GENRE: CGI sci-fi spoof
THE PITCH: After a glowing meteorite causes mild-mannered Susan Murphy (Reese Witherspoon) to attain ginormous proportions on her wedding day, she and other misfits of science are enlisted by the U.S. government to repel an obnoxious otherworldly invader called Gallaxhar (Rainn Wilson).
MONEY SHOTS: B.O.B., the brainless blob (Seth Rogen), hugs — and accidentally ingests — Susan’s mother. A nearly 400-foot robot pursues 49-foot Susan through the deserted streets of San Francisco. A spectacular battle destroys the Golden Gate Bridge. The explosive finale features swarming alien clones on a huge spaceship.
VOICE ACTORS: The cast is practically a who’s who of today’s hippest, funniest humans, including Stephen Colbert (the U.S. president), Hugh Laurie (Dr. Cockroach Ph.D.), Will Arnett (the amphibious Missing Link), Paul Rudd (Susan’s weatherman fiancé) and the likes of Amy Poehler, Ed Helms, Renee Zellweger and John Krasinski in cameos.
BEST LINE: “Welcome! We are here to destroy you!” B.O.B. greets Gallaxhar’s huge, Cyclopean robot. Most of the good lines are already in the trailer.
WORST LINE: “Oh, spaceballs,” Gallaxhar mutters in both an example of lame alien-speak and a pointless pop reference. Worse, it forces you to remember Mel Brooks’ Spaceballs.
FILM FOOTNOTES: Susan’s freaky friends all derive from famous monsters of 1950s filmland, including The Fly, The Blob and The Creature from the Black Lagoon. A parody of Close Encounters of the Third Kind’s music gives way to a tune from Beverly Hills Cop. The film squeezes in shout-outs to “The X-Files,” E.T. and Destroy All Monsters. An early gag with a paddleball harks back to some of the first-ever 3-D movies.
SOUNDTRACK HIGHLIGHTS: The Peter Gunn-style intro from the B-52's’ “Planet Claire” amusingly scores the president’s entrance. The film puckishly dusts off the Buchanan Brothers’ “(When You See) Those Flying Saucers” and Sheb Wooley’s “Purple People Eater.”
BODY COUNT: The heroes accidentally blast two aliens with a ray gun, for comic effect. One of the good guys is presumed dead. The film features vast amounts of destruction and lots of mean-spirited slapstick — including an ankle so injured, the foot points backward — yet presumably no human fatalities.
FASHION STATEMENTS: Susan’s various kidnappers provide her with plus-size body suits. Gallaxhar wears a high-collared tunic and cape that looks like something from Elvis’ Vegas period, and makes for a preposterous disguise. General W.R. Monger (Kiefer Sutherland) wears a medal shaped like Shrek on his uniform.
WORTH THE IMAX UPGRADE? Yes. The film boasts imaginative shots with characters and setting on vastly different scales, which will be most impressive on the biggest possible screens. Apart from some ghost images, the 3-D is excellent. (When one character rose in the foreground, I thought someone in the audience was standing in front of me.)
THE BOTTOM LINE: Despite the advances in 3-D animation, Monsters vs. Aliens takes a giant step backward for DreamWorks following the charm and warmth of Kung Fu Panda. The monstrous main characters prove quite endearing, but the weak jokes suggest that the screenwriters were replaced by pod people.
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