Much like several of my ex-girlfriends, Susan is a monster.
I suppose that was a tad unkind (but true).
On her wedding day to a narcissistic newscaster, Derek (Paul Rudd), Susan (Reese Witherspoon) is slam dunked by a crashing meteorite and, just as she's walking down the aisle, quickly rises to a gigantic height just shy of 50-feet tall.
Faster than you can say E.T., Susan is renamed Ginormica and swept away by the feds to a secret holding prison where other monstrous prisoners are held. Confined with such monsters as a blob named B.O.B. (Seth Rogen), Dr. Cockroach (Hugh Laurie) and Missing Link (Will Arnett), Susan longs to return to her beloved Derek. When Earth is attacked by a mysterious one-eyed robot, her captor General W.R. Monger (Get it? Chuckle.) and U.S. President Hathaway (Stephen Colbert) call upon the monsters to save Earth.
Can the monsters defeat the aliens?
Will Ginormica ever get back to Derek?
Will Ginormica ever return to being just plain Susan?
Can society ever see these monsters as anything but monsters?
"Monsters vs. Aliens" was made in Tru3D, a Dreamworks process touted by Jeffrey Katzenberg for being the future of cinema.
All I can say is "Why?"
It's not that there's anything particularly wrong with Tru3D, I just could never figure out what really made it transcend contemporary cinema.
Why is it the future of cinema?
I'm not convinced. I'm not convinced it's such a noticeable difference in film quality that audiences will regularly pour out the extra dough that always accompanies 3-D films.
Cool? Sure. Certain shots were rather awesome, but "Monsters vs. Aliens" will play just as well on a 2-D screen.
In fact, rather consistently throughout the film I found myself surprised at the scenes that DIDN'T stand out. Every so often, "Monsters vs. Aliens" would throw an obvious 3-D shot at the screen, but this was almost always during the every day, mundane shots and hardly ever in the film's more hardcore action sequences that could have actually benefited from such attention. The exception would undoubtedly be the film's opening sequence, an awesome journey through the rings of Saturn that enthralled every child in the packed theatre screening I attended.
Despite not quite getting all the fuss over Tru3D, "Monsters vs. Aliens" is a film that kids are likely to enjoy. While the film's two co-directors and five screenwriters seem to be aiming for the "Shrek" or "Finding Nemo" vibe, they consistently fall short in the cultural relevance and humor department.
As adults, we've gotten a bit spoiled by animated filmmakers seeking to hold the attention of adults while catering to children. "Monsters vs. Aliens," on the other hand, is a pure and simple kids' flick.
There are really only two reasons to see "Monsters vs. Aliens," but these two reasons carry the film.
First, as Susan/Ginormica, Reese Witherspoon is funny, tender, strong, wounded and downright awesome. Likewise, as he seems to nearly always do, Rogen practically steals the film as B.O.B., a sort of brainless, cheerful fellow that kids and adults alike will absolutely adore.
Truth be told, I'm sitting here thinking to myself "If B.O.B. shows up in stores, I'm buying one."
Yes, B.O.B. was that cute!
As Dr. Cockroach, a sort of mad scientist aka "The Fly," Hugh Laurie brings down the house (Sorry, I couldn't resist), while Rainn Wilson is refreshingly evil as Gallaxhar, whose plan it is to conquer Earth.
Paul Rudd, who shined in last weekend's live action "I Love You Man," isn't given nearly as much to do here as the self-centered Derek, and without his body mechanics and facial expressions his humor just falls short while Stephen Colbert's U.S. President suffers much the same fate.
Perhaps the biggest problem with "Monsters vs. Aliens" is that it all seems a bit familiar. While Dreamworks has done a stellar job of creating their 3-D world, this brave new world is filled with the same old characters and stories.
Remember "The Incredibles?" You'll see glimpses of it here.
I'm sure you remember "Wall-E," but you'll also be reminded of it during "Monsters vs. Aliens."
"Finding Nemo?" Check.
And the list goes on.
Despite the film's flaws, it ultimately comes down to "Will "Monsters vs. Aliens" entertain the kiddoes?"
Co-directors Conrad Vernon and Rob Letterman have crafted a film that is beautiful, consistently entertaining, contains adorable and likeable characters and has the required positive messages for children. Reese Witherspoon and Seth Rogen bring life and fun to their respective roles, and "Monsters vs. Aliens" gives us a glimpse into the potential of Katzenberg's beloved Tru3D.
It really doesn't matter whether or not you see "Monsters vs. Aliens" in 2-D or 3-D...either way, your children will be entertained and you'll catch enough pop culture references to hold your interest.
The battle is between monsters and aliens.
This time, Dreamworks will be the winner.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic