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Monday
Mar232009

Monsters Vs. Aliens

As a general rule, "versus" movies don't pan out too well (with the sole exception of Freddy Vs. Jason). For example, the Alien Vs. Predator flicks took a simple premise that should have been easy to make awesome and ruptured the very fabric of time and space with their permeating stench of awfulness. So when a movie comes along generically titled Monsters Vs. Aliens, you can't help but approach it with caution. Well, I'm happy to report that no caution is needed. Monsters Vs. Aliens is a delight, a movie targeted more towards kids, but with enough meat on it to satisfy adults as well.

This isn't exactly the most in depth movie when it comes to narrative structure. Like Snakes on a Plane, the title basically covers the gist of what it is about. In the film, an alien structure crash lands on Earth, so a secret government organization that captures monsters employs them to defeat the invading aliens. Bam. Done. There's some silly little side story about Ginormica, a human transformed into a monster by some type of radioactive rock falling from space, and her fiancé, but you needn't worry yourself with that.

With such a boring title, it's hard to believe that this film could actually produce some imaginative visuals, but indeed it does. I was pleasantly surprised at how creative this film was given its subject matter. I couldn't look away. And believe it or not, some of the action in the film is epic. There are numerous large scale battles between the monsters and aliens with one taking place around a crumbling Golden Gate Bridge while the monsters try to save the humans trapped in their cars and stop the alien mechanism ensuring certain doom. It looked beautiful and truly was a sight to behold.

Speaking of sights to behold, Monsters Vs. Aliens looks gorgeous. The computer animation was astounding, with exquisite outer space shots, great water effects and extensive destruction flooding the screen. It even took full advantage of the 3D technology. Although it was sometimes used as a gimmick (sometimes they couldn't help but throw the occasional object at your face), it was mostly used to enhance the experience. It heightened the visuals and created a terrific depth of field to take pleasure in. Obviously, this is no Wall-E, but it looked excellent nonetheless.

Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure this was supposed to be funny. Well, it wasn't really. It had a few good chuckles here and there, but nothing to cause a good belly laugh. Some of the jokes were tired, resorting to slapstick comedy (although to be fair, slapstick comedy is in nearly all animation), and the jokes that weren't slapstick just weren't very funny. If anything, Seth Rogen as Bob delivered the most cheer to what was an otherwise stale comedy.

The success of many animated movies, at least for me, is in large part due to an unrecognizable cast because then I can buy into what I'm seeing and enjoy the story. If I can recognize the voices, I end up picturing the actors in the recording studio reciting their lines and it pulls me out of the movie. Like the Madagascar films, I could clearly hear many big name actors behind the characters, including Seth Rogen, Will Arnett and Stephen Colbert. However, the difference here is that the voice acting, although recognizable, was appropriate and unobtrusive. In Madagascar, I never heard Alex. I heard Ben Stiller. In Monsters Vs. Aliens, I heard Seth Rogen, but his voice was a perfect fit for his character, which eventually made me forget about the actor and start paying attention to his animated alter ego.

DreamWorks Animation is hit and miss and have really only struck gold twice with Shrek and Kung Fu Panda. After a slew of mediocre and downright crappy films like Madagascar, Over the Hedge and Bee Movie, they finally have what I consider another quality picture on their hands. You won't walk out with a newfound love for animation, but Monsters Vs. Aliens should satisfy those looking for a simple, relaxing time at the movies.

Monsters Vs. Aliens receives 3.5/5

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