Quick Review: Monsters Vs. Aliens

It was fun, but I can’t help but feeling the screenwriters left a lot on the table rather than putting it up on the screen; it had a lot of opportunities to be a whole lot sharper than it was. It’s also pretty obvious the screenwriters (of whom there were apparently many) are 80s babies, since one does not put a Harold Faltermeyer joke into this particular movie for the kids. Athena, I should note, was wise enough in the ways of basic screenwriting that she understood there was a joke going on when the Harold F thing got trotted out, she just didn’t know what it was, or why it should be funny. Nevertheless she enjoyed MvA quite a bit, me less so, but well enough. Pixar still doesn’t have to worry on the storytelling front, however.

36 thoughts on “Quick Review: Monsters Vs. Aliens

  1. [quickly googles Harold F] I remember watching Chicken Run with my nieces. They couldn’t figure out why we thought a chicken bouncing a ball off the wall of her jail cell was so damn funny.

  2. My kids thought the David Bowie joke in Space Chimps was funny. Despite having no idea who he is, or why you might be him instead of an astronaut if you are wearing tinfoil clothes.

  3. My husband and I just got back from seeing it. I thought it was fun. For the very end music after the short, they played the B-52s Planet Claire. Did you notice the thin Vincent Price mustache on the Dr. Cockroach?

  4. Solid, but could have been much more. Solid story, decent jokes, reasonable graphics. Best use of vocal talent in a kid-vid I can remember, with especial props to Seth Rogen, Hugh Laurie and Stephen Colbert. A totally reasonable way to pass a rainy spring weekend afternoon with your moppet.

  5. I saw it of my own volition, with nary a single child in my life, and I liked it. I agree with Scalzi that it could have been more. Some of the characters were just too flat to achieve the pathos they were trying for, though if a certain other animation company had done it, it probably would have been perfect. But there were some nice things done with secondary character relationships that I was happy to see kept subtle, like Link and Insectasaurus’ friendship.
    As I watched it, I hoped it instilled in those kids a future love of campy pulp. Someday, they’ll see the classic movies that were the source of a lot of jokes, and suddenly, the notes from Close Encounters of the Third Kind will stir a memory from their childhood. Maybe they’ll feel profound, maybe they’ll giggle themselves silly and never take anything seriously again, I don’t know.
    (And as a side note, is it ironic that CGI animation’s quest for greater realism results in more realistic skin tones than actual Hollywood actors? Those characters had pores and freckles and looked like they might have actually spent their lives baking in the sun of Modesto!)

  6. I thought it was fun, but they missed a bet by not using “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” as the music when the alien clones are being created.

  7. Pixar has become the marque of excellence, certainly. What amazes me is the folks I’ve chatted with who think that any computer-animated film they see was made by Pixar. I guess you have to be a movie geek to notice the studio logos at the bottom of the poster.

  8. I enjoyed it. I don’t think it’s great, but it’s fun. I think there’s a fairly interesting thing going on with gender roles, or at least a little bit, in that Susan is the main character and it’s sort of re-emphasized with the couple making out in the car when the robot crash lands.

    Probably my favorite part:

    I come in peace. I mean you no harm. Nonetheless, within 24 hours most of you will be dead and those who survive will be enslaved and used for experimentation. But as I was saying, I come in peace. I mean you no harm.

  9. John (and others who have seen the movie):

    What are your thoughts on the fact that the main character is, as another review put it: “…a film for children with a female lead. She is not the love interest, or the helpmate, or the mom. Nor is she a princess, or princesslike. She does not marry a prince or a prince-manqué. She does not marry at all … —a Strong Female Protagonist.”

    Did your daughter notice/care/comment on the strong female protagonist?

    Regards,

    -Drew

  10. So some girls want to be princesses when they grow up. Some want to be strong female protagonists.

    And others want to be Insectasaurus.

  11. My six-year old daughter wants to be a princess, a teacher, an astronaut and a superhero.

  12. Fun flick. Amazing visuals (particularly early on), but OK visuals throughout. Hugh Laurie was perfect as the “mad scientist.”

    Many, many references to movies, and not all of them were terribly obvious.

  13. I first learned of a lot of before-my-time pop culture trivia through the ass-backwards route of references in later cartoons and comedies. When I would finally see the originals* there would be a special little moment of revelation for me as I realized where the thing I’d seen a parody/pastiche/ripoff of as a kid had come from.

    That, and your reference to your daughter recognizing what’s going on simply through recognition of writing conventions shows that the desire on the parts of some twits to totally excise from all kids movies all references that won’t be fully recognized and understood on all levels by all kids (and kids entertainment in general) is just plain silly, improves nothing, and takes away a certain resonance even for those who don’t get the references.

    *One of the earliest such experiences was when first seeing a Marx brothers movie on TV, and trying to convince another kid at school that, hey, you know that guy with the moustache and eyebrows and cigar who “talks like this” (bad kid’s attempt at Groucho impression) in those really old cartoons? Well, there was a real guy like that, I just saw him in a movie.
    “No way. You’re lying. There was never a real guy like that.”

    (They still showed an indiscriminate assortment of all sorts of old Merrie Melodies and the like during the after school “cartoon heap” show, some of which seemed to stretch back to the earliest days of sound animation, and often included “hot” stars from the time, the first time I knew of their existence. As well as things like near surrealistic levels of racism and war-era jingoism. This was the early seventies; I don’t think they started paying attention to what was actually being shown in these things until the eighties.)

  14. I wonder if there were two levels of funny going in the Axel F. theme joke. My kids thought it was funny that he used the Crazy Frog theme to try to communicate with the alien robot. To us old people, it’s Axel Foley, to the youngsters it is Crazy Frog.

    I found the movie tedious. Way to much exposition.

  15. Spent the extra coin to see it in IMAX and 3D and thoroughly enjoyed it. Might just go back and see it again next weekend.

  16. This:

    I come in peace. I mean you no harm. Nonetheless, within 24 hours most of you will be dead and those who survive will be enslaved and used for experimentation. But as I was saying, I come in peace. I mean you no harm.

    Just convinced me to go see it. Now I just need to get the Coffee off of my keyboard.

  17. Ed #19, I agree with you completely – the references that children don’t immediately get are still quite valuable. My introductions to literature, theater, early film, and jazz and classical music all came to me through Warner Brothers cartoons. Kind of skewed my views on some things, when the originals were revealed later in life, but thats good too.

    BUT, the use of Axel F and the Journey song, as specific examples, seem like cliched 80′s references, already used. Couldn’t they be a little more creative and/or obsure? More Planet Claire, please!

    I think these Dreamworks animated movies are good entertainment in between Pixar masterpieces.

  18. Good. But not in Pixar’s league. Not as witty as the Pixar movies and that characters just aren’t as loveable somehow.

  19. I was reading the WaPo’s review of it and they mentioned that “As Jack Black aptly noted at the Academy Awards last month, every year he makes one DreamWorks cartoon, then bets his salary on Pixar at Oscar time.”

    I’m inclined to agree with him.

  20. Doubt I’m going to see it unless the little one insists. That female lead character’s constant grinning in the promos just creeps me out. She looks so happy to see everything, she must be planning a barbecue. Of all the other characters.

  21. I saw it, with my wife and another couple with no kids in tow. We went to the Imax 3D showing of it, and I couldn’t have enjoyed it more.

    I was one of the only ones laughing at the Close Encounters theme and was mildly disappointed in that. However, the movie was really enjoyable. I’m 31 years old, grew up on sci-fi and thought the inside jokes were great and made the movie that much better. there were a lot of kids and young adults and they seemed to enjoy and laugh along with it. The voice acting was tremendous and technically, the movie was astounding. The 3D was so immersive with little of the “WOAHHHHHHH LOOK WE’RE IN 3D, HERE’S A TOMATO FLYING AT YOU” gimmick. The opening scene when we’re travelling thru the female lead’s house has such depth and immersion, you almost forget you’re watching a movie and not looking out a window.

    the spaceship and sci-fi design elements were top notch and the robot probe was the coolest thing. I want a toy model of that thing!

  22. I agree with the poster who said, “More Planet Claire!”

    Monsters Vs. Aliens actually features two versions of “Planet Claire.”

    The first plays as the President’s helicopter arrives and he heads up the ladder to meet the alien.

    That version is a cover by Les Deux Love Orchestra. Besides the famous guitar line this track has a BIG horn section. It also uses a theremin.

    Also the film uses the B-52′s version in the end titles.

  23. My wife and I went to the opening day release with our children and grandchildren alike. We filled two rows in the theater. We all bobbed at the 3D effects along with the people we could see in front of us; we laughed at the music trying to reach the alien and found it quite fun that the President would be so hip to use the ‘happy frog’ to do so (it was even a deep laugh and cheer in the theater); the movie was GREAT! We loved it. Most of the comments really get too technical, perhaps to their credit, but way too deep for me; This was fun!! We’ll see it again!!

  24. @13 Drew

    Yes it was great to have a female lead who wasn’t a princess, who doesn’t get married and and who gets to kick some butt but she was kind of hysterical and obnoxious for the first half of the film. I guess they were working for a character arc.

  25. Hey I liked your MvA review– I wrote one myself! It’s interesting that you noted the movie from a different perspective; it seems that you understand more of the cultural background of it than I did– of course, instead of being one of the 80′s babies you mentioned… I was one of the 90′s.

    I think it’s cool how you write short simple and sweet reviews– I might just shorten my own. However it may be hard for me to cut out all my bs LOL

    Since you enjoy movie blogging, check out this FREE SHORT sci-fi film on my blogsite @ http://moviepals.org

    It’s an Open Source film and any part of it is available for public use! It’s a new way of making collaborative films! Thanks :P

  26. i thot it was hilarious, me and my friend were watching it and we made fun of every non-funny thing.we kept talking about it forEVER for the next month, specially BOB, that lime jello part…

    i <3 that movie
    =D

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