“Maika: The Girl from Another Galaxy”, by Vietnamese director Ham Tran, is a children’s adventure film about a lonely boy, Hung (Phu Truong Lai), who meets a cheerful alien (Dep Anh Chu) and promptly gets into trouble. . It’s essentially “ET” with a sloppier, zanier twist, and it’s set in urban Vietnam as opposed to a sleepy California neighborhood.
It also doesn’t really have much for the adults to chew on. “Maika” is an aggressive kid-only affair – the farting and yelling take care of this.
The story goes as you’d expect: there’s a tearful prologue with a tragically deceased parent; a best friend who her parents took to another city; a fateful alien encounter that quickly develops into a touching friendship; nervous cronies on a mission to kidnap the creature, Maika – who isn’t a puppet, but (thanks to a little space magic) a normal-looking little girl.
With its fluorescent purple computer-generated trim, the film looks dated, even though some scenes feature a decidedly modern phenomenon, such as a high-speed drone chase and a group of kids playing with VR headsets.
Vietnam’s coastal environment offers a welcome twist on the boy-meets-alien formula, as does the cultural milieu, with wealthy types living in gleaming high-rises and humble families just below them struggling to keep up with the technological advances of the society. (Hung’s father owns a repair shop, but he hasn’t moved on to the more lucrative business of repairing tablets and phones.)
But above all, “Maika” stands out for its moments of weird eccentricity. Bad guys are beaten by kimchi and Hung and Maika float around in a bubble, buzzing past 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
Not judged. In Vietnamese, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes. In theatres.