MONSTERS VS ALIENS - 2009
USA Release: March 27, 2009
Rated: USA: PG
Space is one big empty place, relatively speaking. And though it might be finite, it is unbounded. Put that all together and it results in a practically infinite space at least as relates to the scale of human beings. And if you want to relate it to the scale of ameobas? Forget about it!
So in the midst of all of this mindbogglingly huge vastness, two objects collide, expelling a mysterious glowing whatsit. This wossname goes flying through space
through eons or possibly wormholes but in either case makes a beeline for earth.
It gets noticed by our illustrious American tracking technology and is clearly heading for Modesto, California. Not a lot happens in Modesto, but on this day, Susan Murphy (Reese Witherspoon: AMERICAN PSYCHO) is getting married to local TV weatherman, Derek Dietl (Paul Rudd: HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS). Things go astray when she is seemingly crushed by that aformentioned thing from space, now referred to as a meteorite. She comes away from it a bit scuffed and dirty, but no less worse for the wear, until she starts growing to a monstrous size. And let me tell you, Bruce Banner's trousers have nothing on the stretchability of clothing when it comes to her wedding dress. The military, alerted to the possible threat, are quick to the scene and take her down. She awakes in the most advanced prison ever made.
It's here that Susan meets
her fellow inmates: Monsters who have been imprisoned because they are monsters. There is Dr. Cockroach (Hugh Laurie) whose appearance is self-explanatory; B.O.B. (Seth Rogan: DONNIE DARKO) a gelatinous mass; The Missing Link (Will Arnett: GRINDHOUSE) a slippery fishman, and Insectasaurus (foley sound): a giant grub. They're are kept inside an enormous and well fortified hole in the ground, safe from the eyes of the world and commanded over by General W.R. Monger (Kiefer Sutherland: THE LOST BOYS, DARK CITY, PHONE BOOTH, MIRRORS). Susan is having a difficult time adjusting to her height and her abrupt change in lifestyle. Naturally she wants to be normal again as she was planning to move to Fresno not prison. Just when it seems like she'll be locked away forever, an egomaniacal squid villain from outerspace (Shades of Lovecraft! Shades of Hubbard! Shades of Galaxy Quest!) named Gallaxhar (Rainn Wilson: HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES) sends a giant robot probe to earth to capture a very special mcguffin: The very thing that now dwells in the still growing body of Susan, now renamed by the military as Ginormica.
The robot probe gets its bearings, ignores the peaceful gestures of the President of the United States (Stephen Colbert), and goes stomping through the American countryside.
President Hathaway: "Eat lead you alien robot!"
Fires gun repeatedly.
President Hathaway: "Oh... well what do you know? It eats lead."
Back inside his own command center, Hathaway wants answers, and gets them from
General Monger who has a radical plan. Since conventional and even unconventional weapons are useless against this robot, it's time to spring their hail mary pass and that means...
Yes, the monsters are allowed to fight for their planet and winning means freedom.
At this point a Pixar / Disney-style movie would point out the obvious to say that maybe the monsters don't want to defend their prison guards. There are deeper issues to be considered. There would be a bit of soul searching and ennui.
MONSTERS VS ALIENS ignores that utterly, going for the broad humor of Heckle & Jeckle/ laughs instead.
MONSTERS VS ALIENS is deft quick wit with a scifi bite and the slapstick humor and goofy characterizations make not the slightest bow toward Pixar or Disney, or should it. Pixar is Pixar and Dreamworks is Dreamworks. I don't recall ever reading how United Artists / Popeye worried over whether they were MGM / Tom & Jerry enough!
Or that Warner Bros. Looney Tunes worried over whether they were Disney Merry Melodies enough! I go to a Pixar movie to see a Pixar movie. But I sure as hell don't want every damn animated movie to be Pixar any more than I want every damn animated movie to be Bug's Life, Antz, or Bee Movie.
All of the actors to characters are inspired at their best and catering to the actor's career shtick at their worst. But with a sharp script by 6 freaking writers (which is usually three writers too much), MONSTERS VS ALIENS pulls off the fun.
I watched this both in 3D as well as IMAX. I paid a much higher ticket price for that privilege and was more than ready to swat this monster down myself if it delivered eye candy without anything for the brain. Directors Rob Letterman and Conrad Vernon (also wrote the story) keep the pace vibrant and the dialogue, thanks to no less than six freaking writers, sparkles. The writers range from veterans of Emmy award winning comedies like The Larry Sanders Show to The Simpsons (back when it was funny) to King of the Hill and the first and best Shrek. The humor dips at times to keep the rugrats happy, but is more than enough fun for the adults. Rainn Wilson's character of Gallaxhar, while typical of him, is also laugh out loud fun, especially when he flies right through the obligatory evil villain monologue in the space of mere seconds.
Ginormica: "Why are you attacking earth?"
Gallaxhar: "Attacking earth? MY home planet was DESTROYED!"
Ginormica: "Oh! Oh, I'm so sorry!"
Gallaxhar: "Don't be. I destroyed it."
Dr. Cockroach, B.O.B., and The Missing Link were all fun in a Three Stooges kind of way, but none of them had any depth here. That's fine in a five minute cartoon, but in a 90 minute movie, I wouldn't have minded a bit more fleshing of character. General W.R. Monger and President Hathaway, for all of their hilarious antics, were just as 2D in their 3D world. Only Susan and Gallaxhar had any room to grow.
Paul Rudd, who in my opinion is one of the funniest actors alive today, got saddled with the weakest role in this movie as Derek Dietl. If there is a stock character library somewhere in Hollywood where writers go to check out unimaginative and over-used hack personalities, Paul Rudd's role is in the "D" section. Susan's fiance, Derek is written as shallow, weak, self-absorbed, all-around loser.
Then in just one scene he goes through the motions of his scripted character type despite what just happened to him. His over 50 foot fiance punches a hole through a building, grabs him in one hand, pulls him out through the hole nearly crushing him, and he has the mind-blowing audacity to stand his ground, personally call off their relationship and kick her to the curb! All towering, car crushing, Alien robot destroying 50+ feet of her!
This scene does so much more than have Derek betray Susan: it betrays its own logic! To do something like that and THEN turn his back on her and walk away, requires brass balls that must have been bronzed! Whatever his faults, any man that would do that is no loser and you'd be a fool to stand in his way.
This was the one false note in the story and, because it was the 2nd Act turning point for Susan to re-evaluate her life and choices, it was a doozy!
On the other hand, they didn't trot out some wise old timer to come along to give the youngblood upstart some stern yet sage advice. The story doesn't substitute social and racial stereotypes for character development (cough! Cars! cough!). You know, I don't need to be taught a moral lesson in every animated comedy I see. There is nothing wrong with wild-eyed knock-about fun!
MONSTERS VS ALIENS is a walking talking
reference and loving homage to the SciFi Atom Age monster movies of the 1950s and the Cold War SciFi of the 1960s and in that respect, it handles both without flaw. Cool and quotable, it's also one of those very few movies I've seen where the audience stood and applauded when the credits rolled. An extra bit of fun comes
after the first run of credits. After that the rest of the credits roll and no more animation, though I waited until the house lights came up before I was willing to accept that.
Exciting and hilarious, I give MONSTERS VS ALIENS an enthusiastic 4 Shriek Girls.
copyright 2009 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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