Monsters vs. Aliens (2009)

Rating: B

Dir: Conrad Vernon and Rob Letterman
Star (voice): Reese Witherspoon, Seth Rogen, Hugh Laurie, Rainn Wilson

I was pleasantly surprised by this, and enjoyed it a great deal more than expected. The trailers left me distinctly underwhelmed, with mediocre animation and an idea that seemed largely stolen from Monsters Inc. However, it’s a good deal smarter than I thought, with some lovely characters, largely inspired by the classic monster movies of the late fifties. After an encounter with a radioactive meteorite, Susan (Witherspoon) grows to be hundreds of feet tall, and is captured by the government for incarceration in a secure facility with the other ‘monsters’, including Dr. Cockroach (Laurie) and the B.O.B. (Wilson).

Evil alien overlord Gallaxhar (Wilson) wants the radiation, although his giant robot probe is foiled by the monsters – who are released when conventional forces fail, and the government realizes the monsters are humanity’s only hope of stopping the robot. Gallaxhar then launches a full-on assault in person, with the aim of using the power extracted from Susan (or “Ginormica,” her monster name) to fuel the takeover of Earth. Once again, it’s up to the monsters to save the day. As is often the case with Dreamworks, there are a myriad of pop-culture references for the savvy to appreciate, and given the source material, appreciate I did – such as a general’s reference to the secure facility being, “An X-file, wrapped in a cover-up and deep-fried in a paranoid conspiracy.”

Or even the opening scene, where a radar technician plays with a paddle-ball, a gratuitous use of the 21st-century 3D technology, that pays tribute to the famous similar scene in House of Wax. Of the monsters, we particularly loved Insectosaurus, an adorable giant grub which looks like it’s made out of plush. I do still have certain issues with some of the animation: the characters just don’t seem as detailed in terms of textures and expressions as in, say, Pixar. However, the CPU cycles seem to have been diverted elsewhere, with some impressive backgrounds. Even when not viewed in 3D [as here], it’s easy to overlook any visual shortcomings, when the characters and storyline are effective and entertaining.