Film Review: The Host

A tough-minded teen fights back against the twinkly aliens that have taken over most of the Earth's population in this goofy young adult take on 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers.'

In the not-too-distant future, ETs who call themselves "Souls," which look like a squirmy bundle of tiny fiber-optic cables, have taken it upon themselves to "bond with" puny humans by occupying their bodies and usurping their minds, and if some people hadn't been such drags about yielding to the benevolent mind-glowworms, the invasion would have been over in a heartbeat. But certain bloody-minded individuals get their panties in a bunch about giving up their precious individuality and form ragtag pockets of resistance.

Melanie Stryder (Saoirse Ronan) is one such resister; she, her cute little brother Jamie (Chandler Canterbury) and her hunky boyfriend Jared (Max Irons) lit out for the bayous and successfully eluded possession until the inevitable day when one of them—the unlucky Melanie—was caught and turned into a host for a 1,000-year-old alien named Wanderer. Trouble is, unlike most people, Melanie isn't just pissed about having her mind co-opted. Rather than just fading quietly away, as most minds apparently do once an alien Soul has moved into their bodies, she fights Wanderer every step of the way. And Melanie is willful enough to act out at high volume like the teenager every parents lives in fear of finding on his/her hands: She forces Wanderer to leap off a balcony into a decorative pool, hijack a car and take off for the desert where she hopes her Uncle Jeb (William Hurt) and her other friends and family are hiding.

The good news is that she finds them; the bad news is that they at first take her for a mighty funny-acting Soul. But she gradually convinces them that Melanie is still there as well, setting up an awkward romantic situation (not that there's any other kind where teen girls are concerned): Melanie still loves Jared, but gets really mad when Wanderer smooches him, while another hunky boy, Ian (Jake Abel), falls for Wanderer, who has by this time been renamed Wanda because it sounds a little less, well, alien. Melanie gets really mad when they make out as well, because those are her lips Wanda is using. The other bad news is that there's a particularly persistent Soul (Diane Kruger) hell-bent on capturing Melanie/Wanderer, for reasons that only become clear during the happy/weepy climax.

Even by the standard of paranormal teen romances, The Host is ridiculous stuff, and derivative too: In addition to Invasion of the Body Snatchers, it draws liberally on Red Dawn, THX 1138 (the emotionless aliens love their white-on-white duds, though they do have an endearing weakness for very shiny sports cars) and Robert Silverberg's award-winning 1970 sci-fi story "Passengers"…minus the sex, of course, because this is Meyer-land. All of which might not be so awful if Melanie were not the most annoying teen girl in recent movie memory: It's a flaw when, rather than aching for poor Melanie, you find yourself feeling really, really bad for poor Wanderer, forced to endure her constant yammering inside his/her/its cozy new home.