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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Sunday July 12, 2020 

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Sally Marshall (Natalie Vansier) is the new girl in the neighbourhood. Everyone knows she's weird: she never takes off her sunglasses, she reads physics books while hanging upside down, and she isn't even scared of Rhonnie's (Thea Gumbert) dog, Buster. According to Rhonnie, this can only mean one thing: Sally Marshall is an alien. According to Pip (Helen Neville), who lives next door to Sally, there's no such thing as an alien – and she bets her precious telescope to prove it. But there's definitely something strange about Sally and her family – what about the brother who never takes off his space helmet, or the giant tomatoes that grow in their back garden, or the eerie sounds and blue glow that come from their house at night? And some other people around town are acting pretty strange as well...

"Aimed squarely at 8 – 11 year old children, especially girls, Sally Marshall Is Not An Alien succeeds in telling its story with focus and fun, its editorial message intact and its sense of pre-pubescent humour balanced with the sensitivities of kids at this age. The music score is lush and melodic, with a hint of sweetness, and the production design is fluently contemporary and seamless. Performances are all surprisingly dimensional, especially considering how little opportunity there exists in this country for 10 – 13 year old actors to use their craft. If there are weaknesses they come in subtle forms, the odd glitch in the script (where it deals with the junior romantics between Pip and Ben) or with some phrasing of dialogue. The film doubtless engages its target audience and may even send a few of them to the book for another experience of it."
Andrew L. Urban

"It’s a nice surprise to see a kids’ film (or any film, really) that’s apparently conceived on a human scale, that needn't rely so much on larger-than-life fantasy and slapstick. Not that this modest family comedy doesn’t have problems, and an agenda, of its own. Films about how children relate to each other are extremely hard to pull off; the main obstacle, here as elsewhere, is a wooden, schematic approach that tries to be both hip-to-the-media-generation and politically correct (as with the widespread idea that depicting girls as science nerds carries a positive social message). And though the child performers are appealing, the acting isn’t much more subtle than the average Grade Six school play. Still, the film does well at photographing summer in a bayside suburb of Adelaide, a location just a little like the imaginary town in The Truman Show: sand and sea, air and space, kids running round in colorful surf-and-streetwear; gleaming white houses and the buzz of tourism. This feeling for an actual area helps sustain the story when it veers away from naturalism into a slightly crazed allegory of intolerance, with shades of Lord Of The Flies and thinly veiled swipes at the One Nation party. In this friendly, sunny atmosphere, the contrived message about racism doesn’t seem to mean much, but (as in Dark City, The Truman Show, or the Babe films) real problems of national identity are never far from the surface. Indeed, the seeming weightlessness, the sense of hovering just above a palpable world, lets the film get away with a stunningly surreal, ambiguous final image – one that could stand as an emblem for much local cinema right now."
Jake Wilson

"Sally Marshall Is Not An Alien is the third family film directed by South Australian Mario Andreacchio after Napoleon and The Real Macaw. The first two offered moderate entertainment for the younger set but are masterpieces when stacked up against this excruciatingly dull item. A clumsy script, slack direction and (sad to say) too many poor performances from an inexperienced cast leave almost nothing to hold on to as the particulars of Sally's extra-terrestrial credentials are slowly ground out. Things aren't promising from the outset as the Pip-Rhonnie rivalry is established with the kind of dialogue which might read well enough in novel form (author Amanda McKay co-scripted from her successful children's book) but which sounds terribly contrived in dramatic form. The effect worsens the longer the young performers are forced to read out statements rather than talk in the way children of their age really do. There are a few bright spots as Pip and Sally become friends and but disaster hovers over the whole sorry affair and by the time Sally becomes seriously ill you may wish the worst for the unfortunate visitor. The kids I saw this with seemed unimpressed and I can only agree that whether or not Sally Marshall is an alien is a far less important consideration than whether it's worth buying a ticket to find out. I don't think so."
Richard Kuipers

"There's simply no kind way to put this: this excuse of an Aussie kids film is one of the worst examples of children's cinema of recent memory. Supposedly based on a novel (which might be a good idea) the film is that rare animal, a kids' movie that would bore the pants of anyone, child or adult, who would risk suffering through the interminable tedium of this film. This is a movie with the germ of an idea - the idea of what constitutes being an outsider, but the idea is so ineptly executed that we soon cease to care. Director Mario Andreacchio has that rare distinction of having made a veritable feast of bad films, beginning with the dreadful Fair Game, and concluding with Napoleon and The Real Macaw. With a resume like that, you may indeed realise the folly of risking your hard-earned money on Sally, his worst film to date. I've always been a passionate supporter of Australian cinema, but it's inexcusable that this film should have reached the screen. Apart from the sheer incompetence of its director, the film's casting is just as bothersome. Australian children are never prepared for screen acting, and with few exceptions, they are a burden to most features. None of the children have the presence to carry off this film. Maybe some day we will have a great children's film (Babe was an anomaly), but in the meantime, it might be suggested that we leave the genre to the professionals, unless we want our young to be encouraged to sleep through the movies."
Paul Fischer

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Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 2
Mixed: 1


CAST: Helen Neville, Natalie Vansier, Glenn Millan, Thea Gumbert, Peter O’Brien, Melissa Jaffer, Vince Poletto,

DIRECTOR: Mario Andreacchio

PRODUCER: Terry J. Charatsis (Aust), Micheline Charest (Canada)

SCRIPT: Amanda McKay, Robert Geoffrion


EDITOR: Jean-Marie Drot


RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 17, 1999 – Brisb; June 24 – Melb; Jul 1 - Syd, Ade, Per.

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