Friday evening, my friends and I were in the mood for something particularly fun and lighthearted, requiring little in the way of brain power, and available at Redbox. It seems that Monsters vs. Aliens, the recent film from DreamWorks directed by Rob Letterman and Conrad Vernon, came out just in time to satiate our movie craving.
Before Monsters vs. Aliens arrived on DVD and Blu-ray, theaters released it in 3-D. I didn’t pay the money to view it there, because the advertising never hooked me, although the previews I saw were fairly entertaining. Naturally, I didn’t expect to enjoy the movie as much as I did. It had the whole group in stitches, and not infrequently.
The story begins with pretty bride-elect, Susan, who is hit by a meteorite on her wedding day and made into a truly towering bridezilla. The government locks her away with a cadre of fellow monsters, soon summoned to rescue humanity from alien bad-guy Gallaxhar. The team then proceeds to win the hearts of earth-dwellers with its world-saving antics.
First, let me say that Monsters vs. Aliens is not at all what I expected from an animated kids movie. On the scale from kid to adult, it falls somewhere in between Disney/Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. and DreamWorks’s Shrek. This is not due to any questionable content, a la frequent innuendos in Shrek, but to jokes that would simply fly over children's heads.
What makes the movie so surprisingly funny is that it is replete with pop-culture references, each one spot-on. Characters deliver jokes with both taste and precision. Monsters vs. Aliens takes an already talented voice cast, including Reese Witherspoon and Seth Rogen, and throws some unexpected treasures into the mix. For example, comedian Stephen Colbert voices the hopelessly idiotic president of the United States, shown repeatedly confusing a pair of matching red buttons, one of which “launches all of our nuclear missiles” (the other makes lattes). My personal favorite is 24's Kiefer Sutherland, whose famous television bad-assery only lends to the hilarity of his husky southern twang for single-minded military man General W.R. Monger.
I was pleased to see good-natured shots fired at people of all political persuasions (the Missing Link steps out into a world much changed since his last trek outside: “Has it gotten warmer out here? If it has, someone should tell us. That would be a very convenient truth”). In my opinion, the jokes aren't harsh enough to raise criticism or tempers, which is extremely hard to pull off and refreshing to note.
Though there are many things that children won't understand throughout the film, the bouncing, colorful characters can surely hold their attention. Monsters vs. Aliens has all the elements of animation that charm kids: cute-faced characters, silly antics, a brightly-colored world, fun sound effects (note the sound of Gallaxhar’s tentacles as he walks) and action-packed heroism. Though it might not amuse them as much as a strictly child-oriented movie, it probably won’t be a flop.
The only downside of Monsters vs. Aliens is its lack of an original and well fleshed-out plotline. The movie is definitely less about story and more about entertainment. That’s not an uncommon trade-off, though, and in the end, Monsters vs. Aliens pulls off exactly what it aims to be: pure fun.