Monsters vs. Aliens (2009)

Rated: PG for sci-fi action, some crude humor and mild language.
Length: 94 minutes.
Grade: CBCD=C
Budget: $175 million
Box Office: $380 million (198 U.S., 182 Intl.

Written by: Maya Forbes (The Rocker), Wallace Wolodarsky (The Rocker), Rob Letterman (Shark Tale), Jonathan Aibel (Kung Fu Panda), and Glenn Berger (Kung Fu Panda).
Directed by: Rob Letterman (Shark Tale) and Conrad Vernon (Shrek 2).
Starring: The voices of Reese Witherspoon, Seth Rogen, Hugh Laurie, Will Arnett, Kiefer Sutherland, Rainn Wilson, Stephen Colbert, Paul Rudd, Renee Zellweger, Amy Poehler, and John Krasinski.

When an alien megalomaniac threatens to destroy the earth, the American military deploys the monsters it has been hiding from the public for 50 years to fight him. This includes the 50-foot-woman who was only days before about to get married when she got hit by the meteor the alien is seeking.

Entertainment Value: C
There are two problems here. Problem one: too many cooks, and half of them collaborated on The Rocker. Sometimes less is more, and in this case, less would have likely been much more. Problem two: Dreamworks Animation does not make good kids movies. Certainly not good to the standards set by Walt Disney in the old days or Pixar (now a part of Disney) today. Yes, Kung-Fu Panda was awesome! But everything else they do has the same basic problem: too chaotic, too looney, and far too adult-oriented to be good for kids. The plot here involves a massively advanced alien civilization that loses to the flimsiest of super-hero talents in the campiest of plots. And along the way, it’s full of crude jokes and implausible characters. Steak is good. Asparagus is good. Watermelon is good. Salsa is good. And root beer is good. But I don’t want them all together in the same goulash. That’s just nasty.

Superficial Content: B
Drugs/Alcohol A, Sex/Nudity B, Violence C+, Language A
The biggest problem here (as a kids movie) is with the unending parade of crude jokes, such as requiring a butt-print for entry into the war room, a guy seeming to hold his own boobs, giving a nerd a wedgie, and “setting the terror level at code brown, cuz I need to change my pants.” There is a lot of war shooting and conflict between the aliens and the army and the monsters. In one scene, people on the Golden Gate Bridge nearly die when the bridge is attacked. It’s rightly rated PG, but I don’t love it for younger kids. Call it PG-7.

Significant Content: C
If you believe in yourself (and happen to get made into an indestructible force by a meteor that doesn’t kill you) you can do anything. Teamwork is important. Friends are people who accept you for who you are no matter what. Sometimes it takes a tragedy to show you the truth about people. Megalomaniacs are always brought down by their arrogance.
Artistic/Thought Value: D As always, the animation is fantastic. Seriously, outstanding. For $175 million, it ought to be. But that’s where the art excellence ends. There just isn’t much to talk about here after you’ve seen the movie.

Discussion Questions:
~Susan feels that Derek is selfish and not really interested in being a true partner with her. Have you ever felt like someone else only wanted to be in control in a relationship?
~This movie seems to want to tell us that we should value everyone, no matter how strange they are. But in the movie, each of the characters earns his place on the team and in the triumph by his abilities. So, is it telling us to value those who don’t have value or to just keep an open mind until the valuable ones can prove themselves to us? Does the movie lose credibility on it’s message of inclusiveness when it celebrates the mistreatment of the nerdy guy?
~How likely is it that the President of the United States would be this much of a dunce? Do you think it’s good for the President to be portrayed this way?
~How many other movies or movie genres can you find referenced or mocked in this movie?
~The clones of Gallaxhar get killed several times in this movie. Why does that bother us less than anyone else getting killed? Should it?

Overall Grade: C
Dreamworks produces another mediocre animated film just barely inoffensive enough for kids to watch. Watch Monsters Inc., Dr. Strangelove, Men in Black, Close Encounters, or any of the black and white Godzilla movies for much better entertainment. Seth Rogen is hilarious as BOB, but that’s about as much praise as I can give it.

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