I finally understand Stepsister from Planet Weird… structurally, anyway. Directed by Steve Boyum and based on Francess Lin Lantz’s 1996 book, the film is told from the perspective of soon-to-be stepsisters. Megan Larson (Courtnee Draper) narrates the opening portion of the film, beginning with a dream sequence that reveals her windsurfing near her family and her crush, Cutter (Tom Wright, also Orion in Zenon: The Zequel). Megan wants Cutter to be her boyfriend, she wants to be part of the popular group, and she wants her divorced parents to get back together. In a mental flashback, Megan explains that her father was always on the phone and even sat in the car working while the family was having a beach day. Megan shares why she’s not in the populars’ good graces — she lied about being Jewel’s cousin. The school’s queen bee is Heather Hartman, played by Lauren Maltby (Zenon’s Margie!).
Megan’s mom, Kathy, starts dating a man named Cosmo Cola, whose daughter Ariel “fears the wind.” Megan thinks she’s super weird, but the feeling is mutual. As Ariel picks up and narrates her side of the story, we learn that she is an alien from the planet Zircalon. Cosmo is a freedom fighter who has been forced to flee the emperor’s tyranny. Ariel despises her human form and would much rather be a gaseous bubble. Over dinner at the Larsons’ house, Cosmo and Kathy announce their engagement to Ariel, Megan, and her brother Trevor (Myles Jeffrey from Mom’s Got a Date with a Vampire). Trevor loves Cosmo, but Megan is furious about her mom’s upcoming nuptials. She is tasked with showing Ariel around school, and Ariel bikes to campus wearing a football helmet on her first day. All the students are enamored with her offbeat personality. Why is she wearing so many layers, they ask? “To protect my essence,” she answers.
Megan and Ariel take turns recounting their school experiences, and they finally come up with a solution they can agree on: sabotage their parents’ engagement. Their plan works for a while, but the adults eventually realize what’s going on and decide to go through with their wedding. At the end of the movie, Megan can finally confirm her suspicions that Ariel and Cosmo are aliens. The evil emperor has come to wreak destruction. Megan helps Ariel sweet-talk the emperor’s son, Fanuul, so that Cosmo can still marry Kathy. Cutter joins the conversation and tries to make a case for freedom of choice…about potato chips and dates. Fanuul is sold.
Unsurprisingly, the emperor is afraid of wind, so Trevor’s leafblower defeats him.
It’s funny. I didn’t watch this DCOM much growing up and haven’t spent too much time with it since Disney+ launched three years ago. This rewatching experience made the most sense to me. Stepsister from Planet Weird is supposed to be weird, obviously. But it has all the DCOM elements of growing up and working out problems. Single-parent DCOMs were still a growing genre in 2000, and Stepsister really dives into Megan and Ariel’s respective feelings. Neither of them want to bring the two families together, but they somehow look past the weirdness and bond through their otherworldly experiences. If I had to compare this movie to anything, I’d say it neighbors the Zenon camp, and not only because the films share actors. Until ZOMBIES, Zenon: The Zequel and Can of Worms were the only DCOMs to feature aliens. It’s interesting to see varying depictions of alien life forms. Also, Kirsten Storms and Courtnee Draper both blend emotional range, analytical characteristics, and everyday tween-ness quite well. I’m glad both of them were DCOM fixtures in the late ’90s and early 2000s.