“Maika: The Girl from Another Galaxy,” by the Vietnamese director Ham Tran, is a children’s adventure movie about a lonely boy, Hung (Phu Truong Lai), who meets a chirpy alien (Diep Anh Chu) and promptly gets into trouble. It’s essentially “E.T.” with a sloppier, zanier touch, and it’s set in urban Vietnam as opposed to a sleepy California neighborhood.
It hasn’t really got much for the adults to chew on, either. “Maika” is an aggressively kids-only affair — the farting and scream-acting make sure of this.
The story goes as you’d expect: there’s a weepy prologue involving a tragically deceased parent; a best friend whisked away to another town by her parents; a fateful extraterrestrial encounter that quickly develops into a touching friendship; twitchy cronies on a mission to abduct the creature, Maika — who is no bug-eyed puppet, but (thanks to a bit of space magic) a regular-looking little girl.
With its fluorescent purple computer-generated flourishes, the movie looks dated even if a number of scenes involve pointedly modern phenomenon, like a zippy drone chase and a group of kids playing with VR headsets.
The coastal Vietnamese setting provides a welcome variation on the boy-meets-alien formula, as does the cultural milieu, with wealthy types living in glossy high-rises and humbler families right below them struggling to keep up with society’s technological developments. (Hung’s father owns a repair shop, but he hasn’t yet pivoted to the more lucrative business of repairing tablets and phones.)
But mostly, “Maika” stands out for its moments of weird eccentricity. Bad guys get slapped by gobs of kimchi and Hung and Maika float around in a bubble, zooming past airplanes. 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 rated. In Vietnamese, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes. In theaters.