Well…we’ve got to do this, don’t we?
“Consider Me Gone” aired in 1990. It was the unintended final episode of ALF, and good sense prevailed for more than half of that decade. Then, however, in 1996, we got Project: ALF, a made-for-TV movie intended to wrap up the show. Or relaunch it. Or waste 90 minutes of our lives. One of those things.
This is the final chapter of ALF history that we’ll be covering, and I assure you Project: ALF will ensure that you won’t be disappointed by that. So here we go.
Special thanks to Phil M. (who posts here sometimes as Another Phil, in case you thought that was just a version of me after I drink a potion that makes me evil) for giving me Project: ALF and depression.
Before we begin, a few comments about the packaging. It’s pretty bare-bones, which reflects the content of the disc — English / French audio options, text-only bios (including an annoying one in which Paul Fusco recounts the time he met ALF), and an “Interview Commentary with Creator Paul Fusco.”
What’s an Interview Commentary? I have no idea. At best it’s someone genuinely asking Fusco about the movie as it plays in the background, but I’ve also heard “commentaries” on other things that are really just the audio from some unrelated discussion playing while you watch the main feature. I’m guessing that’s what this is, but I’ll never know, because fucked if I’ll ever listen to it.
The cover features a gigantic ALF grinding his pelvis against the eastern hemisphere, while a satellite projects Project: ALF impossibly onto nothing. Kudos on the project / project wordplay, guy who designed this art on Fiverr.
Along the bottom there are four stars that get called out, and I can’t stop laughing that Jensen Daggett gets second billing. Who the hell is that? She’s above Ed Begley, Jr. for fuck’s sake. Was she a big enough draw that she belongs on the box? Or is she just the only woman Fusco bothered to cast in this thing?
It’s hilarious to me. I imagine some guy in the video store finding this, asking his kids if they want to watch the ALF movie. “No,” they say, “not really.” Then he mentions casually that it has Jensen Daggett in it, and the kids suddenly go nuts.
Weird that I don’t see Max Wright, Anne Schedeen, Andrea Elson, or Benji Gregory listed here!
The back cover is really reflective, so I had to put on a shirt before taking this picture. First you want me to watch Project: ALF. Then I have to put on clothes. It’s like a forced labor camp with you people.
There’s a synopsis I can’t read because I keep getting bored of it. If you can make it through the whole thing, congratulations.
Two items of interest: one, whoever was responsible for finding pull-quotes doesn’t know how capitalization, punctuation, or sentences in general work. One of these just says, “while preserving the flavor of the long-running series is even funnier,” which is impossible to parse and must only be printed here as some kind of zen koan.
The other interesting thing is that we have a logo for Paul Fusco Productions in the lower right, and not Alien Productions, which was the name given to the production team responsible for the sitcom and cartoons, among all other manner of ALF dumbfuckery. I have no idea what happened there, but it seems like Alien Productions lives on today only in other companies that have stolen its name, from a music recording studio to an animation service.
Project: ALF must represent the only time Paul Fusco Productions needed a logo.
There aren’t any booklets or inserts with the DVD, probably because Phil M. had them framed, but I did see text on the other side of the cover, so I pulled it out and found that the French packaging is on the reverse side of the English.
It’s a little funny, simply because I don’t have any other DVDs that do that, but it’s also a pretty fair cost-saving move. Since this DVD has the French audio track already, all they need to do is turn the cover around and there’s a whole other market that can buy this thing. I’ll give them credit for resourcefulness.
I was pretty surprised that there’s not a German audio track or anything, since ALF was so huge there. But then I remembered that Project: ALF was actually released in theaters in Germany, so that market probably has a beefier home video release than we do.
Oh, yes. You may think I’m kidding, but I’m not.
In America, and other sane nations, Project: ALF was screened only on television, between two feature-length infomercials for the Thighmaster, so that nobody would accidentally see it. But in Germany, they were tricked into thinking ALF got a proper feature film, instead of some half-assed TV nonsense. It was released there as ALF: Der Film, which I wish I was making up because that’s funnier than anything I’ve ever said, and they paid full price for admission if they wanted to see it.
There, Germany. Now we’re even.
Anyway, we can only delay this so long. Let’s take a deep breath and start Project: ALF.
Please keep your mouth and nose covered at all times. You don’t want any of this getting in there.
We open with a string of ostensibly military vehicles driving around somewhere. They’re driving at night so we can’t see that they’re just the production crew’s personal cars and vans.
They…go…places? I dunno. They just sort of drive around aimlessly so the credits can play out. We don’t know who they are, where they’re going, why we should care, or anything else. It’s just headlights, then a different angle on the headlights.
I should mention now that I remember watching this movie when it aired. I saw it advertised and figured I’d tune in. I remember nothing about it except that it bored the living fuck out of me and I turned it off to do something better with my time, like experiment with self-harm. It’s pretty bad when you make a revival movie for your show and even kids who used to love it feel like they’re wasting their time.
They arrive at…
…uh, Edmonds Air Force Base.
Not Edwards Air Force Base? From the show?
I don’t know the legality of these things. Maybe you can mention specific government installations, but if you want to actually portray them on screen you need someone to sign off on the usage? I have no clue.
We never saw Edwards Air Force Base on ALF, but it’s a real place which evidently housed the Alien Task Force. Now we get to see the Alien Task Force and they’re at the similarly-named but legally-distinct Edmonds Air Force Base. It feels odd.
Also, there sure are a lot of armed guards around a WELCOME sign. Just…just puttin’ that out there.
Anyway, the cars do a few laps around Edmonds because there’s more names in the credits. When they’re finally done they pull up to some long meeting table that’s just sitting outside.
Like, they’re actually going to sit outside, in the dark, and have an official meeting. I guess that was cheaper than building a set, but what’s the in-universe explanation for that? Why does nobody say, “Hey, Admiral Whoever-You-Are, there’s, like, 150 buildings all around us here. Think maybe we can take this indoors?”
Some guy then walks around distributing copies of the script for Project: ALF, which still isn’t finished but everyone’s sure it’ll work out. The camera pushes in on the cover of the last one, which makes me wonder why this wasn’t the title screen. Why did we just overlay some crappy white Project: ALF text earlier, when we already had this much more artful push-in on the same words just a moment later?
The fact that Project: ALF opens with the Alien Task Force should be thrilling, but it doesn’t feel that way now, and felt even less so when I was a kid. Back then ALF mentioned the Alien Task Force so rarely, and it had an impact on the plot even less frequently, that I don’t even think I remembered it existed.
If ALF is in government custody that should be interesting, but here is a very specific organization within the ALF universe that is so important that the entire film is about it…and I had no fucking clue who any of these guys were. It fell at the first hurdle, there.
Actually, even if I had paid more attention as a kid I wouldn’t have known who these people were; we never saw the same Alien Task Force guy twice. It was always some new nobody who didn’t do anything but knock on a door and shrug. Forget the first hurdle; it died in its sleep the night before the race.
Martin Sheen gets up and introduces himself unconvincingly as Gilbert Milfoil, taking a break after his first name to try to remember what the hell his last name is supposed to be. That’s the first line in Project: ALF and already you can see just how invested anyone is in it.
Gilbert Milfoil is the head of security for the Alien Task Force, which means he really should have been fired at least ten years ago. He introduces his assistant, Private Nobody. Then the kid gets up to introduce himself, realizes he’s already been introduced, and sits back down because he has nothing else to say.
That, I’ll be honest, wasn’t a bad bit of mild comic business. As an opening gag, though, it’s really weak. Unless the real opening gag is that you’re giving up your evening to watch this in the first place. In which case the opening gag is brilliant.
There’s some conflict between Martin Sheen and the other people here that nobody knows, because he wants to have ALF destroyed, while these other two, who I guess are scientists, want to monitor him and potentially set him free. I have no idea at this point how long ALF has been in Alien Task Force custody, but it’s implied to have been a while.
Martin Sheen suggests incinerating ALF, and I like this guy. He clearly doesn’t want to be in the film, but as long as he’s here he’s going to try his damnedest to kill ALF. He gets me.
Then someone remembers that there’s an audience watching this, so they’d better spill some backstory. A senator or something (I don’t want to rewind and you can’t make me) reads from her folder that ALF’s planet Melmac blew up in 1985. Which is odd, because ALF premiered in 1986.
Was he really just flying around for a year without a place to live? I mean, they say that’s the case, but I have a hard time believing that. A lost year of meandering was never hinted at in the show, and I find it much easier to believe that the explosion of the planet was a more recent trauma for him.
Oh well. She mentions that he crashed into a garage owned by the Tanner family.
Martin Sheen says that ALF held the Tanners hostage, terrorized the cat, and set a shitload of fires. The scientists say that’s bullshit, but Martin Sheen says that Willie himself testified to these facts, and I like that, because it’s some serious real-world resonance. God knows Max Wright would rise from his grave for any opportunity to testify against Paul Fusco.
It’s here that we learn offhandedly that the Tanners are gone forever and never coming back, so stop asking. They’ve been exiled to Iceland as part of the Witness Protection Program. What crime did they witness? It’s never said. They committed the crime of harboring ALF, but it’s not like they witnessed a mob hit or something. Are they being protected from the Melmac Mafia?
Whatever. Martin Sheen says they get no phone service out there, so we’ll never hear from them again and certainly won’t have to cut them a fuckin’ paycheck. He’s asked about how they’re doing and he interrupts the question to say that that’s classified, so Paul Fusco really wants us to believe that this family we’ve spent four years with is miserable beyond belief and has no hope of getting their lives back. Hilarious!
It’s worth pointing out that Project: ALF should represent the fulfillment of all of Paul Fusco’s wishes. While making ALF he didn’t get along with his cast, was tied to a weekly sitcom budget, and had a room full of writers that may or may not have shared his vision for the show.
Now it’s just him. The cast is refreshed, the budget is bigger, and writing credit goes to Paul Fusco and Tom Patchett alone.
He’s got everything he wants. Project: ALF is his chance to show us what ALF was really capable of.
Let’s see how that pans out.
Anyway, one of the military guys says they should look at some tapes of ALF, and holy fuck yes for God’s sake. I never thought I’d be so happy to see ALF, but this god-damned movie is just a bunch of white people making small talk at the world’s worst secret barbeque.
No wonder I shut this off as a kid. Who is going to sit through this? It’s bad enough that no other characters from the show are in this, but we’re not even getting ALF! We tuned in to see the puppet, for fuck’s sake!
On tape we see Dr. Ed Begley, Jr. torturing ALF. Now we’re talking!
It’s…a weird scene, though. ALF is all rigged up to some machine. Dr. Ed Begley, Jr. tells him they’re going to do some tests, but not to worry about anything.
ALF tells him he’s concerned about the HIGH VOLTAGE sign, so Dr. Ed Begley, Jr. says he’ll remove it if it bothers him. ALF says, “It bothers me.” Dr. Ed Begley, Jr. goes up to the sign and tries to pry it off, and electrocutes himself to death.
While the gag was telegraphed a mile away, I definitely didn’t expect that they’d hire Ed Begley, Jr. just to do a couple of lines and fall over.
Maybe he’s not dead. He’s on the box, so…
Oh, no. He’s…he’s dead, yeah.
ALF talks to his replacement, Dr. Newman, for a while about how horrifically the body was burned, which pisses off Dr. Newman and makes him wonder why he bothered to appear in this movie in the first place.
I thought for sure I recognized Dr. Newman. He’s played by Larry Wolpe, but evidently that guy’s been in so many things that I can’t possibly figure out what I know him from.
He’s okay, though. Not hilarious, but he doesn’t get to do much other than tell ALF to stop talking about his dead predecessor.
ALF won’t, so Dr. Newman panics…because his own safety is in jeopardy, I guess? It’s not clear. Anyway, he keeps saying “Stop the tape.” Then he walks over to a camera and shuts it off. Like, a different camera than the one next to him.
So…what the fuck was the camera next to him then? Is it just for show? If not, why isn’t he shutting that one off, too?
Ugh, Project: ALF.
Anyway, Dr. Newman is replaced by Dr. Mac from Night Court.
The rapid succession of scientists could be a pretty funny joke in itself, but it’s over once we get to Dr. Mac from Night Court. Now the joke is something else: namely that ALF is hungry.
That’s resolved with ALF eating some KFC, which he inexplicably gets a craving for whenever he sees a black guy. Then ALF burps but the scene’s still going so the joke then becomes that the word association exercise is really poorly designed, I guess?
I dunno. Maybe it’s that ALF is being a jackass or that Dr. Mac from Night Court is a shitty scientist. It’s not clear. None of this is clear. I’m not convinced any of this was even planned before they started shooting it.
For example, one of the words in the exercise is “sit,” which leads to ALF saying that he’s already sitting, and Dr. Mac from Night Court having to clarify that “sit” is the word he’s meant to associate. Then another word is “here,” which…y’know, just picture “Who’s on First” as performed by talentless fucking idiots and you get the idea.
Then ALF spins around really fast.
I have no fucking clue what’s happening.
Later we’re back in the…interview lab? I don’t know what to call this place. Dr. Mac from Night Court has been replaced by Dr. Ron Swanson.
Dr. Ron Swanson wants to do inkblot tests, but ALF wants to talk about Dr. Ed Begley, Jr. getting electrocuted, so they send him to the centrifuge again, which I guess is what made him spin around earlier and FUCKING JESUS GOD we are already 10 minutes into this movie and nothing has happened. It’s just dull government briefings and a shitload of introductions to ALF’s revolving doctors. Just what kids were hoping for!
I was prepared to skip the whole fucking rest of this sequence but then we get…
Bev Archer! We talked about her in “Someone to Watch Over Me” and “I Gotta Be Me,” but as a refresher she wrote three episodes of ALF and played Mrs. Byrd in another three.
She’s also the only actor from the sitcom to appear in Project: ALF aside from Paul Fusco, and she’s a damned good choice.
Archer is funny. Archer is talented. Archer can act. As shitty as it is to not feature the Tanners or the Ochmoneks or literally anybody ALF has ever interacted with, I’m glad that the one actor we do see again is Archer.
She got the film’s first laugh out of me as soon as she sat down. “Good morning,” she says. “I’m Dr. Carnage.”
ALF tries to make some jokes about her appearance but fuck that guy. Let’s just appreciate that somebody in this movie finally knew how to deliver a line.
I almost feel bad for her. She’s clearly putting effort into a role in what’s going to go down in history as the single biggest piece of shit anybody’s seen in their lives.
She asks about his space ship and stuff, but Paul Fusco doesn’t like writing about that, so ALF instead tells jokes about being unable to maintain an erection. (I’m not kidding.) Then he calls Bev Archer a lesbian and she glances back at whoever is operating the camera to ask if they can make a Mama’s Family movie instead.
The scientists at the inexplicable top secret meeting that IS BEING HELD OUTDOORS WHERE ANYONE CAN SEE AND HEAR IT argue that the footage we’ve just seen proves that ALF is being subjected to inhumane treatment. If you ask me, it’s nowhere near inhumane enough.
Martin Sheen then talks for a while about how ALF is dangerous, and how he’ll bite your sack off if you’re not careful around him. (I’m not kidding.)
We then cut to ALF playing poker with some guards.
There’s a fakeout at first, where the tight camera angles and suspenseful music make it seem like ALF is about to be prison raped or something. But instead they’re just playing cards.
Great stuff. No wonder Fusco was so dissatisfied with the direction of the sitcom. If he had it his way, there’d have been a prison rape fakeout every week.
Anyway, ALF wins everyone’s money or something. Good to see he’s still up to his old tricks of padding timeslots.
While I didn’t laugh at or enjoy this scene, there’s still something I like about it: it suggests a different dynamic than what they had for the sitcom. We don’t see a Willie figure and a Kate figure and a Lynn figure and a talking alarm clock that might as well be Brian; we see ALF doing different things with what seem to be different kinds of characters.
What’s more, the characters he’s playing with enjoy his company; it doesn’t seem like it’s endless conflict the way the sitcom was. ALF has real friends here — or seems to — and that leads to a different kind of capacity for story.
In fact, as much as Project: ALF is referred to — and was pitched — as a feature-length conclusion to the sitcom, it’s not.
When ALF was taken prisoner at the end of season four, it was meant to lead to a season five (and beyond) in which ALF took up residency with the Alien Task Force and started a new life there. Project: ALF is the conclusion to that incarnation of ALF…the one that never actually existed.
And that’s the problem. Paul Fusco might have a head full of stories that took place on the base, but we never got to see them, so when ALF returned we expected it to tie into the sitcom we remember. Instead it tied into the sitcom it would have become had it continued. There was a disconnect there from the start, and I’m sure that’s a big part of why Project: ALF is held in such low regard even by the fans.
Gotta love those obvious Budweiser cans that just say BEER, don’t you?
ALF calls this one guard over and I thought he said, “Ron boy!” but his nametag says Sgt. Rhomboid so fuck this movie. They talk for a while about ALF getting massages and eating. At least Project: ALF adheres to the precedent set by the sitcom of always telling your audience things instead of wasting their time by showing any of it.
Then we’re back at the outdoor debriefing festival. The government guys, whoever the fuck they are, decide ALF will not be set free, which makes Martin Sheen happy. However they also won’t let Martin Sheen shove bamboo shoots under ALF’s fingernails or wail on his genitals with a knotted rope, and that makes him so sad we need to cut to him in his office, standing plaintively out a window.
He talks to his assistant about how, when he was 12, his mother was convinced she saw aliens. But everyone teased her and made fun of her so she killed herself.
Am I supposed to be touched by this? Because really I’m just appalled.
He says that he decided to join the Alien Task Force then, to prove her right. So the Alien Task Force has been around for at least as long as it took him to grow from 12 year old Gilbert Milfoil into Martin Sheen…and until ALF they caught nothing? How did it stay operational?
And we talked about this a lot in the review for “Take a Look at Me Now,” but how in shit’s name does the Alien Task Force operate when nobody believes in aliens, and those who do believe in them get shunned and ridiculed? How has nobody shut this thing down?
And why oh why in the name of Christ do we have the backstory of mothers committing suicide in what’s supposed to be a comedy? ALF is supposed to be lighthearted and fun…something this very movie itself tries to bank on. Why set a silly roadtrip with a rapping alien into motion with the saddest story imaginable? It’s so tone deaf it’s revolting.
In the…other lab, or wherever, the male scientist talks for a while about how fucking hot the female scientist was at the top secret outdoor panel the other scientists weren’t invited to, and which they had to open the window to hear instead. Then the lady scientist comes in and is all, “You think I’m hot?” And the male scientist says, “Of course I do, you’re Jensen Daggett.”
She says, “Yeah, I am, but I’ve been transferred so I’m Dag-gettin’ the hell outta here!!”
It turns out Colonel MILF Oil is splitting them up, I guess, and he’s also put in a requisition for some vaccines they were developing, presumably so he can inject ALF with autism.
Jensen Daggett calls somebody to talk about something, and concludes that the bad colonel who had to watch his mother hang herself when he was only a boy wants to kill ALF.
This is the plot Paul Fusco came up with after six years of deep consideration.
Jensen Daggett and this other guy bluff their way into ALF’s cell, which has pinball machines and shit in it. Who cares. What is this fucking movie about? We’re almost a third of the way through it. Can something fucking happen?
No. No it can’t. Jensen Daggett and whoever this is stand there and listen to ALF talk in his sleep for a while.
They wake him up and say they need to escape Edward Edmonds Air Force Base, because Colonel Martin Sheen is a dick. ALF bitches that he can’t go, because he has a business to run. Whatever. I’m really only describing this crap so that I can make one specific observation.
Remember way back in “Moving Out”? ALF stopped just short of plagiarizing one of the most famous jokes in entertainment history…one which, reportedly, received the longest sustained laughter ever recorded. In that episode, Kate told him that he could either continue to live with them, or he could eat Willie’s dinner. ALF thought for a while, and when pressed for an answer he said, “I’m thinking, I’m thinking!!”
That was Jack Benny’s famous punchline when told by an assailant, “Your money or your life.” Benny hesitated, was pressed for a response, and then hit his clever home run.
Here, in Project: ALF, the same exact joke is stolen. Again. And this time the theft is even more overt. Here they don’t even hide it in a different context. Martin Sheen is going to kill him, but he’s concerned he won’t be around to serve his customers, so the male scientist guy actually says, “You have a choice. Your money, or your life.”
So ALF says nothing for a while, Jensen Dagget asks, “Well??” and ALF says, “I’m thinking, I’m thinking!!”
In my review of “Moving Out” I wondered how they could be shameless enough to rip off one of the most famous jokes since the dawn of time. By the time of Project: ALF that shame is amplified to the point that they just repeat it word for word.
Holy shit this movie.
Then Jensen Daggett and this other guy stuff ALF into a sack and throw him in the back of a van. Frankly, that’s the solution I’ve been proposing since episode one so I’m okay with this.
Jensen Daggett tells the other guy to stay behind while she takes ALF…somewhere?
It’s not really clear what their plan is here. It’s even less clear than why anybody made this movie at all.
But the guy refuses. She says, “This is an order.” He says, “What do you think you are, not a woman or something? I call the shots. Get your ass in the van.”
They drive off of Edmonds Air Force Base, but things are nearly complicated when a guard stops them and ALF wakes up and complains loudly that he has to take a shit.
Anyway, everyone in this movie is a fucking idiot, so Jensen Daggett and whoever the fuck this guy is get waved through. The world is their oyster! Or they can just pull over and listen to ALF do impressions for an hour. Could go either way.
This is as good a place as any to break things, I guess, since they escaped the base and I don’t want to watch this anymore.
Tune in next week for part two of Project: ALF. Will ALF…uh…do…whatever it is he wants to do? Or will Martin Sheen…do…what…he wants to do instead? Will Jensen Daggett suggestively press her wet breasts against the window while washing a car? Will somebody other than Bev Archer succeed in making me laugh?
Find out the answers to one or two of these things next time!
MELMAC FACTS: Melmac exploded in 1985. ALF’s dye color is burnt sienna.