Scott Marks 12:30 p.m., July 26
Earth Girls Are Easy
A musical spoof about aliens in the San Fernando Valley, which looks very much like a musical spoof by aliens in the San Fernando Valley. In a sense, it very much is. The documentable alien in command is British director Julien Temple, whose well-known music-video credentials will perhaps make the viewer oversensitive to traces of MTV -- specifically to the use of parody, symbolism, and stylization as magic charms against banality, as cosmetic cover-ups of the artist's contempt for both his material and his audience. There is a certain logic, of course, in connecting the grade-Z science fiction of the Fifties with Pop Art graphics. But since the movie is set in the Eighties, when we have new forms of science fiction and new trends in graphics to make fun of, the logic tends to crumble. But then Temple, as in his Absolute Beginners and the Madonna Inn sequence in Aria, doesn't seem to want to tackle subjects that are troublesomely up and about; he prefers to tackle ones that have already been pinned to the ground by half a rugby team. Thus, most of the objects of fun-making here (television as teacher and role-model, the Beach-Blonde-of-the-Month beauty contest, surfer culture, Southern California in general) have had at least since the Fifties to lose their freshness. And to see them taken up now, and with such twinkly-eyed vigor, is precisely what gives away the filmmaker as an alien: that telltale tendency to be overimpressed with his own discoveries and to be naively unaware of similar discoveries by others. Or if that (by some misinterpretation of the signs) is not his true problem, then the alternative will be even worse: a conscious contentment with clichés. Either way, Temple fits a description that must surely be abhorrent to him, that never in his worst nightmares would he have imagined himself in peril of, that therefore is so much more of a pleasure to spell out for him: namely, a bit of a square. Geena Davis, Jeff Goldblum, Julie Brown, Charles Rocket. 1989.