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Listen, 'ALF' Movie: Gordon Shumway Needs to Be a Puppet

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Aug 09, 2012 | 6:50am EDT

ALTToday's revival of your latest pop culture phenomenon of the past: ALF. Sony Pictures Animation and the producers of their mega-successful live-action/CG hybrid The Smurfs are teaming to bring the character to the big screen, reports The Hollywood Reporter.

ALF, aka Gordon Shumway, may be one of the weirdest creations ever to hit the small screen (rivaled only by the equally-bizarre Dinosaurs). His sitcom played out like any other four-camera comedy, but the setup continues to mystify: an alien from the planet Melmac, ALF crash-landed on Earth only to shack up with the Tanners, your run-of-the-mill suburban family. Hilarity ensued.

ALF was extremely popular in the late '80s, thanks in part to the success of Jim Henson's The Muppet Show, and the many movies and TV shows that series spawned (although ALF was not a Muppet — rather, a creation of performer Paul Fusco). After ALF ended in 1990, the character's legacy and popularity continued on in a series of spin-offs, including an animated series, Marvel comic book, TV movie (Project ALF), and a short-lived talk show that ran on TV Land in 2004 (and of course, ALF POGs). A big screen venture for ALF was always a matter of "when."

Reviving ALF for a new audience is perfectly logical and could even result in a fun kids comedy (I've been the victim of harsh criticisms since giving 2011's The Smurfs a positive review, but I stand by it). Nothing is sacred these days — and really, modernizing ALF is one of the least egregious moves Sony Animation could possibly make. But there's one concern with the initial report of this in-the-works project: the live-action/CG approach. It works for Smurfs — everyone connects the gaggle of blue critters with their cartoon roots. They've never been tangible. Trying to make them "real" would be a hopeless endeavor.

Mr. Shumway is a different matter. He is real — albeit a creation of foam and fluff — and the sitcom worked because Fusco was able to move ALF, interact with ALF, perform ALF. In his many works, Jim Henson strove for a realism he believed only puppets could create. In his own words:

"…you're trying to create something that people will actually believe, but it's not so much a symbol of the thing, but you're trying to do the thing itself."

A movie starring ALF should star the physical ALF. Recreating him with spiffy computer graphics would be like reviving old actors for new movies (something special effects wizards say could be on the horizon). Recognizably inauthentic. If today's audiences took the plunge with 2011's The Muppets, they can do it with ALF.

Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches

[Photo Credit: NBC]

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