Coneheads (Blu-ray) (1993)
|Year Of Production||1993|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||Steve Barron|
Lisa Jane Persky
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.85:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||Yes, Subway is promoted|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
The third Saturday Night Live feature film, Coneheads emerged after the surprise success of Wayne's World in 1992, as Lorne Michaels promptly sought to adapt more SNL skits into big-screen motion pictures. The Coneheads originated as a recurring sketch on SNL dating back to the late 1970s, followed by a Rankin/Bass animated TV special in 1983, the plot of which is noticeably reflected in this feature film. Alas, SNL's big-screen winning streak (which began with their first feature, The Blues Brothers, back in 1980) was not destined to last, as Coneheads failed both commercially and critically. In 2020, it endures as something of a cult oddity that is primarily remembered by a small group of devout fans; indeed, the film is not mentioned or even recalled in serious cinephile circles. Coneheads packs a few laughs and creative ideas, but it does wear out its welcome despite a mere 87-minute runtime.
Sent to conquer Earth, aliens Beldar (Dan Aykroyd) and Prymaat (Jane Curtin) are shot down over United States airspace by the National Guard. Their spaceship crash lands near New York City, prompting Beldar and Prymaat to adapt to human civilisation as they gradually assemble a communication device to call their homeworld of Remulak requesting a rescue vessel. Beldar gains employment repairing electronics, but the coneheaded aliens soon attract the attention of ambitious INS agent Gorman Seedling (Michael McKean). Managing to escape the INS, and with a rescue vessel unable to reach them for several years, Beldar and Prymaat buy their own house in New Jersey, where they raise a daughter, Connie (Michelle Burke), and adopt the surname Conehead. But Gordon continues his investigation with the help of his assistant, Eli (David Spade), which threatens the Conehead family's newfound suburban bliss.
The movie's only genuinely inspired sequence is a montage of "home movies" as Beldar and Prymaat move into their NJ home and raise Connie, signifying a considerable time jump as the family embrace the American dream and ingratiate themselves into human culture. Other laughs are also earned through dialogue, as Aykroyd and Curtin deliver complex spiels with a rapid-fire cadence, including an amusingly indifferent, matter-of-fact description of breakfast foods. Descriptions of televisions and other objects are also amusing, while Prymaat announces her pregnancy by stating "I am with cone." Outside of such moments, however, it seems like everyone is trying too hard to generate comedy, making Coneheads feel like an amateur movie made by a group of friends. The sheer size of the ensemble cast, which encompasses countless SNL regulars, reinforces this impression. The number of cameos is sincerely impressive, mind you, with the likes of Adam Sandler, Sinbad, Drew Carey, Michael Richards, Phil Hartman, Ellen DeGeneres, Tom Arnold and Jon Lovitz all fleetingly showing up for a couple of minutes each. Even the late Chris Farley has a beefy role as Connie's romantic interest.
With a generous estimated budget of $33 million, there is adequate competency to the technical presentation which ensures Coneheads is consistently watchable, even if it's rarely side-splitting. Director Steve Barron (a music video veteran) is no stranger to special effects, as he previously helmed the original (and still best) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie in 1990. Coneheads shows real ambition in its third act, with a trip to Remulak exhibiting impressive scope in its special effects, including a monster that would not look out-of-place in a Star Wars movie. The invading Remulak fleet, too, is sufficiently convincing considering the film's age and modesty (Coneheads was never intended to be groundbreaking science fiction). The score by veteran composer David Newman (Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, Galaxy Quest) also helps to sell the illusion, making it even more of a shame that the material is often pedestrian. Perhaps unwisely, Coneheads is a PG-rated comedy; therefore, the humour lacks bite. This sort of family-friendly fare is fine, but the four credited screenwriters (Aykroyd, Tom Davis, Bonnie Turner, and Terry Turner) come up short in terms of wit. Again, there are laughs, but the movie is a bit middle-of-the-road as a whole.
One cannot fault Aykroyd or Curtin for their commitment to the material, as they completely inhabit their respective characters, but the shtick is not for all tastes, and it grows grating from time to time. This comes back to the issues inherent in expanding bite-sized sketches into a full feature film. On the other hand, Coneheads has a secret weapon in Michael McKean, a veteran character actor who takes the material seriously despite the increasing ridiculousness of the proceedings. Alongside him, Spade plays a great straight man to the absurd goings-on around him. Coneheads is not a total bust, and it certainly makes for inoffensive entertainment (even by today's overzealous standards of political correctness), but it's a shame that it's not better.
Coneheads comes to Blu-ray for the first time in the world courtesy of Umbrella Entertainment, who present this third SNL feature film framed at 1:78:1 (which is slightly altered from its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1). This is a single-layer (25GB) Blu-ray disc, which is fine considering the movie is not even 90 minutes long, and there are no special features fighting for disc space. Luckily, Umbrella takes advantage of the disc's capacity, resulting in a 1080p, AVC-encoded Blu-ray presentation with an average video bitrate above 31 Mbps. Unfortunately, however, there is only so much that Umbrella can do with the aging HD master supplied to them, which was clearly prepared by Paramount around the time of its DVD release nearly twenty years ago. The first thing I noticed is constant aliasing and ringing around the edges of the opening titles, which also reoccurs around edges during shots featuring green screen compositing (see the establishing shot of the arena on Remulak). In addition, I detected further aliasing in a wide shot at 21:30, along the power lines, as well as a bit more during the "home movies" montage at the 28-minute mark. I'm not sure if it's a fault traceable to the encode or the master, but it is noticeable.
Print damage also crops up, unsurprisingly. At various points throughout the movie, there's the usual smattering of dots, flecks, scratches and hairs, though it's never heavy or frequent enough to cause a major issue. It spikes during the aforementioned montage of home videos at the 28-minute mark, though that's surely deliberate. Archival footage in the opening sequence is also heavy on the print damage. Gate weave is evident from time to time, as well, more specifically during optical shots (with titles) or other compositing. However, the main issue with the transfer is simply due to the scanning technology of the era - the image is not tight or detailed enough, with mediocre fine detail and sharpness that's barely above that of a DVD. You get the expected improvements of the HD upgrade, but again it's marginal, as the presentation does appear overly soft. This softness is all the more noticeable during the optical and digital effects shots, with the '90s CGI unsurprisingly lacking in textures. Making matters worse, it appears that Paramount subjected the master to an expected smattering of digital noise reduction. Grain does remain, but it also constantly looks like a layer of fine texturing has been taken off the top, leaving a smeary-looking presentation. This also gives the grain a smeary complexion; it never looks tight or organic enough. Add in some noticeable digital sharpening, and the film is crying out for a proper remaster.
Other drawbacks to the presentation are not as surprising, including harsh light sources looking blown out, black levels lacking in depth, mediocre contrast, and more. Nevertheless, the transfer is watchable on a basic level, and some shots look better than others. It's still much better than a DVD, and I don't even want to imagine what this disc might look like if Umbrella did not opt for a generous video bitrate. Despite the aforementioned aliasing, no other encoding anomalies are evident throughout - no macroblocking or banding, for instance. Coneheads falls in line with expectations given that it did not receive a remaster prior to its Blu-ray debut. It wouldn't surprise me if, given the movie's cult following, it eventually sees a remaster ahead of a collector's edition Blu-ray from a label like Shout! Factory or Kino.
No subtitles are included, which might be a deal-breaker to those with hearing impairments.
The disc's sole audio option is an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 track, which is perfectly adequate considering the production's age and budget. (I doubt anybody expected a 7.1 or Dolby Atmos remix, but, I mean, if you did, I admire your optimism and faith.) The track is adequately clear, with the lossless encode ensuring there's no muffling, while I was also unable to detect any hissing, pops, clicks, or other encoding anomalies. I assume the picture was remixed in 5.1 for home video, as this is a primarily front-centric track, with pretty much all dialogue and sound effects coming from the front channels. The surround channels are scarcely engaged in any meaningful way, with these speakers reserved for music and perfunctory environmental ambience. Separation and panning effects are virtually non-existent. Still, the track delivers where it counts: clear, comprehensible dialogue, deep sound effects, satisfying music, and so on. It feels fuller during bigger scenes, such as inside the INS office, or inside the Remulak arena. No prioritisation issues are evident. This is a fine lossless sound mix which represents a satisfying upgrade over the DVD's lossy track.
|Surround Channel Use|
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
This is the only Blu-ray release of the film to date. And no extras have ever existed for this film beyond a theatrical trailer. For potential international buyers, rest assured this one is region free.
I didn't hate it, I didn't love it. Coneheads is a cult film with a dedicated fanbase, but it's not for all tastes, and it's not a perfect movie. Still, I did chuckle a few times.
Making its Blu-ray debut for the first time in the world, the film looks and sounds respectable given the source. Indeed, nobody expected for Umbrella to bankroll a full 4K remaster. The lack of extras is disappointing, but again not surprising. For what we have, this is a fine upgrade over the dated DVD, and it's a must-buy for fans wanting to experience the silliness in high definition.
|DVD||Sony UBP-X700 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output|
|Display||LG OLED65E6T. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 2160p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.|
|Amplification||Samsung Series 7 HT-J7750W|
|Speakers||Samsung Tall Boy speakers, 7.1 set-up|