Monsters’ brawl

The spectacle of aliens fighting monsters has never been as average as it is in “Monsters vs. Aliens”

PHOTO COURTESY PARAMOUNT PICTURES

Ashley Goetz

PHOTO COURTESY PARAMOUNT PICTURES

âÄúMonsters vs. AliensâÄù Directed by: Conrad Vernon and Rob Letterman Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Will Arnett, Seth Rogen Rated: PG Showing at: Area theaters Making a movie featuring monsters, robots and the comedic chops of Seth Rogen , Will Arnett, Paul Rudd and Stephen Colbert seems like a surefire route to awesomeness. Yet somehow the notoriously hit-and-miss folks at DreamWorks Animation have managed to defy the natural order by making a generally unfunny, lackluster film that they call âÄúMonsters vs. Aliens .âÄù Just in case the title hasnâÄôt beaten you over the head with the plot to come, hereâÄôs a quick rundown: a malevolent, otherworldly cephalopod called Gallaxhar (Rainn Wilson ) sends a campy robot drone to Earth in search of a power-imbuing meteor that crash-landed in Modesto, Calif. After numerous attempts to quell the robot fail, the government for some reason decides to dispatch a group of imprisoned monsters to save the day. Among them is Susan (Reese Witherspoon ), a doting bride-to-be whose life is turned upside down when she is struck by the mystical meteor and grows to gargantuan proportions. It sounds enjoyable enough, but the film is so formulaic that it becomes hard to care. There are a few clever sci-fi and B-movie nods that warrant a chuckle, but overall the story is bland and at times nonsensical. ItâÄôs apparent that this film, unlike those of the perpetual hit-maker Pixar , is fully geared toward the over-the-top physical comedy that kids tend to gobble up. Substance is then sacrificed, a result that will be draining on the host of adults in the audience. The filmâÄôs problems ultimately boil down to its characters. The monsters, in spite of their grotesque physical forms, donâÄôt seem to fit this story. ThereâÄôs simply no motivation for most of the characters; the monsters have been in isolation for more than 50 years and were inept enough to have been captured in the first place, making them an unlikely solution to an alien robot problem. Furthermore, any semblance of emotional attachment goes out the window with the predictability of certain plot points and the hurried pace at which theyâÄôre presented. These downfalls certainly arenâÄôt unexpected from Conrad Vernon and Rob Letterman , whose last directorial tag team resulted in the unfortunate âÄúShark Tale ,âÄù but it is a little surprising given the writing talent. This script team includes both of the writers from âÄúKung Fu Panda ,âÄù Maya Forbes , a writer for the âÄúThe Larry Sanders Show âÄú and Wallace Wolodarsky, who co-wrote some of the seminal episodes âÄúThe Simpsons .âÄù How the labor of this respectable league of writers resulted in this humdrum outing is anybodyâÄôs guess. Directing and writing aside, the actors deserve some credit for attempting to rise above the filmâÄôs structural faults. Reese Witherspoon once again plays a likeable young woman who realizes the meaning of true friendship, but sheâÄôs so endearing that it seems to be a fresh role for her. Seth Rogen also works around the scriptâÄôs limitations as B.O.B ., a gelatinous blue blob. His lines are stupid, but that is oftentimes where Rogen thrives. Stephen Colbert also gives a hilarious âÄî albeit brief âÄî performance as the president. Unfortunately, Will Arnett, a man with a voice made for animation, is underutilized as the fish monster called The Missing Link and the regal Hugh Laurie is given nothing to work with as the unnecessary Dr. Cockroach, Ph.D. The most irksome quality of all is the ever-present evil that is 3-D. On rare occasions, 3-D can be done well, just look at âÄúCoraline. âÄú That film skillfully employed the technique to create a field of depth unlike anything audiences had ever seen. DreamWorks films, on the other hand, use the annoying stuff-flying-at-you method to the point where certain animation sequences are clearly added for the sole purpose of highlighting 3-D. For the most part, itâÄôs a bothersome practice and it is certainly not worth the extra couple of bucks that must be shelled out on top of already outrageous ticket prices. âÄúMonsters vs. AliensâÄù is by no means the worst thing to come out of DreamWorksâÄô studios, but it is the movieâÄôs lost potential that truly makes it a sad affair. Maybe someday theyâÄôll be able to challenge PixarâÄôs supremacy, but for now audiences must bear the brunt of DreamWorksâÄô inconsistency. 2.5 stars out of five