Sunday, September 27, 2009

Reviewer Vs. Stupid Movie

Monsters Vs. Aliens (2009)

There’s a fun idea at work here in a very stupid and useless movie. When space aliens come calling and our conventional weapons prove useless, who ya gonna call? Why, the monsters you’ve had locked up at a secret facility for the last 50 years, that’s who.

Taking a page from 1950s sci-fi B-movies, our monster “A-Team”consists of a blob named B.O.B., an irradiated insect man, Dr. Cockroach, a missing link named The Missing Link, and a skyscraper sized bug named Insectasaurus. Added to the roster is the near 50 foot Ginormica, who until recently was just plain Susan, a girl about to be married to a motor-mouthed local TV newsman until a meteor hit her right in the face.

That meteor held the valuable quantonium and the evil quatro-eyed alien Galaxhar will stop at nothing, nothing I say, to get that power back. So he threatens to kidnap Susan/Ginormica, suck the energy out of her and blow up the earth, though not necessarily all in that order.

This is a Dreamworks production, as are the Shrek movies, and their stock in trade with CGI animated fare seems to be to load them up with pop culture references, unlike the Pixar films which are far superior in story and execution and have a timeless quality about them. So we get a riff on Close Encounters' "music as language" sequence by using the theme from Beverly Hills Cop. There's also nods to Spaceballs, An Inconvenient Truth and the "hang in there, kitty" poster.

There are no real characters here, just manic ciphers. Dr. Cockroach talks too much. The Missing Link talks too much. B.O.B. is kind of dumb; he also talks too much. Gen. Monger talks too much. EVERYONE TALKS TOO MUCH! They’re all like strange, and poor, copies of Donkey from Shrek. (They wanted to ensure that not a single three year old child's attention would wander away from the screen.) Hey, Dreamworks, you hired not just "name" actors, but actors who are currently hot or in the news, like Reese Witherspoon, Hugh Laurie, Seth Rogen and Rainn Wilson. How about giving them real, distinct characters to bring to life and not these plastic-eyed mannequins?

The action scenes are loud and frenetic which is the rule now with CGI animation. I would love it if someone, a university perhaps, did a test to see who if anyone can follow the chaotic action in sequences such as in this movie. M vs A is aimed at a young audience but can a 5 year old or a 9 year old tell me what happens in the big, shit’s-exploding-everywhere-in-the-ship-while-Ginormica-has-to- rescue-everybody-outwit-the-clone-army-while-the-camera-is-strapped-to-a-bungee-cord-finale? I would bet Donald Trump’s gold hair piece they couldn’t.

Kids, here’s a better idea: have your parents rent The Creature from the Black Lagoon, It! The Terror From Beyond Space, the original The Fly, and Destroy All Monsters some of the inspirations for this movie. They’re fun, a bit creepy and scary, but not so much that you’d have nightmares. How good are they? Well, they inspired Monsters vs. Aliens, but Monsters vs. Aliens won’t inspire anyone. Got it?

1 comment:

  1. "A fun idea at work in a very stupid and useless movie".

    There, my friend, you have encapsulated the entire entertainment industry in a single, pithy, sentence.

    Eeegads, how many movies/TV shows have there been over the years that have a pretty solid concept at their roots only to have that concept COMPLETELY neutered by the Marketing Dept and their focus groups? Probably not as many as there should be--most of them are just stupid and useless to begin with. It just seems like every once and a while you find yourself essentially saying just what you said above; "Man, that was a neat idea if only they hadn't..." or "that could have been a really great movie if only they had..."

    Another rant I have is the use of big name actors in voice roles purely for marquee value. Granted big name actors are hired purely to push projects along on a daily basis--it is show BUSINESS after all. Once they've burned through a particular actors ability to attract an audience they move on to someone else.

    As a fan of vintage radio shows voice performance has always had an extra interest for me. Want to know how good a performer is?? Force them to convey an idea using only their voice or only their body. The impression that I get is actors who have a strong stage background know very well how to use their voices.

    Anyway, I cringe every time I see a "bankable" name taking on a voice role because the vast majority of the time they're either going to just plain suck or their considerable talents will be squandered.