Thursday, April 22, 2010

Tribeca ’10: Zonad

Much to the surprise of the good citizens of Ballymoran, it turns out spacemen like their pints too. Of course, all that their visitor is really alien to are hard work and responsibility. It is all just a masquerade that leads to good natured silliness in Kieran and John Carney’s Zonad (trailer here), which screens during the Tribeca Film Festival.

Coming home from their quaint Irish village’s comet watching party, the Cassidys are surprised to find a rather rotund gentleman in a red spandex spaceman costume passed out in their living room. Naturally, they assume he is a space alien and offer to put him up while he visits earth. Recognizing a good thing when he sees it, petty criminal Liam Murphy adopts the Zonad persona and immediately starts putting the moves on daughter Jenny.

Life is good for the supposed alien in Ballymoran, between the free drinks at the pub and the women throwing themselves at him. He even has the obliging constable run off those who suspect his ridiculous story, particularly Guy Hindrickson, Jenny’s former boyfriend. However, the tables are turned when his criminal associate he appears in the guise of Bonad, his ostensive galactic commander. Live by the alien ruse, die by the alien ruse.

Zonad appears to be going for 1950’s retro, but it is evidently set in modern day EU Ireland. Still, the nostalgic B-movie ambiance is unmistakable. Though never exactly hilarious, Zonad consistently hits its goofy marks. In general, the humor is relatively gentle, but parents should be cautioned, there are a few rude sex jokes thrown into the mix.

While nothing in Zonad is remotely believable (by deliberate design), Simon Delaney’s sly delivery helps sell the film’s jokes. Truly Ballymoran should be renamed Ballymoron, but that is the whole point after all. This is broad comedy for those who have affection for corny old alien invasion films, even without MST-style commentary.

Production designer Susie Cullen gets the cheesy retro look exactly right, and there are even some cool swinging sounds provided by the Ryan Quigley Big Band. Perhaps the greatest surprise of Zonad is that it comes from codirector John Carney, whose last film was the Academy Award winning Once. Pleasant but not essential viewing, it screens at Tribeca on Saturday (4/24), Sunday (4/25), Thursday (4/29), and Saturday (5/1).