“Monster Trucks” begins when avaricious oil baron Reece Tenneson (Rob Lowe) insists on drilling through an underground water main to get to “the ocean of oil” that lies underneath despite the possibility of disturbing the life forms that may live down there. “If we keep this quiet will all do very well,” cackles Tenneson. His greed unleashes several strange creatures, sort of land squids with big googly eyes, whom he immediately orders destroyed.
On the other side of town Tripp (Lucas Till) is a curiously old high school student and scrap yard worker. He’s a blonde James Dean type, an outsider more comfortable around cars than people. When one of these creatures shows up at his junkyard he doesn’t set it free, nor does he call the authorities. After discovering oil is this tentacled creature’s mother’s milk, as any true grease monkey would do, he straps it to the underside of an old truck he’s been working on, using it as a super-charged engine, literally turning his old junker into a “monster truck.”
With the help of biology student Meredith (Jane Levy) and the creature—who Tripp inventively nicknames Creatch—our hero tries find out exactly where his oil-guzzling new friend came from.
Fittingly “Monster Trucks,” a movie about automobiles, is my first seatbelt movie of the year. It is a film so bad I needed to a seatbelt to keep me in my chair for the entire movie.
Forget that Tripp looks old enough to be his high school classmates’ hip guidance counsellor or that the sum total of the great Amy Smart’s role is advising her son what to eat for lunch or that a sea monster appears in the landlocked state of North Dakota. That stuff is bad enough, but the thing that really puts “Monster Trucks” on a collision course with the ditch is a complete lack of playfulness.
What might have been a fun action-adventure with a kid friendly sci fi twist is, instead, a collection of lame brained ideas that feel strung and in search of a heartwarming or interesting moment. “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” another alien movie, works not because we believe the little rubber alien is real but because we care about the way that Elliot, Gertie and Michael interact with him. Despite the presence of a rubber alien it feels authentic and not cobbled together by a marketing department.
When Tripp’s dad (Frank Whaley) says, “It’s like the earth got mad and let something bad out,” he may well have been speaking about this movie and not Creatch.