There are plenty of versions of the story behind the ending of the ALF series and this 1996 TV movie: some claim that the cliffhanger finale was a final bid for the show to remain on the air; some claim the film is an extended rendition of a single final episode planned all along; and yet more people claim the movie is the result of an uphill battle by creators Paul Fusco and Tom Patchett after being shafted out of plans to conclude the series more satisfactorily. In the end, the only concrete fact is that the film was released almost a full six years after the TV show concluded, to tremendous fan expectations, and then it didn't turn out all that great. I'm not the biggest ALF fan in the world, but even I have to admit that a lot was lost during the transition of serial to feature.
The story: Held by the Alien Task Force for six years following his capture, Alf's death is plotted by an obsessed colonel (Martin Sheen) but thwarted by two military scientists (William O'Leary and Jensen Daggett) who smuggle him out of the facility to bring him to safety.
The biggest disappointment of the film? - no Tanner family. Anyone who's researched the show will know all about the mixed feelings with which the human cast regarded their stay, but while their absence isn't really surprising on a deductive level, the film suffers from it nevertheless. Max Wright, Anne Shedeen, Andrea Elson, and Benji Gregory were as much of a part of the ALF franchise as the alien himself, yet they're afforded only a minute's exposition early in the film before being forgotten completely. Alf doesn't even mention them, which is particularly disappointing considering the bond the characters formed over four years. I don't want to sound too sappy, but it eats at me that Alf was apparently able to get over the people he once referred to as "my Tanners." The characters replacing them aren't awful but pretty unmemorable: William O'Leary and Jensen Daggett are neutrally likable, but not only don't they sell the reactions to Alf's shenanigans nearly as well as Wright or Shedeen ever did, it's never quite clear why they're helping Alf. The Tanners struggled through their frustrating tenure via a mixture of family support and underlying affection cultivated over a matter of years, but O'Leary and Daggett apparently just have an inherent goodness of heart and know-how to endure Alf in situations wherein he's previously sent other outsiders screaming from the room. I don't buy it.
Where the writing is concerned, the show retains creators Fusco's and Patchett's trademark humor: one-liners and pop culture references abound, branching out to Alf's first gay joke and some death-related humor. Alf's cat obsession is revived for the sake of a couple jokes. The main agenda of the film seems to be giving Alf a chance to interact openly with a greater number of people and injecting a defined antagonist into the picture - something the series didn't have (or particularly need). The surprise and novelty of seeing Alf barb with humans outside of the Tanner household is short-lived, as most folks (with the ironic exception of Ray Walston) seem to get over his being an alien pretty quickly. Sheen gives a fun, hammy performance but his character just isn't worth the movie; if Alf needed a nemesis, it definitely ought to be someone more interesting than this goof. Where the technical aspects are concerned, the film doesn't try anything new: having a bigger budget than a weekly TV show seems like it would've been a good opportunity for Alf to do something physically out of the ordinary, but the most you get is seeing him spun around in a chair. You'd think that director Dick Lowry would've tried for something bigger than that.
When judged on its own terms, PROJECT ALF doesn't really do anything wrong but it doesn't get too many things right, either. I consider it a way-too-late attempt to salvage a poorly-executed finale. Paul Fusco probably did all he could, but being away from his core franchise for so long likely took its toll on his creativity. I'm not sure whether to recommend this for die-hard fans, so watch at your own risk.
Comedy / Family / Sci-Fi
Comedy / Family / Sci-Fi
Six years ago, the space alien, ALF, was on his way back to his new home...When the Alien Task Force finally caught him. Now, the story continues to where the series ended. ALF is now protected by the Alien Task Force, but the leader wants to terminate ALF. So two officers decide to save ALF by taking ALF away from him. But the man the officers took ALF to wants to finally reveal ALF to the world. Which leads him to more danger...—Jason Mechalek
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