Review: Alien on Stage | SXSW 2021

Score: C+

Director: Lucy Harvey, Danielle Kummer

Running Time: 86 Minutes

Rated: NR

You'd be forgiven for thinking a documentary about a stage play of 1979's Alien would focus on the stylish high school production that went viral a few years ago. Alas, this doc covers a more amateurish take on the material. Alien on Stage focuses on the bus drivers and office employees in Dorset, England. Several years ago they opted for something a little more off-beat than the typical crowd-pleasers they performed every year.

Directors Lucy Harvey and Danielle Kummer are big fans of the material. Were it not for them, this movie would literally not exist. They caught an early performance of the show and approached the cast to do a behind-the-scenes documentary. They also helped them rent a theater in London's West End for a proper staging for a sell-out crowd. This could have been a dynamite short, but as a feature length it drags quite a bit with a number of scenes adding absolutely nothing to the narrative.

Part of the issue is that the cast and crew are among the most boring people ever made the subject of a documentary. That's not to throw shade. They seem like nice enough people and are competent enough at their craft, but there's absolutely nothing here to make a compelling film. There's zero conflict. No clash of egos, no prop malfunctions, no understudies called up for their big moment. They rehearse, they perform, they take their bows.

Alien is one of the tightest sci-fi movies ever made. The directors of Alien on Stage could (and should) have taken some cues from the film they love so much.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.