“Monsters Vs. Aliens.” Stop and think about that for a minute. Monsters. Versus. Aliens. If that title doesn’t give your inner 10-year old boy a seizure of awesome, I don’t know what will.
Think about the bizarre hilariousness inherent in such a high-concept, absurd idea. Now stop. You’ve just experienced more entertainment, creativity and thought than in the entirety of DreamWorks’ latest inert mess of a movie.
“Monsters Vs. Aliens” tells the story of a plucky young woman (voiced by Reese Witherspoon) who, on the day of her wedding, finds herself struck by an asteroid that changes her from a demure bride into a 49-and-a-half-foot-tall behemoth. After the government kidnaps her, she becomes the leader of a clueless bunch of monsters who are forced to do battle with an evil space squid. Also, the 3D is pretty cool.
Perhaps “story” is not the right word. Sure, there are events that are somewhat related, and they occur in a sequence that leads to an ending of sorts, but none of it really feels like a story. Of course, the movie is called “Monsters Vs. Aliens,” so this is forgivable. Or rather, it would be, if any of the monsters and/or aliens were at least slightly interesting.
There are no characters here; there are broad stereotypes and gimmicks galore, but every single element of the film is stock. It’s as if the filmmakers thought that simply having the Creature from the Black Lagoon hang out with the 50-Foot Woman, Godzilla and The Blob would be instant hilarity. It is funny… for about 30 seconds. Then the movie goes on for another 93 minutes.
Witherspoon is boring and milquetoast. Will Arnett is flaccid. Rainn Wilson lends his voice to a less interesting version of his Dwight Schrute character. Hugh Laurie is, um, British. Even the stunt casting of Stephen Colbert as the president falls flat, because the joke never goes further than “OMFGZ Colbert is teh prezidentz!” Only Seth Rogen manages to acquit himself with any dignity. The protagonists of cult film “Destroy All Monsters!” seem layered and nuanced in comparison.
Compounding the problem is the filmmakers’ bizarre decision to make a movie designed for 10-year-olds entirely reliant upon jokes that refer to films that their parents probably haven’t even seen. Sure, I laughed at the gags referencing Vincent Price’s “House of Wax,” as well as “The Blob” and the notoriously awful “This Island Earth,” but these allusions aren’t really going to play in middle America, much less the middle-school playground.
Yes, the 3D is cool, but even with the swanky glasses protected by six ushers, it still feels like a distraction. “Coraline” used 3D to deepen the image; “Monsters Vs. Aliens” just throws things at the screen. It works well during scenes like the attack on the Golden Gate Bridge, but it’s simply obtrusive and annoying while the characters are speaking, and a total mood killer during any of the “emotional” scenes.
It’s nice to see a strong female protagonist, and it is even better to see a film where a woman doesn’t give up her autonomy in an allegedly “happy” ending, but come on: Anyone out there in the audience could dream up something better than this.