Monsters vs. Aliens
I guess you are what you eat.

Golden Mug

Animated Film

Theatrical Release Date: 03/27/2009
Directors: Rob Letterman & Conrad Vernon
Featuring the Voices of: Reese Witherspoon, Will Arnett, Hugh Laurie, Seth Rogen, Kiefer Sutherland, Rainn Wilson, Stephen Colbert, Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler

For the millions who watched the Super Bowl this year, the 3D “Monsters vs. Aliens” commercial was either a two-toned blur or a poor 3D attempt on national television (it hurt my eyes but Elizabeth Edgemont seemed okay with it). Now that the full feature is coming to theaters, the first aspect I’ll get out of the way is the In-Tru 3D technology to capitalize on the hot trend going on in theaters right now.

If you’re confused by all of the different 3D terms being thrown around, know that In-Tru 3D is really no different from Real 3D or Disney 3D, they all do the same thing and use the polarized glasses – not the cardboard red and blue and not the crappy TV ones they used for the Super Bowl ads. As for how good the 3D is in the film, it’s quite good actually. While not too close to the bar set by “Coraline“, most of the environments and characters gave a very realistic sense of depth – as evident by the number of children in the screening audience constantly reaching for the objects on screen.

My only real complaint with the filmmaker’s approach was the number of gimmicky thrown to camera gags there were. There are enough action sequences to naturally heave objects and debris towards the audience, why bother with paddle balls and the like?

In any case, the film deals with (you guessed it) Monsters versus Aliens. A nefarious alien is looking to retrieve a powerful material that crashed to Earth in a meteorite. The only thing between him and world destruction/domination is a collection of captured monsters kept by the U.S. government promised their freedom in exchange for saving our little blue orb.

The voice work is handled quite nicely by the cast. Reese Witherspoon adds a real humanizing dimension to her character and interacts well with the rest of the monsters. Hugh Laurie, Will Arnett and Seth Rogen all throw in finely tuned comedic performances to keep the tone of the film in that light, airy, kid-friendly zone. Rogen especially keeps the laughs coming … simply by laughing himself. I’m almost certain you could create a character that communicated only through laughter, cast Seth Rogen and count your money.

Now, it isn’t all wine and roses for “Monster vs. Aliens”. As amusing as Stephen Colbert is portraying the President of the United States, his characterization as a bumbling halfwit with little more than media savvy and bravado gets old rather quickly. Also, while I appreciate the need to make things as straight forward as possible, the film barely scratches the surface of anything thicker than a 4th grade book report.

Regardless, parents looking for suitable fare for the little ones will do fine with “Monsters vs. Aliens” because it throws in a number of jokes for the over 18 crowd, mostly in the form of references from past eras. All of the humor is still safe for those still in, or about to enter, grammar school and the 3D aspect is a lot of fun. Still, nothing in the film was wildly original and I was more impressed with most of last year’s animated fodder so I’ll only give a 3 out of 5 to Dreamworks’ latest animated effort. It was still light and fun but didn’t leave a lasting impression.