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Doyle`s wit eclipsed by gimmicks

London: Despite an abundance of otherworldly encounters and bizarre mutant inhabitants, Jim Anderson`s teenage angst and coming-of-age story may seem familiar.

It should. After all, humour writer Larry Doyle`s latest offering is a pastiche of B-movie plots and characters and pop culture trivia, its tale of adolescent rebellion and alien invasions stitched together from 1950s film classics such as ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ and ‘King Kong,’ cult favourites including ‘The Blob’ and ‘The Day of the Triffids,’ and an assortment of musical genres from the past five decades.

Doyle, an Emmy Award-winning writer for ‘The Simpsons’ and author of the comic novel ‘I Love You, Beth Cooper,’ displays an undeniably encyclopedic knowledge of popular culture and delights in showing it off. The pages of ‘Go, Mutants!’ bulge with references to gigantic ants, talking robots, gelatinous human-eating blobs, monstrous man-flies, the perfect TV families of the 1950s and `60s, teenage bad girls and leather-wearing motorcycle-riding bad boys. And that`s just a small sampling of Doyle`s trivial pursuit.

Doyle is a clever writer. He throws off witticisms with aplomb, easily lobs dexterous plays on words, and often strikes keen insights into the teenage mind. His main character, Jim Anderson (the name should be familiar to any "Father Knows Best" fan), is a typical teenager struggling with the conflicting, confusing feelings of puberty and first love. Typical, save for the fact that he is the son of a big-brained alien blamed for leading an invasion of Earth and a feline cat-woman who works as a cocktail waitress at a club catering to humans with an alien fetish. Oh, and his first love is a human girl.

Jim is tortured by bullies at school, strangled by his own social awkwardness and plagued by insecurities. The passages describing the alien teen`s tangled inner emotions could apply to any human traversing high school, and Doyle captures those knotted moments of adolescent agony skilfully. Unfortunately, that story is buried under a pop culture blizzard.

Doyle`s unrelenting onslaught of inside jokes and obscure cultural references will certainly appeal to trivia wizards and B-movie fanatics. However, the youthful audience that could relate most to the teenage travails of Jim Anderson are likely more familiar with Justin Bieber, Robert Pattinson and ‘Avatar’ than James Dean, Marlon Brando and ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still.’ In the end, Doyle`s sharp wit and occasional insights are overshadowed by gimmicks (including chapter headings that mimic coming-attraction trailers) that quickly grow thin.

Bureau Report

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