A 1993 comedy film directed by Steve Barron (Electric Dreams, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)) and produced by Lorne Michaels, based on the Saturday Night Live sketches about the titular Coneheads. As was the case with the previous SNL skit-inspired film The Blues Brothers, Coneheads has been said to have made an "accidental" or "unintentional" political statement or social commentary about the nature of the immigrant experience in America, the filmmakers' ostensible intent being merely to entertain. Coneheads remains the only SNL-related film to date to receive a PG rating.
The film stars Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin as Beldar and Prymaat Clorhone (who later Anglicize their Remulakian surname to "Conehead"), parents of Connie (Michelle Burke, taking over the role played by Laraine Newman on SNL). Michael McKean and David Spade play INS officials; also appearing are Sinbad and SNL alumni Phil Hartman, Jan Hooks, Tim Meadows, Jon Lovitz, Peter Aykroyd, Tom Davis, Garrett Morris, Chris Farley, Laraine Newman, Kevin Nealon, Julia Sweeney, and Adam Sandler.
Other supporting cast members include Jason Alexander and Lisa Jane Persky. Alexander's Seinfeld co-star, Michael Richards, makes a cameo appearance, as do Eddie Griffin, Joey Lauren Adams, Parker Posey, Ellen DeGeneres, Drew Carey, Dave Thomas, and Tom Arnold.
Coneheads provides examples of:
- The Ace: Beldar sort of qualifies. He impresses all of his bosses with his work skills, easily fixes his neighbor's lawn mower within seconds, wins a golf trophy, learned perfect conversational French to keep up the "We come from France" charade, and even successfully narfles the Garthok, something implied to have never been accomplished before. But he then needs to take his car to an auto repair shop.note
- Connie as well. Not only is she trusted enough to be the top cheerleader on the pyramid, something that requires incredible balance and stability, but she executes a complex dive with barely a ripple into the water. Likely all Remulakians are this compared to humans.
- Adaptation Expansion: This movie is based off of a series of skits from the second season of Saturday Night Live.
- All There in the Manual: According to the book "Coneheads: The Life and Times of Beldar Conehead", "Connie" is short for "Conjaab".
- Alien Among Us: Beldar and Pryymat ended up stranded on Earth for many years.
- Alien Blood: For what we can see after Beldar's fight with the monster, Coneheads' blood is blue.
- Alien Invasion: Beldar and Pryymat arrive to Earth with this goal in mind, but they are shot down by a fighter jet due to Beldar forgetting to turn on their cloaking device, causing them to crash while only escaping with their uniforms, leaving them stranded. It's later revealed that the Remulakians have advanced technology, but it's still not clear how two people were expected to take over a world of billions, though there are indications that the Remulakians massively overestimate their own superiority and may have actually thought a single ship would be sufficient for the entire planet. Prymaat even needles Beldar about this with her statement "Some Earth weapons are not so primitive" when he's posturing about Earth's inferiority again.
- Aliens Never Invented Democracy: The Coneheads' world is ruled by an absolute monarch.
- Aloof Leader, Affable Subordinate: Subverted. INS Deputy Commissioner Seedling is a gung-ho leader with a single-minded drive to catch and deport the Coneheads. His subordinate, Agent Turnbull, tends to take finds and evidence from other agents to keep them from having to interact with Seedling when he's angry, but it's just so Turnbull can take credit for himself.
- Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: The lyrics to the Conehead Love in the credits say "Eisenhower, Nixon, Truman. None of them were really human".
- Berserk Button:
- You do NOT act like a flarndip around Beldar's daughter.
- Nor do you alter your trells (teeth), disgrace yourself as a guardsman, or use the bitumious pleasure spools more than four times.
- Big Eater: The Coneheads engage in consumption of mass quantities, and when they do, they tend to do it very quickly. In a subversion from most examples, they avoid Jabba Table Manners, and employ proper manners like daintily dabbing their mouth to remove food stains and keeping the table clean.
- Ronnie: Wow! My Mom's the only other woman I know who can take a sandwich like that!
Connie: (indicating Ronnie's sub) You gonna eat that?
- Bizarre Alien Biology: Remulaks have coneshaped heads and some sort of electrokinetic powers. Their mouths contain multiple rows of spiky teeth, eat enormous amounts of food very quickly, have genitals that draw shocked and horrified reactions from humans that see them, and are much stronger and more durable than the average human. Also, they sleep standing up.
- Black Comedy: As part of their efforts to prove the Coneheads are aliens, Seedling and Turnbull visit their home on Halloween (at which time their distinctive heads are disguised by a stovepipe hat (Beldar, dressed as Abraham Lincoln) and red makeup (Prymaat, dressed as a tube of lipstick). The agents cover is that they're Jehovah's Witnesses, and when Seedling states the JW belief that only 144,000 people will be saved at the end of the world (12,000 from each tribe of Israel), Prymaat mutters that she believes the number will be far lower than that.
- Black Dude Dies First: The disgraced guardsman played by Tim Meadows. He's the first to try narfling the Garthok, and it... doesn't go too well. For some reason though, the arm thrown back is quite distinctively white.
- Bluff the Impostor: Seedling attempts to do this. When the Coneheads insist they're from France, Seedling converses with them in French, to the shock of Eli. However, the Coneheads respond in perfect French (in their usual stilted monotone, of course).
- Brutal Honesty: Beldar and Prymaat, often.Larry: Wanna know a little secret? Not all my own hair. Hard to tell, isn't it?
Beldar: Only from very high altitudes.
- Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp"Prymaat: (doing a newspaper crossword) What is a seven-letter word for a tomb in ancient Egypt which is a quadrilateral masonry mass having smooth, steeply-sloping sides meeting at an apex?
Beldar: A flendar.
Prymaat: Ahh! (happily fills in the crossword)
- With some crossword puzzles *cough*London Times*cough* this makes perfect sense.
- The Cameo: Tons of them, in fact.
- Chekhov's Skill: Beldar's golf skills come in handy when he's forced to narfle the Garthok back on Remulak.
- Cigar-Fuse Lighting: Beldar does this when he lights the fuse to a tiny homemade firework... that produces a massive explosion.
- Comicbook Adaptation
- Comic Sutra: Remulakian reproduction can come across as this. Better have some Senso Rings ready.
- Creator Cameo: Co-writer Terry Turner appears as the sketch artist Seedling describes Beldar to.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: The entire film is a metaphor for the immigrant experience, from trying to assimilate, taking shitty jobs to make ends meet, having a second generation kid who is more American than her former country, to re-visiting the homeland, dealing with INS on a constant basis, and so on (well, maybe...). In the end, like almost all naturalized citizens, the United States is their home now, not Remulak.
- Exact Words: At the end, Beldar pulls Ronnie aside to "have fifty-five words with him." He does, in fact, say exactly 55 words to him.
- Expospeak Gag:
- Along with Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness and Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp", composes almost all the Conehead dialog.
- Interesting in that no one seems to have any trouble interpreting these gags.Prymaat: We will ignite our new flame pit and char some mammal flesh for you.note
Lisa Farber (neighbor): That sounds like fun. I'll make some coleslaw.
- Some of the humor comes from them mixing in not-so-loquacious speech, such as Beldar referring to a "broken down, rusted old shitbox" of a car.
- Extreme Omnivore: Coneheads are capable of eating many things. For one, Beldar ate the soap and toilet paper in their motel room. He even fixes a lawnmower by sucking off all the trapped grease and gunk from the spark plug. That being said, Prymaat coughs up dust instead of swallowing it when she vacuums the house with her mouth (and a vacuum cleaner hose attachment).
- Fantastic Slurs: The Coneheads call ordinary humans "blunt-skulls".
- Fed to the Beast: One of the punishments on Remulak.
- Good Parents: Seriously. Beldar and Prymaat actually forfeit their newly-obtained privileged status on Remulak and fake their own deaths simply to give Connie the life on Earth she wants. As Beldar tells her, "Your happiness and positive perception of me is vital to my existence. After all, it's not every day that a father can give the world to his young one..."
- Happily Married: Beldar and Prymaat are probably one of the best examples you could ask for... and that's in spite of the fact that they regularly engage in Brutal Honesty with each other. Just how much they're like a loving married couple is what lets the audience empathize despite all the humor revolving around how alien they are.
- Hollywood Jehovah's Witness: Seedling and Eli impersonate Jehovah's Witnesses to infiltrate the Coneheads' house. They have the unbelievable bad timing to do it on the very day the Coneheads' rescue ship arrives. Oddly enough though, Seedling does actually demonstrate some genuine knowledge of Jehovah's Witnesses' doctrine, though Beldar is convinced that their apocalyptic beliefs are "too optimistic" concerning how many humans will survive the coming calamity given humanity's defensive capabilities.
- Humanity Is Infectious: The longer they stay on earth, the more human the Conehead family becomes; Beldar plays golf with his neighbor, Prymaat is a keen gardener, Connie is a cheerleader and on the swim team... all in all, once they move to the suburbs, the Conehead family (for the most part) lives a normal American suburban lifestyle.
- Imagine Spot: Beldar fantasizes about winning a golf trophy (and said trophy grows a conical head when he does).
- Inhumanable Alien Rights: Subverted. INS Deputy Commissioner Gorman Seedling does not care they are aliens, and treats them like humans. In fact, he treats them exactly like illegal immigrants, although would probably be at a loss how to deport them.Eli Turnbull: Excuse me sir, but should they be in fact, creatures from another planet, isn't that the Air Force's responsibility?
Gorman Seedling: If they're just visiting, sure... but the minute they try to work here, they're mine.
- I Am One of Those, Too: After Prymaat and Beldar give the "we come from France" line to a disguised Seedling, he tries to trap them by speaking in French. Luckily, they apparently prepared for this and continue the conversation in perfect French.
- Inspector Javert: Subverted. Seedling is seemingly obsessed with detaining and deporting the Coneheads, but he dropped their case early in his career. His career is unable to move forward because he spent a huge amount of resources and never closed the case. Not to mention that he actually told his superiors that he thought they were from another planet. Notably, even though he believes they're genuine extraterrestrials, he doesn't want them killed, just to follow immigration law.
- Ironic Echo: Beldar is driving Connie and her girlfriends who turn on the radio and sing along wildly to "Tainted Love", which Beldar finds loathsome. Later, when Beldar must fight a coneheaded monster, he starts singing that song. It's not like it came in handy like a Chekhov's Gun since singing that song would cause the Garthok to better zero in on Beldar's hiding place, but it does set the stage for the aforementioned Chekhov's Skill.
- Jabba Table Manners: Subverted, sort of. When Connie scarfs a whole hoagie in about ten seconds, her boyfriend doesn't see it as rude at all, he is rather impressed (in fact, this is only one of many examples where she and her parents' odd behavior seems to go strangely unnoticed by humans). It's somewhat justifiable in his case, since he says his own mother does it (he's impressed as he thought she was the only one that could). In addition, she doesn't make a mess at all, neatly consuming the sub without even leaving crumbs on the table.
- "Jump Off a Bridge" Rebuttal: Beldar Conehead's reaction at his daughter's fake tattoo on her cone.Connie: It's just a decal, everyone's wearing them.
Beldar: If everyone jumped into a bitumnious cauldron, would you jump in too?
Connie: I am not a little cone anymore, dad!
- Jurisdiction Friction:
Seedling: If they're just visiting, sure. But the minute they try to work here, they're mine.
- When INS operatives Seedling and Eli are discussing the possibility that the Coneheads might be aliens, Eli asks if their case should be handled by the Air Force. Seedling gives a somewhat probable counterargument for INS jurisdiction.
- Fair for Its Day, of course, but these days, Homeland Security would trump that argument.
- Like a Duck Takes to Water: Eli makes himself the Highmaster's personal assistant very quickly after getting abducted and taken to Remulak.
- Making Room for Baby: Beldar and Prymaat are living in a basement apartment when Prymaat is pregnant; shortly before she goes into labor, they discuss moving out to a house in the suburbs as they've been saving for it. They do so, leading to a Good-Times Montage of the Conehead family living in their new house.
- Microts: The Remulak unit of time known as the zerl. Seven of them constitute about sixteen Earth years.
- Morality Pet: At the film's climax, Beldar already has misgivings about conquering Earth, as was his original mission, but seeing a depressed Connie convinces him to scare off the war fleet from Earth so they can remain on Earth as a normal family.
- More Teeth than the Osmond Family: Beldar demonstrated how many teeth Coneheads have when he went to the dentist to get them capped... all four rows of them. And he can open his mouth reeeeeeally wide.
- Motor Mouth: The entire Conehead family, though Beldar is the worst offender. Even Connie can fall into this, though she speaks in a more American dialect.
- My Brain Is Big: The aliens have huge heads shaped like cones. That is why they are so intelligent.
- No Sense of Personal Space: Beldar and other Remulakians often exhibit behavior like this, being aliens. Once Beldar has been informed that Earthlings dislike having their personal space invaded, he often seems to use this to his advantage.
- Omniglot: Seedling speaks French, surprising even Eli. He uses it in an attempt to poke a hole in the Coneheads' story, except they have already covered that eventuality.
- Overprotective Dad: Although he does warm up to Connie's boyfriend by the end of the movie, Beldar can be quite the Overprotective Dad in his own peculiar way (and backed up by Super Strength):(Beldar tears open the roof to Ronnie's car)
Ronnie: H-hi, Mr. Conehead.
Beldar: I find you unacceptable!
Ronnie: Yes, sir.
Beldar: If I did not fear incarceration from human authority figures, I would terminate your life functions by applying sufficient pressure to your blunt skull so as to force its collapse!note
Ronnie: Th-thank you.
- Paying in Coins: Prymaat zaps a vending machine and they use the quarters to pay for a motel room.
- Pragmatic Adaptation: The Coneheads in the original skit were almost a Shallow Parody of Vulcans mixed with Mork. The movie has them emote a lot more (so that they're more relatable and watchable), has Connie act like an American girl (rather than exactly like her parents), and has the Coneheads at least try to blend in aside from claiming to be from France.
- Precision F-Strike: Towards the end, when Beldar takes Ronnie aside to "have fifty-five words with him."note Beldar: The frightening statistics of young Earthlings mangling themselves in internal combustion vehicles on the night of prom ritual makes me insist that you use maximum safety awareness, return at the predesignated time coordinates, and, in fact, take my car. Its reinforced alloy superstructure is far superior to that of your broken down, rusted out shitbox.
- Product Placement: Connie's consumption of mass quantities involves her downing an entire Subway footlong in three bites. Subway even promoted the movie with their "Mass Quantities Meal Deal".
- Professional Butt-Kisser: Seedling's assistant Turnbull (David Spade). He even manages to become a confidant to the Remulakian leader after he and his boss are captured and enslaved.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Beldar gives one to Connie's future boyfriend Ronnie at the auto shop when he's told his car isn't ready. And it is awesome.Beldar: Unacceptable. Not only have you delayed my departure from here, but the entire sequence of events which was to follow. What reason could you have for such deception?!
- Ready for Lovemaking: Prymaat, after consuming mass quantities of women's magazines looking for advice on how to keep Beldar interested in her.
- "Rediscovering Roots" Trip: Alien variation. The three Conehead family members return to their home planet of Remulak; Beldar and Prymaat readjust to being back there to a certain extent, but Connie (who was born on Earth and grew up in suburban New Jersey) doesn't feel at home there at all.
- Sarcastic Confession: Beldar not only tells his first boss that he's an illegal alien, but admits that he's a space alien. The guy doesn't believe him (well, whether Beldar was actually trying to be sarcastic or had not yet learned that it was best to lie about that is unclear).
- Screaming Birth: Connie's birth is accompanied by oceans of fluid, truly epic mugging from her mother Prymaat, and glass-shattering howls. Considering that her biological readings at that point are apparently enough to cause Earth medical machines to howl like a red alert and fling sparks, the screaming's likely justified. Also literally crushing her husband's hand as she shouts "I hate you, Beldar! I hate yoooou!" And then Beldar, when asked by the obstetrician if he would like to cut the umbilical cord (and being offered a pair of scissors to do so), leans in and bites clean through it the old-fashioned waynote . Cue the obstetrician's humorous fainting.
- Serious Business: It's apparently high treason for a Remulakian to alter his teeth... er, trells in any way. Beldar did not know this, but the emperor was apparently dissatisfied by Beldar's poor showing in conquering Earth and looking for any reason to punish him.
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Another side effect of being from Remulak, summed up in the ending:Prymaat: Say "lactate extract of hoofed mammal!"
Connie and Ronnie: Cheese!
- Skewed Priorities: Seedling isn't concerned that he has been abducted and enslaved by aliens, and continues to rant about how illegal immigration in America must be controlled.
- Smug Smiler: Prymaat is pure this after Beldar narfles the garthok. She is damn proud of her man.
- Stay with the Aliens
- Inverted. Beldar chooses to stay on Earth, rather than trying to conquer it, making it an interstellar inversion of Going Native.
- Seedling's assistant does in fact stay with the aliens. While it's not of his own free will, he does seem to be adapting very well to being the planetary ruler's new gofer and sycophant by the end, however.
- Stranded Invader: Beldar and Prymaat are stranded on Earth while doing a recon before an invasion by Remulak. During the intervening years they have a daughter and raise her on Earth. When the time comes for an actual invasion, Beldar finds he cannot go through with it, and feigns being shot down by non-existent defense satellites, opting to stay on Earth with his family, instead.
- Super Strength: Beldar can lift up a car from its back wheels and tear the roof off with his bare hands.
- Surprisingly Good Foreign Language: Seedling speak fluent French and uses it to see if Beldar and Prymaat's backstory of coming from France will fall apart. Turns out, they prepared for this eventuality and reply in the same language.Seedling: Do you still speak French in America?Beldar: Yes. Absolutely, but it is difficult to practice in this town. There are not very many continental French people here in New Jersey.Seedling: And you?Prymaat: Yes, I speak a little of it often with my French-speaking friends.
- Suspiciously Apropos Music: In the climax when Beldar narfles the Garthok he sings "Tainted Love". While this is in part a Call-Back to Connie and her friends singing it when he drove them, it also reflects and foreshadows how he comes to view his love for Remulak. It isn't what he once thought it was, tainted one might say, and now he will run from it by seeking to live on Earth, because of the pure love given by his daughter.
- Sycophantic Servant: Turnbull is this to Seedling and later to the alien emperor.
- Tactical Withdrawal: How Beldar tricks the Remulakian fleet into giving up on Earth, by claiming the nations have a BFG that will destroy the fleet.
- Take Our Word for It: Beldar's fireworks display, of which the movie audience is only shown the first blast of color across the sky. It goes on for some time, is strong enough to send shockwaves across the ground, bright enough to give some of the people in the front row sunburns, and to judge from the music and awed reactions was vaguely equivalent to gazing upon the face of God.
- Theme Tune Rap: The only way to describe "Conehead Love", featured in the credits and on the soundtrack, which has Beldar and Prymatt essentially reading off the song lyrics in their usual monotonous alien delivery (and Nan Schaeffer singing the chorus). Incidentally, this was the second Theme Tune Rap written for a Dan Aykroyd movie that featured him and a co-star on vocalsnote .
- Time-Compression Montage: The movie shows Connie's childhood through excerpts of home movies set to Paul Simon's "Kodachrome".
- Token Minority: Sinbad, Garrett Morris, Eddie Griffin and Tim Meadows are the film's only actors of color with speaking parts. Meadows and Morris also play the only black Coneheads with speaking roles (there are other non-speaking black Coneheads in the stadium crowd, and an Asian Conehead in the emperor's court).
- Trial by Combat: Beldar is put through a variation of this on a charge of treason when he returns to Remulak, where he has to "narfle the Garthok" (which means, fight a huge monster in an arena). His fondness for golf that he picked up on Earth helps him succeed.
- Unusual Euphemism:
- "He will surely cut off my plargh and hand it to me." Which particular sensitive part of the anatomy the plargh is never is specified, but we can guess.
- Also, "honing" as in "You don't have to hone your cone alone" from the "Conehead Love" song in the credits. Conehead sexuality is... kind of strange.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: The Coneheads' Bizarre Alien Biology is remarked upon, but no one ever treats it like more than an oddity, rather than obvious signs that they are not human. One human thinks of them as weird, but he's played as an uncouth redneck by Tom Arnold, so it could be people do think they're strange but treat it like someone avoiding pointing out another person's deformity, since aside from their heads they look human (well, also teeth, but that isn't obvious).
- Up to Eleven: Everything the Coneheads do is exaggerated from human forms. Everything, from eating to giving birth.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Seedling doesn't actually seem to be racist (unlike his assistant), and is apparently sincere in his beliefs about why immigration must be controlled. He just takes it too far. Even at the end, with his life literally on the line, he will only agree to give Beldar legal status if it can be done in accordance with established immigration law. Specifically, he can fast-track a green card if Beldar can demonstrate a job skill that no US citizen possesses. Beldaar immediately agrees, stating "That is no challenge to me." - and would you doubt him? Although, he better qualifies for a green card for refugee status. He got sentenced to death by his own government for cultural practices (altering his own teeth), was then forced in military service, and fled to the US to escape. He is a textbook refugee. However, perhaps Seedling doesn't want INS to print that they had two refugeesnote from 'Remulak' in official US refugee stats.
- Wild Card Excuse: The reason that they are so weird is that they are from France. They learned accented French to aid this.
- Wrench Wench: Connie, but only because every one of her race is good at mechanics.Connie: (almost offhand) How can it take so long to do a simple alignment on an American sedan with standard rack-and-pinion steering and MacPherson struts when your garage is equipped with the proper Borg-Warner digital hydraulic radiometer?note
Ronnie: (smitten) Maybe because I was out back finishing a beer.
- Wrestler of Beasts: Beldar is convicted of "bonding" with humans and as punishment must fight for his life in a closed arena against a monster called the Garthok. Another convict makes a charge at the Garthok and only lasts less than five seconds before his detached head rolls back to Beldar's feet. Beldar is able to fare much better against the monster thanks to a Chekhov's Skill.
- Yes-Man: Eli Turnbull agrees with everything Seedling tells him. And after becoming a slave on Remulak, he treats the High Commander the same way. However, he also makes sure that he's the only one to report to his superior, making him look more like a Hypercompetent Sidekick than a toadie.