For those of you that are unaware, ALF is an alien life form. Actually, not only is ALF an alien life form, but ALF stands for Alien Life Form, which is probably why he’s called ALF (except when he’s called Gordon Shumway) to begin with. ALF is a furry, wise-cracking, cat-loving (he likes to eat them), troublemaking, short alien. He has existed in numerous incarnations. First, he starred on a sitcom called, not surprisingly, ALF. Then, there was ALF: The Animated Series. More recently, there’s ALF’s Hit Talk Show. And, sandwiched somewhere in between all these series there was a made for TV movie, Project: ALF. That’s what brings us here today.
This made-for follows ALF’s adventures upon leaving the Tanner family (the nice folks whose garage his ship crashed into and with whom he lived during the sitcom). Sadly for ALF, life has not been kind. ALF has become the study of government experiments in order to determine whether or not he is dangerous and should be executed. Coming down on the side of extermination is Colonel Milfoil (Martin Sheen). Dr. Rick Mullican (William O’Leary) and Dr. Melissa Hill (Jensen Daggett) on the other hand think that while ALF may be trouble, he’s harmless.
Milfoil decides to try and execute ALF without waiting for the results of a hearing on ALF’s fate, and Rick & Melissa end up kidnapping (or, maybe, ALFnapping) ALF in order to save his life. They end up at the home of Dexter Moyers (Miguel Ferrer), a family friend of Melissa’s who just happens to be an expert in astronomy and extra-terrestrials. Moyers, unbeknownst to Rick & Melissa, has plans of his own for our furry friend.
And from there it goes on and on.
ALF is a funny character in small doses. He doesn’t quite overstay his welcome in this made for television film, but he gets awfully close. The real problem with the film though lies in the fact that about halfway through the jokes stop and it turns into a much more serious (and obvious) drama that just happens to have an alien at its center.
The funniest parts of the movie happen early on, and mainly consist of the videotapes run during the hearing to determine ALF’s fate. ALF interacts, and removes in his own special way, several different scientists that try to examine him. These tapes are simply short bursts of ALF exasperating people, which is when he’s at his funniest, and work brilliantly. It’s a great way for the movie to start off, but, sadly, leaves very little place for the movie to go.
Martin Sheen is comically out of place in the movie, and plays his part way, way over the top. He actually works perfectly in the movie. Going only slightly over the top, or playing perfectly straight in Project: ALF leads to less success. Miguel Ferrer doesn’t quite go far enough in his role, which is why the second half simply isn’t’ as good as it might have been.
Children will unquestionably been entranced by ALF and will enjoy the movie (though not as much as they would the series). There are questionable jokes from time to time, but they will fly well over the heads of younger viewers.
If you’re a fan of ALF from the time of the series and wish to relive some of the nostalgia, the movie will work just fine if you don’t want to spend the cash on buying all the seasons of the original sitcom on DVD.