- Rated PG
- Buy the DVD
All photos © Paramount Pictures
Reviewed by David Medsker
reamWorks is very lucky that their latest animated movie sports a premise that every kid under ten thinks is the most awesome idea ever: monsters fighting aliens. Heck, the parents of those kids think it’s the most awesome idea ever. Too bad that reality has to come along and spoil the party, because “Monsters vs. Aliens” is not awesome. It follows the formula of its “Shrek” ancestors by taking the easy joke whenever possible and filling the blanks with lame pop culture references. And for a movie that will be shown around the country in 3-D, this has some of the most one-dimensional characters you will ever see.
It is the wedding day of Susan Murphy (voiced by Reese Witherspoon), but before she goes inside the church to walk down the aisle, she is struck by a meteorite. She emerges seemingly unscathed, but when she gets to the altar, she grows to enormous size, at which point she is whisked away by a top-secret government team led by General Warren R. Monger (Kiefer Sutherland, doing his best R. Lee Ermey impression). It is here that she is introduced to the other “monsters” that the government has captured and hidden from the public: Dr. Cockroach (Hugh Laurie), who is exactly what his name suggests; the Missing Link (Will Arnett), an ape/fish hybrid; B.O.B. (Seth Rogen), a gelatinous mass with no brain and one eye; and Insectosaurus, a 350-foot bug that shoots silk from its nostrils. They’re called into action when Gallaxhar (Rainn Wilson), a four-eyed alien with plans for world domination, wants the Quantonium from the meteorite that gave Susan (now known as Ginormica) her power so he can destroy the human race and repopulate it with his species.
You get the sense that the story for “Monsters vs. Aliens” was graphed out flow chart-style by image consultants and the merchandising department before anyone went to work on the script. The boys get monsters and aliens, while the girls get female empowerment from Ginormica’s back story (though it’s a hollow victory, since her fiancé is so shallow that there is no way Susan would agree to marry him in the first place). Once they were finished, they sent their bullet point presentation up the chain, and the screenwriters realized that the consultants hadn’t included anything for the adults, so they threw in… a “Close Encounters”/“Axel F” joke. Really, “Axel F”? That’s a “Family Guy” cutaway joke, not the kind of thing you put into a multimillion-dollar animated movie. And how does Dr. Cockroach know what a Dance Dance Revolution floorboard looks like when he’s been locked away from the outside world for 50 years? The jokes aren’t practical or clever; they’re just gags for the sake of a gag.
Standing in stark contrast to the laziness all around him is Seth Rogen’s B.O.B., whose lines sound like they were written for a completely different, much funnier movie, which makes the whole thing even more frustrating. If they were capable of writing good material for Rogen, why didn’t they give it to anyone else? Sutherland gets one good zinger, but most of the very funny people they recruited to do the voice work are not given much of an opportunity to be funny. They weren’t given much direction, either; even the Oscar-winning Witherspoon sounds uncomfortable saying her lines.
To be fair, “Monsters vs. Aliens” didn’t really have much of a chance; one of the co-directors is Conrad Vernon, and a quick search of his IMDb credits shows that he has worked on all of the bad DreamWorks Animation movies and none of the good ones. He might be a good company man, since even the bad DreamWorks ‘toons make piles of cash, but he’s clearly not an idea guy, and that is what DreamWorks needs the most. They seem to have lots of concept guys, but no idea guys, or dialogue guys, or story supervisors, you get the idea. No wonder Jack Black joked at the Academy Awards about taking his “Kung Fu Panda” paycheck and betting it on Pixar.