In the summer of 1993, the movie Coneheads arrived with great expectations. His producers had good reason to believe he could follow in the footsteps of one of the previous year’s highest-grossing films, Wayne’s World, which grossed over $ 180 million worldwide. After all, both films translated beloved characters from the classic Saturday Night Live TV show into the big screen world of Hollywood. Additionally, SNL had enjoyed parallel success with its first attempt to move its franchise from the small screen to the big screen – The Blues Brothers. This 1980 film went on to become one of the biggest hits of the year, being recognized by the Library of Congress as a “culturally, historically or aesthetically important” work.
Things didn’t quite work out that way for SNL’s sharp-headed aliens film adaptation. Reviews compiled by Rotten Tomatoes summed up the screen version of these charming intergalactic creatures as “listless, rude and uninspired.” Roger Ebert went in a more alliterative direction, calling it “dismal, dismal and desperate”.
It’s no wonder Coneheads lost money in the US and wasn’t even released internationally at the time. It’s a baffling response given the depth of the film’s themes, the variety of its sub-texts and, most importantly, the overwhelming hilarity of its script. Far from a prolonged exploitation of a television track or aerial comedy, Coneheads had a socio-political resonance and verbal inventiveness that, apparently, sailed just above what its main characters would call “the skulls.” blunt â(ie human beings). Granted, Coneheads was harder to sell than Wayne’s World or The Blues Brothers. The previous two films featured types of characters we all know well – the stoned teenagers of suburban Wayne and the soul-loving baby boomers in The Blues Brothers. Coneheads asked for more, challenging a host of our most basic assumptions, including our notions of beauty, our approach to “otherness,” our attachment to the American Dream, as well as our most common expressions of prejudice.
From its inception, the film attacks large targets. In one of the first scenes, the main aliens Beldar and Prymaat Conehead (extraordinarily played by Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin) crash their spaceship in Jersey City where they soon check in at a local motel. Noticing the Bible in the drawer, Mrs. Conehead begins to read, which instantly makes her burst into uncontrollable laughter. As the religious digs go on, it’s right up there with Monty Python’s Life of Brian. The plot of the film centers on two absurdities: the Coneheads’ attempts to integrate into society and the machinations of a zealous immigration officer who wants to deport them as illegal aliens. (It wasn’t until later that he found out that they were literally aliens.) The film’s immigration theme reflected writers’ criticism of then-President Reagan’s politics, an attitude that would become apoplectic. if it was updated during the time of Donald Trump. In fact, the INS agent in the film does Trump better by offering an electrified fence at the southern border ready to zap anyone trying to enter the country.
Meanwhile, Beldar Conehead presents the most empathetic portrait of the immigrant imaginable. He is incredibly hardworking, efficient and doesn’t complain. As such, he earns the respect of other fighters he meets in New York’s black and South Asian communities. Beldar’s ambition allows his family to move to the suburbs, where they try to cover up their unusual looks and behavior by pretending to be from France. The fact that they get away with this howler intelligently sends American provincialism. Likewise, the way the Coneheads eat – âconsuming massive amountsâ in their lingo – presents a tongue-in-cheek commentary on American greed.
The placement of the Coneheads in the suburbs reflects the setting of the original SNL skit. It was inspired by two popular American TV shows from the mid-1960s – The Addams Family and The Munsters. Each featured “bizarre” characters who saw themselves as completely normal. Their trust served as a cold rebuke in the Eisenhower era of Leave It to Beaver compliance while also presaging the âlet-your-freak-flag-flyâ ethics of the coming counterculture. The Coneheads’ parallel ability to fit into society while remaining true to their eccentric identity has also subverted the whole notion of “the outsider.” The most fascinating part is that aside from the horrid INS folks, everyone who meets the Coneheads fully accepts them. This is a perfect example of the disparity between the positive way most people treat strangers they actually know and the negative way they are manipulated into viewing them once they are demonized as a threatening force by them. politicians and experts.
If that sounds like heavy for a comedy, the film keeps its lightness by the pleasure of its language. Because the Coneheads don’t understand any local idioms, they speak in hilarious and tortured descriptions. They call the lunch a ânoon stop for protein carbohydrate intakeâ and the cheese pizza a âstarch disc topped with melted hoofed animal lactate extractâ. The language they add from their home planet, like “torg”, “smordid” and “Lorpslap”, sounds like drunken Swedish. Together, their point of view serves the purpose of the greatest satires – to present an alternate universe that allows us to see our own more clearly.