THE MASTERMINDS behind the sensational newspaper parody The Onion (co-founded by The Stranger's publisher, Tim Keck) have gained a fanatical following for skewering corporate cubicle culture by treating it as if it were deadly-serious news. So it's no surprise that when they dug through their collective couch cushions for $50,000--barely enough to shoot this sci-fi feature--they would have a thing or two to say about the working stiff, even if the poor sap in question is an interstellar hit man known only as Spaceman.

Kidnapped by aliens at the tender age of four and re-programmed as a killing machine, Spaceman becomes marooned on his home planet Earth after an unseen but presumably cataclysmic crash. What's a trained killer with a work ethic to do? Take a job at a grocery store, of course.

After years of helming The Onion, writer/director Scott Dikkers understands that absurd material is best approached with utmost seriousness. He has assembled an outstanding cast who manage to utter their lines with unshakable and hilarious conviction.

Spaceman's infinitesimal budget demanded that the film be shot without location sound, meaning that all dialogue had to be dubbed in at a later date--which, against all conceivable odds, actually adds to the film's considerable charm. It looks and sounds like Saturday-afternoon Japanese schlock, but turns its laserbeam wit on modern villains like security guards and assistant managers instead of the slightly more benign rubber monsters.

Aided by resourceful cinematography, a tight script, seat-of-the-pants special effects, and a deeply misanthropic worldview, the whole thing manages to lift up off the ground with the wobbly grace of a pie-tin UFO. And somehow, spotting the exposed wires that make its fantastic flight possible only adds to the fun.