Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Monsters vs. Aliens **

Director: Rob Letterman, Conrad Vernon

"Monsters vs. Aliens" presents some kind of a marketing conundrum: to whom do you sell a film that parodies classic cult movies with humor meant to be funny only for six year-olds?
The clever people at Dreamworks Animation chose to sell it to anyone who'd buy a ticket and while trying to please all demographics, have come up with a pastiche made up of one part parody, one part 3-D novelty and a lot of crammed jokes, pop culture references and dashes of a moral story.
The plot centers on an alien invasion started by Gallaxhar, a deranged lord who wants to take over Earth and fill it with his clones.
Under such a threat, the United States government decides that the best way to fight these invaders is using monsters which they have been keeping secret for more than fifty years.
The team is formed by Dr. Cockroach, a mad scientist who ended up with the head of the insect as he looked for a way to obtain their immortality.
The Missing Link; a half ape, half fish creature found frozen and thawed by scientists who behaves like a jock despite his obvious physical shortcomings.
B.O.B (Bicarbonate Ostylezene Benzonate); a gelatinous mass with no brain and one eye who acts innocently and confuses his personality with that of the other monsters.
Insectosaurus is a cute looking 350 foot grub transformed by nuclear radiation who doesn't speak, but is fascinated by lights.
And the newest addition is Susan Murphy; a California girl struck by a meteorite on her wedding day who grew up to 49' 11 feet, obtained great strength and becomes known as Ginormica.
If all the monsters and their names sound familiar, it's because in fact they're versions of some famous creatures that starred in 50's B films.
Therefore Ginormica's peculiar height makes her just a little bit short of being the "50 Foot Woman", B.O.B is one murderous drive away of being "The Blob" and Insectosaurus' name could as well be Mothra.
People familiar with the inspiration for the characters will obviously enjoy the film more on levels other audience members won't, but they will also expect more references to the original films which sadly never happen here.
Those who have no idea this is supposed to be a spoof, partly, won't mind the plot's real cleverness and will have to face corny dialogues, silly moral discourses and humor of the lowest kind.
The animation is impressive, even if everything screams "designed for 3-D", and the flashy colors and action sequences often keep the film entertaining at a basic level.
The problem, other than Dreamworks' insistence in squeezing even the last possible drop out of pop culture references (don't these people have aspirations of timelessness?), is that the film sometimes becomes unconsciously selfconscious.
Like the films it drew ideas from, it should've embraced its B-movie-ness and create a sort of unexpected cheapness. Even little kids would've been entertained by a sort of drive-in humor as opposed to the formulaic "friends are the greatest thing" and "believe in yourself" paths this ends up taking.
Kids will have a blast, more mature audiences will come out wishing the next feature in the double bill does better.

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