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:: Monsters vs Aliens

If DreamWorks’ Monsters vs Aliens (directed by Rob Letterman and Conrad Vernon) is anything to go by, the 3D revolution is well and truly here. In recent years, cinemas have tried a few tactics to entice us away from our state of the art home entertainment systems – surround sound, G-Max, Gold Class – but maybe 3D will be their financial salvation.

I’m fairly sure that my first experience of 3D was at Movie World when I was twelve. It was a short film called Honey I Shrank the Audience, a spin off of the Rick Moranis Honey I… franchise. The film was innovative for its time, but the story was paper thin. Indeed, up until recently, most 3D films have fallen down in terms of story telling, their creators too caught up in the possibilities of the medium, “Let’s just see what’s in this box…Arrrgh! A swarm of killer bees!” Cue squeals from the audience as they bat virtual bees from their faces.

Once you get past the annoyingly obvious title, Monsters vs Aliens is an extremely likeable kiddie flick. I saw the movie in a cinema packed full of children with an average age of about seven. It was a pleasure to hear them squealing with delight over the wonders of 3D and the inevitable bodily excretion gags (Insectosaurus snot anyone?!) while their parents chuckled away at some well aimed parodies of Presidents and such.

In the film, the safety of planet earth is threatened yet again by aliens, or, specifically, an alien with multiple eyes and tentacular legs named Galaxor (voiced by Rainn Wilson). To counter the threat, the US military enlist the help of various Monsters whom they’ve evidently kept under lock and key since the Cold War.

Heading up the team of monsters is Susan a.k.a “Ginormica” (Reece Witherspoon) who was recently transformed into a modern day 50 foot woman when a radioactive meteorite crashed her wedding.

Susan’s motley crew of bright and lively monster pals include a mad scientist named Dr. Cockroach (voiced by the sexy Hugh Laurie in British accent mode), B.O.B the blob, (played with usual slacker charm by Seth Rogen) and The Missing Link (Will Arnett), a half ape, half fish who has lost his fighting prowess. As is often the case with the buddy roles in animated features, these amusing characters steal the show from Susan, who is essentially bland and boring, even though she embodies the key theme of the movie, which is, never underestimate yourself and your abilities.

The film doesn’t reference the present so much as it references the past, which makes for a refreshing change from other recent animated features such as Shrek 2. There are nods to ‘50s B-movies as well as Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. Some of the funniest scenes for mums and dads borrow heavily from Dr. Strangelove, as the gormless President (Stephen Colbert) attempts to conduct proceedings from a cavernous War Room.

Although the film is not beautiful in a painterly sense, it does have some spectacular set pieces which play around with space and scale. These scenes include Susan careering down the streets of San Francisco using a couple of cars as roller-skates and the showdown on a flawlessly recreated Golden Gate Bridge.

My main criticism of Monsters vs Aliens is simple; it’s not made by Pixar. Even Jack Black recognised the inferiority of DreamWorks films at the Oscars, when he quipped, “Each year I do one DreamWorks movie, and I take the money from that to the Oscars and bet it on Pixar!” DreamWorks seems destined to remain Pixar’s poor cousin. Its films are successful, but they still don’t have the masterful story-telling and emotional pull of Toy Story or Finding Nemo.