Monsters vs. Aliens


Robin Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Robin Clifford 
Monsters vs. Aliens
Laura Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Laura Clifford 

The Earth is in danger of alien invasion, once again, and President Hathaway (voice of Steve Colbert) is hopeful that their leader, Gallaxhar (voice of Rainn Wilson), comes in peace. That is not the case, though, when the fiendish despot sends a giant, one-eyed robot to ravage the world. There is only one hope for mankind – enlist the assistance of a super secret cadre of monsters and unleash them for the ultimate battle of “Monsters vs. Aliens.”

Robin:
This latest entry into the 3D movie world by DreamWorks is a good, though not great, family film that has enough goofy, funny characters to keep the kids interested and happy. It also has enough adult-directed humor in its writing to entertain the adults with its many monster movie references – “The Blob,” “The Fly,” “Attack of the 50 Foot Woman,” “The Creature from the Black Lagoon,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “Godzilla,” “Ghost Busters,” and “Destroy All Monsters” to name just a few.

Susan (voice of Reese Witherspoon) is about to be wed to local TV weatherman, Derek (voice of Paul Rudd). That is, until she finds herself in the path of a meteor, which just barely misses her. The space missile is made of quantonium, though, and its effect on her is, to say the least, tremendous as she grows to an incredible 49-feet, 11-inches. The government gets interested in Susan real fast and soldiers capture her, a la “Gulliver’s Travels,” and spirit her to a secret installation. There, her captor, General W.R. Monger (voice of Keifer Sutherland), introduces her to her new roommates – Dr. Cockroach (Hugh Laurie), Link (as in “the missing…”) (voice of Will Arnett), a brainless oozy mass named B.O.B. (voice of Serth Rogen) and the gigantic (though sensitive) Insectasaurus. Each, like Susan, is a frightening mutant creature and they are kept hidden to keep from scaring the public.

Meanwhile, intergalactic tyrant Gallaxhar has tracked the quantonium to Earth and wants the stuff for himself to become even more powerful. He sends his giant robot to find the potent element and, oh yeah, devastate mankind. The army tries to stop the mechanical invader but nothing in its arsenal even dents the metallic brute. In desperation, the President turns to General Monger for help and the gung ho soldier makes plans to release his monsters to fight the alien trespassers. A battle royal is in the making as Susan, now named Ginorrmica, and her new pals head off to stop Gallaxhor’s evil plans of conquest.

The IMAX 3D presentation is the best way to see “Monsters vs. Aliens” and you get state of the art CG animation in all its glory. I appreciate the way the filmmakers get the 3-dimensional gimmick out of the way early on with one of the humans playing paddleball. After that chuckle, things get down to business as the 3D becomes an integral part of the total package. The story, by a horde of writers, and direction, by Rob Letterman and Conrad Vernon, are well crafted and the monstrous tale unfolds humorously.

Vocal talent is first-rate across the board but the readily recognizable voice of Seth Rogen, as brainless blob B.O.B., steals the show. “Monsters vs. Aliens” is fun, funny, and a genuine for-all-ages animation. I give it a B.

Laura:
When Susan Murphy (voice of Reese Witherspoon) comes into contact with an alien craft on her wedding day, she becomes literally radiant, then grows fifty feet.  The not-quite-newlywed is captured by U.S. Troops and taken to a secret facility that houses 'monsters' such as Dr. Cockroach (voice of Hugh Laurie, TV's "House"), The Missing Link (voice of Will Arnett, "Blades of Glory," "Horton Hears a Who!") and B.O.B. (voice of Seth Rogen, "Pineapple Express") who tell her there is no getting out, but they could use a fourth for cards.  In outer space, though, Gallaxhar (voice of Rainn Wilson, TV's "The Office") is looking for that alien craft and he sends a lethal, giant, one-eyed robot to find it.  The monsters' overseer, General W.R. Monger (voice of Kiefer Sutherland, TV's "24"), proposes his team can do what the military cannot in "Monsters vs. Aliens."

Codirector (along with "Shrek 2's" Conrad Vernon) Rob Letterman ("Shark Tale") pitched his idea of an old 1950's B Movie world transferred to animation to Jeffrey Katzenberg, the industry's leading 3D cheerleader, and "Monsters vs. Aliens" was born.  Baby boomers will recognize sources from the 50-ft. woman, "The Fly," "The Creature from the Black Lagoon," "The Blob" and "Mothra" (in the 350 foot Insectosaurus, a non-speaking 'baby') to more recent inspirations like "Mars Attacks!" and Pokemon.  But the screenplay, written by Letterman with "The Rocker's" Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky and "Kung Fu Panda's" Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger, while it delivers a few chuckles (and Disney's long tradition of a feminist slant), is nothing more than a regurgitation of old ideas, taking the obvious route every step of the way.  Still, sparkling animation (just check out the iridescence and cheesy 'stitching' of Gallaxhar's lurex vest), a slam dunk staging of a monstrous battle at the Golden Gate Bridge and Seth Rogan's charming vocal interpretation of B.O.B. make this one fun if not fantastic.

The film begins with a glorious 3D shot of outer space, before cutting to a UFO facility where the animators indulge their one urge to put the technology in our face with a paddle-ball.  As technicians freak at the huge object hurtling Earth's way, Susan's wedding day is off to a monstrous start when she spies her future mother-in-law's thumb stump ('It skips a generation!'), a cute foreshadowing of multiple things to come.  Susan is about to marry Derek Dietl (voice of Paul Rudd, "I Love You, Man," cast very against type), a Conan O'Brien coifed Modesto weatherman who has just canceled their Parisian honeymoon for an interview shot at a Fresno anchor slot. When Susan grows through the roof of the Church before their vows are spoken, and is then captured, Derek just looks on in horror.

President Hathaway (Stephen Colbert, TV's "The Colbert Report") decides to 'talk peacefully' (i.e., play the "Close Encounters" theme, give the Vulcan greeting, then segue into some Funk Synth) but the gigantic one-eyed alien robot is having none of it (not even a missile emblazoned with 'E.T. Go Home' can stop him!).  When Warmonger releases his charges down the road from the 'bot, the newly dubbed Ginormica's impulse is to run - which she does, using cars as skates throughout the streets of San Francisco - but the 'bot is threatening the bridge (in classic tradition) and there are people to be saved and Susan, with the assistance of Insectosaurus, is surprised - and empowered - by finding herself up to the task.

Dreamworks has a history of coming up short against Pixar and "Monsters vs. Aliens" isn't about to change that.  Pixar excels at story-telling, pure and simple, as well as creating original worlds for its characters.  Dreamworks, though, is catching up impressively ("Kung Fu Panda" bested "Wall*E" in Annie nominations last year), at least with technology and vocal talent.  Reese Witherspoon does fine by Susan and all the assorted aliens and monsters have personality if not fleshed out story lines (the back stories shown to the President notwithstanding).  Seth Rogen is absolutely the stand out here, despite costar Julie White ("Transformers") 'tasting ham.'

B
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