March 27, 2009

Monsters Vs. Aliens (03/27/09)

Lettergrade: D

Monsters Vs. Aliens largely follows Dreamworks Animation's standard operating procedure... which is to say that it isn't exactly a bad movie, but it's not an especially good one either.

The key roles are filled by popular media personalities, many of whom I happen to like, but the story they've lent their voices to feels a bit familiar and tired. That's an odd statement to make, really, as I cannot specifically recall another picture where a misfit band of mutants are called upon to defend the earth from an impending alien invasion, but nevertheless it somehow feels like we've seen this play out a couple dozen times before, and certainly with a bit more wit than what we've got here.

I guess the inventive component is that our heroic monsters are all take-offs of popular movie creatures from the 50s and 60s... there's a parody of the Creature from the Black Lagoon (Will Arnett), the Blob (Seth Rogen), the Fly (Hugh Laurie), and our heroine, voiced by Reese Witherspoon, who suffers from the same affliction as the main character from 1958's Attack Of The 50ft Woman. Is there a single kid watching who will get any of these references? And since the teenagers of 50s and 60s are mostly in their 60s and 70s now, who exactly is all this nostalgia in there for anyway? The movie gets a few decent laughs out of each, but there isn't really a whole lot more to any of them than the standard material about not fitting in with society, but having to learn to like themselves for who they are, etc.

The week before the movie came out, there was a big ass article in the L.A. Times about how 3D animation is the way of the future and cinemas had better make way. There were quotes a-plenty by Dreamworks Animation's head-honcho Jeffrey Katzenberg in there, which fueled my suspicion that the article was not much more than a thinly disguised P.R. piece. 3D movies had better start getting a lot better if Katzenberg's prognostication is to be believed. Thus far, I've come to equate a movie's touting of the fact that it's in 3D with the very strong possibility that the movie doesn't have much else going for it. I never saw last summer's Journey To The Center Of The Earth, for example, but everyone I know said it is only worth it in 3D... which I took to mean that it's not worth it at all.

Indeed, I don't really think that the 3D effects enhanced Monsters Vs. Aliens or any other movie I've seen in this process one bit. The opening logo looked cool, I suppose, but once I got past the first couple scenes, I sort of stopped thinking about the digital multi-plane look and was more annoyed than anything that the picture was a little dimmer and not as clear as if we had seen the movie in a traditional 2D theater for less money. If there's a lesson there it's that in the future I should think of 3D as an interesting novelty, but something that's primarily a forgettable distraction. Appropriately enough, that's likely how I'll remember Monsters Vs. Aliens itself too.

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