Alien from L.A. (1988) — Kathy Ireland goes to Atlantis

“Big confidence from an alien — who walks like a troll, dresses like a worm, and has the voice that gives everyone a headache.”

Justin’s rating: What’s more annoying, her voice or her screaming?

Justin’s review: At some point, I expect that repeated visits to the 1980s will stop paying out in delightfully weird films like Alien from L.A. — but so far, I haven’t hit the bottom of that barrel! In today’s review, we’ll take a trip with Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition superstar Kathy Ireland as she headlined her first movie. Naturally, it had everything to do with Atlantis, mole men, and the most annoying voice ever affected.

Thank goodness Ireland’s wearing giant glasses and affecting these squeaky tones, because otherwise we’d be in real danger of seeing her as the bombshell she is. Instead, Ireland plays Wanda, a timid scaredy-cat who gets dumped at the start for not being more adventurous. The Irony Gnomes swing into full action at that, quickly pulling Wanda into a globe-trotting search for her archaeologist father who disappeared into a “bottomless pit.”

Before very long, Wanda too Goonies her way into this pit and discovers that it does, in fact, have a bottom. It’s down there that she finds the lost city of Atlantis, where these otherworldly inhabitants consider her an “alien” intruding on their territory. Her high-pitched insecurity starts to make her stand out, so it’s a good thing that she befriends a miner named Gus who allows Wanda to tag along even though he can scarcely stand her.

Honestly, the audience can scarcely stand Wanda, which is — as far as I can tell — the perverse attraction of Alien from L.A.. Ireland’s squeakiness, nonstop babbling, and wide-eyed gullibility make her the cinematic equivalent of a really nasty smell that you can’t seem to stop sniffing. Wanda is pure torture — so much so that you can’t help but keep watching to see if you can make it to the end credits. (For the record, I did.) At least you feel like you’re in good company with all of the other characters in this movie, which find her just as unbearable.

As Wanda and Gus search for her father, the presence of this “alien” sends the whole of Atlantis into a panic assuming that she’s a surface-worlder spy. So everyone’s chasing Wanda as she simultaneously builds up her adventuring spirit and sheds the clothes and glasses that kept her in the realm of the nerds. Unfortunately, Atlantis here isn’t that visually or culturally interesting; it’s kind of a grimy, cast-off film noir set that’s perpetually dim, smoky, and underground. My thought is, if you’re going to put Atlantis onto the screen, you best go all-in on it — or not at all. This movie isn’t going to drive up tourism to the fabled lost continent.

Alien from L.A. was quite the weird choice for Kathy Ireland’s film debut, especially with its bizarre tone and how it bent over backward to try to make her seem unappealing as a protagonist. But considering that she went on to be in plenty of other film and TV projects, I guess it ended up being that embarrassing first movie that a lot of actors are required to tuck into their bottom drawer and refuse to talk about during press interviews.

Didja notice?

  • If a boy breaks up with you, you should’ve gone blonder. Huh?
  • Way to throw your dignity onto the bonfire of this breakup
  • People often need their own life history exposited back at them
  • It’s like Indiana Jones if he was a tax accountant who moved really slowly!
  • Skeleton dominoes!
  • Atlantis has an underground gas station
  • Gus is oh so very Australian for some reason

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