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Aliens, agents and talking beavers

Phil the Alien a comedy with a Canadian heart

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What is your association with aliens? Does the alien image file in your brain conjure up writhing space traveler Sigourney Weaver, her chest exploding with the little bastards? Or is it the quintessential childhood movie E.T. that crosses your mind?

Of all the stereotypes and assumptions about what might exist out in the vast universe, would your extraterrestrial ever take the form of a pacifist, whiskey-chugging hoser who hangs out with a hyper intelligent beaver?

Probably not, but somebody’s did.

Phil the Alien , is the debut feature film from Canadian, writer, actor and director, Rob Stefaniuk. The film is set somewhere in the hinterlands of Northern Ontario where Phil the titular alien crashes his ship and is discovered by a young boy named Joey (Brad McInnes). After Joey tells Phil that Whiskey is medicine the alien quickly becomes an alcoholic.

When Joey’s emotionally unstable father kicks Phil out of their cabin due to fear of him being a pervert the poor alien has nowhere to go.

Luckily our space truckin’ hero meets a loveable beaver, voiced by Joe Flaherty of SCTV fame (how Canadian is that!) who lets Phil crash at his dam until he can figure out how to get home. He’s a beaver with a conscience, however, and does not approve of Phil’s drinking habits. It’s too late though. Phil has become a regular at the local watering hole.

In the meantime, Phil’s alien activity has been detected by a top secret American UFO base beneath Niagara Falls. An agent is assigned to capture Phil and an investigation begins.

The film’s strength lies in its characters, as the Joe Flaherty-voiced beaver of strong moral fibre character should suggest. Never before has such a colourful array of whores, drunks, hunters, animals, Messiahs, indie rock musicians and assassins meshed so well. The roster reads as a veritable who’s who of Canadian acting talent, including Boyd Banks, Graham Greene, Nicole DeBoer and director Rob Stefaniuk, who also stars as Phil.

The film’s cinematography is also strong; scenes are captured perfectly in their simplicity. Stefaniuk, like his main character, has an appreciation for beauty, particularly evident in his use of stunning time-lapses of clouds soaring across the Canadian countryside and lights reflecting off Niagara Falls at night as transition devices.

In the end Phil works as a comedy with a heart, a soul and Canadian sensibility. A talking beaver voiced by Count Floyd. Makes you wonder what other whimsical ideas Stefaniuk might have up his sleeve.

Phil the Alien screens at the Whistler Film Festival Saturday, Dec. 4, 9:30 p.m. at Village 8 Cinemas. The screening is the film’s B.C. premiere.

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