit per second?)  He announces that he's bored, so he calls for Miko.  Out comes the alien.  Miko asks the EDDI (pat. pend.) computer if he likes music.  The computer says it doesn't know what music is, so Miko summons a delicate celestial melody.  (Or rather, some atonal electronic crap starts playing.  You can imagine Mike Myer's Dieter character dancing to it.)

Dr. Glynn hears the sound and enters.  The music entices him; the stocky middle-aged scientist strips off his jacket and dances.  (Take a moment to imagine this horror.  Alien takes over computer, atonal electronic music in a dark room, and a less-than-photogenic male starts dancing and stripping.  On the plus side, b-movie experience suggests that a monster is about to jump out of the shadows and eat the scientist, but no such luck here.)  Suddenly, Dr. Glynn admits that he has become a clown.  (Nothing we suggest here can top that.)  The EDDI (pat. pend.) computer says this is the circus.  Dr. Glynn pretends Miko is a wild animal and leads him back to his holding area.  (Therapy.  We now need therapy.)

Enter Dr. Rhinestone.  She insults Dr. Glynn for his childlike behavior and suggests she should be heading this project.  Dr. Glynn tactfully agrees and excuses himself for a meeting.  The EDDI (pat. pend.) computer says to Dr. Rhinestone, "You know what, lady?  You suck!"  (This line is significant.  I showed this movie to Mrs. Apostic and one of her friends.  The three of us agree.  "You suck!" is this movie's apex of wit.)
  

4. Snakes and Ludders

Back elsewhere.  Sister Anne asks Dr. Harvey if he's ever heard of Alpha Base.  (We only know the one in C.J. Cherryh's stories and Linux Red Hat's alpha/base directory.)  She says it was a place where a family could live comfortably in one room until someone decided they needed to be Americanized.  (Sister Anne is carrying a doll while delivering these lines.  We are reminded of the creepy grave digger's wife in The Corpse Grinders (1972).)  Dr. Harvey suggests progress isn't all bad.  The lady of the church says cigarettes and sofas (?) are progress, but they're just another form of extermination.  (Sofas kill?  "You know what, lady?  You suck!")  Finally, Sister Anne notes that the Space Foundation™ has sent airplanes and such looking for the alien.  (We didn't see extensive scenes of searches, so we'll assume this would've been in stock footage the producers couldn't afford.)

In the bush, Tiko and Toki stroll along, not noticing the clearly visible rampant cobra.  (Insert obligatory "If it was a snake, it woulda bit ya." here.)  The cobra bites Tiko on the leg.   The other boy cuts the wound, sucks out the venom and spits, then ties off the leg with a cord.  (Fun fact.  Did you know that snake venom is more readily absorbed by the tissues of the mouth than by a puncture in the skin?)  During this, The Corporal arrives in his jeep.  While he approaches the boys, Dr. Harvey arrives in his helicopter.  After some persuasion, Toki allows Dr. Harvey to take Tiko back to the village for medical help.  (Apparently a "banishment" is not as binding as one would've thought.  Perhaps it was a mistranslation and they meant a "time out.")  

Dr. Harvey puts the wounded boy in his helicopter.  Off they go.  Just then, Nukie arrives and apologizes to Toki for being too late.  But The Corporal brings up his rifle and fires.  Nukie goes down with large darts sticking out of him.  (I think we're beyond asking how an energy being can be affected by tranquilizers, don't you?)  Toki tries to help, but several hands are holding him back.  It's Sangoma and some hunters.  (First he doesn't see a clearly visible cobra, now this.  Toki should make an appointment with a doctor for that peripheral vision problem.)  The boy cries that they're killing Nukie.  (But they have to.  As an E.T. rip-off, an "alien wounded to death comes back from the dead" sequence becomes obligatory.  It's an ethical demand upon these plagiarists.)  Sangoma and the hunters carry the critter back to the village.

At the mission, Sister Anne sees to Tiko while explaining his condition to Dr. Harvey.  (Not shown: dialogue where she berates Dr. Harvey for saving the boy's life with a helicopter, which should be an obvious symbol in this movie for Wesstern progress.)

Cut to the exterior shot of Space Foundation™.  A narrator tells us the day, time, and lets us know that Dr. Rhinestone is running some tests.  Cut to Dr. Rhinestone, who is, at this very moment [guess].  The EDDI (pat. pend.) computer refuses to mechanically administer an injection on Miko.  Dr. Rhinestone asks why it won't do it.  The computer replies that this is hurting his friend.  The researcher remarks that she'll be reporting this problem to IBM.  (Aw, c'mon, lady.  It's not like it refused to open some pod bay doors.)

 
But in that vulnerable moment, the silent darkness was disturbed by a frightening sound. Dr. Rhinestone asks the EDDI (pat. pend.) if he'd like to be in the sequel.

Back elsewhere.  At the mission infirmary, Tiko and Toki are back together again.  

Before we continue, a note on continuity and a resultant nomenclature: The production team seems to have lost track of which twin was bitten.  That is, Toki (as he was called in that scene) is the twin that wasn't bitten.  But now, Tiko (as he is called in this scene) is the twin that wasn't bitten.  Therefore, we will hereafter be referring to the twin that wasn't bitten as Now-Tiko.

Now-Tiko tells them about the capture of Nukie.  In response, Dr. Now-Barabbas runs out to his helicopter, but Sister Now-Voyager tries to convince him to keep the presence of the alien a secret.  Why?  Because "they" will come and ruin this land.  (Yeesh.  Sister Mary Luddite seems a little edgy today.)  Now-Tiko runs outside.  He sits down on a small ridge and begins to cry.  (Ah, now-now...)

At the Space Foundation™, the EDDI (pat. pend.) computer expresses sadness.  It tries to get a lock on Nukie, but after some digital twiddling, Now-Tiko is on the screen.  (This confirms what what we suspected earlier.  Everything the filmmakers knew about computers?  They learned that from old Star Trek episodes, wherein all computers interacted with humans through spoken conversations and they didn't need cameras to see far away events.)  Miko (apparently joining this as a conference call) talks to Now-Tiko and asks the kid to find Nukie.  Now-Tiko thinks he may know where Sangoma took Nukie.

Back elsewhere, Sangoma and a few friends are throwing a party for Nukie.  They've got the little fellow in a small, primitive cage while performing some kind of god-killing magic ceremony.  (Energy being can't get out of a simple cage.  What kind of comic book substance is this cage made of?)  Suddenly, the little guy breaks free from the small cage and guns them all down with an M60A1 light machinegun he had hidden in a nearby water puddle all this time.  No, wait; I'm confusing this with one of those silly post-Viet Nam POW action movies.  (Damn, this movie has begun to make me long for the more palatable sensibilities of bad POW movies.)  Suddenly, The Corporal arrives in his truck and tells Sangoma that the little fellow is worth more alive than dead.  Now-Tiko has sneaked into the camp.

On the road in his truck, The Corporal looks at the newly acquired alien in the complimentary cage.  He doesn't see Now-Tiko hiding in the back of the truck.  Later, at the trading post, The Corporal radios someone to negotiate a price for the alien.  While he's busy, in another room, the talking chimp (ugh!  Remember him?) tries to free Nukie, but no-go.  Now-Tiko sneaks into the room and breaks Nukie free.  Unfortunately, The Corporal sneaks in with his rifle and puts the business end to the back of Now-Tiko's head. However, Nukie and the chimp have already made a run for it.  The Corporal takes a shot at the exiting extraterrestrial and misses.

The sound of gunfire attracts Sister Anne.  She asks The Corporal what he's shooting at, and this distraction makes him loose track of his little chunky brown meal ticket.  

Elsewhere, Nukie visits Now-Toki in the infirmary and heals him with glowing hands.  (Déjà vu, E.T. or Swamp Thing.  We've lost our capacity to care which movie the filmmakers are cribbing here.)  Now-Tiko and Talking Chimp arrive.  Time for Nukie and Toki to go.  (That's right, I said Toki.  The brother who was not bitten by the snake is Toki again.  Man, this has gotten too hard to keep straight.  From now on, we're calling the brothers Bit and Not-Bit.)  After a few more teary good-byes, Nukie and Not-Bit are on their way to the elusive, promised America (and the equally elusive, promised end of this picture).

At the mission radio room, Sister Anne tries to contact Dr. Harvey.  She picks up three plot points.  (1) Dr. Harvey has already gone back to America.  (2) The Corporal has been negotiating a price for an alien.  (3) The filmmakers were a group of wannabes who were short on creativity, talent, and socioeconomic responsibility for their own place in the world.  Nah, just kidding.  That third one wasn't learned the Sister Anne as a plot point.

Out on the road at night, The Corporal is prowling along in his jeep.  He doesn't see Nukie and Not-Bit as the headlights flash across them.  He continues to a border checkpoint.  The guard is asleep.  The Corporal drives around the road barrier and continues.  (We note similarities in this scene to real life; i.e., the audience sleeps while the movie continues beyond where it should have stopped.  We toy with the idea that he might have cleverly driven beyond the borders of this movie.)
  

5. Blue Water, Off-White Death

Cut to the exterior shot of Space Foundation™.  A narrator tells us the day, time, and lets us know that nothing unusual is happening.  Inside, Miko pleads with the EDDI (pat. pend.) computer to please open the doors and let him leave.  However, the currently cutesy computer can't comply.  Miko says that if he doesn't get out, he'll die.  The EDDI (pat. pend.) computer doesn't know for "die," so Miko explains it.  (We wonder what Miko would know for dying, and we also consider how the computer might confuse "die" with the nomenclature used for terminating a process.  Had EDDI (pat. pend.) been a UNIX platform, this might've lead to a discussion about parent processes coming to collect their dead zombie children processes.  Insert obligatory techno-geek laughter here.  We fork, er, digress....)  But despite the pleadings, the EDDI (pat. pend.) computer can't get around the basic security requirement for a staff member to open the doors.

Back elsewhere, Nukie and Not-Bit walk hand-in-hand through some nice hilly scenery while an orchestral score swells.  (We scan the background of these scenes for Julie Andrews in her novice nun's outfit, but to no avail.)

Cut to the exterior shot of Space Foundation™.  A narrator tells us the day, time, and lets us know that nothing unusual is happening.  Dr. Glynn is upset that their specimen spaceman is missing, tells Dr. Rhinestone that she will be responsible, and asks rhetorically what he should do.  The EDDI (pat. pend.) computer tells him to be a clown.  Dr. Glynn apparently takes this as serious advice and exits.  (My, what glib career moves people make in these parts.)

In the break room, Carter is surprised to see Miko in a plastic trash bin.  (This irony should be apparent enough.)  She hears Connally and another security guard coming and throws a coat over the alien.  After the guards leave, she calls Dr. Harvey, who is staying at a motor lodge.  (A motel?  Gee, this movie universe's corporate expense accounts are tiny.)  She tells him to pack his bags because she has booked him on a flight to Africa, but tells him to meet her before he goes.  (We hope they give him a better travel budget than for his lodging.  Cargo holds on planes can get awfully cold on long flights.)

Cut to exterior shots of plastic wrapped pallets of publications on conveyor belts.  The narrator tells us the project has been discontinued.  (I know what you're thinking.  Sorry.  The movie has yet to be discontinued; there's more of it.)  All records are to be turned over to the CIA.  (Ah, yes.  The CIA.  Your one-stop shop for global paranoia in fiction.)

Back elsewhere, Bit has recovered and is helping Sister Anne and his mother track Not-Bit and Nukie.  Up ahead, Nukie whines that he wants to drive to Miko.  He and Not-Bit sneak past The Corporal, who is on foot with his rifle, to the empty jeep.  The Corporal hears the engine start and gets off quick shot through the windshield.  (Unfortunately) Not-Bit ducks and the shot misses.  The jeep goes out of control and crashes into a river.  (Man, where'd that obstacle come from?)  

Not-Bit realizes he's lost track of Nukie.  He follows the river downstream shouting "Nukie!"  (At times, we'd swear he was yelling "Dookie!"  Yes, really.)  In the distance, the tiny alien falls down a waterfall.  (Or maybe it was a bag of garbage.  Interchangeable?  Wouldn't be so crude to suggest it.  Not openly, anyway.)  Nukie washes up on a sand bank, and Not-Bit runs to him.  (Or rather, Not-Bit runs to Nukie, who has magically appeared on a sand bank.)  Nukie tells Not-Bit to call Miko and America.  The boy runs along the scenery shouting for Miko and America.  (Uh, right.)

At the Space Foundation™, Dr. Rhinestone is trying to get the EDDI (pat. pend.) computer to tell her where their extraterrestrial went.  The cutesy computer tells her it's not speaking to her.  Then it tells her she's bad and shuts itself off.  (We long for the earlier, wittier repartee of "You suck!")

Back elsewhere, Not-Bit tries to encourage Nukie not to give up (unlike most of this movie's audience).  Nukie finds some inner strength and suggests they can fly.  And so they do.  (Nope, not making it up.)  They both turn into starry globes of energy and fly over the landscape.  (Or rather, they reintroduce that cheesy special effect of light globes superimposed over traveling footage.)  But Nukie loses energy and crashes to the ground.  Not-Bit (in his human form) tries to encourage Nukie not to give up.  (Instant déjà vu.  So, the whole point of that flight sequence was what exactly?)  Then Not-Bit runs through the ruins of a farm shouting for America to help.  (The movie curses America then begs it for help in its next breath.  Sheesh....)

And Not-Bit is by some water.  He remembers the time Nukie said that when all is hopeless, to look up to the sky and make a wish, and if it's a good wish, it will come true.  So Not-Bit wishes for Bit, his mother, and Sister Anne to be there, and for Miko to find Nukie.  

(Well, gee.  The kid just gave away the ending.  At this point, the faint of heart will sigh in relief and move on.  But those of us who are duty bound must remain unto the bitter end.)

Bit, his mother, and Sister Anne arrive.  Not-Bit explains to his mother that Nukie is not a bad god, but a good friend who is dying.  Just then, a ball of light approaches from the sky, but with the sound of a helicopter.  Nukie is walking again and enters the scene.  He says Miko is coming.  Sister Anne says, "So you were the one who caused all this trouble."  (We assume she means the alien and not the approaching helicopter.)  The helicopter lands.  It's Dr. Harvey.  He leads out Miko.  Nukie and Miko walk toward each other while the music swells into a crescendo.  (It takes them forever to meet in the middle.  This would be a wonderfully presented scene of a reunion for those who've come to deeply care for these characters.  For those who don't (99.9% of our audience by now), it's an amazing exercise in tedium.)

The two aliens say they have to go.  The talking chimpanzee (dang, how'd he sneak into this scene?) joins them and asks to go with them.  Nukie says they'll be back and always watching over them.  (Frightening.  Frightening.)  Then the two aliens and the talking chimp turn into balls of light and fly away.  Cue stirring chords from the orchestra.  Roll end credits.

 
Miko effortlessly passes himself off as rubbish.  (We sense déjà vuTwice.) In a final reference to E.T., Miko and Nukie say they'll be back.  And to that, we say, "Oooouuuch."

  

The Good Stuff

Production Values

This movie has production values.  It's in color.  It runs longer than five minutes.  It has sound.  It has a costume or two.  It has actors delivering lines. 

My brothers and sisters, I staunchly maintain that "even bad movies have good stuff.:"  I regret that the above is the best I can find.

Well, OK.  The headpiece for the Nukie muppet suit is kind of elaborate.  Nice eyes.
 

The Bad Stuff

I could just cut to the conclusion by saying, "the whole movie," and publish this damn thing, but that's not what why you're here.

E.T. Go Home

As with any homage (if you are charitable) or barefaced rip-off (if you are not), things get lost in the reproduction.  This movie borrows (charitable) or swipes (not charitable) from two sources.  One of them would be recognizable to most of the audiences; the other, not.

This movie wants to be the in spirit of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982).  Now, if you're a veteran entertainment advertisement reader, you know that in the spirit of is not a good thing to hear.  You'd probably go so far as to say, If this is in the spirit of thus-and-such, then thus-and-such must've been one of those heinously tortured souls that haunt houses in movies allegedly based on true events.

But no.  E.T. was quite the charmer.  This one is not.  Rather than build a carefully crafted sense of surprising wonder upon a foundation of childlike innocence, this one stacks bland, by-the-numbers special effects onto a cold slab of useless bitterness.  Every time this movie references E.T., it's an unintentional - and ill-advised - request for comparison.  The gulf between these two movies is as painfully obvious as the canyon between Star Wars (1977) and Starcrash (1979).

We should also note that this movie has two childlike aliens.  Did the filmmakers think that this would make this movie twice as goodAu contraire, and we shed a painful tear at the result of that thinking.  At least  they didn't give this thing twice E.T.'s runtime.
  

Demented Deities?

The other likely candidate donor of source material for Nukie is The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980).  In Gods, a Coke bottle, dropped from an airplane, upsets the placid life of an isolated, primitive tribe in the Kalahari bush.  They figure this thing, which they've never seen before, is so unexplainable that it must be from the gods.  After they fight over it, one of them decides the wisest thing to do would be to get rid of it by throwing it back into the Crack of Doom, er, I mean, returning it to the gods, who…maybe live…somewhere…over yonder.  Some comedic postproduction techniques (speeded-up footage, unusual sound effects, etc.) and easy-going social commentary follows.

In Nukie, one of the gods themselves falls to a tribe.  Slapstick and unusual postproduction effects follow.  However, the tribe is not as isolated and primitive as in the other movie.  (When Gods was reaching the height of it's popularity, some claimed that presenting the tribesmen as primitive was a racist statement by white filmmakers.  If the protagonists been a group of backwater hillbillies perpetually confused by the things taken for granted in Beverly Hills - we digress.)

We suspect the reference might've been "discovered" during postproduction itself.  Part of the Nukie sound crew worked on Gods and its sequel.  While they were putting the thing together, someone might've said, "Hey, this reminds me of The Gods Must Be Crazy."  "Awesome. Go with it."  (We also suspect that this film project might've been started by one man but finished by another, but that's another story.)

In any event, the social commentary per Gods is there.  But instead of selecting a light touch with whimsy, Nukie's writers opted for something more overbearing.
  

The Less-Than-Photogenic American

There is some anti-American sentiment in this film, but it is intended to be anti-West. We think this is sad.  Doubly sad.

Forget for a moment that the movie suggests that NASA and the Space Foundation (whatever the heck that is) are part of some top secret U-ni-ted-States conspiracy.  We should forget that because there were plenty of  American stories that said that similar things; you couldn't fault someone for saying something with a movie that was already "admitted" by the accused.

Focus on Sister Anne, this movie's designated, unrestrained mouthpiece for the screenwriter's philosophical diatribes.  She is upset with how technological improvements and social programs, even those intended to improve the lives of the locals, have had negative impacts.  (Missionary work might also be intended as tool for improvement, but we are not hammering this movie for hypocrisy right now.)  Therefore, the West is a bad thing.

When this movie tells us "Americans in authority are evil" and backs it up with a parallel character explaining, "The West is bad news," and we see no real distinction between these two objects of scorn to break up the pattern, then we take it to mean that America and the West are, in this movie's universe, the same. And, in our universe, they were - over fifteen years before this movie was made.

[Begin obligatory historical backstory.]  During the fifties and sixties, the United States had a dominant position in the West, such that U.S. and West were generally the same in the category of global influence.  But during the seventies, the United States lost that hegemony.  And during the eighties, world system theorists, who tended to believe that capitalism was a dead end street, saw this as the beginning of the end for the West; there would now be no preventing the inevitable stabilization of the world with global socialism.  The West was now free from the U.S.  [End obligatory historical backstory.  Your perceptions and mileage may vary.]

Therefore, when this movie treats the U.S. and West as the same object of scorn, we note that its social consciousness was fifteen years out of touch with a belief held by a group of self proclaimed intellectuals that wasn't capable of picking a winner.  And that, as we said at the outset, is doubly sad.

But before we move on, consider: This movie was probably intended for children.  Does this mean the filmmakers wanted to make popular anti-West/anti-American propaganda for children via ripping off a popular movie from the United States?  You decide.  We'd offer our opinion, but the needle on our irony meter broke off while we thought about it.  Meanwhile, consider that most movies influenced by E.T. were made well before Nukie; it's another example of how this movie was released too long after its source material was hot.
  

Just Plain Bad

This movie suffers from inattention to detail in many of its components.  We've noted instances in the plot description, but here's summary listing of only the most memorable ones: Talking animals with no explanation, poor acting, twins characters that the filmmakers couldn't keep track of, poor science, scenes that add nothing to the rest of the movie, poor writing, comedy that isn't funny, poor special effects, annoying repetitious use of documentary technique for scene transitions, and alien protagonists that unintentionally resemble giant pieces of fecal matter.  You can't even argue in favor of this movie by saying we shouldn't be so hard on it because it was intended for children.  Well, you can, but you'd have more luck arguing that Edward D. Wood Jr. was a master craftsman of cinema.

  

 

The Who Cares Stuff

Notes on the Cast and Crew

Sias Odendal (story, director) is only known for this one movie.  We have no other info on him.  This may be a good thing.

On the other hand, Michael Pakleppa (director) has his name on other endeavors.  Better known as a distributor than a filmmaker, his other big project was better received: He produced The Last Unicorn (1982), and he is currently working on the remake.

The other words of Ben Taylor (writer) are mostly playing in art houses.  He was a  team writer on romantic comedies like Abgeschminkt! (1993, a.k.a. Making Up!) and the well received Stadtgespräch (1995, a.k.a. Talk of the Town).  He wrote and directed the gay detective story In the Flesh (1999).

Glynis Johns (Sister Anne) had seen better days.  You can see her in pleasant movie musicals like The Court Jester (1954) and Mary Poppins (1964).  She hit her hard earned apex of glory during the seventies singing "Send in the Clowns" in the Broadway musical A Little Night Music.  That song was made for her; unfortunately, lasting fame outside of the theater district was not.  She has since been relegated to small parts in things like Superstar (1999) and Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School (1988), although it was nice to see her in The Ref (1994).

Steve Railsback (Dr. Eric Harvey) had seen better days, too.  He is most likely to be remembered for his tightly focused portrayal of Charles Manson in Helter Skelter (1977).  He can also be found in the nominally bizarre The Stunt Man (1980), for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe in the category "New Star of the Year in a Motion Picture - Male."  Since then, he's unfortunately been in mostly dubious projects, like Escape 2000 (1981), Lifeforce (1985), and Blue Monkey (1987).

Most of the rest of the cast and crew are too obscure for us to get a fix on their other works.  One notable exception is Gregory Cascante (executive producer), who had a hand in things like a The Whole Wide World (1996), which was a story about Robert E. Howard as played by the ever unpredictable Vincent D'Onofrio, and Beowulf (1999), which we'd rather not talk about here.
    

Roots, Shoots, and Other Compares

A Boy and His...Whatever - We will not debate the cinematic importance if E.T. here.  Some consider it the finest movie made.  We do not, but we do recognize how influential it was.  Therefore, we note some of the other films that were likely influenced by E.T.'s concept of a friendship with an unusual, childlike creature.  

Los Nuevos Extraterrestres (1983, a.k.a. Extra Terrestrial Visitors, The Return of E.T., Tales of Trumpy, The Unearthling, and The Pod People) - Notorious instant Spanish variant about a kid who hatches a cute (?) alien out of an egg. But wait! Alien's got a dangerous twin in the woods!  Popularized by MST3K.

Xtro (1983) - This is more properly a rip-off of Alien (1980) and The Beast Within (1982).  It doesn't fit the theme under discussion, but the packaging was set to cash in on E.T. with its tagline "Some extra-terrestrials aren't friendly."  We include it here as a noteworthy exception.  Plot?  Maybe it's about an alien with an unusual reproductive philosophy disguised as a man, or maybe there was no real plot and it was just a collection some inventive special effects looking for a movie.  Followed by two name-only sequels.

Gremlins (1984) - Offspring of a cute fuzzy critter manifest a dark side and go on a rampage.  Repeats the theme of a boy and his unusual pet/friend.  Many critics were horrified when they saw this; they were expecting another E.T. (and they weren't placated by the E.T. cameo as a plush toy).  Imitated to varying degrees by various groups with single word plural titles: Ghoulies (1985), Critters (1986), Munchies (1987), Hobgoblins (1987), Kamillions (1989), Elves (1990), etc.

Splash (1984) -- Mermaid adopts a human guise and visits New York City.  The mermaid's childlike sense of discovery had the same "feel" as the childlike sense of wonder in E.T.  This plus Moscow on the Hudson (1984) heralded a resurgence in the "alien among us discovers our society" theme during the eighties, which included Starman (1984), The Brother from Another Planet (1984), Howard the Duck (1986), The Hidden (1987), Making Mr. Right (1987), Earth Girls are Easy (1989), and Alien Nation (1989).

Explorers (1985) - Sort of like E.T. in reverse.  Two teens dream of space aliens and space technology.  They build a space ship and visit the aliens, who turn out to be alien teens.

Harry and the Hendersons (1987) - OK. Now what if the whole family knew about the new secret pet/friend, and instead of a space alien it's Bigfoot.  Awesome animatronics in the furry guy's face.  Not much else to recommend it.

* batteries not included (1987) - Sort of like Cocoon (1985) meets E.T., which would be redundant since Cocoon already had space aliens.  Elderly people (instead of young children, got it?) living in a decaying tenement building (instead of the suburbs, got it?) face eviction.  But the occupants don't turn into the Goonies (1985) to save the day.  Instead, some tiny alien robots arrive and play "Shoemaker and the Elves" with them.

MAC and Me (1988) - Remarkably direct remake of E.T., only this time the alien critter has escaped from a NASA space probe project.  Legendary for its invasive use of wall-to-wall product placements.  Won the 1989 Razzie for Worst Director and Worst New Star (Ronald McDonald as "himself").  Given the lameness of this one, one wonders if Nukie was a rip-off of this one instead of E.T..

And beyond the eighties?  The themes still pop up now and again, but seeing them as inspired by E.T. and its close cousins it isn't so obvious.  And maybe it's not so correct, either, given that the themes have diffused throughout the successive stories after nearly twenty years.  Some more recent examples?  Humans take in an alien, except they plan to sell it for some Beer Money (2001).  A boy makes friends with an alien, except it's a gigantic robot called The Iron Giant (1999).  And another "curious alien among us" begged the question What Planet Are You From? (2000).  Had these movies been made fifteen years earlier, the influence of E.T. would've been a given.  Make 'em now, and we aren't so sure.  
  

A Note on the Production Year

Sources generally list the year for Nukie as 1993.  But some sources, like South African Film and Video Services give its year as 1987, and others, like Video Flicks, cites a copyright year of 1989.  We think it likely the movie sat on a shelf for a while before it was retooled by Pakleppa for foreign distribution.  We can't verify that.  Don't ask us to.

  

The Bottom Line

Two childlike aliens accidentally land on Earth.  One is taken prisoner by evil scientists and the other wanders Africa looking for him.  Astoundingly rotten imitation E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) with a generic cup of The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980) added to flavor the mix.  Ill advised copy constantly reminds the audience how bad this is because it's far below its influences.  Contains ineffectual anti-West diatribes that were out of touch with anti-West thinking at the time and essentially make it overbearing anti-American propaganda for children.  Production fails in most of its creative components.  Overall failure is synergistic: the negative value of the whole becomes the lesser of the sum of the individual deficits of its parts.  Recommended for nobody.  Period.  Don't go there; don't even look it up on the map.

  

But Wait! There's More...

This article was originally intended to appear in November 2001 as part of a "Secret Santa" event for members of the B-Masters Cabal.  Follow the link below to see what that was about.

Unfortunately, yours truly stopped updating this website at about that time.  (Why?  Looong story.)  As is, this review of Nukie is the completion of a long overdue, unfinished task.

(We'd suggest that B-Notes made its own lump of coal.  It took as long as making coal from scratch as it did to finally publish this article.  But that sounds apologetic whining, so we won't suggest that.  But we can't stop you from suggesting that.)

Eventually published on 21 January 2003

 






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