It's a title that promises much more than it could ever truly deliver. It plays on B-movie fans' wildest dreams but offers them something much less successful. It comes from Dreamworks, which means it will either be completely faithful to its unusual source material (a la Kung Fu Panda's homage to the films of Asian martial arts experts the Shaw brothers) or rely on the tired, post-Shrek formula of animation artistry meshed with tired pop culture quips. So what, exactly, does the latest CG spectacle Monsters vs. Aliens truly have to offer? Sadly, it's a little bit of moviemaking magic surrounded by loads and loads of scripted stupidity.
While planning for her wedding to local newsman Derek Dietl (voice of Paul Rudd
), Susan Murphy (Reese Witherspoon
) is hit by an enormous meteorite containing a mysterious alien element. It instantly causes her to grow in size to gigantic proportions. Naturally, this leads the government, under the director of General W. R. Monger (Kiefer Sutherland
) to capture the gal and take her back to his top secret compound. There, he keeps other so-called "monsters" -- mad scientist turned bug Dr. Cockroach (Hugh Laurie
), an aquatic fish man known as the Missing Link (Will Arnett), a blob like biological accident named B.O.B. (Seth Rogen
), and Insectosaurus, a building-sized pest with an ear-shattering scream. As America's first line of defense against trouble, the team is put to the test when extraterrestrial tyrant Gallaxhar (Rainn Wilson
) arrives, ready to take over Earth. Article continues below
A movie like Monsters vs. Aliens begs the question -- how could something this beautiful, this eye-poppingly gorgeous to look at (especially in either the IMAX or 3D format), be so freakin' dumb? Perhaps had directors Rob Letterman
(Shark Tale) and Conrad Vernon
(Shrek 2) spent more time on the screenplay and less on the immaculate art direction and design (did we mention the film looks stunning?), we'd have a true cartoon classic. Instead, ravishing imagery is constantly colliding with humor straight out of an eight-year-old's pizza party. All that's missing are a few fart and feces jokes and all the necessary noxious elements would be in place.
The filmmakers don't even understand the premise they are working under. Monsters are not, by their very nature, simple freaks of nature. Sure, you can successfully argue for B.O.B. or the copyright infringement of Insectosaurus' Mothra update, but is a 50-foot-tall woman really an object of terror? In fact, none of the supposed creatures here really exhibit behavior that would classify them as horrible. Monsters vs. Aliens hopes to get around this by simply labeling the characters as such and then having people shriek in ridiculous reaction shots the minute they step onscreen. What we really want are true imaginative creations, characters that recall the classic fiends of old without resorting to Van Helsing-like hackwork. Sadly, this movie finds its own way to ignore what worked in the past.
That being said, this is definitely an experience worth having, at least once. From the cornball caricature of the reject Reagan-esque President (voiced with charm by Stephen Colbert
) to the epic set pieces which turn even the tiniest detail into a full blown optical "wow," Monsters vs. Aliens just won't translate to the small screen, no matter the format. This is a movie made to be seen in a theater, 3D glasses in place and jaw consistently sitting on the ground. It's simply the only way to experience the full blown destruction of San Francisco. (Conveniently enough, arch-rival Pixar has its headquarters right around the corner.)
In a clear example of sensational style over underbaked substance, this is one hit headed for big fat box office supremacy. Only later, after the hit hype dies down, the sourness inside this amazing eye candy will finally be revealed.