Monsters vs Aliens Review - Another DreamWorks Blunder
by Alex Billington
March 28, 2009
I gave it a fair shot, I really did. I am a Pixar fanboy at heart, but I got that way because they've put out consistently incredible movies. DreamWorks Animation, on the other hand, has had only three movies that I've ever enjoyed - Shrek, Shrek 2, and Kung Fu Panda. They've consistently released what I consider to be completely dull, mindless, and un-entertaining animated crap, that is sadly eaten up by American audiences. Unfortunately, DreamWorks' latest feature, Monsters vs Aliens, is no different, despite my hopes and desires that they'd finally uncovered the secret to good movies last year with Kung Fu Panda.
Before it even began, I knew exactly how it would play out, it was just so obvious. We have some monsters: The Missing Link (Will Arnett), B.O.B. (Seth Rogen), Dr. Cockroach (Hugh Laurie), Insectosaurus, and the newest addition, an average woman struck by a meteor who turns into Ginormica (Reese Witherspoon). So when this alien robot first lands on Earth, they're brought in to attack it, but of course, even if they succeed, they've essentially failed. That's just natural, you have to screw up first to then figure out how to succeed later. Obviously this recycled story is about two things: this team of monsters learning about their strengths and weaknesses, and this team of monsters dealing with being outcasts until they finally save the world.
Monsters vs Aliens is all about the spectacle and nothing more. DreamWorks' head Jeffrey Katzenberg is all about the technology and money. He re-packages the same exact story in a different wrapper every year, with advancements not in story or characters, but in the technology. Monsters vs Aliens isn't an improvement over Shrek or Madagascar, it's the same thing, the same sight gags, the same unlaughable comedy, even the same characters in some instances. Add in a touch of 3D, some aliens and some monsters, and he can walk away with another $200 million in the bank. People don't like change, so why not show the same thing every year, just at higher prices (it cost me an extra $15 to see this in 3D my second time).
The first 30 minutes of this were truly excruciatingly painful to watch. I'm not sure how bad sight gags and poor character animation still gets through the system there at DreamWorks, but I'm certain I was watching the same bland comedy that they first came up with for Shrek eight years ago. Once you learn that five different screenwriters were credited on this (and who knows how many story editors weren't credited), it's apparent that they weren't doing much besides providing a broad idea of what happens, and letting the same writers who've been there for the last ten years add the same physical humor and painful dialogue.
To be fair, this wasn't a complete disaster, and there are actually some redeeming qualities. Of everything I could compliment, it was the 3D (remember that bit about Katzenberg only caring about technology?). I'm not normally a 3D guy, but this is one of those instances where I wouldn't see it any other way (and won't ever watch it on DVD for that very reason). Additionally, the voice work in this was excellent, especially from Seth Rogen in particular, as well as Will Arnett, Rainn Wilson as the villain Gallaxhar and Stephen Colbert as the President. But here's the problem - without 3D, what else does it got? Nothing.
Sure, a few of you (including me) might have gotten a kick out of watching some of those lavish action sequences that take place inside of Gallaxhar's alien ship in the latter half, but that doesn't make up for an otherwise lackluster story. And I'm here not to judge it solely on how visually exciting it was to watch, especially because I only chuckled a few times in the entire 94 minutes (mostly thanks to Seth Rogen). This is where I have to make that inevitable Pixar comparison. Pixar's movies not only have those entertaining action sequences, but they also have wonderful stories, built upon real emotions and true storytelling values. DreamWorks seems to instead devote all their energy to making it look good and work well in 3D.
I'm not going to say that Monsters vs Aliens was awful, as it had some enjoyable scenes and was a real step up from the likes of Shrek the Third and Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa. But truly, when I'm seeing the exact same story and the exact same comedy and the exact same characters I saw a few years ago from a movie I hated even more, I can't simply forgive its follies and give it a stamp of approval. Instead, I've got to point out its flaws, and suggest that unless you have a true desire to see this in 3D, to save your $15 and watch Kung Fu Panda (or any Pixar movie). Monsters vs Aliens is, sadly, yet another DreamWorks mishap.
Alex's Rating: 5 out of 10