May the best beast win!
Monsters vs. Aliens is a clever mishmash of ’50s-style alien invasion and monster movies with modern day CGI animation. It possesses a terrifically offbeat sense of humor, and a sweet weirdo kind of vibe, creating endearing characters out of stuff like the Blob and gigantic caterpillars. It’s also a sharp, crisp 3-D entertainment for those with access to theaters offering the option.
Susan (voice of Reese Witherspoon) is getting set for her marriage to Derek (Paul Rudd), an egocentric weatherman, when she winds up underneath a meteor from outer space. After dusting herself off, she arrives at the altar literally glowing, and experiences a growth spurt that does serious damage to the church and her wedding night prospects. Measuring in at near 50 feet, she winds up at a government compound, where she is dubbed Ginormica and must room with a series of freaks that have been collected over the years.
There’s Dr. Cockroach Ph.D. (Hugh Laurie) an obvious tribute to The Fly. The Missing Link (Will Arnett) has physical similarities to the Creature from the Black Lagoon, but rather than dragging people down to their aquatic deaths, he just wants people to like him. Insectosaurus is a former grub grown to the size of a dinosaur, yet still possesses the tranquility of a little furry bug you would allow to crawl around on your finger. Then there’s my personal favorite, B.O.B. (hilariously voiced by Seth Rogen), a blue, harmless version of the Blob, former movie nemesis of Steve McQueen.
As it turns out, the element that has turned Susan into Ginormica is coveted by an alien race. Gallaxhar (Rainn Wilson) seeks to extract the precious energy source from Susan and take over the world. So General W.R. Monger (Kiefer Sutherland, having some obvious fun) under orders from the President (a perfectly cast Stephen Colbert) pit their monsters versus the aliens.
The first confrontation takes place in San Francisco, where Ginormica wages an impressive battle against a giant alien robotic probe. At one point, she’s wearing cars as roller-skates, taking on San Fran’s many hills at perilous speeds. The sequence ends on the Golden Gate Bridge, a scene of mass destruction reminiscent of Godzilla movies of old. This sequence represents the 3-D effects at their best in the movie. The bridge collapsing into the water below is very well-done and sort of scary.
The movie, from the Dreamworks animation factory, is impressive-looking. It’s not as good as some of Pixar’s greater works, but it’s a cut above the last couple of Shrek films and much better than animation factory garbage like Space Chimps. The writers have a blast referencing everything from Close Encounters of the Third Kind to E.T. with their jokes, and I actually found myself laughing hard at many of them. There’s a weather scroll during a televised newscast that got something akin to a guffaw out of me.
Rogen gets special notice for what is becoming a nice side career as animated character voices. He has voiced four great characters in the last two years, including Hogsqueal for the unjustly overlooked The Spiderwick Chronicles, Morton in Horton Hears a Who!, and now B.O.B., his crowning achievement in vocal work. Rogen calls upon his stoner chuckle for many moments with B.O.B., a gloriously unaware character. The actor is a tremendous improviser, and I have to think some of the crazy stuff B.O.B. says during the course of the film must’ve sprung from Rogen’s mind.
This one is ripe for sequels, and I’d be happy to see the monster squad going to work against new alien forces in future installments. It might cost a little more to watch a 3-D movie, but I think you get a lot of bang for that extra buck when it comes to this movie.