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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Monsters vs. Aliens - 3-D

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Monsters vs. Aliens - 3-D

With a title sounding more like the Discovery Channel’s Animal Face-Off, which routinely pits top-of-the-food-chain predators against each other, MvA begs the same question.  Who would triumph in such an epic battle?  And more importantly, how many objects can thrillingly fly in your 3-D specs-adorned face in 94 minutes?

The film was made in Tru3D, a DreamWorks process that does indeed work.  When a green meteorite falls to earth, prospective bride Susan Murphy (Reese Witherspoon) has the misfortune of being in its path, causing her to grow to a spectacular height of 49’11”.  Shallow fiancé Derek Dietl (Paul Rudd) can’t handle a plus-size female (like so many men) and bails on the poor girl.  To make matters worse, the military swoops in to capture and detain Susan at a secret facility where she finds she’s not alone, and not even the biggest “monster” specimen in the room.  In fact, freaks like her have been squirreled away by the government for decades in order to maintain a calm, oblivious populace.

Renamed Ginormica by General W.R. Monger (Kiefer Sutherland) the lengthy lady finds that she shares quarters with Dr. Cockroach, PhD. (Hugh Laurie), once human, now a morphed victim of his own experiment; The Missing Link, (Will Arnett) a surf ‘n turf hybrid, half-mammal/half-fish; B.O.B. (Seth Rogen) a blue, cycloptic jellomold that mutated from various food gone awry; and a 350-foot simpleton called Insectosaurus, who looks and acts like an enormous, demented bee.

Meanwhile, a huge, bullet-shaped space robot (sporting a single eye) lands on Earth and the President (Stephen Colbert) attempts to make nice by pompously greeting the ominous invader with five recognizable notes (from Close Encounters of the Third Kind) which puts the ship on a destructive offensive.  Without missing a beat, the President then commands his armed forces to "Do something violent!”

Alien leader, Gallaxhar (Rainn Wilson), is after the earth’s Quantonium reserve because he’s fresh out of the fictional substance and will destroy everything in his path to get it.
General Monger persuades the President to unleash his monster odd-squad on the alien ship and its six-legged, squid-like, four-eyed (no, he doesn’t wear glasses) aggressor.

There’s a scene on the Golden Gate Bridge involving Ginormica, who uses two convertibles to skate her way through a battle with the robo-ship that puts cars in peril and tests her new companions’ powers of combat strategy and team loyalty.

There are further adventures on land and aboard the ship, with legions of Gallaxhar clones scuttling about in slavish devotion.  The one-eyed B.O.B. is similar to Oz’s brainless scarecrow in that he comes up with successful schemes despite the absence of grey matter.  Not bad for a failed food experiment.  Susan/Ginormica experiences a few epiphanies herself, and like Alice in Wonderland, discovers new worlds at each size she becomes.  The incredibly large Insectosaurus (who makes Ginormica seem tiny by comparison) is an addled, chipmunk-faced organism whose force must be harnessed to be any good at all.  The aquatic Link and the Professor bring their own individual skill sets into the fray.  Monster bonding occurs, necessary to form a team capable of saving the earth.

MvA  pays tribute to classic 50’s monster movies like The Blob, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Fly, and Attack of the 50-Foot Woman (Ginormica is an inch shy – no copyright infringement here).

Reese Witherspoon’s Susan/Ginormica is a (much) larger than life example of female empowerment.  Kiefer Sutherland’s General Monger has metronomic comedic timing and Stephen Colbert’s daft, arrogant Commander-In-Chief is good for non-stop amusement.  Rainn Wilson’s Gallaxhar and Paul Rudd’s Derek are haughty and clueless.  Hugh Laurie’s Professor Cockroach is urbane and brilliant; Seth Rogen’s gelatinous B.O.B. blurts out his oaf-like observations with conviction and Will Arnett’s Missing Link is a macho, can-do oddity.

Directors Rob Letterman (Shark Tale) and Conrad Vernon (Shrek 2) have created a comedic and technical gem which has multi-generational appeal.  3-D effects are effective and sometimes startling, such as when a meteorite seems to jump off of the screen, or a paddle ball leaps out at your eyes.

Screenwriters Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky (The Rocker) with Letterman, Vernon, Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger, have stuffed witty, fast-paced zingers all though the dialogue and roll out verbal absurdities like a red carpet.

This is one film where you’ll be happy to root for eccentric oddities.  You’ve simply got no other choice.  Then again, what would the title characters think of an audience full of Ray-Ban wearing, Risky Business clones staring back at them?  Sounds like a sequel to me.


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