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…what goes bump in the night…
April 9, 2009, 10:33 pm
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Monsters vs. Aliens

Monsters vs. Aliens

As a small child, the protective coverings of my blankets provided an impenetrable shield against creatures of the night. Growing up was tough with two older brothers who were Hell bent on scaring me with stories of furnace monsters and tales of Bigfoot. Films like “Little Monsters” caused me nightmares for months. Thankfully, my parents were never far from the scene and valiantly defended me from any potential attacks.

If “Monsters vs. Aliens” had been released in 1994, parents would have gotten more sleep. Guaranteed.

Susan (Reese Witherspoon) is ready to walk down the isle, intent on marrying her weatherman fiance named Derek (Paul Rudd).  However, a close encounter with a crashing meteorite has some gigantic side effects. Susan grows to colossal proportions and transforms into a female version of Gulliver with the wedding party scrambling around like Lilliputians. Once snatched by the government, the newly acquired “Ginormica” is exiled to a prison with fellow monsters.  All hope is lost until an alien robot, controlled by Gallaxhar (Rainn Wilson), invades the earth and threatens mankind.  Roger Ebert says, “[The] robot, which has one big eyeball in the middle of its head, [is] like a giant Leggs pantyhose container bred with an iSight camera.” This guy is the opitome of evil.  Time to call in the monsters for help because, unfortunately, the Ghostbusters are busy.

“Monsters vs. Aliens” works tirelessly to establish a theme of identity.  Susan relies on Derek and a dream that their relationship can survive, height difference and all.  She voluntarily allows Dr. Cockroach (Hugh Laurie) to experiment (and electrocute) all in the name of love. When the government offers her freedom in exchange for battling against the alien robot, Susan, eager to reunite with her fiance, accepts the offer.  About halfway through her eightieth passionate diatribe, I could feel my compassion for this character crumble under thin ice.

Jumping on the newest trend in animation that “Coraline” popularized, “Monsters vs. Aliens” is available in 3D format. However, unlike the critically acclaimed “Coraline,” this Dreamworks production was not nearly as technologically impressive.  Very few moments were specifically designed for the 3D film goers. The jokes were funny but not witty and held water like a colander.  The storyline was campy at best and uninteresting. “Monsters vs. Aliens” relied heavily on the starpower:  America’s sweetheart Reese Witherspoon, “The Office’s” funnyman Rainn Wilson, “Arrested Development’s” underdog Will Arnett, “Superbad’s” Seth Rogan, “House’s” unflinching Hugh Laurie, and politically incorrect “The Colbert Report’s” Stephen Colbert.  Too bad that the actors wasted their voices on such poor scripting.

Ann Hornaday from “The Washington Post” believes that the film shows a promising beginning with its bright colors and interesting storyline.  She says, “But within minutes, the movie gets mired in long, talky stretches, many of them about Susan’s relationship problems with her tiresome fiance Derek.”  Much of the animated films Dreamworks produces lacks a certain energy that the leading competitor, Pixar, captures with such ease.

Rob Rector of “Blogcritics Magazine” has identified the major reason why competing studios can’t replicate Pixar’s success.  He says, “DreamWorks Animation, always the bridesmaid at the box office, certainly has the technical chops to rival Pixar – there are moments in 3-D that are frighteningly realistic. Their problem repeatedly rests in the writing.”  The characters were more 2D than 3D in depth.

Hornaday says, “That’s because, unlike the instant classics Pixar Animation Studios has become known for, “Monsters vs. Aliens” is about things, not characters.”


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