Monsters vs. Aliens
2009, PG, 94 min. Directed by Rob Letterman, Conrad Vernon. Voices by Reese Witherspoon, Hugh Laurie, Seth Rogen, Will Arnett, Paul Rudd, Rainn Wilson, Kiefer Sutherland.
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., March 27, 2009
Back in 2007, DreamWorks mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg rather boldly stated that he intended to only release films in 3-D from then forward, making the studio’s Monsters vs. Aliens something of a gauntlet throwdown. While the flagship film’s effect happily does not induce the eye-crossing and stomach-turning so common to motion pictures’ attempts to bully two dimensions into three, one would hope for an endorsement more ringing than “Monsters vs. Aliens: Doesn’t give you a migraine!” We meet the pert, if unremarkable, Susan (voiced by Witherspoon) on the morning of her wedding to Derek (Rudd), whose vacantness is telegraphed in his job title of TV weatherman. (Curiously, we never learn how Susan spends her days; her ambition appears limited to a desire to see Paris – and really, who doesn’t?) Soon, an errant meteor pulsating with a mysterious substance signals ceremony-interruptus; Susan, in closest proximity, gets her DNA scrambled and morphs into a literal bridezilla by sprouting like Jack’s beanstalk some five stories tall. The government quickly whisks her away to a containment center, where Susan – now called Ginormica – makes reluctant friends with a whole host of monsters, which is where the film finally has some fun. The Area 51 residents include a half-man, half-cockroach, the product of a mad scientist’s self-experimentation (a deliciously acerbic Laurie); a lovable fish-ape hybrid called the Missing Link (Arnett); and, perhaps most winningly, BOB (Rogen), an amorphous Bicarbonate Ostylezene Benzoate so daft he tries to woo a plate of jiggling Jell-O at a backyard barbecue (he is, after all, technically brainless). The film filters the fantastical plot doodlings of those campy sci-fi classics of yore – the tin-can flying saucers and marauding 50-foot woman – through the modern formula for animated pictures (morality plays tempered by a chorus of wiseacres). It’s a shame the balance didn’t tip more in the direction of the former, because there is something rather dopily sweet in its story of a misfit band of monsters unleashed from quarantine to defend Earth from an alien invader. The misfits, as ever, must take a back seat to the morality, and the result – while in no way migraine-inducing – trafficks in rote truisms (love the skin you’re in; leave no man behind; etc.) that are admirable but perfunctory and leave no greater an impression than BOB did on that Jell-O mold.