REVIEW: Purple People Eater (1988)

purplepeopleeater

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1988, Motion Picture Corporation of America

Director:
Linda Shayne
Producers:
Brad Krevoy
Steve Stabler
Writer:
Linda Shayne
Cinematography:
Peter Deming
Editing:
Cari Coughlin

Cast:
Ned Beatty (Sam)
Shelley Winters (Rita)
Neil Patrick Harris (Billy)
Dustin Diamond (Willadecker)
Lindsay Price (Kory)
Shonda Whipple (Allison)
Molly Cheek (Mrs. Orfus)
Kimberly McCullough (Donna Orfus)
John Brumfield (Mr. Noodle)
Thora Birch (Molly)
Peggy Lipton (Mrs. Johnson)
James Houghton (Mr. Johnson)
Little Richard (The Mayor)
Chubby Checker (Himself)
Sheb Wooley (Harry)

Before he became Doogie Howser M.D., Neil Patrick Harris starred in this family film which he befriends the titular alien during a crazy summer.

It’s the last day of school and young Billy has learned that his parents are going to be a business trip for the summer. Billy and little sister Molly have their grandfather Sam stay with them. When Sam and Billy go to Sam’s apartment to paint while Molly stays with some family friends for the day, Billy discovers his father’s record collection as he is a fan of the oldies. Billy’s life is about to change forever when he plays the song “Purple People Eater” as a mysterious alien appears.

The alien sports major purple hair and has one eye and a musical horn on his head. Billy names him “Purple” and with Sam’s support, Billy forms a music band with Purple as the star of the group. When Sam and Rita’s greedy landlord Mr. Noodle intends to evict them along with the other seniors to make condominiums, Billy and Purple decide to set up a benefit concert to help the seniors. However, when Noodle gets wind, he comes up with a plan to kidnap the band’s star attraction to prevent the concert from happening. Will Billy be able to gain the confidence to make everything right and get Purple back before the concert?

A one-time rare film has now gained notoriety for Neil Patrick Harris. After his breakthrough performance in Clara’s Heart opposite Whoopi Goldberg, he gained the main role of young Billy in this film, based on the hit oldies song by Sheb Wooley (who makes a cameo as a trapeze teacher who is friends with Billy’s grandfather). Here, he plays the somewhat insecure boy who sees animals as his way of dealing with security, having a wiener dog, a parakeet, and a goose named “Easter”. The film is partly about Billy’s gaining confidence throughout the summer when he befriends the titular alien creature, who looks quite adorable.

Ned Beatty plays the supportive grandfather who has felt that he never gets enough time with his son. However, through Billy, Sam learns a thing or two himself about legacy and along with Purple, helps Billy gain his confidence. Shelley Winters provides some great support as the very insecure Rita, whose issue lay with the landlord continuing to raise the rent as she has lived in the same place for many years and the stress becomes too much for her yet like Billy, she gains a sense of confidence through Purple and spending time with Sam.

The film also has some cameos from music legends Chubby Checker (who plays himself in a band number) and Little Richard (who plays the town’s Mayor who appears in the final act). The film also has a pre-Saved by the Bell Screech, Dustin Diamond and a pre-Coupling’s Lindsay Price as members of Billy’s band who also become his friends. One hilarious scene has Purple with the band accidentally eating chili pepper powder and going insane with his horn making everything around him fly all over the place. The songs of the film are quite fun to watch with the finale of the film being a modern update of the titular song.

Purple People Eater is a cute family film that is about friendship and gaining the confidence to make things right plus you get to see a pre-fame Neil Patrick Harris.

WFG RATING: A-

VHS

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