Monsters Vs. Aliens
If being cute was acceptable criteria for attaining great movie status, then Monsters Vs. Aliens would be an instant classic. Everything about the movie is wrapped in a warm and fuzzy cuteness that makes the whole viewing experience impossible to despise. But cute is all the movie has to offer, which means that its mild charm fades quickly even if it never fully disappears. Each moment of cutesy distraction is strategically placed to hide the emptiness within, making Monsters Vs. Aliens a lightly amusing movie that rarely manages to be memorable.
This latest kid-friendly tale from Dreamworks Animation operates as both an adventurous action flick and an homage to classic monster movies. The protagonist of the story is sweet and friendly Susan (nicely voiced by Reese Witherspoon), who is hit by a meteorite on her wedding day. Not only does the accident ruin her nuptials, but it also transforms her into a towering giant who directly references the titular character from the 1958 movie Attack of the 50 Foot Woman. Her sudden transformation earns her the title of "monster" and she is quickly captured by the American military and tossed into a top secret facility.
It is here that Susan meets a group of other monsters, such as Dr. Cockroach (a reference to The Fly), B.O.B (a gelatinous blob inspired by, well, The Blob), Insectasaurus (a Mothra reference waiting to happen) and The Missing Link (a part-man, part-fish who greatly resembles the Creature from the Black Lagoon). These mild-mannered monsters have been held captive for several years, so Susan is told to get comfortable with her new surroundings and settle in. Luckily for her, an angry alien who desperately covets the substance that caused Susan's transformation comes to Earth in hopes of obtaining the substance and conquering the planet. When the military is proven to be powerless in the face of the alien invader's weaponry, a hardened army general concocts a plan to unleash the monsters to battle the extraterrestrial villain.
From this point on, the movie is free to pass the time with a series of lame jokes and big action sequences. Monsters Vs. Aliens takes a while to set up the core concept and once it reaches that critical point of the narrative, it flashes by in the blink of an eye. Every scene is delivered in such a fast and furious manner that nothing in the movie ever has a chance to resonate.
Taking its cues from so many different sci-fi movies of the past, Monsters Vs. Aliens does manage to conjure up some pleasant imagery. The virtual world on screen is poorly realized in the context of the story, but the visual splendour of its featured countrysides and cityscapes is beautifully rendered in three dimensions. The added depth afforded by the latest 3D technology allows the movie to impress your eyeballs while the story stumbles through the motions of its simple structure.
In addition to Witherspoon, comic actors Seth Rogen, Will Arnett, and Rainn Wilson all lend their voices to the creatures, along with Hugh Laurie (who often brings comedy to his regular dramatic role as the main character on TV's House). Even Stephen Colbert shows up to voice an idiotic version of the President. The voice cast is a very capable bunch and they occasionally come close to executing some of the overtly juvenile jokes, but their talent never reaches its full potential and so their participation fails to satisfy.
In its bland and predictable manner, Monsters Vs. Aliens is the animated definition of mediocrity. It is no more good than it is bad, simply settling for being average at every turn. The movie is easy on the eyes and it does use significantly imaginative material as inspiration, but it still struggles to make an impression. Monsters Vs. Aliens offers a cute and mildly amusing ride that will likely turn up the corners of your mouth into a half-formed smile, but don't be surprised if you forget all about it mere moments after the credits begin to roll.