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Monsters vs. Aliens

March 27, 2009  |  1:55pm
Monsters vs. Aliens
Release Date: March 27
Directors: Rob Letterman, Conrad Vernon
Writers: Maya Forbes, Wallace Wolodarsky, Rob Letterman, Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger
Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Seth Rogen, Will Arnett, Hugh Laurie
Studio/Run Time: DreamWorks, 94 mins.

Everything a kid would ask for

The Japanese taught us long ago—and the producers of Alien vs. Predator reminded us more recently—that the only thing better than a car chase is when two giant freakish creatures do battle. DreamWorks’ Monsters vs. Aliens seems to have been created as a specific response to that premise. The monsters in this case are a giant blue blob named B.O.B. (Seth Rogen) that has gained sentience if not necessarily intelligence; The Missing Link (Will Arnett), a lady-loving swamp thing who was thawed after spending a few millennia on ice; Dr. Cockroach (Hugh Laurie), a mad scientist who transformed himself into a cockroach so that he’d be able to survive any impending holocausts; and Insectosaurus, a grub that got trapped inside a nuclear reactor and grew to be the size of a tall building. The latter gets the most Mothra vs. Godzilla-like screen time, battling an alien robot with the Golden Gate Bridge caught in the middle.

They’re joined by the sweet Susan Murphy (Reese Witherspoon) when she’s struck by a meteorite on her wedding day and transformed into the super-tall, super-strong Ginormica. The U.S. military takes her down Lilliput-style and transports her to the secret government facility where the other monsters are held. It’s a story with post-911 overtones as she’s preemptively detained for the damage she’s capable of doing instead of anything she’s actually done. All she can think about is how to reunite with her fiancé, weatherman Derek Dietl (Paul Rudd), and the opportunity presents itself when evil alien Gallaxhar (Rainn Wilson) announces his plans to destroy the earth with his clone army, and General W.R. Monger (Kiefer Sutherland) promises the monsters freedom in exchange for their help in fighting off the invaders.

The security vs. freedom themes are jettisoned half-way through the film in favor of women’s liberation, as Susan realizes that Derek saw her more as a mascot for his career rather than a partner capable of her own greatness. But mostly the film is just lightweight amusement, giving kids exactly what they might ask for and not much more. There are funny moments for both kids and grown-ups thanks to a well-chosen cast of comic all-stars, particularly Rogen and Stephen Colbert, who lends his Colbert Report persona to the character of President Hathaway. The action sequences are designed for maximum 3-D pop (even though I saw it on a 2-D screen). The bad guys feel disposable (clones, robots and a supremely evil puppetmaster), so the violence is slapstick. And with monsters, aliens and robots, the merchandising should make a killing.

Watch the Monsters vs. Aliens trailer:

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