I’ll give you the bottom line at the top: Aliens in the Attic is a pretty fun movie (at least I think it is) and good for brother/sister shipping, so if you think you might like it you should give it a try.
It’s appropriate that my first real post is about a family film – films and television shows aimed at families and children are often the best places for incest yay because they usually involve situations where siblings spend a lot of time together (and usually still live together). It’s a major score to find one of these movies where the siblings in question are high schoolers or older because you can ship them as is, instead of an AU situation where the events of the story take place when they’re older, or imagining them in the future when they’re of age.
Aliens in the Attic is such a film. Not every adult can sit through a movie that is targeted at young ‘uns, but I often quite enjoy them. (A lot of the time that is because of the incest yay, though, it’s only fair to add). Again, Aliens in the Attic is such a film. I didn’t just enjoy it: I loved it, and have watched it many more times than once this week, if that tells you anything.
You may have heard of Aliens in the Attic, or you may not have. I keep fairly good track of what movies come out – I certainly don’t see a lot of them (I’ve got pretty good instincts about what I will and won’t enjoy), but I’m usually familiar with the titles – however Aliens in the Attic slipped under my radar somehow. I’d say that’s a shame, except my love for it came at just the right time, so no complaints.
I only ended up seeing it because of Ashley Tisdale. I’m not embarrassed to admit that I’m a fan of hers after going a little crazy over Ryan and Sharpay from High School Musical. (I would be embarrassed to admit that I’m a fan of High School Musical, except that I’m not a fan of High School Musical. I’m just a fan of Ryan and Sharpay.) Even so, I’m not likely to see a movie just because she’s in it – except, in this case I had been looking for footage of her from other movies to use in a sort of HSM spoof video I once had ambitions of making. (I’ve come back from the future to give you a link of what little I’ve written about Ryan and Sharpay.)
Ashley also rocks as the voice of older sister Candace on Phineas and Ferb. (I’ve come back once again from the future to give you a link to my post on Phineas and Ferb.)
(Trivia: Austin Butler and Ashley Tisdale play love interests in Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure. They are cousins in this movie)
Well, if you’re still reading after my lame introductory paragraphs, I hope you’ll make it through my summary, which in my mind naturally follows. If you’re reading this for the reason I’ve put it up, then you’ll be interested in what I’ve got to say eventually. I’ll explain why I recommend this film to those who haven’t seen it, and then discuss my case for shipping Tom/Bethany.
While vacationing in a large (secluded) rental house over the Fourth of July holiday, the Pearson family is forced to stop an advance team of four aliens from starting an alien invasion and bringing “eternal enslavement” and/or “instantaneous death” to the human race.
The Pearson family consists of Grandma Pearson or Nana (played by Doris Roberts of Everybody Loves Raymond), her two sons Stuart (played by Kevin Nealon, who you may recognize from Weeds or Saturday Night Live) and Nate (played by Andy Richter, who has endeared himself to me by guest starring on my beloved Arrested Development), Stuart’s wife, and the local Sheriff (played by Tim Meadows, also of SNL fame).
It will probably not surprise you that the main characters are the children. Our hero is Tom Pearson, Stuart’s middle child. I don’t want to embarrass anyone by droning on and on, but it’s my opinion that Carter Jenkins was very well cast and does a fantastic job as Tom, bringing a lot of good energy, charm and charisma to the role. Tom is instantly likeable and sympathetic. Carter’s good-looking, but it’s really his facial expressions and mannerisms that make Tom such a darling. Tom’s age is never made explicit. Carter, by my estimation, was probably 17 during filming. My best guess is that this is supposed to be the summer after Tom’s sophomore year, but I would prefer it if he were older, and the lack of detail gives us the freedom, so it’s my head-canon that he’s a year older than that.
Ashley Tisdale (very nearly reprising her role as Sharpay from High School Musical, at least for 2/3 of the film) plays Bethany, Tom’s older sister who has just completed high school. On the IMDB message board for this movie I saw some people telling Ashley to grow up (she was 24 when the movie was made), but I think she came off as a high schooler without a problem, and why shouldn’t she play a high schooler in a kids movie if she can and wants to? She was great as Bethany and I’m grateful it was her in the role.
Tom and Bethany’s younger sister, Hannah, is almost too sweet to handle. I’d estimate Hannah’s age to be around 6. The performance of Ashley Boettcher for some reason kept reminding me of Veronica Lake in This Gun For Hire. I can’t explain it, but I will take this opportunity to recommend that film if you like movies about good girls who redeem hit men, which I very much do.
Nate Pearson’s children are Jake (who is younger than Tom, but probably also in high school – a soon-to-be sophomore, maybe), and the twins Art and Lee who are, and I’m entirely guessing here, probably ten or eleven years old.
Rounding out the human cast (and I truly mean that, I’ve basically already listed every human with a speaking part) is Robert Hoffman (whom I hope you don’t recognize from Step Up 2: The Streets, because that was just awful, but whom I hope you do recognize from She’s The Man, a film of such brilliance that I don’t even know what else to say about it). Mr. Hoffman plays Ricky, Bethany’s boyfriend and majorly brings the pretty and the studly. Yes, Bethany, I “hate cotton” too.
Besides being a hunk with bronzed “rock-hard abs”, Hoffman is pretty darn hilarious as the sleazy Ricky, who you can never quite feel sorry for no matter what brutality he undergoes. This film asks a lot of slapstick comedy from Robert Hoffman and I thought he was great.
The aliens are “knee-high creatures, very violent”. They don’t look like people (though they have the same basic build) but their motivations, expressions, and intelligence are all human-like. I was very impressed with the digital animation work that created the aliens. On the alien advance team is the “glorious commander” [voiced by J.K. Simmons, an actor who is always loveable whether you’re supposed to love him (as in New In Town or Juno) or you’re supposed to hate him (as in the Spiderman trilogy and this film)] and who has endeared himself to me by being loveable and by guest voicing on Phineas and Ferb and being totally brilliant in two episodes of Party Down]. Josh Peck voices Sparks/Snuggle Lump/Snugs , the rookie, who, like Private of The Penguins Of Madagascar, lacks bloodthirst or ill-will of any kind and would probably be better off as a giant cuddly teddy bear. You may recognize Josh Peck (his voicer) as Josh of Drake and Josh. I don’t, because I’ve never seen that show, but you might. I do intend to watch some episodes of that show to see whether or not I like it, but Miranda Cosgrove plays a – from what I’ve heard – marginally evil sibling named Megan, which is holding me back. Why, you ask? Well, I’m refraining from my foray into Drake and Josh until after iCarly has ended because I do not want to spoil my image of Miranda Cosgrove as Carly.
Also on the team are Tazer (magnificently, just perfectly voiced by Thomas Haden Church, most recognizable from his roles in Sideways, Spanglish, and also Spiderman III) and Razor (voiced by Kari Wahlgren, a voice talent, whom I wasn’t familiar with except for her work in, are you ready for this? Phineas and Ferb! As Little Suzie for those of you who know PnF). Tazer and Razor have a classic antagonistic romance which was simple but entertaining.
Also important to know as far as plot points go are these facts: 1) the aliens (Zirkonians from the planet Zirkon, or “Jerkonians” at one point) have the technology to plug into the brain stem of humans and then operate them from a remote control (including the voice box), but only “mature subjects”, which includes college-aged Ricky but not Bethany or anyone younger than her. This leaves the battle in the hands of the kids. And 2) Ricky is first-rate douche nozzle.
I like “mature themes”, sex, and gore as much as the next person. Probably more. But I also enjoy a just really nice family film. The Pearsons have their problems, but they all love each other and work together to achieve their goals. Tom is at odds with his father, but they reconcile at the end. Jake treats his twin brothers and Tom rather poorly, but shows a softer side later on and becomes part of the team. Uncle Nate comes off as something of a negligent clown, but a line from Jake tells us that he carries a lot of guilt surrounding his divorce, and as evidenced in the film, he’s the one with the kids at the moment, even if his brother and sister-in-law have a thing or two to say about his parenting. Even more importantly are what Bethany and Tom go through. Tom, a “mathlete” at his school, is embarrassed at being such a nerd, but by the end he comes to appreciate not only his own skills but being different in general. Bethany learns that even if your boyfriend is older, has a fancy, yellow convertible, and is broad and tall and yummy all over, he doesn’t get to disrespect you or your family. She stands up for herself pretty well from the beginning, but once she sees how he really is, she really puts her foot down. Also, she wants to go slowly with the physical stuff, even though Ricky would make almost anyone want to get physical.
I don’t have kids yet, but I think a lot about the kids I want to have, and most relevantly here what I would and wouldn’t let them watch. For example, I would not let my kids watch Wizards Of Waverly Place (maybe the first movie, but not the TV episodes) because all of the characters are self-centered and cynical. I would, however, definitely let them watch this movie. Except for believing Gran had gotten into the Pinot Grigio, “crap”, Miss Tisdale bouncing around in a skimpy bikini, Stuart telling Ricky he has to sleep on the couch, and a scene of Bethany and Ricky putting lotion on each other including a reference by Jake to “second base”, the film is totally clean. (And even the stuff I mentioned isn’t that bad.)
So I like the family-centric nature of the movie and the strength of each of the familial relationships. I like the characters. I also think the movie is quite funny. Even on repeat viewings I laughed out loud many times. The new generation trying to use a rotary phone was probably one of the funniest parts, nicely balanced out with Art’s later line: “This isn’t X-Box, Lee; it’s real, like Wii”. Sparks/Snuggle Lump/Snugs trapped in a slinky which he believes to be a booby trap, and calling it an “ingenious human snare” also had me laughing pretty hard. Watching some of the adults be remote controlled provides a lot of slapstick comedy, some of which is really quite funny, and all of which kids will find hilarious.
Now, I maintain this site for discussing shipping brother/sister incest so Tom and Bethany’s relationship is the whole reason I’m even writing this review/article thingy. Finally I’ve gotten to it. Please note, major spoiler warning for much of what follows this paragraph. I don’t summarize the rest of the movie, but I do talk about most Tom/Bethany scenes in detail. If you don’t want to know what happens, you’ll just have to accept my recommendation and not read any further. Another warning is that I’ve got a lot to say, so the rest isn’t going to be very eloquent or well-organized, if I know myself.
All right. How do I do this?
I’ll just tell you what I’m going to talk about: 1) why someone who ships brother/sister incest would enjoy this movie, 2) how the nature of the interaction and relationship between Tom and Bethany in this movie leaves one able to almost make a case for subtext, 3) just me gushing over how much I like them together and why and being generally ridiculous.
First things first, put on your shipper goggles with me! This is going to be a lot more fun for us both if you’re full of wishful thinking and are prepared to misread everything presented to us (actions, dialogue, looks, suture/editing, etc.) in order to support the point I am trying to make and to accept my skewed and often (probably) fallacious arguments and views. With our shipping goggles on we can easily delude ourselves into seeing what we want to see.
I won’t go into a whole philosophical thing about our freedom to interpret, suffice it to say that authorial (directorial, actor, etc.) intention isn’t everything. (Though I will also make the case for this movie that one really does have to wonder about the filmmaker intentions.)
I was pretty excited to see Aliens in the Attic, knowing from the cover that the family in the movie had a couple of high-school-age kids and that I might want to ship them, but what I got was SO much more than I had ever hoped for! The relationship between Tom and Bethany is surprisingly prominent in this movie. Not only do we get to enjoy their banter and see them cling to each other in fear, but we actually get to see Tom hating on his sister’s boyfriend and trying to break them up with no other motivation than the fact that Tom just doesn’t like him very much. I don’t know what else to say except that there was just…something there.
The story is by Mark Burton, who co-wrote the screenplay with Adam F. Goldberg. John Schultz was the director. I perused their filmographies, looking for any indications that they might share my brother/sister shipping interests, but nothing stuck out. (In my experience if you like a narrative trope – like incest – you’ll use it more than once.) I thought there was so much potential evidence for intentional romantic/sexual inclinations between the characters of Tom and Bethany that there had to be something in the past work of one of these guys that indicated their interest in such things, but I didn’t see any credits for films or TV shows that I recognized as involving a set of siblings. Of course, I didn’t recognize that much of what I saw there, so what I’m saying right now actually has very little meaning.
And just look at the title: Aliens in the Attic. Sound familiar? Flowers in the Attic, by V.C. Andrews, is probably one of the most famous novels for incest. (Do not miss the Lifetime movie series based on those novels!)
Coincidence? I don’t think so.
(Yeah, OK, it probably was a coincidence.)
Anyway, aside from what was in the screenplay and what the actors were told to act out by the director, I’m going to have to attribute some of the incest-y feel of Tom and Bethany’s relationship to good chemistry between the actors.
Theoretically, it seems like Bethany and Tom would be on pretty good terms. Generally speaking, they’re both very good students and well-behaved. More importantly, they both get along really well with Hannah. But what we see between Tom and Bethany is a belligerent
sexual tension. This is common in kids movies – it’s done for humor. But the conflict between Tom and Bethany is very rarely played for laughs. And since their relationship is actually one of the focuses of the movie, I have to believe their tension means more. Their difference of opinion over Ricky the Boyfriend hardly explains the hostility between them. I’d prefer to take the view that it arises from their general inability to deal with their feelings for each other. (shhh…shipper goggles.) There is also the fact that he seems to resent her. His father reminds him of how hard Bethany worked to get into Michigan, and Tom quips back in an ironic tone that she is perfect. It would seem that perhaps she has gotten away with her fair share of bad behavior. (Even if she is, for the most part, a good girl.) When she climbs through Tom’s window after having had snuck out or come back too late, she threatens Tom to get his silence. If they got along, she wouldn’t have had to do that.
Of course, this could all relate to Ricky. Tom resents Bethany because she’s dating Ricky. Bethany knows that Tom hates that she’s dating Ricky, so she knows he’ll tattle on her sneaking out to see Ricky if she doesn’t do something about it.
Now, does this tension between them create a passion that could turn sexual, or is there already an unacknowledged attraction between them that presents itself as tension? In the case of Tom and Bethany, I have neither a preference nor an opinion on which is more likely.
During the drive to the rental house (the family leaves at sun-up, so it’s probably a long drive), Tom sits in the middle. (He calls it “the hump”…suggestive, don’t you think? I’ve never heard it called that, but it makes sense because there is often a slight elevation.) He and Bethany have something of an elbow fight [he should have just put his arm around her shoulders – more comfortable for everyone! =)] She seems to be getting a kick out of it until he gets rough and jerks her hand so much that it disrupts her ability to see her phone screen. (She might also just be smiling because of her text.)
Where’s all this pent-up aggression coming from, Tommy? Huh? He obviously doesn’t like being in the middle (who would?), but nobody gets that violent about elbow space and I think an argument can be made that his frustration stems far more from the fact that Bethany is totally absorbed with the act of texting Ricky. In fact, the shot even lingers on his face looking at her phone with a negative emotion easily interpreted as jealousy.
We are also left to imagine the beginning of the drive. They left at sun-up, and Bethany was out late with Ricky the Boyfriend, so she was probably tired. Maybe she slept against Toms’s shoulder or even over his lap? Maybe that’s why Tom is so disgruntled: he had his beautiful Bethany in his arms, but now all she wants to do is talk to that douche nozzle Ricky.
Isn’t this fun?!
Moving on. Tom totally intrudes into Bethany’s business by looking at her phone. He calls Ricky her “boy toy” (a totally accurate description, if you ask me), which puts her relationship with Ricky purely in the realm of the physical, thereby trying to reduce the competition between them, taking the love for himself, and giving Ricky what Tom can’t have – that is, a sexual relationship with her. Also, by doing this he draws Bethany’s attention to the fact that her feelings for Ricky might just be superficial.
Tom continues to diss Ricky but without any substance, and Bethany, instead of ignoring him, chooses to get worked up. (She’s awfully old to be behaving like this!) She makes another death threat (I’m starting to think she hands these out like Halloween candy), and their faces get VERY close. Their mother intervenes…who knows what might have happened if she hadn’t…? I’m not suggesting they would’ve kissed – not even in my dreams. But I’d like to think they could have had one of those moments where they’re looking into each others’ eyes, and instead of slapping they want to kiss.
Tom reveals eventually that he doesn’t do mathletes anymore, that he got bad grades on purpose, and that he wants to be cool. But there’s zero discussion of why, or a girl he might like. All we get is a question from Jake: “So you don’t like getting beat up anymore?” or something to that effect. Which is exactly what Jake would say because that’s what Jake would do, beat up a mathlete. Maybe Tom wants to be cool because Bethany is cool, because Ricky the Boyfriend is cool? Hmm? We don’t know how long Bethany has been dating Ricky – maybe there’s a correlation? Or a correlation between her and all of her boyfriends? I’m just happy there’s no mention of any girl at school that Tom has a crush on. Tom being love-interest free is part of what makes the sailing so smooth.
Ricky calls Tom princess at least twice, as well as referring to him as a “little kid”. Why denigrate Tom’s masculinity and age? Are these acts of douchenozzlery steeped in a greater, perhaps even subconscious purpose? Ricky works to win over not only Bethany’s parents but even Nana in a way that responds directly to Tom’s moment of disfavor. Ricky acts in competition with Tom. This much is clear. There are really only two reason why he would do this: 1) because he’s just a jerk and that’s that, or 2) he feels threatened (most likely subconsciously) by Tom. #2 actually seems more likely.
So why let the brother see your true self? It’s true, Ricky is, as we have established, a dickwad, but why act contrary to his own interests? I could see indifference – that would make sense – but not antagonism. What I see is Ricky treating Tom like the nerdy/unpopular kid who has a crush on the popular girl. The popular girl’s boyfriend is usually a total dick to that kid. (I’m thinking of Wes Craven’s Cursed as an excellent example of this. The Goonies. The Outsiders. Edward Scissorhands. Well, there are so many examples of it that it must be a trope.) The brother doesn’t usually get this treatment. And Ricky treats Tom like they fit right into this mold. So we gotta ask ourselves, what does Ricky’s subconscious know that everyone else doesn’t?
Ricky puts special emphasis on the fact that he might be staying “the night” when he talks to Tom – basically rubbing his face in the suggestion that he and Bethany will get physical. When Tom’s dad (pop quiz: what’s his name? Ha, I don’t even remember myself) invites Ricky to stay the night, Ricky makes some very strange, victorious gesture, which seems likely to have arisen from his thwarting of Tom’s attempt to expose his deception about his car not working, but which seems much more sexual than that. Like again he’s rubbing Tom’s face in the idea of him having sex with Bethany. And “big sis is just itchin’ to be my private nurse” is what Ricky says to Tom about Bethany. Overall, Ricky expends a certain amount of effort in drawing attention to the physical nature of his and Bethany’s relationship. Taunting Tom with what he wants but can never have? It sure seems like it, which is why I LOVE this movie!
When Ricky first arrives at the rental house and Bethany comes flying into his arms, Tom does this gesture where he looks away and then back at them. I’m always trying to capture that visual in words when I’m writing fics, but I’m never sure whether I’m describing it right. Here is Carter, doing it perfectly. Textbook. Now, the great thing about this gesture look away thing is that it speaks volumes: on the surface it displays annoyance, but underneath there’s a lot more turmoil. He doesn’t want to be annoyed, but he is. He doesn’t want to show it, but he can’t help it. And why is he annoyed? It’s because Bethany is happy to see Ricky – giddy really. Tom doesn’t do this demonstration of his frustration when Ricky arrives and calls him princess. No, it’s when Bethany throws herself into Ricky’s arms. When Tom has to see their affection before his very eyes. And on top of that, we have Bethany actually pushing Tom aside in order to run to Ricky. I mean, it’s a metaphor. It’s almost ridiculously explicit.
And then what comes next? Ricky asks Bethany to give him “some sugar”, and Tom begs her not to. More jealousy. But this isn’t remarkable really. What’s remarkable is that Bethany obeys. She looks annoyed at Tom, his presence, his interference. She doesn’t feel much inclination to listen to him or do what he says. But she does follow this request. She doesn’t kiss Ricky because Tom asked her not to. Something really special went on during this exchange between them.
What follows is remarkable as well. I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking this article is already 4,000 words: clearly I think everything is remarkable. Well, you’re right. So anyway, what comes next is remarkable: Tom follows Ricky and Bethany back in to the house. Why? He doesn’t like to be around Ricky, so why would he go inside unless he wanted to keep an eye on them?
When Tom asks his dad (Stuart!) to check out Ricky’s car is the first time when we actually get Tom taking action (other than by dissing Ricky to Bethany). This move is two-fold: on one hand, Ricky might get caught in the lie, in which case Tom has successfully sabotaged Ricky and Bethany’s relationship by sabotaging Ricky’s rep with the parents. On the other hand, their dad might be able to figure out what’s wrong with the car, thereby forcing Ricky to leave before night comes, so that he won’t be there that night, in which case Tom has at least sabotaged Ricky and Bethany’s night together. What is it you don’t want, Tom? You don’t want Ricky around? Or you don’t want Bethany and Ricky sneaking off for nookie in the wee hours?
Jake calls Ricky a “gas pipe” after only being around him for a couple of minutes (boy’s got good instincts). He tells Tom that Tom has to “defend [his] family honor. Like a man”. So, in order for Tom to become a man, he has to get rid of Ricky? Very interesting. And that’s kind of how it plays out. Bethany’s rejection of Ricky comes at about the same time as her recognition of Tom as the leader.
Now, although Jake agrees that Ricky is a pest that should be gotten rid of, and is clearly excited to use his Punisher gun, Jake seems to realize that this is Tom’s duty, and something he needs to take care of for himself. Of course, Jake is the one who pulls the trigger, but that’s because Tom is too sane to do it (after doing everything leading up to pulling the trigger). But perhaps Jake is also subconsciously aware of the way Tom really feels about Bethany and is helping him out for that reason too. As he tries to motivate Tom to shoot, he says, “Take him out before he reaches second base” as Ricky is leaning towards Bethany during their lotion-lathering session. Jake’s instincts tell him that the threat of an escalation in Ricky and Bethany’s physical relationship is exactly what will drive Tom to shoot.
The gun shoots a number of rounds itself, several of which hit Ricky in the groin area. Coincidence? I think not. (Of course, groin injuries are ALWAYS funny.)
Can I also take this opportunity to ask why Bethany is wearing such a tiny bikini? I mean, her grandmother is there!
Bethany asks when Tom is going to “grow up and stop being a total embarrassment.” Is this past of being an embarrassment to Bethany the very thing that’s motivating him to try and be cool? And why does Bethany put so much emphasis on Tom growing up? There are other instances of this same idea popping up. Why such an interest, Bethany? What is exactly that you want him to step up and do?
I mentioned that Ricky is a douche nozzle and treats Tom like a rival that he has no respect for, but even so, the intensity of Tom’s hate for Ricky, the intensity of his desire that Bethany should break up with Ricky, and the sheer number of minutes spent on this is still remarkable. I mean, we don’t even meet the aliens until we’re 16 minutes in to a less than 90 minute movie. Most of those 16 minutes have been about Tom and him struggling with not wanting Ricky to be with Bethany. That’s a lot. And a lot of Ricky’s rudeness is in reaction to Tom 1) trying to sabotage him with the car deception and 2) shooting him in his nethers.
We don’t just have Tom telling us that Ricky shouldn’t be with Bethany, but we’ve got the movie doing it too. Even though Ricky is at most four years older than Bethany, and as someone who is college-bound, Bethany is likely 18 and therefore an adult herself. However, the film goes to a special effort (through Jake’s dialogue) to make a distinction between Ricky and Bethany’s age. Ricky is put under the control of the aliens, which the kids know is only something that can only happen to a “mature subject”. Jake is naturally confused, “But what about him? They tagged him and he’s Bethany’s age.” That line indicates that Bethany is still grouped in with the children, even though she is either 18 or a few months away from it. The Zirkon commander calls Bethany a “hormonal female”. This is another indication that Bethany is meant to be seen as still in the oven, so to speak. Not fully cooked.
The next big exchange between Tom and Bethany happens at 28:00 (can you tell I’m watching the movie as I compose this?). There are two important things to remark upon during this scene. The first thing is that Bethany asks Tom what he and Ricky talked about while they were up fixing the satellite dish. She wants to know specifically whether they talked about her. But Tom lies to her, and tells her that Ricky talked about his car the entire time, which he can see disappoints her, but he continues to lie. Tom already knows that Bethany is in a competitive relationship with Ricky’s beloved (and totally awesome car) because earlier Ricky told her to be careful of it in a slightly tool-ish way. Tom takes advantage of her sensitivity towards the subject of the car in telling her a lie that a preys on her fears about her relationship with Ricky, and makes it seem like Ricky doesn’t really care about her or think about her. (Tom lying is acceptable given that he knows that Ricky is a terrible person but hasn’t been able to expose that to Bethany or his parents.)
The second thing is when Tom puts his hand on her shoulder to stop her from turning and seeing Ricky, who is lying unconscious in the bushes. Bethany responds very oddly to this touch. She’s not annoyed or pleased or indifferent. It’s rather indecipherable and therefore very exciting for us. I think she’s supposed to be confused, but that’s not what I saw! Or maybe she is confused, but about why he was touching her? Or confused about what she was feeling when he did?
When Tom gains full control over Ricky through the mind-control plug and the remote control, he not only enjoys watching Ricky moan over his damaged car and slap himself, but he uses it to sabotage Ricky’s relationship with Bethany. He could have buffered Ricky’s explanation to Bethany about where he’s been, but he doesn’t. Again, he’s taking specific action to break them up, which is crossing a certain line. It’s crossing a line every time he does it.
1:04:00 is when we get our next hearty interaction. Bethany tells Tom to “man up and deal with it!” after he has fallen into despair. Bethany wants Tom to be a man? And she also wants him to take charge?
One of the single most important moments in their relationship as it is portrayed on screen is when she asks the twins to help her and they refuse because Tom is their leader. You can see that this really impacts Bethany and how she views Tom. Maybe he’s a man already, eh Bethany?
And it’s from looking at Bethany (who makes puppy dog eyes at him) that Tom seems to muster that last bit of hope and courage he needs to take action. He says “all right” to her in a way that’s very intimate.
When Bethany finds Ricky unconscious in the basement, everyone else is with Jake, who had been captured by the aliens. Tom leaves Jake to come watch Ricky wake up. It’s clear he has a vested interest in what happens between him and Bethany.
What Ricky says about Tom (“stupid brother”) and the others (“dumb little cousins”) after waking up and being told the truth (which he doesn’t believe) isn’t really that harsh, and it’s understandable that he would be out of sorts after all that he’d been through, but Bethany does not take it well. She doesn’t even bother trying to prove that she’s telling the truth about the aliens. She looks more annoyed than hurt when Ricky walks out. She’s cheesed at his douchenozzlery, not hurt because she’s losing him. If the fact that the movie ends with both Tom and Bethany single wasn’t enough, we even get to enjoy the fact that Bethany never loved Ricky.
Bethany’s smile when she sees that he’s taken part of Ricky’s engine is, dare I say, flirtatious? She’s definitely impressed by his deviousness, even saying “wow”. Again they’re interrupted, this time by Jake, who acknowledges that they’re having a moment and tells them it has to happen later. Who knows where else that exchange would have gone? You can also see by the way that Tom turns around suddenly just as Jake reaches him that Jake takes him by surprise and that he had been totally focused on Bethany. That being startled by an interruption thing is classic romance, not typical of a brother/sister conversation.
What’s even better is that Jake is criticizing them for talking to each other instead of making war. He says “sibling bonding time” has to wait until after the threat is gone.
Around an hour and ten minutes, just after Skip (the Zirkon commander) becomes gigantic, not only does
Bethany wrap her arms around Tom’s arm, hiding behind him, but she practically bites his shoulder! Then, when Hannah asks her about their mom and dad, Bethany says, “Tom will figure it out.” She gives herself over completely to his command. He’s her leader too now. In the beginning she didn’t respect him at all, and now she’s trusting his decisions.
They stand pretty close during Hannah’s goodbye to Sparks, with her between them like she’s their daughter. With the parents out of the picture, they act as Hannah’s guardians in the story.
And Tom is so happy during his reconciliation scene with his dad, you have to wonder whether he didn’t get laid offscreen in the interim. (Yeah, I know, my biggest stretch yet and that’s saying something). Is he happy about defeating the aliens and saving the planet? Or is he happy about ridding himself of Ricky? (OK: probably both-I’ll concede that.)
Plus they have that adorable scene at the end where they use the remote control on Ricky when he goes to visit a girl whom he apparently has been seeing while he’s been seeing Bethany. Don’t miss Funky Ricky! Now it’s Tom and Bethany vs. Ricky the Ex.
In the end, I don’t think Tom can be blamed for breaking them up, because Ricky would have dumped her the second she didn’t put out. But I don’t think that’s really clear until the end.
Overall, for those of us who enjoy shipping brother/sister incest, this is a great film for it. You can see how a bunch of small things really add up.
I’ve written a short fanfic that takes place right after the movie. It focuses on Tom/Bethany, but hints at something for Jake and Hannah in the future. (I didn’t discuss Jake/Hannah at all in this entry but I ship that pretty hard as well. In the future, obviously. I wrote about Jake and Hannah here.)
Summary: The kids reflect on what happened and how it changed their relationships.