Holding a copy of Inalienable in my hand, the first thing that crosses my mind is that whole argument over the word (i.e., inalienable versus unalienable) that, according to some long-forgotten secondary source from high school history, nearly caused a dust-up between Thomas Jefferson and another one of the Founding Fathers (John Adams?) during the penning of the Declaration of Independence. That amusing anecdotal remembrance and all its what-if off-shoots, unfortunately, is of more entertainment value than anything in Inalienable — a weird, pedantic, sci-fi courtroom/social drama which could also be called My Octopus Son.
Science-fiction legend Walter Koenig, of the original Star Trek, is the writer-actor most responsible for this mess, though Timequest writer-director Robert Dyke helps him carry out the celluloid crime by helming, and staging scenes with the unimaginative flatness of some moralizing sketch from a small town bank’s Christmas party. The production was obviously mightily strapped for cash (hence the ridiculously spare production design, which results in unadorned hallways and entire offices and “scientific” research areas free of anything except gaudy metal furniture), but that doesn’t excuse the lame dialogue, flatly sketched characters and oscillating tone. Inalienable wants to explore the intersection of science and moral justice (hence the comparisons to slave-era blood laws, and the dubious, unintentionally hilarious invocation of the word octoroon), but Koenig never makes convincing case that he’s the best party for that job.
The story? Oh, right. Sorry. It centers on Dr. Eric Norris (Richard Hatch… no, not that jack-off), a scientist who discovers his body is host to a parasite from another world. With the shocking revelation that this microscopic intruder also carries his DNA, Norris confronts the possibility that he might give “birth” to a new son to replace the one lost in a tragic accident years earlier. Flash forward a bit, and Norris, his lawyer Howard Ellis (Erick Avari), and this new, tentacled fusion of human and alien find themselves at the center of legal battle involving Norris’ dickish boss, Shilling (Koenig).
Owing to Koenig’s avuncular sci-fi status, Inalienable boasts a recognizable cast of mostly genre favorites: Battlestar Galatica‘s Hatch, Avari and Star Trek: The Next Generation alumnus Marina Sirtis, in addition to Alan Ruck, Richard Herd and Gary Graham. But the screenplay is an emotionally half-baked collection of capital-I ideas and scenarios, all just shoved up against one another. There’s the awkward romance between Norris and much younger coworker Amanda (Courtney Peldon), in an effort to give the movie some domestic mooring. There’s the desperate infusion of a reckless, fear-mongering press, to try to give the story some social depth. And then there’s the genre “sizzle” — the special effects that, in the words of Butt-head (or was it Beavis?), just aren’t that special. These include practical creature effects for Norris’ son that make him look like a cardboard Hellboy. None of this works, sorry. Multiple “FAILS,” across the board.
Housed in a regular plastic Amaray case in turn stored in a complementary, foil “O-card” slipcover, Inalienable comes presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio, with a Dolby digital 2.0 audio track. Its static main menu screen features a weird (and factually inaccurate, given the rest of the narrative) Photoshopping of Peldon holding said octopus baby, and the feature is divided into a dozen separate chapters. A version of the film’s trailer is the sole bonus item; no one wants to step forward and take credit for the birthing of this Inalienable baby, it seems. To purchase the DVD via Amazon, click here. D- (Movie) D (Disc)