Gary Oldman, Seann William Scott, Jessica Biel, John Cleese
& Marcos Martinez
- Rated PG
- Buy the BD
All photos © Sony Pictures
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
s the first feature from Madrid-based animation studio, Ilion Animation, “Planet 51” isn’t a particularly bad movie, but when compared to some of the other films released this year (like “Up,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and “Coraline”), it’s not very good either. Though many animated films have recently begun catering to adults just as much as kids, “Planet 51” is almost exclusively a kids-only affair. That doesn’t mean there isn’t anything for the parents (the basic concept is a clever nod to alien invasion films from the 50s), but if you plan on taking the tykes, don’t go in expecting the same level of humor and emotion that’s been key to the success of recent entries in the genre.
Justin Long plays Lem, an ordinary kid who’s having the best day of his life. Not only has he been hired as junior curator at the local planetarium, but he’s also learned that the girl of his dreams, Neera (Jessica Biel), likes him too. Just when it seems like the stars have aligned in his favor, however, a spaceship lands in his backyard and out comes human astronaut Captain Charles T. Baker (Dwayne Johnson), who freaks out at the sight of the planet’s inhabitants, despite the fact that he’s the actual alien. When the army comes in and takes his ship to a secret location called Base 9, Capt. Baker asks for Lem’s help in getting it back before the command module returns to Earth without him.
Is it just me, or does Dwayne Johnson need a new agent? Once billed as the next Arnold Schwarzenegger, Johnson has since traded in a potentially lucrative career as an action star for a series of kid-friendly films like “The Game Plan,” “Race to Witch Mountain,” and the upcoming “Tooth Fairy.” I’m all for actors branching out to escape typecasting, but what was the point of lending his voice to “Planet 51” if he was just going to turn around and make another movie about aliens? Sure, the roles were reversed in “Witch Mountain,” but it’s still the same basic story. In fact, even though Johnson gets top billing here, he’s completely unrecognizable in the role. The rest of the voice cast doesn't bring much to their characters either, except for Seann William Scott, who actually tries to develop his character beyond the lines on the page.
Who would have thought there’d be a day when the man best known for playing Stifler was the high point of a movie? Of course, “Planet 51” has other problems besides the acting. The story is incredibly predictable, the jokes are juvenile, and it doesn’t offer anything interesting or new to the genre. It’s simply a case of the concept being more promising than the final product, because while there are certainly some bright spots scattered throughout (namely the film’s two “dogs,” a NASA land rover and an alien pooch of the Ridley Scott variety), it never evolves into anything more. At the end of the day, “Planet 51” is little more than your average family film, and though there’s nothing wrong with that, it would have been nice if everyone in the family could actually enjoy it.
Single-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
Though it’s probably stretching it a bit to call “Planet 51” a box office flop (the film actually turned a profit when you factor in the foreign gross), the single-disc Blu-ray release certainly has the markings of one. The most substantial bonus feature on the disc is an EPK with interviews from the cast (including a particularly embarrassing one by Seann William Scott where he declares that “this movie is going to be huge”), while the rest of the extras include two brief extended scenes, a virtual tour of the planet, and animation progression reels detailing the various stages of the film’s production. Oh yeah, and what’s up with Jessica Biel’s voice in her interview? She may play an alien in the movie, but that doesn’t mean she should sound like she’s floating around in space.