Monsters Vs. Aliens
In an era when fanboy cinematic dreams come true daily, the stakes are raised every time a new entry comes out. Studios can't just rely on a gimmicky premise to ensure a hit.
For every “Dark Knight,” there’s a “Batman and Robin,” and for every “Spider-Man 2” there seems to be a corresponding “Spider-Man 3.”
So how does the latest geek dream-come true, the animated “Monsters Vs. Aliens” stack up?
Pretty well, for the most part.
The premise is an old-school nerd dream, borne of a love of 1950s sci-fi schlock: who would win a fight between Gort from “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and the Creature From the Black Lagoon? How about “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” vs. The Blob? King Kong vs. Godzilla (okay, so we got the answer to that one).
Of course, copyrights prevent all of those creatures from appearing in the same film, so we get sanitized archetypes: mild-mannered Susan (voice of Reese Witherspoon), who is irratiated by a meteor and grows to 49 ½ feet and becomes Ginormica; the cocky Missing Link (voiced by Will Arnett), who resembles the Black Lagoon creature; B.O.B. (voice of Seth Rogen), an amiable cycloptic, er, blob; Dr. Cockroach (Hugh Laurie), whose origin is eerily similar to “The Fly;” and finally, Insectasaurus, who is best described as a furry larval Godzilla type creature.
The monsters are summoned from their secret-government-compound prison by General W.R. Monger (Kiefer Sutherland) to combat an alien invasion by the evil Gallaxhar (Rainn Wilson).
Visually, “Monsters” delivers. The animation is top-notch, and if you see the picture in 3D, it’s an experience unlike any you’ve had in a theater. Each frame has a full depth, with subtle touches (like streaming light) that takes the gimmicky and fully integrates it into the cinematic experience in full, breathtaking color.
“Monsters" is able to steer clear of that icky tendency DreamWorks has of jamming their films full of cheap pop-culture references to compensate for a weak screenplay. They play it straight for the most part, relying on the story and some riffing, notably from Apatow improv man Rogen to draw laughs.
Of course, DreamWorks did remember who these films are made for: the children, and are able to keep the scares to a minimum. This is the house that Shrek built, after all. The monsters are oafish and mostly likable, and the monsters are no more menacing than, say, Prince Charming or Lord Farquaad, to compare apples to apples.
Will the fanboys dig it? Well, if they’re anything like me and have kids of their own, there’s little doubt they’ll be as giddy as they would be watching Captain Kirk meet up with the Robinsons from “Lost in Space.”
If not, well, so long as they can keep hold of their inner 12-year-old and not their cynical 35-year-old, everything should be just fine.
4 Yaps (out of 5)
Read Nick Rogers' review of "Monsters vs. Aliens" here.