Monsters Vs. Aliens [PG]
Cast: (voice) Reese Witherspoon, Seth Rogen, Hugh Laurie, Will Arnett, Kiefer Sutherland, Rainn Wilson, Stephen Colbert, Paul Rudd
Director: Rob Letterman, Conrad Vernon
Come now, is there a better title ever created to bull’s eye young boy’s hearts than Monsters Vs. Aliens?
I mean, do eight year old boy have two more favorite things, especially in movies? Find the kid who doesn’t want to see this movie, and you find the kid who is going to be overly obsessed with Camus in high school. This one title screams “box of super-sugary cereal.”
And lo and behold, one of the monsters, trapped in a space-bound government facility before being released to save the Earth, happens to be an oversized lizard. Those are boys’ third favorite thing. And he knows …. he knows karate! If I told you his buddies were a mad scientist cockroach and an amorphous Jello blob?
So who was laughing in the theater that I attended? Not the kids. Few of them seemed too responsive to the puns, the Herbie Hancock reference, or the “boings” that ran on time like a train, probably coordinating whistle stops with the Hell Express. In fact, the children barely laughed. So much for the cereal box theory.
This piece of Dreamworks animation obviously takes after the Alien vs.Predator films. This theoretically kid-friendly tome certainly doesn’t share the same tone. But it might well share the same screenwriter.
All of these films look back to various 1950s monster flicks. You know, the ones where Godzilla would fight Mothra, the giant moth, with the citizens of Tokyo left to scurry from building to building and try to keep from being gum on a mutant’s shoe.( I always suspected that Godzilla used his star power to get those films made in order to soften his image. But I can’t prove it.)
As the title suggests, this group of monsters are squaring off against a group of aliens. This alien pod army is led by a squid-like alien bent on universal conquest. While plotting the downfall of Earth, he might want to take lessons in comic delivery from Martin the Martian.
He is opposed by the 40 foot woman who becomes known as “Ginormica” after a glowing green meteor strikes her chapel on her wedding day. Cold feet, I guess.
I was disappointed with the film’s feel. Take everything we’ve seen in recent animation and dull it down a few notches. Most animation tries to untether you from the feel of a camera from time to time. This only happens long enough and bland enough to make you certain they tried and didn’t get it. The film never achieves the sense of sweep. A great deal of the film is set in northern California (including a fight with an alien robot at the Golden Gate Bridge. The sights are vaguely realistic. But I don’t want them to be. I want a fully animated world, not a half one.
I suspect old monster movie fans will have fun figuring out what monsters each character is inspired by. There is a sort of inside ballgame going on here. Unfortunately, it’s covered up by a bland cartoon over the top.