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MONSTERS VS. ALIENS (2009) *** movie review by COOP

Posted on March 31st, 2009
Posted on March 31st, 2009


Hideous freaks of science become Earth’s only hope against a threat from outer space. It’s a fantastic idea for an animated film and DreamWorks has invested a lot of time, money and innovation into “Monsters vs. Aliens.” It could’ve been a strong contender against Pixar’s “The Incredibles” as a high-concept idea turned into a shining example of quality animated cinema. Instead, DreamWorks low-balled the story, dumbing it down for kids under 12. What “M v. A” lacks in the story department, it makes up for in astounding technical achievement.

Susan (voiced by Reese Witherspoon) has a bad day when a meteor crushes her minutes before her wedding. She survives unhurt, but she suddenly grows 50 feet tall and super strong in the middle of the ceremony. The U.S. Government captures her and incarcerates her in a hidden base populated by various “monsters” deemed too dangerous to release upon the unsuspecting public. When a space jerk named Gallaxhar (Rainn Wilson) shows up to conquer the Earth, the monsters become the last line of defense to protect humanity. Lead by Susan (a.k.a. Ginormica), the monsters attempt to prove their worth by defeating Gallaxhar and gain acceptance in a world that rejects them .

Every member of Susan’s team is like a creatively modified knockoff from a 1950’s drive-in “creature feature.” Will Arnett provides the voice for The Missing Link, a wisecracking fish-man straight out of the Black Lagoon. Seth Rogan plays the B.O.B., a brainless, living, blob-like mass. Hugh Laurie voices Dr. Cockroach Ph.D., a mad scientist turned bug ala “The Fly.” Insectasaurus is an irradiated, Godzilla-like caterpillar that does little more than destroy everything in its path. Each appears equally useless at the beginning until the challenge of fighting aliens helps each to discover his, her (or its) respective talent.

A Great concept, excellent voice-over acting and superior animation, makes “M v. A” watchable. Too bad DreamWorks decided to take all the edge out of it and make the story and dialogue as bland as watery chicken broth. I respect their decision to make the film accessible to all ages but they did so at the risk of boring and patronizing the audiences above the middle school level. The writers toned down the toilet humor but failed to add any substantial themes, sharp jokes or significant character development.

The visuals and 3-D help to make up for the film’s shortcomings. The theater’s brand new DLP (Digital Light Projector) units* produced the brightest, clearest picture I’ve ever seen in a movie theater. I can’t stress enough how great the projectors display colors and details while eliminating scratches and other blemishes inherent in the traditional 35mm film technology. The expensive equipment will pay for itself once the low maintenance costs, the lack of unwieldy film reels, the ease of use and the astounding quality are factored in. I hope to see more of these projectors in other theaters as Hollywood seeks to upgrade the antiquated tech.

I was initially down on 3-D when studios/theaters announced its return. The technology is easier to process and implement but its quality hasn’t improved much. Regardless, it does make the experience more immersive and made this particular film more enjoyable to watch. Rumor has it that James Cameron’s $250+ million dollar film “Avatar,” due in December of this year, will debut a new digital 3-D technology designed to knock our socks off. I find that hard to imagine considering the quality visuals of “Monsters vs. Aliens” had me thoroughly mesmerized.

It’s hard to recommend a movie on technical aspects alone, but this harmless animated entry will no doubt find fans with the youngsters. I wish the filmmakers had capitalized more on the potential fun of a 1950’s drive-in monster movie (see “Mars Attacks” or “Iron Giant” for fun recreations of the genre). If you care to wait for a more anticipated, digital 3-D feature… you won’t have long to wait. Pixar’s “Up” releases in May.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

*The Oxford (MS) Studio Cinema has the new DLP projectors that I mentioned.

Trailer below…

-Coop

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