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Monsters vs. Aliens Stomps Out the Competition

Cornelius Rogers | Monday, March 30, 2009

“Monsters vs. Aliens” oozed its way to number one at the box office this weekend. Dreamworks’ latest computer-animated hit focuses on a group of monsters assembled by the U.S. military to stop an alien invasion. The film features voices by typical comedy stars (Will Arnett, Stephen Colbert, Seth Rogen, Rainn Wilson) and others one would not expect (Kiefer Sutherland, Reese Witherspoon, Hugh Laurie). The film is co-directed by two relative newcomers Rob Letterman and Conrad Vernon, whose only claims to fame are “Shark Tale” and “Shrek 2” respectively. “Monsters vs. Aliens” is an upbeat light-hearted comedy that is sure to delight viewers of all ages. A large chunk of the laughs in the film come from Seth Rogen’s performance as a brainless blue blob, aptly named B.O.B. His lack of a brain allows for mindless humor to pervade throughout the film. His antics bounce (pun intended) from the sheer puerility of forgetting how to breathe to a scene where he flirts with a gelatin dessert. Adding to the comedy is Laurie as a mad scientist cockroach complete with a menacing laugh, and Will Arnett as an aquatic monster reminiscent of the Creature from the Black Lagoon.Supplementing the antics of B.O.B. is the satire of American politics and bureaucracy that runs throughout the film. A belligerent general is cleverly named W.R. Monger (a wordplay on warmonger). The president is portrayed as even more mindless than B.O.B. Throughout the film he screams like girl, mistakes the button that launches nuclear warfare for a coffee machine, and orders a lieutenant to literally “do something violent.” The film also incorporates several pop culture references, including global warming and a parody of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”Where the film falls short is in its story. To say the plotline of the film is predictable is a gross understatement. (At this point I would say spoiler alert for anyone who hasn’t seen the movie, but there is not much to spoil.) The protagonist Susan Murphy (Witherspoon), after being hit by a meteor, is forced to deal with the consequences of being larger than life. At first she refuses to accept her new way of life, but eventually she learns to embrace that she is different and teams up with other monsters to save the world from an alien and his robot. There is also a smaller plotline of Susan’s husband who is more concerned with himself than her. Even though it only takes the viewer a few minutes to realize this, the protagonist does not come to this conclusion until the end of the film. Viewers expecting any plot twists from this movie will surely be disappointed. As for the 3-D animation, I am unable to pass judgment on it because I viewed the film on a regular movie screen. Yet it did look like Dreamworks was making a very conscious effort to demonstrate their technical proficiency. In the first few minutes, the viewer is bombarded with meteors and paddleballs aimed right at the screen. If the 3-D is worth any bang for its buck, then an explosion scene towards the end of the film is sure to send viewers ducking for cover. Ultimately the film will please most viewers of all ages. Children will delight in the animation and the slapstick humor. Teens are sure to pick up on the many pop culture references. And adults can feel like a kid again and yet appreciate the political satire. While the film may not be anything out of this world, its lighthearted comedic tone will appeal to a monster-sized audience.