Monday, July 27, 2009

Monsters vs. Aliens

Let me get this out of the way.  I don’t like Shrek, nor do I endorse any of the subsequent films, musical stage productions, or whatever capitalistic ventures created unbeknownst to me in order to flog one more shiny nickel out of that already overtaxed film franchise.  Shrek was boring, derivative, and predictable, and I have spent fully too much of my life defending my stance to the world at large, who view me as something between Idi Amin and Jeffery Dahmer.  Either way, I still eat people.
Monsters vs. Aliens, the latest 3-D offering from DreamWorks, suffers from a similar predicament.  Perkiness personified, Reese Witherspoon, voices Susan Murphy, who is about to marry dreamboat known as Paul Rudd, who plays a self-centered, low-level newsman with delusions of grandeur.  Of course we see what a tool he is, why can’t Susan?  It’s just oh so frustrating.  She deserves so much better.  Luckily for Susan, moments before the nuptials go down, a meteorite hits her.  This of course turns her giant.

After a brief, Godzilla-ish rampage, she is subdued by a super secret government agency that is so super secret simply mentioning its name is a federal offense.  For fifty years they have worked to keep the existence of monsters under wraps and out of the public eye.  General W.R. Monger, voiced by Keifer Sutherland, heads the clandestine agency.  While I’m happy that the wayward spawn of Donald Sutherland is finding work these days, he is really just rehashing the role he played on an episode of “The Simpsons” in 2006.  He was a colonel then, so I guess it is different.
Once Susan is captured, and rechristened Ginormica, she meets all sorts of wacky monsters voiced by various celebrities who are wacky and hot at the moment, like Seth Rogan, Hugh Laurie, Will Arnett, and Rainn Wilson.  While I enjoy most of these people in other capacities, here, they all get annoying in their own special way.
Aliens show up and of course the only way to defeat them is to employ the monsters.  This is where we’re supposed to learn that just because someone looks different from us, doesn’t mean that they are bad, or completely useless.  I don’t know if you would have been able to get that point from the movie, it’s pretty subtle.
This movie is trying way way way too hard to be the kid’s movie that adults also like.  Movies like this are too precious for their own good.  Steven Colbert as the president sounds like a good idea, right?  That is until he whips out a synthesizer and plays “Axel F,” betters known as the theme from Beverly Hills Cop by my boy Harold Faltermeyer, to welcome the aliens to earth.  Really?  I’d try to blow us up too.  How about an Al Gore, global warming, An Inconvenient Truth reference?  Check.
Monsters vs. Aliens thinks that it is really clever, but it is forced and tiresome.
This is one of those movies with like seven credited writers, and lord knows how many scrip doctors and ghostwriters hiding out behind the scenes.  It feels like every single person involved had their own favorite few lines and tried to cram them all together with the rest.  The result is understandably a mishmash.  We wind up with a hackneyed story without any real focus, and flat, boring characters.  We learn all the appropriate heavy-handed lessons about believing in ourselves, learning the value of people who value us, and what true friendship is.
Like usual, if you’re into this sort of movie, you’re much better off skipping Monsters vs. Aliens, and watching whatever new offering Pixar brings to the table.

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