Strange and Fantastic Tales of the 20th Century is a look back at the weirdest and most off center movies of the 20th century. From head turning horror to oddball science fiction this column examines the films that leave audiences not knowing what to think.
My Stepmother is an Alien is a sci-fi comedy from 1988 which features a star- studded cast. Kim Basinger plays Celeste, a beautiful alien sent to Earth with the very important task of discovering how to save her home planet. She is opposite Dan Aykroyd who plays Steven Mills, the scientist she believes can help her. Jon Lovitz plays his pervy brother and unsurprisingly, he is hilarious.
The film opened up to some pretty negative reviews. Critics dragged Aykroyd’s performance or criticized Richard Benjamin’s direction style or plot points. However, My Stepmother is an Alien is a movie about an alien becoming a stepmother, so this movie is exactly what it should be. It is a traditional fish out of water story that is silly, strange, and funny. (I refuse to say it’s out of this world.)
While My Stepmother is an Alien did not have the most popular reception, most critics were in agreement that Kim Basinger was wonderful in her role as Celeste, a highly intelligent alien with the ability to love. Celeste arrives to Earth with a purse that is basically both Good and Bad Janet from The Good Place.
Voiced by Ann Prentiss, the purse performs a Google type role. Celeste learns to be human by asking her purse questions and her purse gives her the answers, provides outfits, served as a hellscape to anybody nosing through her belongings, and contains an alien eye monster. Through the purse, Celeste watches movies and commercials of all kinds to understand humanity. “This Bud’s for you,” is how she first greets Ron (Lovitz) before launching into somersaults across the room.She even watches Debbie Does Dallas to understand sex.
Kim Basinger is renowned for her beauty so it’s not shocking that she is depicted through a sexy lens. The camera pans over her limbs as she dresses for Earth and there are close-ups of her face as she applies her makeup. Is she sexy in My Stepmother is an Alien? Sure. Is she a sex object? Hardly. The character of Celeste is that of a take charge hero who understands the appeal of her physical appearance on Earth, but she never exploits it.
To her astonishment, she finds herself wrapped up in her attraction to Steven so her desire to save her planet becomes interwoven with her love for Steven. She grows attached and protective of her new family and strives to find a happy medium. She enjoys sex, sandwiches, sneezing, and Jimmy Durante. Can she keep her new life and still save her planet?
In addition to having an endless supply of knowledge, Celeste does fantastic things like spend an evening making every dish known to mankind for breakfast without breaking a sweat. However silly and fantastical her behavior may be, Basinger is wholly human in her alien role, depicting compassion, innocence, and power.
Also starring in this film is Alyson Hannigan in one of her first roles as Jessie, who becomes Celeste’s stepdaughter after her whirlwind marriage to Steven. Hannigan has great chemistry with both Basinger and Aykroyd. Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans will also appreciate a scene where Hannigan and Seth Green go on a date together. (Yes, Willow and Oz were meant to be!)
Dan Aykroyd is the Dan Aykroyd we all love in this film and it’s probably the role that set him up for My Girl. Steven is funny, warm, and is just a cool dad who is protective without being overbearing. He respects Jessie and never dismisses her as a child. He never mistreats Celeste or grows scared or disgusted of her when he finds out she is an alien. He is just heartbroken that she will leave him. He is understanding of her mission and tries to help her without standing in her way. The dynamic between Steven, Celeste, and Alyson is pretty fleshed out and more wholesome than most movies heavily geared towards families.
All in all, not much is said about My Stepmother is an Alien today and not too many kinds things were said about it in the 80’s. Yet, My Stepmother is an Alien is a charming film that can be remembered with fondness, but I wouldn’t say it’s. . . out of this world. I’ll show myself the door.