DreamWorks Animation's latest, Monsters vs. Aliens, is an attempt to combine the world of Monsters, Inc. and The Incredibles to make an action-packed comedy where... monsters battle aliens. The movie is also in 3D, and thank God for that; its visuals are its saving grace.
In Monsters vs. Aliens, a planet explodes, sending a meteorite to Earth. No, Kal El is not on board, but the meteorite does cause one soon-to-be-married bride named Susan Murphy to grow into a gigantic woman and get shipped away by the government to a special holding area for monsters. Her roommates include a scientist-turned-cockroach, a half-man, half-reptile creature, a gigantic, furry insect and a gelatinous blob that sounds a lot like Seth Rogen. When aliens invade to reclaim the power that Susan has absorbed, however, these monsters become humanity's last chance for survival.
The visual effects in Monsters vs. Aliens are absolutely absurd. Equipped with Real3D technology, every scene pops with 3D detail I didn't know was possible. The filmmakers clearly put a lot of effort into making their film a visual masterpiece, and it pays off. The movie is fun to watch - as in literally watch - and it doesn't really get old as a result.
But it gets close. Were this movie in 2D, this review would almost certainly be harsher. Monsters vs. Aliens isn't all flash, but the filmmakers certainly spent more time on the visuals than on making a compelling, intelligent and funny experience. There are several funny moments, but there are a lot of slow moments, too. There's a lot of concept and idea but not much execution. The characters are funny on the surface, but shallow. The story overly simplistic. The movie alludes to some of the classic sci-fi films early on, but it largely lacks the satirical edge that could have taken it to another level.
Thankfully, the voice cast is pretty good. Witherspoon and Rogen carry the movie as much as an actor can in a movie like this; Rogen's recognizable laugh works perfectly for his character.
Monsters vs. Aliens is entertaining and worth seeing, but it's a largely flat endeavor. Had the filmmakers put even half the amount of effort they did into the visuals into the screenplay, it could have been excellent; as is, it's just average. If Monsters vs. Aliens isn't playing in 3D near you, wait until DVD.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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