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'Monsters vs Aliens' Movie Review

About.com Rating 3 Star Rating

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Monsters vs Aliens

A scene from 'Monsters vs Aliens.'

DreamWorks Animation
I know Jeffrey Katzenberg and James Cameron and a host of other assorted filmmakers want me to like 3-D, but I'm not buying into the hype. I find wearing the glasses and waiting for something to appear to lurch from the screen more irritating than entertaining. But 3-D's not going away anytime soon if Katzenberg and his ilk have their way, and it was in that frame of mind that I sat through Monsters vs Aliens in 3-D and IMAX.

Monsters vs Aliens is beautifully animated, and even the muted colors you see through the annoying 3-D glasses are sparkling enough to enliven the screen. And the voice cast, which includes Reese Witherspoon, Seth Rogen, Hugh Laurie, and Will Arnett, do infuse their characters with more personality than the dialogue should allow them to. Yet fun seemed to be missing from the whole production, making Monsters vs Aliens just a run of the mill animated family movie and nothing more – even with all the so-called bells and whistles attributed to 3-D films.

The Story

Susan (Witherspoon) is ready to say I do to her narcissistic weatherman fiancé when out of the clear blue sky falls a meteorite. Despite the fact she's dressed in her wedding gown, Susan trudges down the hill to get a closer look. But getting up close and personal with a meteorite on your wedding day is never a good idea. The substance contained inside the meteorite causes her to mutate into a 47 foot tall woman at the most inopportune time (as she's poised to exchange vows with her creepy husband-to-be).

Monsters vs Aliens
The Missing Link (Will Arnett), Dr Cockroach (Hugh Laurie) and B.O.B. (Seth Rogen) in 'Monsters vs Aliens.'
© DreamWorks Animation
The military shows up (don't ask how they knew they'd be dealing with an out-of-control bridezilla), captures this now gigantic woman, and locks her away in a secret government holding facility alongside other 'monsters'. These other monsters are used to being locked away from the public as they've been caged up for decades, but Susan (newly renamed Ginormica to match her enlarged status) is immensely unhappy and willing to do anything to get out and go home. She's even willing to have Dr. Cockroach (three guesses what he looks like and the first two don't count) experiment on her to see if he can return her to her normal size.

But when Earth is threatened by first a robot from outer space and then a squidish alien who calls himself Gallaxhar (voiced by Rainn Wilson), the caretaker to the monsters, General W.R. Monger (Kiefer Sutherland), suggests letting the monsters free to take on the aliens. And so the battle begins as Ginormica, the gelatinous one-eyed blob known as B.O.B., Dr Cockroach, a Swamp Thing look-alike called The Missing Link, and the gigantic insect labeled Insectosaurus are the people of Earth's only hope. And yes, there's a lesson in there about how it's okay to be different.

The Voice Cast

Seth Rogen sounds like Seth Rogen – which isn't a bad thing - as B.O.B., a blob with a tiny brain who falls hard for a jello dessert. Hugh Laurie plays doctor once again as an overgrown cockroach whose mad cackle sends shivers down Ginormica's ginormous spine. And Will Arnett gamely gets into the character of an amphibious creature who thinks too highly of himself and of his fighting skills. Reese Witherspoon, tackling her first animated feature film role, starts out playing Susan with a perky voice and a bounce in her animated step before transitioning into Ginormica's much more authoritative voice. Witherspoon's warmth comes through, and Susan/Ginormica springs to life thanks to her engaging, energetic delivery.

Monsters vs Aliens
Ginormica (Reese Witherspoon) and The Missing Link (Will Arnett) in 'Monsters vs Aliens.'
© DreamWorks Animation

The Bottom Line

Monsters vs Aliens is a step backwards in storytelling, compared to the studio's own Shrek film franchise or any Pixar production. Where Pixar excels is in delivering a compelling, entertaining plot along with fantastic visuals and humor. Monsters vs Aliens left out the entertaining plot and jumped straight to trying to impress with its 3-D action.

There are some fun moments in Monsters vs Aliens, but they are too few and too far in between to make Monsters vs Aliens a must-see (in 3-D or in 2-D). That's not to say youngsters won't laugh and squeal over this animated family-friendly film. There's enough action and enough cool-looking characters to check out to keep the under 12 crowd interested throughout the short running time. But adults are going to get fidgety waiting for Monsters vs Aliens to wind to a close. Pixar's set the bar high and DreamWorks Animations' Monsters vs Aliens doesn't come close to being able to leap over it.

GRADE: C+

Monsters vs Aliens was directed by Rob Letterman and Conrad Vernon and is rated PG for sci-fi action, some crude humor and mild language.

Theatrical Release Date: March 27, 2009

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