Have a supersonic blast watching "Monsters vs. Aliens" featuring the voices of Reese Witherspoon, Seth Rogen, Will Arnett and Hugh Laurie,
Watching "Monsters vs. Aliens," aficionados of 1950s sci-fi films and creature features may feel like they've died and been transported to "Altair IV." That's, of course, the celestial sphere in "Forbidden Planet."
Children and grandchildren of these fans should have a supersonic blast, too, as this latest 3-D cartoon from DreamWorks Animation doesn't skimp on the action and the gags. That said, as with "Shrek," another DreamWorks release, this is the type of children's film that will likely garner more guffaws from the older set unless their youngsters have developed an appreciation for satire of half-century-old B-movie beasts.
These include the Creature from the Black Lagoon - here called the Missing Link (voice of Will Arnett), the Blob - here called B.O.B. (voice of Seth Rogen), The Fly here transformed into a brainiac cockroach (voice of Hugh Laurie), Mothra here transformed into a 350-foot grub called Insectosaurus and, last but not least, the 50-Foot Woman here called Ginormica (voice of Reese Witherspoon, who in real life barely surpasses 5 feet).
For good measure, the war room from "Dr. Strangelove" gets lampooned with George C. Scott's warmongering Gen. Buck Turgidson altered to become Gen. W.R. Monger (voice of Keifer Sutherland).
Voicing the clueless U.S. president is Stephen Colbert of TV's "The Colbert Report" who ran for U.S. president in real life, sort of.
"E.T." and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" receive brief parodies as well.
The film also rates highly on the snark meter. In one scene, Colbert's President Hathaway, panicking as Earth faces annihilation, wants to gather all the great scientific minds. "Call India!" he declares. Even the opening credits have DreamWorks' symbol, Huckleberry Finn, getting unceremoniously sucked into an alien spaceship.
The movie begins innocently enough with Susan Murphy (Witherspoon) about to get married to a self-absorbed weatherman Derek Dietl (voice of Paul Rudd) in bucolic Modesto, Calif. Then a meteor crash-lands on Earth, near where Susan is daydreaming about marital bliss. She gets zapped with quantonium think kryptonite and grows to gargantuan size at the altar. Realists and perverts may wonder how she stays in her wedding dress as she sprouts, but, hey, this is a children's film.
Before you can say "Big Brother," Susan gets captured by the U.S. government and placed in a giant cell where the other monsters have been imprisoned as "secret weapons." They get released in the event Earth faces annihilation.
To flesh out their characters, the monsters receive back stories told through black-and-white news clips. While they're not likely to grace the cover of GQ, they're all decent types who value friendship rather than craving blood, guts and disassembled limbs.
Susan will eventually learn the benefits of this camaraderie.
But first she and her fellow monsters have to save Earth from annihilation. It seems a very unpleasant four-eyed, squid-like alien named Gallaxhar (voice of Rainn Wilson) wants to get his tentacles on the quantonium in order to promote world peace. No, wait, he really wants to become an all-powerful destructive force. He sends a robot to Earth on a exploratory mission. The robot then proceeds to wreak havoc on San Francisco. Can Susan find her inner monster in time to defeat the pesky automaton?
The remainder of the film has Susan and the monsters teaming up to try to thwart Gallaxhar.
The film benefits mightily from its all-star vocal talent. Casting the cute, perky Witherspoon as a butt-kicking behemoth is inspired. However, the real scene-stealer here is Rogen as the gelatinous B.O.B. His name stands for bicarbonate ostylezene benzoate, but you already knew that. Anyway, B.O.B. isn't very bright and this Bob takes exception to that. Nevertheless, his dimwittedness provides most of the movie's laughs. He even tries to date a plate of Jell-O. The screenplay, written by committee, comes from the vaudeville school of copious rapidfire, lowbrow jokes. More scores than misses here.
Directors Rob how comes he's not called Bob? Letterman ("Shark Tale") and Conrad Vernon ("Shrek 2") keep the action at a high-octane level, though the film lacks the imaginative zing that elevates Pixar fare to Oscar heights.
Particularly disappointing are the 3-D effects. Very ho-hum. Literalists may also wonder where the aliens are. There's really only one unless you include Gallaxhar's robot. The monsters could be accused of piling on. More humor not to mention drama could have resulted if each monster battled a different alien. As it is, Susan, excuse me, Ginormica handles most of the heroic duties.
Despite these flaws, "Monsters vs. Aliens" has enough goofiness to keep children entertained and enough cleverness to keep adults amused. All that's missing are the killer tomatoes.
The film opens tomorrow.
"Monsters vs. Aliens"
Featuring the voices of Reese Witherspoon, Seth Rogen, Will Arnett and Hugh Laurie
Rated PG (for sci-action, some crude humor and mild language), 94 minutes
Directed by Rob Letterman and Conrad Vernon
The MetroWest Daily News