“Maika: Girl from Another Galaxy,” by Vietnamese director Ham Tran, is a children’s adventure film about a lonely boy, Hung (Phu Truong Lai), who encounters a chirping alien (Diep Anh Chu) and quickly get into trouble. It’s essentially “ET” with a sloppier, goofier twist, and it’s set in urban Vietnam as opposed to a sleepy California neighborhood.
There’s not really much for adults to chew on either. “Maika” is an aggressive kid-only affair – the farts and screams make sure of that.
The story unfolds as you’d expect: there’s a tearful prologue involving a tragically deceased relative; a best friend taken to another city by her parents; a fateful alien encounter that quickly turns into a touching friendship; nervous pals on a mission to abduct the creature, Maika – who isn’t a bug-eyed puppet, but (thanks to a little space magic) a normal-looking little girl.
With its computer-generated fluorescent purple flourishes, the film looks dated even if a number of scenes involve a decidedly modern phenomenon, such as a fast drone chase and a group of children playing with VR headsets.
The coastal Vietnamese setting offers a welcome variation on the boy-meets-stranger formula, as does the cultural milieu, with wealthy types living in gleaming skyscrapers and humbler families just below them struggling to keep up with developments. technology of the company. (Hung’s father owns a repair shop, but he hasn’t yet branched out into the more lucrative business of repairing tablets and phones.)
But above all, “Maika” stands out for its moments of bizarre eccentricity. The bad guys get slapped by piles of kimchi and Hung and Maika float in a bubble, speeding past the planes. Sure, it’s all very loud and cartoonish, but at least we’re not stuck in the suburbs.
Maika: the girl from another galaxy
Unclassified. In Vietnamese, with subtitles. Duration: 1h45. In theaters.