VOICES OF: Reese Witherspoon, Hugh Laurie, Will Arnett, Seth Rogen, Rainn Wilson, Stephen Colbert, Kiefer Sutherland, Paul Rudd

2009, 94 Minutes, Directed by: Rob Letterman, Conrad Vernon

DreamWorks Animation’s record is hardly as spotless as Pixar’s. You always stand a 50/50 chance with them. Their output could be filed either under cack (Madagascar, SharkTale) or classic (Kung Fu Panda, the first Shrek movie). Fortunately Monsters vs. Aliens can be filed under “entertaining, hugely.” This ain’t no Shrek the Third . . . thankfully.

Monsters vs. Aliens is fast, clever and funny. It is also a homage to ‘Fifties sci-fi films and knowledgeable science fiction fans will have a fun time spotting the various references to classics of the era such as The Blob, The Fly (the Vincent Price original and not the ‘Eighties remake), Creature from the Black Lagoon, Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman amongst others. Kids may not spot all the movie references – one scene makes no sense if you have never seen Close Encounters of the Third Kind for instance and just how many kids exactly have seen that 30-plus years old Spielberg classic? Kids will however like the movie regardless and their parents wouldn’t mind seeing it with them.

The movie kicks off in true ‘Fifties fashion when Susan Murphy (voice of Reese Witherspoon) mutates into a gigantic woman after coming in contact with a radioactive meteorite (what else?) on her wedding day. Susan is immediately captured by shadowy government Men in Black types and locked away in a top secret underground facility along with some other archetypal movie monsters.

Problem is however that an evil galactic villain has designs on the radioactive material that has turned Susan into, cough, a gigantic 50 foot tall woman and sends a giant robot to attack Earth. With the U.S. army unable to destroy the robot, Susan (or Ginormica as the government has now renamed her) and her monstrous cohorts are promised their freedom if they can destroy the alien invader. They manage to defeat the giant robot following a climactic battle at the San Francisco bridge (an allusion sharp-eyed Ray Harryhausen fans will catch), but things aren’t as simple as they seem . . .

"Kids and their parents will thrill at the sheer inventiveness of it all!"

Monsters vs. Aliens, running at a brisk 94 minutes, is frenetic and loud. It however never becomes an assault on the senses – even though it was filmed using 3D processes – as many animated CGI flicks nowadays do. There is never a dull moment. The movie never pauses to catch its breath as it careens from one action sequence to the next.

Monsters vs. Aliens is fun and kids (and their parents) will thrill at the sheer spectacle and inventiveness of it all, but the movie makes up for all this breathless action in story-telling depth. Even though its animation style is similar to The Incredbles it never comes close to Pixar’s 2004 effort on a purely story-telling level. The story simply isn’t that good, but audiences won’t mind. The animation is great and the sight gag humor is infectious. Monsters vs. Aliens is silly and goofy. Whether you fall for its slapstick silliness will probably depend on your mood, but this reviewer had a good time besides those cumbersome 3D glasses one is made to wear.

A note on the 3D: DreamWorks CEO and Director of DreamWorks Animation Jeffrey Katzenberg recently said in interviews that 3D will basically save cinema. The truth is however more prosaic. People will check out one or two movies filmed in 3D to slate their curiosity just in the same way that users open up Facebook accounts and let those accounts slip in disuse once they realise that virtual stalkers use it to pester one. The 3D glasses we had to wear at the Monsters vs. Aliens pre-screening are fortunately a lot less cumbersome than the old paper ones.

However if you already wear prescription glasses (like the present reviewer) this still represents a problem. The glasses are fidgety in such a case and watching the movie without my normal glasses would have meant watching a blurry mess in 3D – a bit like one would in real life if they hadn’t invented eyeglasses. The 3D is fun though and one at times want to reach out and literally touch objects careening toward one!

The 3D process is effectively utilized in Monsters vs. Aliens, but it remains a gimmick. You will have just a fine time watching it ordinary 2D, but it should be a fun outing for the whole family if you do take the kids to see it in a 3D cinema.


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Copyright © 1997-forward James O'Ehley/The Sci-Fi Movie Page (unless where indicated otherwise).