The Cat from Outer Space (1978)
Article 6054 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Ted Key
Featuring Ken Barry, Sandy Duncan, Harry Morgan
What it is: Shopping Cart movie
A space alien who looks like a cat makes an emergency landing on Earth, but his saucer is carried off by the military. The alien befriends some scientists to help him regain his saucer and return to space.
First, a little personal history. I’d been hearing about and seeing the ads for the various Disney shopping cart movies for years before this one came out, and frankly, they looked like they’d be tremendous fun. However, I’d never found the time or opportunity to see any until this one showed up at my local drive-in when I was 19 and had access to the family car. And…. I was underwhelmed. The hilarious humor I expected turned out to be tepid and forced, and the sense of wonder was also left empty-handed. I left the drive-in crestfallen and a little depressed.
That was forty-four years ago, and since then I started this movie-watching project and found the time to see many of the earlier Disney movies of this ilk (some of which I found delightful) and revisiting this one after all that time makes me feel like I’m closing the circle on the genre. Since then this movie has gained a certain amount of fame due partly to the fact there are a few striking similarities between it and Spielberg’s E.T.: THE EXTRATERRESTRIAL. Me, I was interested in seeing if I felt any differently about it than when I saw it the first time. Well, I will admit to liking it a hair better this time, largely because I’ve come to appreciate the comfort of seeing a bunch of familiar faces, and there are plenty here. But the laughs still aren’t there; I rarely cracked a smile in watching this, and that’s especially true for the final third of the movie. Where other shopping cart movies would go for the big wild laughs at this point, this one just tries to be a thriller, but just falls flat.
As far as I know, this one marks the end of the era of the original run of Disney shopping cart movies; feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. Still, I will say this in the movie’s defense; as disappointing as it was, it was still far better than an ersatz Disney shopping cart movie from 1981 called EARTHBOUND. The less said about that one, the better.