Friday, April 03, 2009

Monsters vs Aliens

Dreamworks Animation is unfairly held to the impossibly-high standards of rival Pixar because both deal primarily in 3D Computer Animation films, despite often working in wholly different genres and styles: Pixar, with the exception of the breezy (and forgetable) "Cars," works in big-scale whimsical fantasy-dramas that happen to be cartoons; while DWA, with the exception of the "Ice Age" films, focuses on lightweight high-concept pop comedy... it's like comparing The Three Stooges to The Seventh Seal because they're both in black and white. Basically, it's not fair to ask "Monsters vs. Aliens" to live up to, say, "The Incredibles" when they have such wildly different goals and DNA.

Which isn't to say that MvA is a great film, just a decent one with a few moments of real joy. It's fast and enjoyable enough, but hovering at the margins are scraps of in-jokey movie-geek-mana that suggest a potentially more interesting concept watered-down a bit to fit in DWA's expected quota of gags and pop-culture references. But it's "good enough," overall.

The idea is that the government has been maintaining a facility to house various "monsters" over the years, all of whom are unsubtle references to iconic 50s movie-monsters: Missing Link (read: Gillman aka Creature From The Black Lagoon,) Bob (read: The Blob,) Dr. Cockroach (read: The Fly) and Insectasaurus (read: Japanese "kaiju" monsters, though which one specifically would be a spoiler) are the mainstays; recently joined by Ginormica (read: The 50 Foot Woman) a young woman turned into a giantess after being struck by a meteor on her wedding day. Said meteor and it's giant-izing power are sought by alien baddie Galaxor, who launches an invasion of Earth which the Monsters are mobilized to counter - despite having little experience or training as to using their unique abilities for combat; particularly Ginormica (real name Susan) who just wants to earn freedom to return to a normal life that she (somewhat unrealistically) hopes is still waiting for her.

As is usually the case with these things, it's more fun when the Monsters are hanging out bouncing their personas off one another than it is when all the sturm und drang gets going, but it's all impressively mounted and never wears out it's welcome. The "spectacle" part is helped ALOT by the presence of Insectasaurus, a skyscraper-sized irradiated fuzzy-bug with the mental state of a baby puppy (the army leads him around via a blinking light dangled from a helicopter) the damn thing is too fun for words. Reese Witherspoon has the mostly-thankless task of playing Ginormica as the "straight" role to the craziness around her, but she makes it work.

It's not QUITE as good as I'm given to imagine a movie about Gillman, Fly, 50 Foot Woman, The Blob and a Kaiju fighting aliens could be, but it's decent and the 3D gags are impressive.


Anonymous said...

Ice Age was Blue Sky, not Dreamworks.

FistfulOAwesome said...

The reason why Dreamworks is victimized is that they are a genuinely bad studio. Their movies completely lack imagination.

There is no problem with making a movie that is just trying to be a fun way for someone to spend two hours but that doesn't mean you should just slap some celebrities together into a movie that relies on pop culture references and call it a day.

Pixar soothes the pain left from the death of 2D animated movies. Dreamworks makes me question what it was all for.

That said I'll say that Monsters vs. Aliens does sound like the most inspired (read: Pixar-like) movie to come out of Dreamworks since Shrek.

P.S. Internet flowcharts showing the differences between Pixar and Dreamworks.



NobleBear said...

I totally agree with FistfullofAwesome.

I will also add that while it is fair to point out that not every studio should be compared to Pixar, I would hope that they would emulate Pixar in some behaviors, like, say, waiting til they have a decent script.

As for the movie monster references being "unsubtle" I though they were entirely deliberate and made it one of the few things that gave the feature any sort of appeal.

Edward Marx said...

I agree with FistfulOfAwesome as well. Dreamworks receives all the hate because of the utter crap they churn out each year. Shark Tale? Bee Movie? Remember those? Nowadays the best they can hope for is something KIND OF good like Kung Fu Panda.

I don't understand this hate for Cars. It's one of Pixar's best in my book. The lead character starts out as a douchebag and you actually care about him by the end of the film. And the town he's stranded in changes because of it. And just like every film Pixar has put out, it takes you on an enormous, adventurous journey where the ride itself is all the fun.