Ben Kingsley works as a man who has a close encounter.

Obviously, Ben Kingsley’s character Milton Robinson doesn’t watch Sci-Fi movies or shows, because he thinks he can call 911 to report a UFO that crashed in his yard and damaged his azaleas, and they would believe him. Of course they don’t believe him. He’s an old man, and jerks make these kinds of calls, although they don’t normally say the UFO damaged their flowers.

That’s how “Jules” begins, and if Clint Eastwood can work with an orangutan, and if Frank Langella can work with a robot, then why can’t Kingsley work with an E.T.?

The story is set in a small Pennsylvania town, and we see Milton making comments at a community meeting about how they should change their slogan: “A Place You Can Call Home,” because of how people can literally call their places by that. Eventually after the alien crash lands in his yard, he admits that at the meeting.

His daughter Denise (Zoe Winters) thinks he’s crazy and wants to put him in a nursing home, while his son Tim (Eric. T. Miller) lives in LA and isn’t on speaking terms with him. It seems routine, considering that younger people always think the old folks are crazy, and plus, people are supposed to live in reality. That means they can’t believe aliens exist. But government agencies can.

And this point, two residents Sandy (Harriet Samson Harris) and Joyce (Jane Curtin) both see the alien in his home, and Sandy decides to name it Jules. At least we think it’s a he, because I barely tell tell if this alien is a boy or girl if it has no genitals.

“Jules” is able to overcome the cliches of this particular genre, by playing like an independent splice between “E.T.” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” Directed by Marc Turtletaub (in the first film he’s directed since “Puzzle”), it has a strange, yet affective and humorous way of expressing an old man being greeted by a mute alien in his home, while dealing with the concerns from his daughter. Kingsley does a good job not only adapting to an American accent, but also for adapting to the film’s low key quirkiness and awkward tone. And that also applies to both Harris and Curtin, who also represent some levity and pathos in their characters. The leading man also has his troubles, and we so sympathize with him.

I bet some of you think it’s the better Kingsley alien movie than “What Planet Are You From,” or you haven’t heard of that movie since it bombed back in 2000. Or you probably haven’t heard of “Jules,” since it’s an independent film released by Bleecker Street. Either way, the movie is a good-natured film that doesn’t rely on commercialism or wall-to-wall effects to tell an alien story. It relies on a specific target audience who would probably be in shock or feel awkward about an alien sitting on their friend’s coach, watching T.V., and eating sliced apples. And this alien sure loves apples.

Piece of advice to Milton. When you’re in a grocery store buying apples, don’t tell the young grocer they’re for the alien who crashed landed on your flowers. Tell him you’re making an apple pie or tart. Or something delicious.

Rating: 3 out of 4.

This article was written by me with full support of the SAG-AFTRA and Writers Guild of America strikes.

Categories: comedy, Drama, Sci Fi

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