When a meteorite from outer space hits a young California woman named Susan Murphy and turns her into a giant monster, she is taken to a secret government compound where she meets a ragtag group of monsters also rounded up over the years. As a last resort, under the guidance of General W.R. Monger, on a desperate order from The President, the motley crew of Monsters is called into action to combat the aliens and save the world from imminent destruction!
Directed by: Rob Letterman
, Conrad Vernon
. Starring: Reese Witherspoon
, Seth Rogen
, Hugh Laurie
, Will Arnett
, Kiefer Sutherland
, Rainn Wilson
, Stephen Colbert
, Paul Rudd
, Julie White
, Jeffrey Tambor
, Amy Poehler
, Ed Helms
, Renée Zellweger
. Music by: Henry Jackman
Monsters vs Aliens had the potential to become a Sci-Fi comedy classic along the lines of a 'Coneheads' or 'Galaxy Quest' but didn't quite make it. There were a few scenes that really hit the mark however, due to the satirical content. My favorite scene was President Hathaway (voiced by Stephen Colbert) trying to make personal contact with the alien robot. The President is depicted as sort of a twisted Madison Avenue Ad exec type from the 60s surrounded by prototypical yes men. First he plays the theme from 'Close Encounters' on a DX7 Yamaha synth and then breaks into Axel F, the theme from the 1984 Beverly Hills Cop movie (the anachronisms just seemed to jell perfectly). When the robot makes it clear that he's not interested in 'peaceful co-existence', President Hathaway just manages to escape with his life. The president's transition from feckless appeaser to impulsive warmonger in a matter of a few minutes is priceless!
The film's inciting incident draws you in at first. That's where Susan is infected by the meteorite and is transformed into a giant monster on her wedding day. We break into the 'second act' when Susan is transported to the secret government facility where she's imprisoned with other monsters who have been captured over the last fifty years. I just couldn't understand how the secret government monster unit could have so easily muzzled all the guests at the wedding who were witnesses to Susan's amazing transformation. And that especially includes Derek, Susan's social-climbing TV anchor boyfriend, who would have been first in line to promote the media scoop.
I was further disappointed when we soon learn that the government has 'collected' a total of only four monsters (not including the newly minted Susan, now dubbed 'Ginormica') over the past five decades. And it seemed crazy that such an enormous facility was needed to house such a limited collection (I guess that was the joke-'the government was so paranoid about the monsters escaping that they built such a giant facility despite the fact that their prisoners were a completely sorry and ineffectual bunch). The bottom line is that it would have been much more fun if there were more monsters released to combat the invading aliens. The film's scenarists could have worked the additional monsters in without taking away from the principals (the other monsters could have been designated as less intelligent and unable to speak-'at the same time, their ineptitude could have been highlighted through various visual scenes without the need for dialogue).
The monsters of 'Monsters vs Aliens' seem to be created in order to emulate Dorothy's allies in 'The Wizard of Oz'. Susan (having been separated from her family and propelled into a new world) can be likened to Dorothy. Then there's Dr. Cockroach as the brainy Scarecrow, The Missing Link as the Tin Man without a heart and BOB equivalent to the cowardly lion (since this is a comedy, BOB's 'cowardice' is due to stupidity rather than a lack of nerve). And Insectosaurus, the lovable moth, functions as a sort of Toto character, beloved by the protagonist and her allies.
I found the Monsters to be a rather unfunny lot. There wasn't much difference between the Dr. Cockroach character and the principal villain, Gallaxhar (both had that maniacal laugh). And what about the 'Missing Link'? I guess he was supposed to be some sort of Loch Ness Monster but there was nothing distinctive about his comic persona. BOB, the gelatinous mass, who couldn't think straight, was perhaps the most amusing of the motley trio. The bit about him falling in love with the jello mold was one of the funniest scenes in the entire movie.
As the Monster vs Alien's plot develops, it becomes obvious that the vapid Susan, who defines herself in relation to the obnoxious Derek, finally gains confidence and is no longer dependent on men to go forward in life. That's her 'internal arc' and I had no problem with the way the story was going in that regard. But the 'external arc' of the story was underdeveloped and derivative. Take for example when Susan first stops the alien robot (but must destroy the Golden Gate Bridge in the process). Although the city of San Francisco had been evacuated, I would have thought that the battle with the alien robot would still have been covered by the news media. The film's screenwriters missed a big opportunity to depict Susan as the new hero and media darling after destroying the alien robot. And for awhile, it would have been nice to see Susan distracted by fame and seduced by the culture of celebrity.
Finally, Gallaxhar and his spaceship, seemed to be like a cheap imitation of the brilliant Coneheads. Contrast the sharp, satirical portraits of various narcissistic characters in the Coneheads with Gallaxhar -'reminiscent of the mustachioed villain of 19th century melodrama.
Monsters vs Aliens has quite a bit of very neat animation along with a positive message of self-empowerment. But by the film's end, it becomes too much like the kind of films it seeks to satirize. Yes, another 'mother ship' blows up after being set on 'auto-destruct', thanks to the heroic efforts of a group of motley but lovable losers. 'Monsters' has its moments but it's not consistently funny enough to be ranked as one of the better comic animations.
Review by Turfseer from the Internet Movie Database.