Monday, December 4, 2017

Movie #436: Monsters vs. Aliens

Monsters vs. Aliens is an animated movie starring Reese Witherspoon, Seth Rogen, Kiefer Sutherland, Paul Rudd, Hugh Laurie, Rainn Wilson, Will Arnett, and Stephen Colbert. It's part of a slate of Dreamworks films (including Shark Tale and MegaMind) that drew on parodying older films, to varying degrees of success.

On her wedding day, Susan Murphy (Witherspoon) gets hit with a meteorite and grows to roughly 50' in height. Immediately captured by the government under the supervision of General W.R. Monger (Sutherland, channeling George C. Scott with a dash of R. Lee Emery), Susan - renamed Ginormica - meets the other monsters currently in custody: fish-man Link (Arnett), supervillain Dr. Cockroach (Laurie), giant monster Insectosaurs (RRRROAARR!), and brainless blob B.O.B. (Rogen). She settles in for a lifetime of isolation...

...but then a squid-like alien called Galaxharr (Wilson) attacks Earth looking for the handwavium unobtanium quantonium that suffuses Susan's body, and the monsters get called out to deal with the aliens. In the end, of course, Susan learns a valuable lesson about how being a monster is awesome and she and her team fly off to fight a giant snail.

So, this movie clearly went through some rewrites. At one point the president (Colbert) was supposed to revoke the monsters' freedom, and there are definitely some details that were left out but that show up in promotional materials (Susan, for instance, grows to 49' 11" tall, making her just shy of being a 50-foot-woman, but that's never mentioned in the movie). The other thing I find weird about this movie is that it gives shout-outs to Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), E.T. (1982), Beverly Hills Cop (1984), and Dr. Strangelove (1964), and that's before you get into all of the references that the monsters themselves represent. And, like, for the monsters that's fine - sure, the target audience won't get the The Blob references, but B.O.B. is still funny, but what about the president segueing from the five famous notes from Close Encounters to Harold Faltmeyer's famous Beverly Hills Cop synth bit? What's that in aid of?

The dialog is fun, the voice cast is decent. Not a huge fan of Arnett's Link ("ugh, why'd we get a girl monster", c'mon now), but otherwise there's some nice chemistry. Laurie, Rogen, and Witherspoon are the standouts, and Colbert is brilliant as the president, even if the jokes get a little dated at times.

All in all, though, it's a fun concept that, like a lot of Dreamworks movies, could have been better if they had Pixar's love and care behind it.

My Grade: B
Rewatch value: Medium-high

Next up: Monty Python & the Holy Grail