Karen Allen, Jeff Bridges, ... | HUNKY ALIEN AND EARTHLING Karen Allen and Jeff Bridges in Starman
Credit: Everett Collection

When the sci-fi teen romance I Am Number Four (2011, PG-13, 1 hr., 49 mins.) hit theaters back in February, critics dogpiled on it for being a flashy, derivative mess starring a bunch of kids who looked like they'd stepped out of an Abercrombie catalog. In retrospect, that verdict seems kind. It's a shame that the movie was so god-awful, because it is possible to make a decent film about an alien discovering the meaning of love. Take John Carpenter's Starman (1984, PG, 1 hr., 55 mins.). I'll admit that the director of Halloween and The Thing probably wasn't an obvious choice to take on ? an intergalactic tearjerker, but Carpenter cast the film wisely, with Jeff Bridges as a naive visitor from space and Karen Allen as an earthling named Jenny who helps him get home. After crash-landing near Jenny's house in the sticks of Wisconsin, Bridges' extraterrestrial proceeds to "birth" himself into the human form of her recently deceased husband. At first, Bridges' herky-jerky shtick is funny. He talks like a robot and cocks his head like a confused schnauzer. But as these two lost souls drive to Arizona to rendezvous with an alien search party, their relationship becomes sweetly affecting. The visitor (Bridges earned an Oscar nod here) slowly learns what it means to be human, while Jenny embraces a second chance to say goodbye to her dead husband. Needless to say, none of this should work. But somehow, it does. B+