Few events could drive loved ones scrambling away from a wedding faster than a radioactive bride glowing green and expanding to Godzilla-like proportions — and after poor Susan Murphy (voiced by Reese Witherspoon) is hit by a meteor and sprouts to an incredible 49 feet 11 inches at the altar, even promises of champagne can’t convince her frantic guests to stay.
Such begins DreamWorks’ latest movie “Monsters vs. Aliens,” an endearing but predictable animated 3-D film following the heroic adventures of a quirky clique of monsters. After Susan suffers her unnatural growth spurt, the U.S. government quarantines her in a monster detainment facility and renames her Ginormica.
But when the government catches on that the evil alien tyrant Gallaxhar (imagine Squidward from “SpongeBob SquarePants” with four eyes and elf ears, and even grumpier) plans to annihilate the human population and usurp planet Earth, the military rounds up the incarcerated monsters to use as an army. Susan and her newly befriended monster pals are thus forced to battle Gallaxhar before he destroys Earth with his selfish plans.
The animation in “Monsters vs. Aliens” is outstanding, underlined by the movie’s triumph as the first film ever to be produced in 3-D. While most movies are converted to the format after the fact, this film was created entirely for 3-D theater viewing. Despite one exaggerated effect added toward the beginning for shock value, the 3-D aspects err on the subtle side and successfully avoid being seen as a cheap trick for kids.
Though enhancing the overall quality of the already astounding animation, the 3-D effects but are by no means the sole perk in “Monsters vs. Aliens.”
With their unique and vibrant personalities, the characters are mainly what win the audience’s laughter and appreciation. Dr. Cockroach (Hugh Laurie, “House M.D.”) contributes a dry sarcasm as the prototypical mad scientist, while an ancient fish monster known as Missing Link (Will Arnett, “Semi-Pro”) obsesses over body-building. Compensating for his brainlessness by simply ingesting the team’s obstacles is the character B.O.B. (Seth Rogen) who, as a gluttonous, amorphous blue blob, is the reigning audience favorite. Finally, Insectosaurus completes the quintet by providing the “aww” factor as an enormous, dumbfounded fuzzy bug that requires occasional tummy rubs and communicates through groans.
While the personalities in “Monsters vs. Aliens” are carefully developed and distinct, the plotline is at times shaky and insufficient. Certain moments, including the opening scenes leading up to Susan’s Gulliver-on-Lilliput experience, are dry and yawn-worthy, while some action-packed scenes are rushed through with scanty explanation of the story.
On top of the occasional lack of fluidity in the plotline, the script is often trite and predictable as well, even for an animated film with a seeming target audience of younger children.
The movie drags from time to time due to the weight of expected cheesiness. For example, the audience is forced to endure predictable dialogue and clichés galore as Susan learns her requisite lessons of self-acceptance and friendship.
Platitudes abound, but the messages behind these commonplace comments ring clear. Susan learns an important relationship lesson that seems too “adult” for the rest of the film, a lesson that will undoubtably leave many prepubescent children in the dark. Nonetheless, the movie also conveys a vital message about independence and female empowerment that is universal to all age groups.
Appealing to an age-diverse audience, “Monsters vs. Aliens” seems to merely follow a precedent set by previous animated flicks such as “Wall-E” and “Shrek.”
However, the film manages to establish its uniqueness in this category by creating moments in the film that appeal to the older viewers alone. The film is rich with dry wit, mild but mouthy language and political jabs, and some scenes, such as when the President bosses around his military with capricious commands, suggest eerie parallels to the “real three-dimensional” world that would be lost on the young’uns.
Despite minor flukes, “Monsters vs. Aliens” is all-in-all an appealing flick with several laugh-out-loud moments and riveting action scenes. A reliable film for a Saturday afternoon, “Monsters vs. Aliens” is sufficiently satisfying and engaging upon the first viewing — but for the sake of a coherent plotline, the next time you have a monsters craving go with “Monsters, Inc.”
Though falling short in some areas, the movie more than makes its own comeback through the bursting personalities of its characters and the hilarious one-liners directed toward a range of ages and types of humor — one minute the squeals in the theater will be from the three-year-old in the next row; the next, his father.
— Contact Catherine Cai at email@example.com