Reese Witherspoon headlines the latest DreamWorks animated film, Monsters Vs. Aliens, an entertaining one hour and 34 minute sci-fi romp. Adults will catch references from movies like Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Fly and The Blob. These four sci-fi movies also comprise each main character’s origin.
Witherspoon voices Californian Susan Murphy who’s later known as Ginormica. Her role creates a memorable character arc of self empowerment as she learns how far her talents and kind heart can really take her in life. Susan is one of the strongest female characters in recent animated films, though filmmakers momentarily take a step backwards when one characters says, “you let a girl beat you”.
Will Arnett voices The Missing Link, an amphibious creature that is itching for action, though his prowess doesn’t always match his actions. Arnett appeals with his voice more than the standard character.
You’ll love Hugh Laurie’s comic turn as Dr. Cockroach Ph.D., but he’s largely confined to familiar character archetypes. It would have been great to see Laurie’s British comic experience let loose or even have him write part of the screenplay…maybe in the likely sequel.
Seth Rogen voices the gelatinous blue B.O.B. (a.k.a. Bicarbonate Ostylezene Benzoate). His indestructible physical properties set up some great comic moments (one spoiled by the preview) and Rogen really hits some high notes in the dialogue jokes and delivery.
Susan has the best emotional grounding of the four…the others have fun so the audience does as they fearlessly accomplish their team goals and learn to work together.
Insectosaurus doesn’t have any dialogue, but certainly makes a big impression referencing the classic 1961 Mosura monster movie. Elements from more modern sci-fi movies like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Independence Day are also incorporated into the film.
The biggest challenge for this group of five hero monsters is social acceptance — well for the main four; Insectosaurus has some obvious limitations. Each quartet member’s main power is obvious and basic, so you don’t really know what each will do when in the middle of the action, which can make you really connect with the characters in the battles.
Rainn Wilson voices the villainous Gallaxhar while comedian Amy Poehler, Arnett’s real life wife, gets laughs as the ship’s computer. Wilson’s fellow Office mates John Krasinski and Ed Helms have limited voice acting parts, while star Renee Zellweger has an incredibly small voice role as Katie.
The plot really hits some high entertainment points in the second half when the crew gets into Gallaxhar’s alien ship. Dreamworks veterans Rob Letterman and Conrad Vernon know how to entertain with epic, creative action sequences that could never be accomplished in real life (e.g. roller skating with cars on your feet through a busy highway full of cars, etc.)
The crew also renders a set of memorable, rosy cheeked human characters to compliment the monsters and aliens. Kiefer Sutherland provides the strong voice for General W.R. Monger while political comedian Stephen Colbert voices President Hathaway. Paul Rudd plays Susan’s fiancé, a self centered TV journalist named Derek Dietl who shows his true colors once her new form takes shape.
This sci-fi animated comedy comes recommended with a few reservations and is rated PG for action, references (largely missed by young viewers), some crude humor and mild language. Be sure to stay for a while during the ending credits for a fairly amusing bonus scene with the President and General. Also playing in 3D and IMAX theaters.