Friday, May 15, 2009

Monsters vs Aliens


I'm beginning to wonder whether the 3D novelty is wearing out already, especially if slapped on films that think the beauty of visual effects and animation take precedence over a solid story. Everything here worked to a perfect T, from the very key component of animation, to voice casting, and sound, but what the film ultimately lacked, was a compelling narrative, and soul.

The premise for success is all there, and as seen in the trailer, there's a pretty good balance of comedy, action, and homage to the 50s and 60s horror and sci-fi genres. But as the adage goes, too many cooks, in this case, screenplay writers (5 of them no less) will spoil the broth, and as a result, the trailer contains the best bits from within the movie, and everything else just plain boring, which to me too is a surprise.

Directed by Rob Letterman and Conrad Vernon who brought us Shark Tale and Shrek 2 respectively, you would have thought that the combination of their strengths would result in one heck of an entertaining ride, not. It's about time animated films pull a stop to lampooning all that's pop culture. Sure it's funny for a while, but it gets on your nerves pretty much faster than you can roll your eyes at the next joke from the same joke book.

While the film has plenty of monsters and well, just one alien and a giant robot which form the adversarial core, it's not about teamwork but the celebration of the strength of individuality. It's the story of a wistful bride Susan (voiced by Reese Witherspoon) whose only goal in life is to go to Paris with her husband-to-be Derek (Paul Rudd), a news weatherman whom you know is actually the jerk that he is. Cue huge falling debris onto Susan on her wedding day, and she becomes Ginormica, captured by General W.R. Monger (Kiefer Sutherland) who puts her in a top-secret pet "zoo" of sorts with his other trophies Insectosaurous, Dr. Cockroach Ph.D. (Hugh Laurie), a merman creature known as The Missing Link (Will Arnet) and the crowd favourite, the nonsensical B.O.B (Seth Rogen), a blob of jello goo with no brain who serves as the punching bag and the source of all things funny here.

Speaking of funny, the laughs unfortunately don't come hard and fast. Attempts are made to be funny from the get go, but more often than not the effort fell flat on its face. It tried to emulate the Zucker brothers style of slapstick wit, and to a certain degree, when it worked it worked wonders, but you can sense an audience disconnect here when everyone fell silent most of the time. Even kids aren't tickled by the usual juvenile antics of the characters anymore, which now calls for a shift in sophistication.

A whole host of stars join the lineup, such as Rainn Wilson as the villainous alien Gallaxhar, Stephen Colbert as the dim-witted President Hathaway, Amy Poehler as a computer voice and even Renee Zellweger, but despite the star power going all round in flesh out the carefully designed and crafted animated characters, ultimately everyone was one-dimensional and playing to their stereotypical tendencies. 3D-wise, there are only a handful (pardon the pun) of scenes that are specifically designed with that kind of interaction in mind, otherwise the visuals only provide that depth of view, and nothing much that will make you reach out or duck.

Technically, you cannot fault Monsters vs Aliens. But essentially there's no heart in this film at all, and that proved to be its ultimate downfall that no novelty factor can redeem on its behalf.

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