Movies: Zonad * *
(15A, general release)
aliens keep the jokes for themselves in sci-fi tribute
In 2003, John Carney and his brother Kieran wrote and directed a short film about an alien who comes to a small Irish country village and causes quite a stir. It starred Simon Delaney (who had made his name in the Carneys' hit TV show Bachelor's Walk) and Cillian Murphy, but it never got released. Then Carney hit the big time with Once, and that film's success has allowed him to return to his earlier extraterrestrial obsession. A tribute of sorts to the risible science-fiction B-movies of the 50s (Plan 9 from Outer Space etc), Zonad is a cheerfully low-budget, zany, comic romp that looks like it was a lot of fun to make. If only it were as much fun to watch.
Delaney is Zonad, a bright crimson, PVC-suited alien who appears one night on the outskirts of Ballymoran. In fact, he's not an extraterrestrial at all of course, but an inmate of a local rehab centre called Liam Murphy who escaped during a fancy-dress party. His ridiculous disguise is enough to fool the dimwitted Cassidy family who take him in, and also the entire populace of Ballymoran (get it?), who instantly swallow his story. And so Zonad makes hay, becoming a feted local celebrity with a free tab in the pub and the town's womenfolk fawning at his feet.
But there's a cloud on the horizon in the shape of Francis O'Connor (David Pearse), Murphy's fellow-escapee who was abandoned in the woods by his companion and is none too happy about it. When he turns up in Ballymoran, he decides to pose as Zonad's superior officer, Bonad (why not Gonad, I wonder?), putting the two aliens at loggerheads.
In fairness to Delaney, he's easily the best thing about Zonad. His character's choice of an Ok Computer-style tone of voice is perfect, especially when he hilariously forgets that aliens probably don't speak Hiberno-English. And there's an atmosphere of hectic silliness to Zonad overall that's quite appealing.
But this tone is undermined by the fact that the Carneys' script just isn't funny enough, and you're left feeling a bit excluded from what feels like an inside joke.