Cara Buono’s Brooklyn accent fluctuates wildly in From Other Worlds, but Barry Strugatz’s sci-fi indie about a housewife’s close encounter of the third kind is otherwise quite consistent in its ineffectiveness. Awkwardly mixing comedy, romance, and out-there fantasy, the film concerns Joanne (Buono), an unhappy wife and mother of two who’s shaken from her disaffected stupor by an apparent alien abduction. The eye-opening event leads her to a UFO support group where she meets Ivory Coast native and bootleg watch seller Abraham (Isaach De Bankolé), who’s had a similar otherworldly experience and, thus, becomes her partner on a mysterious mission involving a centuries-old parchment rescued from the seventh wonder of the world, the Lighthouse of Alexandria. With an enigmatic sleuth (Robert Peters) on their trail and Joanne’s husband (David Lansbury) increasingly convinced that his wife is having an affair, their adventure quickly devolves into a tongue-in-cheek X-Files episode that Strugatz also wants to serve as a touching portrait of one woman’s personal awakening.
Too bad the story’s humorous bits are so sluggish and off-key—and Strugatz’s character-specific drama and burgeoning romance between Joanne and Abraham are so thinly conceived and clumsily staged—that the film simply manages to amble along at a tedious gate. After suggestions that Joanne might be making everything up as a means of compensating for her humdrum existence, she and Abraham are led to a meeting with an actual E.T. (Joel De La Fuente), who wears a skin-tight bodysuit modeled after a 1950s sci-fi film costume and uses a variety of voices (including a Robert De Niro impersonation) learned from TV broadcasts. It’s the most obvious example of From Other Worlds’ spoofery, and also a painfully lurching moment that’s emblematic of the film itself, an uneven trifle that—despite an easygoing portrait of contemporary Brooklyn, and a reasonably endearing performance from Buono—can be counted on throughout to muck up whatever tone (funny, poignant, uplifting) it’s shooting for.