Pet Shop (1995)

Starring Terry Kiser, Leigh Ann Orsi, Spencer Vrooman, Joanne Baron, David Wagner, Jane Morris, Jeff Michalski, Shashawnee Hall, Sabrina Wiener, Cody Burger, Leondardo Vincent Surdo, Nino Surdo, John LaMotta

Directed by Hope Perello

Expectations: Moderate.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


Pet Shop is the story of an alien invasion in the small Arizona town of Cactus Flats, but it’s probably unlike any alien invasion movie you’ve seen. One night while locking up, the aged proprietor of the town’s pet shop is visited by a kid on a bike. He asks for the turtle he ordered, but the old man has forgotten the kid’s request. He just doesn’t have his heart in the business anymore. Just a minute later, almost like an answered prayer, the man meets a pair of aliens who offer him a suitcase full of money to take the whole kit and caboodle off his hands. Of course, he agrees, and now this sleepy town of just under 2000 residents is in for the craziest pet shop this side of Mars.

What’s a crazy pet shop without crazy pets? Pet Shop delivers a batch of weird, lovable critters, all realized through animatronics and puppets. Each one is based on a common Earth animal, and they all have a lot of personality. For instance, the little bunny creature — who looks just like a Furby, three years before that toy’s debut! — does the cutest little yawn at one point, and even a lil’ bunny burp. Oh, so cute! My other favorite was the lizard critter who gets a lot of screen-time and probably features the best animatronic work of the bunch. I don’t think their appeal really translates to my poor attempts at describing them, so you’ll just have to take me at my work that the little guys are charming and fun to watch. The low budget shows through at times, but it’s never enough to override the animals’ charm.

The critters are not the only aliens here; they were brought to Earth by the new owners of the pet shop: a pair of humanoid aliens dressed in shiny cowboy clothes, complete with the hats and boots. No one is mistaking them for cowhands back from the trail, though, because they look and act absolutely ridiculously. They are essentially the film’s main villains, but they go about their plans of evil in funny, naive ways. They learned English from reading a slang book, so they’re constantly throwing out random phrases at the inappropriate moment, too. Like the critters, I’m not sure if my description is effectively communicating why they were enjoyable, but I think it’s safe to say that if you enjoy the overall vibe of other Moonbeam movies, you will like these guys, too.

Our main characters are made up of two major groups: three kids from the town, and a New York family who has relocated to the town via the Witness Protection program. The family is about as over-the-top, cliched New Yorker as it is humanly possible to be. They all speak with super thick accents and dress flamboyantly; it’s hilarious just to think of the decision-making process that led to the FBI thinking this family could easily blend in with the people of Cactus Flats. The main character of the family is their 14-year-old daughter, Dena (Leigh Ann Orsi), although everyone gets a chance to shine, and the father is played by Weekend at Bernie’s Bernie, Terry Kiser, so y’know, of course I loved that.

All of these wildly unique and interesting elements play against the backdrop of Cactus Flats, purposefully designed to be absolutely the most boring desert town you could imagine. It is a town without imagination, without creativity, without any spark of life or color. The residents wear beige, they all drive the same car, and every house is identically landscaped. They aren’t without a desire for excitement, though, as the grand re-opening of the pet shop is attended with gusto by a huge slice of the population. Anyway, the design work that went into making the town so blah and beige works wonders in making everything else pop off the screen. It’s a subtle thing, but it’s quite effective.

Pet Shop has a lot going for it, but it does drag some through the middle. If it were a little shorter and tighter, I think it’d be a stronger, more enjoyable film. As it is, though, it’s a fun little movie that should entertain the family rather well. Being a Moonbeam film, there is some questionable content but I’m not a parent and I was raised on R-Rated movies, so I don’t think it matters much. Hahaha, whatever. Enjoy!

Next time I get around to a Full Moon movie I’ll be finally watching David DeCoteau’s related film, The Brotherhood III: Young Demons! See ya then!

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