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2009_monsters_vs_aliens_035If you own any DVDs with titles like The Crawling Eye, Mothra or The Leech Woman then a new animated 3-D movie called Monsters Vs. Aliens may be right up your alley. Inspired by the giant bug and alien movies of the 1950s, the new DreamWorks film, starring the voices of Reese Witherspoon and Seth Rogen, is a loving homage to the crazy sci fi films of a simpler age.

When Modesto, California resident Susan Murphy (voice of Witherspoon) is struck by a meteor on her wedding day she suddenly transforms into a 49 ft 11 in creature named Ginormica. Labeled a monster by the American government she is captured by the military and shipped off to a secret government compound that houses other scientific oddities; “It’s an X-file wrapped in a cover-up and deep fried in a conspiracy,” says General W.R. Monger (Kiefer Sutherland).

Imagine an Area 51 for creatures like the insect-headed Dr. Cockroach, Ph.D. (Hugh Laurie), the Missing Link, a 20,000-year-old gill-man (Will Arnett), B.O.B., a gelatinous organism who began life as a genetically altered tomato (Rogen) and Insectosaurus, a 350 foot grub turned monster by nuclear radiation.

The motley crew of monsters is called into service after a UFO lands and an alien overlord named Gallaxhar (Rainn Wilson) demands that Earth be turned over to him. “Humans of Earth,” he says, “my quest has lead me to your planet. Give it to me now! You should, in no way, take any of this personally. It’s just business. Gallaxhar out.”

The country’s highest ranking government officials—including General Monger and the President (Stephen Colbert)—feel that the monsters are the best bet to save the world from looming destruction!

One of the qualifiers I use when reviewing the new crop of 3-D films is to imagine the same movie without the flashy stereoscopy. If I think the movie would hold up on it’s own without the optical effects then it gets a passing grade. If not, then I knock a star or two off the rating. 3-D should enhance storytelling, not replace it.

Recently Coraline earned my highest rating. It’s a beautifully animated film that uses 3-D to augment an already compelling movie. My Bloody Valentine on the other hand, took a bit of a smack down because it mistook special effects for a plot. Monsters Vs. Aliens falls somewhere between the two.
The animation and 3-D in the film is top notch. Unfortunately the outstanding tech side isn’t supported by a strong enough story or interesting enough voice work to place this in the same category as other DreamWorks movies like Kung Fu Panda or Shrek.

With humor aimed at kids, the kitsch factor at movie geeks (like me) and action for teens and young adults Monsters Vs. Aliens is a warm tribute to the mad science b-movies of the 50s that gets much of the tone right, but like the pictures that inspired it, is more fun to imagine than actually sit through.

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