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Monsters Vs. Aliens, the latest effort from Dreamworks Animation, was recently released nationwide and I had just left a theater full of kids in awe of indulgent 3D images when I could only shrug my shoulders about this movie.
Dreamworks has always, and for my money, will always, be a distant second to Disney/Pixar in the animation department. Shrek was a huge success, which Dreamworks has milked to death, but since then they have released shallow, witless movies. Kung Fu Panda received an Oscar nod, but was no match for WALL-E and the selection pool for that category is ankle deep.
Disney/Pixar, on the other hand, has had their hand in animation for decades and started with classics like Snow White and Cinderella. These are stories that existed long before the motion picture and were perfectly tuned to the qualities of great story telling. The flawed hero, the contemptuous villain, the imminent peril; these are crucial elements that they incorporated into their long line of hits, and the same elements that Pixar emphasized and profited from.
The real problem with the movie doesn’t lie in the movie itself, it lies in it’s roots. Monsters Vs. Aliens may have funny characters that look great in a Happy Meal and silly catch phrases from the token buffoon, not deep characters that seem to be battling the whole world.
I had high hopes for the movie. The story of a blushing bride being hit by a meteor and growing 50 feet at the alter teaming up to fight off aliens who threaten to destroy the planet has potential. I laughed during the trailer and thought, although the well of misfits teaming up to save the world was running dry, these particular misfits could create very unique situations. In fact, they did. I have never seen a blob struggle with his relationship with a cold-shouldered Jello mold but let me be clear that I can in no way relate like I should with this character’s struggles. These are freaks of nature that have been hidden away from the world by the government and yet they happily jump at the chance to save the planet with no demands or chance for reward? You could say that the heroine, Ginormica (guess who) has a solid arc, but she disassociates herself from the other mutants, yet they have no problem helping her get out and win her fiancé back. I’m not buying it. Then when the Aliens, which turn out to be alien, singular, ends up being a purple, four-eyed Hannah Montana, I couldn’t be saved.
There are good qualities, too. Seth Rogan, the voice of B.O.B., the blob, gives a good performance. His delivery is perfect for a brainless pile of goo and his running joke of stealing other characters life stories is clever. Unfortunately for anyone familiar with Seth Rogan, this is like Richard Pryor on Sesame Street. There is a rather rewarding relationship between The Missing Link, voiced by Will Arnett, and a giant furry bug that is touching and obviously meaningful.
Overall, there are funny moments, and the classic pop culture references that make any animated movie relevant, but it just doesn’t target the heart. I had trouble connecting with the characters and the sense of humor didn’t get laughs from a theater full of sugar-hungry children. Wait for the DVD and put it at the bottom of your queue. Put your $8.50 into savings, plus save the 3 bucks for the 3D glasses and wait for UP from Pixar.
Nathan Baker-Lutz Nathan is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago with a degree in Film and Video, including a concentration in Screenwriting. He has been writing for Film Monthly for 2 years.
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