Monsters vs Aliens Review

Is Dreamworks’ latest computer animated effort more than just a big name voice cast and sumptuous visuals? Dave gives you his take on Monsters vs Aliens…

Like many of their (Dreamworks) other films, Monsters vs Aliens has an interesting idea at the heart of the project, one that has been mined for a few large-scale action set-pieces, numerous jokes and pop-culture references and of course it features the obligatory cast of stars on which they can pin their ad campaign. Where it falls apart, like many of their other films, is in the lack of, oh that’s it, a good old fashioned yarn told through interesting characters whom you can relate to and connect as they develop over the course of the film. There is a message passed on to the audience, accept yourself and others for who or what they are, and that’s fine. It’s a good solid lesson for the younger members of the audience and will probably do some of the adults some good as well, but wrapping it in a storyline that really is as simplistic as the title suggests does the film no favours.

In the opening half-hour, we are introduced to Susan (voiced by a somewhat whiney Reese Witherspoon) who brings new meaning to the old adage of it being bad luck to be seen in her wedding dress by the groom prior to the ceremony as she is struck by a meteor outside the church. Miraculously she survives, grows several hundred feet and is promptly captured by a government agency. Imprisoned with other accidents turned monsters, a little bit of history is provided and, well, I found myself hoping the alien invasion was coming soon as very little of real interest happens with more effort placed on caricatures of old favourites like the drill sergeant from Full Metal Jacket or the mad scientist from, well, take your pick. Then the invasion does happen and some of the better characters join the fray, such as Gallaxhar, a rather deadpan invader and his delightfully droll computer. They’re hardly used though, mere plot devices to bring some peril to the earth and set the monsters free to fight and win over our hearts. The invasion does bring with it some good action and the supporting monster characters voiced by Seth Rogen and Will Arnett have some of the better lines in amidst the carnage, particularly Rogen whose monster B.O.B. is one of the most interesting in terms of how he can be integrated into the action. By far the most amusing gag in this viewer’s opinion however is when the President greets the alien robot in true Mars Attacks fashion, out to show he’s a good brave President he then proceeds to tap out some tunes on a keyboard a la Close Encounters of the Third Kind. That’s two movie references in one sequence (well, it’s three actually but I won’t spoil the third) and there are numerous others littered throughout, but none brought a smile to my face like this one.

What this leaves us with is another swing and a miss from Dreamworks, a film that has its moments and will probably satisfy most audiences who are looking for something to divert the kids for 90 minutes, but is ultimately lacking in the key areas of plot, character and heart. If you do go and see it, be sure to check it out in 3D, this was my first film in the new fangled format and what I once took to be a gimmick I see as a gimmick no more. Monsters vs Aliens looks pretty darn good in 3D and if the trailers for the other movies beforehand (Up and Coraline specifically) are anything to go by, there are some treats in store later this year as well.


Updated: Apr 16, 2009

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