Tale of 49-Foot 11-Inch Woman Comes Up Short
Monsters vs. Aliens, such as it is, takes place in California. A blushing bride named Susan (Reese Witherspoon) is about to marry a self-aggrandizing and preening weatherman, Derek (Paul Rudd, playing the cad for once). Immediately before the scheduled ceremony, Susan is struck by a meteorite and, as a result, ends up growing so tall that she busts through the roof of the church. She also suddenly sprouts platinum hair because, presumably, blondes kick more ass, but Susan's groom is, most decidedly, not impressed with the new hair color and cowers in the shadow of his bride while the wedding guests flee the premises. In short order, the U.S. government arrives, captures Susan, and hauls her off for an indefinite vacation at the scenic and luxurious Area 51. Once there, the newly christened "Ginormica" meets her fellow inmates, a group of intimidating but harmless outcasts, who have been inspired by the aforementioned sci-fi films of the past: the brilliant and slightly diabolical Dr. Cockroach, PhD (the deliciously malicious Hugh Laurie); the joyously amorphous B.O.B. (a go-with-the-flow Seth Rogen); and a creature made of equal parts fish, ape, and frat boy referred to as The Missing Link (the ever-redeemable Will Arnett). As one would expect, Susan receives the film's spotlight, and the other characters of Monsters vs. Aliens, while all rendered exquisitely in 3D detail, are, as far as character traits are concerned, very badly drawn boys.
So, for a film that's supposed to be about monsters, we receive very little of them. However interesting these creatures may appear, the screenwriters have left them to their own devices as bundles of eccentricities until Earth comes under attack by the evil alien overlord, Galaxhar (a lackluster Rainn Wilson). At that point, the monsters' warden, Gen. W.R. Monger (Kiefer Sutherland), recognizes that only the monsters can defeat these seemingly unstoppable aliens, so he persuades The President (Stephen Colbert) to offer freedom to the monsters in exchange for saving Earth. Throughout the film's several climactic battle scenes that all but destroy San Francisco, Ginormica delivers most of the smackdowns, and the monsters serve no immediate purpose except to back up Ginormica and to freak out the general populace. All credit here goes to the script, for despite the monsters' 3D appearance, these remain 2D characters that aren't all that notable but for the solid voice work behind them. To that end, the voices are solid, aside from disappointing turns from Rainn Wilson and a surprisingly underwhelming Stephen Colbert. Here, Colbert shows none of his usual satiric wit; perhaps he forgot that the audience would never be able to see his facial expressions, which usually function as at least half of his performance on Comedy Central. Unfortunately, Colbert doesn't even properly portray The President as an idiot, which is the generic role given to all of the human males in the film. Fortunately, kids in the audience probably won't notice anything but the "awesome" 3D factor of this film. Still, while the concept of an ass-kicking female is a welcome one, this so-called empowerment really shouldn't come at the expense of the other gender.
With any luck, audiences will eventually tire of this latest 3D resurgence. Obviously, ducking random objects remains somewhat entertaining and amusing, but what is now "awesome" will become routine and the novelty will wear off. With the exception of Coraline , which made light use of 3D, things aren't looking so peachy. There's no end yet on the horizon though, for Monsters vs. Aliens leaves itself wide-open to a sequel, which is rather presumptuous considering there isn't much of a story to keep working with. Not that a pesky problem like this ever this stopped DreamWorks in the first place.
Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma and can be found at agentbedhead.com.