Not as wonderful as Kung Fu Panda, Monsters vs. Aliens is the next best thing that DreamWorks Animation has produced.
Susan Murphy (Reese Witherspoon) is about to make all of her dreams come true. It’s her wedding day, and nothing will stop her from marrying the weatherman of her dreams, not even absorbing radiation from space from a meteorite she was hit with. Suddenly growing to gigantic proportions inside the church, however, does bring the wedding to a screeching halt. Faster than you can say “X-Files,” Susan finds herself kidnapped, held in a secret government facility against her will, and totally alone… except for a sentient gelatinous mass named B.O.B. (Seth Rogen), a mad scientist with the head of a cockroach (Hugh Laurie), a fish man (Will Arnett), and a giant insect called, uh, Insectosaurus. But when an alien conqueror named Gallaxhar (Rainn Wilson) arrives to impose his dominion over the Earth, Susan and her fellow inmates will have the chance to prove that space aliens are no match for Earth’s monsters.
On the heels of the heartfelt Kung Fu Panda, the self-aware Monsters vs. Aliens is an entertainment vehicle for a cast rife with comedic talent. The inclusion of Reese Witherspoon’s character of Susan (aka Ginormica) provides the heart of the piece with an unusual arc for an animated story, but the sentiment is undermined by the comedic relief characters, barring it from being taken as seriously as what Pixar might have done with it. But how many other family-targeted stories featuring a young woman on her wedding day would dare suggest she was meant for something other than being a happy housewife? The heavy implication and opportunity to explore the idea is sadly pigeonholed in favor of hilarity squeezed from a 1960’s-inspired post-atomic world populated with inept heroes and over-the-top villainy. Oh, well.
While each character is given their moment to shine, the balance to the monster equation is the aliens, particularly Rainn Wilson’s villainous Gallaxhar and a subversive Amy Poehler as the alien ship’s computer voice. With the production abandoning any dramatic intent, listening to Poehler’s obviously intelligent computer sneaking barbs in on an oblivious megalomaniac like Gallaxhar is comedy gold (in fact, some of the best one-liners in the entire film are uttered by Poehler as throwaways.) Back in the monsters camp, Hugh “House M.D.” Laurie’s frequent outbursts of maniacal laughter as Dr. Cockroach, Ph.D provides necessary levity each time the plot gets too serious. And every word uttered by Kiefer Sutherland as General W.R. Monger is smile-worthy when uttered in his gruff, Southern-fried accent.
While Pixar (now bought and paid for beneath Disney’s umbrella) strives for a multi-layered story in even their most zany productions (although to be fair, Pixar usually saves that type of thing for their short films like “Presto”), DreamWorks doesn’t mind being a little shallow while creating a zany full-length film, or a lot if you count the Shrek sequels. Not perfect by any means, Monster vs. Aliens isn’t forgettable, either, and is sure to be mined for many sequels and future television specials to come.
(a three skull recommendation out of four)