DreamWorks continues the stream of animated 3-D movies with a throwback to the ’50s monster/Armageddon pictures called “Monsters vs. Aliens.”
Susan Murphy (Reese Witherspoon) is about to have her dream wedding to her dream guy when tragedy strikes. A meteoroid falls to earth, hitting her and causing her to grow to a height of 49 feet, 11¾ inches. The reason she is not 50 feet is copyright issues with the people who made “The Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman.” Susan is captured by the Army and taken to a hidden facility to be housed with other monsters captured and stored for safety. These include Dr. Cockroach (Hugh Laurie), B.O.B. (Seth Rogen), the Missing Link (Will Arnett) and Insectosaurus. They are to spend the rest of their days together, out of sight from the public.
This changes when a giant robot attacks San Francisco. Gallaxhar (Rainn Wilson), a crazed alien, sent the robot. Susan’s meteoroid contained an element needed to recreate Gallaxhar’s planet. A battle ensues and what follows brings elements of Susan’s life into clearer focus and the earth to near destruction.
That is not much of a plot analysis, but there is not much plot to analyze. “Monsters vs. Aliens” wants to recreate the vibe of Looney Tunes and the social consciousness of those ’50s science fiction/horror movies, but it misses. The jokes are not that funny and the gags are hackneyed. What this does is leave us with broad characters that are nothing more than cutouts from other works.
A good example is the role of Derek (Paul Rudd), Susan’s fiancé. Derek is a TV weatherman in a small UHF station in Modesto, Calif. His dream is to make it into the big time. That dream is transferred to Susan. Her dream is Derek’s, but the dream is nothing more than a cover for Derek’s self-centeredness. He is shown to be a typical male who sees nothing more than himself in the mirror and believes the rest of the world rotates around him. Susan is to be the person that completes him and serve his every whim.
All the males in this movie are less than stereotypes. The scene where the robot is revealed is a page taken from horror movies. A boy and girl are out parking. Before the romance can start, the robot arrives. The boy is afraid and does not want to go and see it, but the girl insists. They go toward it and the boy falls and breaks his ankle. The girl picks him up and takes him toward the robot. The girls are more macho than the men here. And the men are either wimps or jerks.
One aspect of animation that makes it such a wonderful medium is the way it can engage all ages. The Pixar movies have this, and DreamWorks has made some movies that do this. Adults and children are taken into those stories and come away entertained. However, “Monsters vs. Aliens” lacks this. It does not engage in the way “Kung Fu Panda” or “Finding Nemo” does. And that is sad.
There is potential here. The characters could do what these other movies’ characters do. But these characters are not fleshed out and we learn nothing about them, except the one note that is played over and over again.
Here is the critical question: Will children like it? Yes. My youngest son, who is 12, and his friend, went with me and loved it. And that makes this movie better than some. It does reach an audience. It just didn’t reach me. I thought it to be sophomoric and silly.
Another word, if you see it, pay the money to see it in 3-D. The effects are nice eye candy to make up for the weak storyline. And sadly, the 3-D was what was most engaging. My hope is that we see better 3-D movies like “Coraline” and the soon-to-be released “Up” that will prove the greatness of animation and 3-D.
Mike Parnell is pastor of Beth Car Baptist Church in Halifax, Va.
MPAA Rating: PG for cartoon violence and adult themes.
Director: Rob Letterman and Conrad Vernon
Writers: Maya Forbes, Wallace Wolodarsky, Rob Letterman, Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger
Voices: Susan Murphy/Ginormica: Reese Witherspoon; Dr. Cockroach, Ph.D.: Hugh Laurie; B.O.B: Seth Rogen; The Missing Link: Will Arnett; Derek Dietl: Paul Rudd; Gen. W.R Monger: Kiefer Sutherland; President Hathaway: Stephen Colbert; Gallaxhar: Rainn Wilson.
Michael Parnell is pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is married and has two boys. His love is for movies, and he can be found in a theater most Fridays.