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Movie Review: 'Monsters vs. Aliens' an exercise in mediocrity

Lane Blevins • Apr 3, 2009 at 12:00 AM

In a world after “Wall-e,” there is simply no room for the mediocrity that is “Monsters vs. Aliens.” And while DreamWorks DOES have the ability to make a product comparable to a Pixar picture (I thought “Kung-Fu Panda” was a terrific flick), this one just doesn’t make the cut.

What’s sad to me is the laundry list of actors I honestly admire who are involved with this movie. The film features the voice talents of Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd and “Arrested Development’s” Will Arnett as well as Stephen Colbert and Rainn Wilson (from “The Office”). That should make for a funny flick, right?

Well, not necessarily. In fact, all that means is that the filmmakers and writers are fans of the same actors. An actor generally can’t control a script (usually). Ergo, the weakest link of this film is the comedy.

Between each clever bit that merely made me smile on the inside was a joke that fell like an atom bomb, echoed only by dead silence. Not a good sign… But here is a summary:

“Monsters Vs. Aliens” is about a woman named Susan (voiced by Reese Witherspoon), who on her wedding day is struck by a mysterious meteor. After the incident, she is standing at the altar when she begins to grow very tall, very fast. Before anyone can figure out what’s going on, a covert government agency swoops in and battles the frightened, 60-foot-tall woman.

Eventually, Susan is subdued and brought to a secret facility where she is thrown in with a strange prisoner population comprised of monsters.

In particular, there is B.O.B. (Seth Rogen), which stands for Benzoate Ostylezene Bicarbonate, a brainless blob that consumes whatever it can get in its mouth. There is Dr. Cockroach, Ph.D., a mad scientist who accidently turned himself into a cockroach. There is a gargantuan child-like insect. And finally, there is The Missing Link, a strange amphibious creature voiced by Will Arnett.

When a maniacal alien comes to Earth in search of the meteor that hit Susan, the government decides to let the monsters defend Earth in exchange for their freedom.

An epic battle ensues… kind of…

One of my main criticisms of “Monsters vs. Aliens,” is the nearly complete LACK of monsters. There are the five main monsters and no others.

It would have been better to have seen a wide variety of monsters inside the monster prison, with various gags about each one, rather than five poorly developed characters. It was hinted that there were other monsters in the prison, but you never see them. Perhaps this is just the nerd who loves Cryptozoology in me talking.

The film isn’t a total waste of time, though. To its credit, “Monsters vs. Aliens” does have some beautifully rendered animation as well as some moments of clever wit. Seeing the animation involved with the blob character B.O.B. was great. Watch his insides as he eats and dissolves his food. It’s fun stuff.

Also of note is the great stuff involving the President of the United States, voiced by the always amazing Stephen Colbert. Fans of “The Colbert Report” will love his take on the Prez, including a fantastic scene in which he attempts to communicate with the aliens a la “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” by laying out the “Beverly Hills Cop” theme on synthesizer. Very funny.

Again, I will invoke the name of “Wall-e.” The simple fact of the matter is that Pixar continues to raise the bar in the animated feature category. “Wall-e” may have set it too high, even. And while sometimes I catch myself wondering if I am being too hard on a children’s film for not making me laugh or entertaining me, I remember flicks like “Wall-e” and it reminds me of all the possibilities.

It is possible to make a film that can entertain parent and child alike.

And while “Monsters vs. Aliens” will most likely entertain your rugrats, it is mediocre for all other audiences.2 stars (out of 4)

STARRING: Voice talents of Seth Rogen, Reese Witherspoon, Hugh Laurie, Will Arnett, Stephen Colbert

DIRECTED BY: Rob Letterman and Conrad Vernon

RATED: PG for sci-fi action, some crude humor and mild language

RUNNING TIME: 1 hour, 34 minutes

Lane Blevins is an aspiring filmmaker.

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