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'Coneheads': Fit for Parental Units

July 29, 1993|LYNN SMITH | Lynn Smith is a staff writer for The Times' View section.

In "Coneheads," extraterrestrials Beldar and Prymaat (originally seen in TV's "Saturday Night Live") land in New Jersey and are accepted by everyone but the immigration service as they find work, join the country club and struggle with raising an acculturated teen-age girl. (Rated PG)

Many kids already know the Coneheads--either from "Saturday Night Live," the "Conehead Countdown" on MTV or the TV ads for the movie. But baby-boomer parents who laughed at the characters in the '70s and hope their kids will laugh along with them in the '90s might think again. Their humor is not their parents' humor.

Among the kids' complaints: too long, too silly and too many big vocabulary words.

"The jokes were mostly for adults rather than kids," said Emily, 11.

When the Coneheads invited their neighbors to a barbecue by saying in their rapid, robotic monotone: "We'll ignite our new flame pit and sear some mammal flesh," the kids were left scratching their heads. When the Coneheads claimed to be from France and started speaking French, the kids could be heard asking their parental units what was happening.

Emily said she sometimes knew what they were talking about because "we took a lot of vocabulary tests in school."

Some parents of younger children were surprised at the PG rating, saying they had to cover their kids' eyes at nude or kissing scenes.

One running gag had Beldar mistaking a colored condom for chewing gum.

Katie, 8, giggled as she said she liked the part "when he was chewing the condo . . . condominium."

Just as well.

As for the older kids, if the funniest movie they ever saw rated five stars (the just-released "I Married an Axe Murderer," for example), most said they wouldn't give "Coneheads" more than two or three stars.

"It was more stupid than funny," said Heidi, 14. "It wasn't like what I thought it would be."

She and her friends didn't appreciate the series of jokes about the aliens becoming illegal aliens pursued by a bureaucrat obsessed by the notion that the United States isn't responsible for the unemployment of the universe. Nor did they think the scenes from outer space were interesting or "realistic."

"It was boring," said Robbie, 11, who spent much of the show getting drinks and going to the bathroom.

"Did you like it?" Sylvia, 14, asked me.

A product of the more idealistic '60s, I ventured what seems an outmoded sentiment: "Yes. I thought it was hilarious, and touching, how people didn't think the Coneheads were actually that much different."

That wouldn't happen in real life, 14-year-old Lara argued. "They had cones on their heads! If there were a girl like that at our school, she wouldn't be popular. She would be an outcast!"

"That's what I liked about it," I said. "People accepted them."

And I liked, too, how the alien family accepted one another's differences as well.

In real life, many parents, like Prymaat, find "the currents of chromobonding between children and their parental units are infinite."

And like Beldar, we would, if we could, give our kids the entire world, even if they, like Connie, put tattoo decals on their heads.

And even if they don't share our old-fashioned sense of humor.

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