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Monsters vs. Aliens A Wasted Premise

Monsters vs. Aliens
Directed by Rob Letterman and Conrad Vernon
Written by Maya Forbes, Wallace Wolodarsky, Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger, and Letterman based on a story by Letterman and Vernon
Dreamworks/Paramount, 2009

I feel like Dreamworks has stepped up their game a bit over the past couple of years, especially with last year’s Kung Fu Panda and Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, but there is still something lacking in the imagination department.  Rarely do I find myself scouring one of their animated films for nice touches, a world beyond the world on which they are focusing, and their body of work seems completely lacking of ambition.

So it goes with Monsters vs. Aliens, a movie with a title that screams fun but misfires horribly.  It is an utter failure, not as annoying as Shrek the Third or Letterman’s last flick, Shark Tale, but certainly a disappointment when considering what the title says is in store for us.  It begins with the monsters themselves, who are painted as underdogs since they are outcasts and are harmless.  Instead of having interesting monsters who really should be locked up under normal circumstances, we have the brainless glob of jelly B.O.B. (Seth Rogen), the failed mad scientist turned cockroach (Hugh Laurie), the evolutionary misstep The Missing Link (Will Arnett), and a giant bug towering hundreds of feet, Insectosaurus.

They are joined by our main character, another bit of flawed business, Susan Murphy (Reese Witherspoon), who has what she believes as a promising, exciting life ahead of her, marrying weather man Derek Dietl (Paul Rudd).  They have hopes and dreams to travel the world, maybe end up in Paris, but all the dreams seem to be entirely contingent on Derek, who is actually not nearly as ambitious (sounds like the filmmakers can relate).  So when an alien meteor comes out of nowhere and smashes into Susan, turning her into a giant woman, those plans are put on hold as she’s whisked away by the government.  When the aliens start attacking, via a giant robot, ultimately captained by our main villain Gallaxhar (Rainn Wilson), the military, represented by General W. R. Monger (Kiefer Sutherland) tells the President (Stephen Colbert) that this will be a good time to unleash the monsters to save mankind.

And why should these monsters save mankind?  Not once does any of them think maybe the planet isn’t worth saving, or don’t seem to be angry that they’ve been shunned by the very people they are supposed to help.  Beyond that, however, is the lack of monsters vs. aliens, which is the most important thing.  All the aliens are replicas of Gallaxhar, which is a decent joke about vanity but further illustrates the dearth of creativity on the part of everyone involved.  The monsters aren’t really monsters, and aren’t true equals to their foes.  And while the movie does have a couple of neat sequences here and there, we’ve been totally robbed of what could have been.  The filmmakers may have made exactly the movie that was in their heads and are pleased with how it turned out, but they’re wrong.

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