Monsters vs. Aliens


Reese Witherspoon as Susan Murphy / Ginormica (voice)
Seth Rogen as B.O.B. (voice)
Hugh Laurie as Dr. Cockroach Ph.D. (voice)
Will Arnett as The Missing Link (voice)
Kiefer Sutherland as General W.R. Monger (voice)
Rainn Wilson as Gallaxhar (voice)
Stephen Colbert as President Hathaway (voice)
Paul Rudd as Derek Dietl (voice)
Julie White as Wendy Murphy (voice)
Jeffrey Tambor as Carl Murphy (voice)
Amy Poehler as Computer (voice)
Ed Helms as News Reporter (voice)
Renée Zellweger as Katie (voice)
John Krasinski as Cuthbert (voice)
Sean Bishop as Private Bullhorn / Helicopter Pilot / Advisor Ortega (voice)

A strong voice cast and a fun sci-fi premise make “Monsters vs. Aliens” a film worth checking out. Boys will love the monsters while girls will enjoy the strong female lead.

Susan Murphy is your normal, everyday woman preparing to enter into wedded bliss… until a meteorite lands on her head. Rather than kill her, it makes her 50 ft tall and gives her white hair. She’s quickly captured by a secret government organization and thrown into a ‘monster prison’. There, she meets the blob-like B.O.B., half-fish and half-man The Missing Link, the evil scientist Dr. Cockroach Ph.D., and the giant monster Insectosaurus. Misunderstood and alone, they form a surrogate family in the prison.

But when an evil giant alien robot crash lands near San Francisco, the government decides to use one menace to fight another menace. The monsters are recruited to do battle with the aliens in exchange for their freedom. But will they destroy the world or save it?

“Monsters vs. Aliens” is rated PG for sci-fi action, some crude humor and mild language.

What Worked:
Anyone that loves classic monster movies is going to enjoy “Monsters vs. Aliens.” I grew up watching “Godzilla,” “Creature From the Black Lagoon,” “The Blob,” “The Fly,” and other movies that this film uses for inspiration and parody. So every little tip of the hat to those films was greatly appreciated by me.

“Monsters vs. Aliens” is a great premise. It’s one of those films where the title alone tells you that you must see it. Fortunately, it mostly pays off. It takes a while to get going, but once it does it’s a fun ride. The point where the story really picks up is when the monsters start battling the alien robot about 20 to 30 minutes into the running time. At this point we’re treated to one of the most unique chase scenes ever to take place in San Francisco. And the fact that the combatants are impossibly huge is used to full effect as they throw around cars, tear apart the Golden Gate Bridge, and walk through buildings. It’s all a lot of fun and it gets progressively better as they face off directly with Gallaxhar for the climax.

Another thing that surprised me was the fact that this was Susan/Ginormica’s movie. The plot centers around her and is told from her perspective. So though the title is going to lure boys into theaters, girls are going to really identify with her character. And girl power is used to full effect when Ginormica unexpectedly turns the tables on Gallaxhar. She’s certainly no damsel in distress. Reese Witherspoon does a great job voicing her character.

The voice cast is quite strong. With actors like Seth Rogen, Hugh Laurie, Will Arnett, Paul Rudd, and Kiefer Sutherland, you know you’re going to get good performances. They all feel constrained a little bit after having seen many of them improvise in other productions, but they do a good job with the material they have in front of them. It was a great idea to have Stephen Colbert as President Hathaway, but like the others, he didn’t cut loose quite as much as I would have hoped. If you’re a fan of “The Office” like me, you’ll get a kick out of hearing Rainn Wilson as Gallaxhar, Ed Helms as a news reporter, and John Krasinski as Cuthbert.

I took my kids to this film and they really enjoyed it. Fortunately, I enjoyed it, too. Unfortunately, they’re begging me to take them to McDonalds to buy “Monsters vs. Aliens” Happy Meal toys. Consider yourself warned, parents.

What Didn’t Work:
I would love to tell you how amazing this film was in 3-D, but I can’t. The local promoter only did two screenings of the film. I went to the first one and they didn’t save seats for any members of the press and I was turned away. I went to the second screening and it was in 2-D. Why would you trumpet to the world that “Monsters vs. Aliens” is shown “In Tru 3-D!!!! ™”, then screen the thing in 2-D? Paramount and Dreamworks need to have a serious talk with their promotions companies about screening this in 3-D. The point is to hype the effect. Now that I’m done venting….

As I mentioned before, the movie does take a while to get rolling. I understand the need to do the setup and introduce all the characters through the eyes of Susan, but it hurt the pacing of the film. It doesn’t help that the laugh out loud moments are far between. Yes, a lot of the movie is funny, but it’s more smirk-inducing funny rather than laugh out loud funny. (Does that make any sense?) I think letting the cast improvise more might have helped. It wouldn’t have hurt. I did love seeing B.O.B. flirt with a plate of Jello, an inexplicably easy fooling of a guard on the alien spaceship, and a few other great moments not shown in the commercials.

There’s also a weird scene where they make fun of the stereotypical moment when the two teens making out in the parked car run across the invading alien. They twist it around by switching the roles of the boy and girl i.e. the boy is the scared one and the girl is the one initiating the making out and investigating the strange alien light. The whole scene is funny on paper but ends up playing out a little weird on the screen, especially in a kid’s film. You’ll know what I mean when you see it.

The Bottom Line:
This felt like a mix of “The Incredibles” and “Monsters, Inc.” mixed with a bit of “Chicken Little.” I enjoyed it, my kids enjoyed it, and it’s a world I’d love to visit again. If you’re a sci-fi fan, I recommend checking it out.