Monday, October 26, 2009

Monsters vs. Aliens

Note: My husband, the sci-fi geek, graciously offered to write this review, so enjoy his detailed review of Monsters vs. Aliens!

I have to confess, Monsters vs. Aliens wasn't what I expected. I avoided seeing the film in the theatres, and my girls weren't old enough to demand to be taken to see it. I certainly never intended to purchase the film. So, when a review copy was sent our way, I looked at my wife with questioning eyes, as if to say “What the heck do I do with this?” “We watch it,” she replied, and I grudgingly sat down, telling my daughters we were going to watch the movie, figuring that
even if I wasn't going to enjoy it, at least they could.

But then something unexpected happened – I found myself really enjoying the film. This wasn't an inane deconstruction or parody of 1940's and 1950's monster movies. This was a love letter written to them, disguised as a children's animated comedy. The story of Susan/Ginormica, Doctor Cockroach, the Missing Link, B.O.B. And Insectosaurus was one that I could identify with, and really found myself liking. By the time the movie was over, I was completely enthralled, while my oldest daughter gave me the “Can we go to bed now?” look. (The toddler? She loved it and asked to watch it again the next day.)

Official Synopsis
When Susan Murphy is unexpectedly clobbered by a meteor full of outer space gunk, she mysteriously grows to 49-feet-11-inches tall and is instantly labeled a “Monster” named Ginormica. The military jumps into action, and she is captured and held in a secret government compound filled with other “monsters” like herself. This ragtag group consists of the brilliant but insect-headed Dr. Cockroach, P.H.D.; the macho half-Ape-half-fish The Missing Link; the gelatinous and indestructible B.O.B.; and the 350-foot grub called Insectosaurus. Their confinement time is cut short however, when a mysterious alien robot lands on Earth and the motley crew of Monsters is called into action to save the world from imminent destruction.

The Film
Monsters vs. Aliens is, as I said before, a love letter to the 1950's monster classics, disguised as a kids' film. The writing is surprisingly clever, with fun puns and wordplay abounding. The vocal cast is also one that strongly appeals to thinking adults, drawing upon such vocal talents as Seth Rogen, Hugh Laurie, Reese Witherspoon, Rainn Wilson, Stephen Colbert, Kiefer Sutherland and Amy Pohler. While none of these actors are primarily known for their voice acting, they avoided the pitfall that many animation houses fall into when they use screen actors for animation, and those screen actors are unable to make the transition. Each and every voice actor does a great
job with their role, with many of the actors remaining more or less unrecognizable from their on-screen roles.

Is Monsters vs. Aliens brilliant? No, of course not. It is a children's movie, and I challenge any thinking adult not to realize that Susan will embrace her nature as a fifty foot tall woman before the film's end. (I told my wife, while we were watching it “How much do you want to bet that there will be a 'My name is Ginormica' moment before the film is over?” And I was right.) But it is surprisingly fun and energetic, with a lot of very solid performances. And it's much more intelligently written than I thought it would be.

Bonus Features
Monsters vs. Aliens/B.O.B.'s Big Break in Monster 3D:Ginormous Double Pack is loaded down with bonus features. First off, the entire second disc, B.O.B.'s Big Break, is, effectively, a bonus. It's only a thirteen minute long film, but it's a lot of fun as B.O.B. and the other monsters attempt to break out of their government facility. And hey, it's in 3-D. But there's a whole lot more, including a featurette “Mondern Monster Movie Making”, three different deleted scenes, a feature titled “The Tech of Monsters vs. Aliens”, Sneak Peeks at upcoming Dream Works features, a demo and trailer for the Monsters vs. Aliens game, DreamWorks Animation Jukebox, commentary with the filmmakers, a 3-D Paddleball game, and spotlights on each of the characters in the film.

The Good
Monsters vs. Aliens is cleverer than it gives itself credit for, has a good female empowerment message, and will very possibly be more enjoyable for the parents than the kids.

The Bad
Did I mention that it might be more enjoyable for the parents than for the kids? The film has many down moments, and the pacing starts off really slow. It takes a while for the monstrous mayhem to begin – and in a 93 minute movie, that's a bit unexpected.

The Ugly
3-D only on the B.O.B.'s Big Break short was a little disappointing considering what a big deal was made about the 3-D effects.

Final Thoughts
I expect a lot of people avoided Monsters vs. Aliens, expecting the film to be inane and aimed at the lowest common denominator of film-going audiences. I'm here to say that it isn't. It's a lot of fun, and well worth the time spent watching it. If you're going to pick it up, I would recommend the Monsters vs. Aliens/B.O.B.'s Big Break in Monster 3D: Ginormous Double Pack over the single disc with just the film. The difference in cost is slight, and the bonuses on the B.O.B.'s Big
Break DVD
are well worth the extra cost.

You can purchase the Monsters vs. Aliens/B.O.B.'s Big Break in Monster 3D: Ginormous Double Pack through by clicking on the link.

Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this DVD, but I received no further compensation for this review.

No comments: