I took my five-year-old son (Ed) and seven-year-old daughter (Ahmi) to see “Monsters vs. Aliens.” We got our Elvis Costello 3D glasses and wore them at all the wrong times during the television commercials that come on before the movie trailers. My kids didn’t know but I was mostly interested in their response to the 3D imagery. That’s right, I went to “Monsters vs. Aliens” primarily for human experimentation. They reached out to grab objects that appeared to float in front of them, but the greatest of all expressions came to their faces every time I looked over at them: smiles.
Reese Witherspoon voices Ginormica, a 49-foot-tall woman with an awesome figure. More to love. But her fiance is a sleazy weatherman from Modesto, as if there’s any other kind. Ginormica is the straight person in the adventure; she carries the hero’s burden of bringing any kind of depth or drama to a 90 minute farce. Her comedy relief side-kicks are fish man, cockroach man, a big Mothra maggot and the show stealing gelatinous B.O.B. voiced by Seth Rogen.
I can’t say my take on the movie is unbiased, in that I know half of the animators on the project and am a huge fan of Dreamworks animation. I’ve met director Conrad Vernon and am a huge fan of Katzenberg.
Folks might make the mistake of comparing Dreamworks’ features to Pixar works. These are completely different companies and they appeal to different aspects of the broadest audience. Like the classic Disney animation model, Pixar’s works are richer, subtler, and more technically accomplished. But Dreamworks Animation calls to mind classic Warner Brothers’ cartoons that were low-brow, sarcastic, and populist. “Monsters vs. Aliens” is blue collar entertainment and as I looked around at the audience of happy families, I was very thankful that these kinds of movies are still being made. With most of Dreamworks animated features selling north of $250 million at the box office, they help keep family entertainment profitable and viable.
As a fan of monster movies, ’50s sci-fi, and Godzilla flicks, “Monsters vs. Aliens” offers layers of jokes on top of tributes on top of some unashamed clunkers. I always admire a guy who can tell a joke he knows is stupid but isn’t trying to impress with his I.Q. when he’s trying to share a laugh.
The 3D movie experience felt like an unnecessary gimmick–usually I found myself thinking about the layered effects instead of the story. The movie trailers for a bunch of other 3D movies coming out didn’t show any real promise either.
Finally, on the way home I turned around to Edward and Ahmi and asked, “Thumbs up or thumbs down?” They both smiled and put their thumbs up. They already requested the DVD when it comes out.