Monsters vs. Aliens Directed by: Peter Cornwell Cast (voice): Reese Witherspoon, Seth Rogen, Hugh Laurie, Will Arnett, Keifer Sutherland, Rainn Wilson, Paul Rudd Time: 1 hr 10 min Rating: PG
Plot:Right before Susan Murphy (Reese Witherspoon) strolls down the aisle to marry Derek Dietl (Paul Rudd), she is struck by a meteorite that causes her to grow a hundred times her normal size. The government whisks her away to a secret facility that keeps “monsters” away from the general public. When an alien (Rainn Wilson) invades earth to harness the energy from the meteorite, the government turns to the monsters for help. Long…gasp…explanation…wheeze…
Who’s It For?Everyone will get a kick out of this movie, but I’d say it’s especially for younger and pre-teen girls.
Expectations:The previews looked cool, the idea was cool, and Seth Rogen was a goofy blob. How could this movie possibly miss?
Actors: Reese Witherspoon as Susan Murphy: Reese Witherspoon is wonderful but she’s a bit…squeaky. Her voice is on the high side of the spectrum and when she gets excited/enthused/scared, she squeaks a little—though, so what? She’s still Reese Witherspoon, who is adorable and likeable and wonderful and cute as a little bug ‘n a rug. Although…if it hadn’t been Reese Witherspoon…the squealing might’ve been a little harder to listen to… Score: 6
Seth Rogen as B.O.B.: As far as I’m concerned, we’re all here to see B.O.B., because everyone wants to hang out with Seth Rogen; and Seth Rogen as a gelatinous, good-natured blue blob? Sold! What is it about that raspy, smoker’s growl that is so darling and charismatic? I can’t put my finger on it, but it’s a charming force nonetheless. Score: 8
Hugh Laurie as Dr. Cockroach, Ph.D.: Oh, if only I’d known this was Hugh Laurie going into the film—I would’ve enjoyed the character so much more. I love Hugh Laurie and I could’ve channeled some of that love into my experience with Dr. Cockroach. Unfortunately, the stand-alone character (maniacal, mad-scientist laughter aside) isn’t as distinct as B.O.B (Rogen) and Link (Arnett). Score: 6
Will Arnett as “Link,” The Missing Link: Arnett is totally fabulous as Link in the same way that he rocked as Vlad in Horten Hears a Who. He stepped into those cartoon shoes and breathed an almost distracting amount of life into the character. Obviously, Arnett is tremendous no matter what he does, but he does seem to have a knack for voice talent. The only downfall was the writing, which wasn’t as strong as the cast or the incredibly imaginative idea. Score: 8
Rainn Wilson as Gallaxhar: See above lamentation regarding Hugh Laurie. I would’ve enjoyed this character so much more if I’d known it was Rainn Wilson, because obviously you get Dwight Shrute to play the evil alien. Honest-to-god, if I’d known it was him, I would’ve given this character a higher score. But like Dr. Cockroach, without the star power, Gallaxhar just isn’t as fun. Score: 6
Paul Rudd as Derek Deitl: Derek Dietl is Susan’s self-involved, jack-ass fiancé and he’s barely in the movie. That being said, Rudd continues his unbreakable scene-stealing streak and turns Derek into the variety of thick-headed, Mr. Wrong that’s surprisingly sharp for a kid’s movie. Score: 8
Talking:The dialogue is strangely blah given how incredible creative this story really is. Luckily, the animation is so stellar and the plot can really stand on its own, so you’ll immediately forgive the lack of belly laughs. There are a few phenomenal one-liners: President Hathaway (Stephen Colbert) shoots a few ineffectual rounds at the alien spacecraft and then, as he’s carried off by his body guards, flashes the “victory” sign and shouts “I am a brave president!” But Derek Dietl (Rudd) walks away with the best lines in the flick (“Honey, I forgive you for being hit by a meteorite and ruining everything.”) Score: 6
Sights: The animation, as I’ve already mentioned, is flawless. The film can’t help standing on Pixar’s shoulders, but that’s probably unavoidable at this point. The movements, the body language, the facial expressions, and most notably, the action sequences—fantastic! Looks-wise, the film’s a stunner. Score: 9
Sounds: The score moves the action along and never sinks as low as to yank on your heartstrings (and trust me, there’s a scene where it could’ve easily taken that route). Score: 7
Best Scene:When Susan begins to really love her newfound brawn, it is an eye-opener for little girls.
Ending: Very satisfying! The action is great and fast-paced and it’s nothing but pure, candy fun.
Questions: None—not even any inane ones.
Rewatchability:Very high. Actually, I have to see it again to revisit the whole Hugh Laurie, Rainn Wilson situation.
OVERALL The movie is pure fluff, but it is going to have an underlying significance for women and young girls. Nowadays, the “strong babe” is ubiquitous, but when I was growing up, female characters were always weak and in distress. As a kid, it actively upset me that there were no strong women for me to relate to and the first few attempts were tepid and disappointing. This is one of the main reasons I’m such a huge fan of Lara Croft: she’s brilliant, athletic, and (if you return to some of the earlier games) shockingly merciless when it comes to the enemy. She’s never in distress.
If Monsters vs. Aliens accomplishes anything, it’s showing a very natural and believable progression of a female character learning how enthralling it is to be strong and independent. Susan starts out as the little future wifey on Derek’s arm and at first, she doubts she can be of any help at all—when she finally learns how extraordinarily strong she is, she is thrilled. She isn’t celebrating her looks or figure or even a psychological lack of empathy/femininity; she is utterly ecstatic about her own physical abilities. I look around me at all the little Lara Crofts in training, and I give thanks for characters like this one.
Final Score: 7/10