3/28/09

Review: Monsters Vs. Aliens (2009)


Monsters Vs. Aliens begins with a wedding proposal, and ends as the bride-to-be flies away to Paris. In between, she saves the world several times over and proves to herself that she's capable of incredible things, with or without the groom.

What about the monsters, and the aliens? They're there, too, but their presence, and indeed, the presence of any other characters besides Susan, or Ginormica (voice of Reese Witherspoon), as she is known after being grown to unusual size by space radiation from a meteor, is really incidental, or even less.

It is odd that a movie with a promising "high concept" for a title has so little interest in exploiting it very much, but the film is sweet, full of action, fun and funny, and cool to watch in 3-D (I only viewed the film in IMAX 3-D, and the IMAX part was superfluous, if not distracting, as the film is not maximized for an IMAX screen).

The other monsters are cleverly designed and expertly voiced. Dr. Cockroach (Hugh Laurie) is a mad scientist who transformed himself Fly-like, into a human-sized pest, and keeps tinkering, the Missing Link (Will Arnett) is an aeons-old fish-man who loves kung fu and was nabbed attacking a Hawaiian resort, B.O.B. (Seth Rogen) is a gelatinous ooze without much going on upstairs, and Insectosaurus, a giant prehistoric-type bug about as big as Ginormica. The four (along with Susan) are inspired by 1950s sci-fi movies, but apart from their origin stories, told briefly, they are more light amusement than clever parody or interesting characters.

The "aliens" are actually one alien and a lot of clones of the same alien, so, again, a lot of wasted story opportunities. Gallaxhar (Rainn Wilson) is the motivation behind two major attacks on earth which must be foiled by Susan and her motley crew. He left his own planet because nobody liked him and clones himself to take over the earth and finally get some quality time with himself.

While the movie is easy to like, fast-paced, well animated and pretty fun, the problem with the script is that it misses so many jokes and clever plot twists that any relatively interesting person could write rings around it just sitting in the theater. The further possibilities for all of the monsters and aliens are multiple and obvious, and one begins to resent the filmmakers for laziness.

The major character who is most amusing and involving, besides Susan, is actually not a monster or an alien at all, but President Hathaway (Stephen Colbert), a grandstanding, cowardly idiot with one really hilarious sequence and some minor punchlines. The President alone gets anything like the kind of parodic exploitation one would have liked to have seen for each of the sci-fi characters.

In the end, however, the entire plot is put at the ginormic feet of Susan, and the portrayal is sympathetic and well executed, and moves the story along quickly and logically. Reese Witherspoon does a great job with the character, and the message of the film is all about Susan, and women and girls in general, finding and using their own potential to decide their own lives.

One just wants a bit more, a bit more complication, a bit more parody, a bit more of how the other characters might have learned that lesson, too. Again, it's a fun ride, but oh, the missed opportunities....

Alex
The Magic of the Movies

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