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Monsters vs. Aliens
Directed by Rob Letterman and Conrad Vernon
by Tony Sheppard
This is an interesting release for Sacramento, for a couple of reasons. For starters, it’s set in California, with the initial action taking place in the Central Valley and the climax in San Francisco. But it’s also a bit of a departure from the established norm in this market, in that it’s being released in 3D on the giant IMAX screen on the same day as it hits the multiplexes – so you can pick your format without having to wait.
Susan (voiced by Reese Witherspoon) lives in Modesto, where she’s about to marry the local TV weatherman Derek (Paul Rudd). Derek is waiting to expand his horizons with a move to an anchor position in the larger Fresno market, but he isn’t quite ready for Susan’s expansion into giant womanhood, brought on by a direct meteor strike on their wedding day. Naturally, the newly enormous Susan is captured by the military, who house her with an odd assortment of previously found monsters, including a genius man/cockroach, an amorphous blue blob, an evolutionary missing link (Link), and a giant insect larva. The last of these is the least well developed, but also the subject of a cute running joke that has it guided around by a bright light suspended from a helicopter.
The monsters seem destined for a life of containment until a megalomaniacal alien arrives, intent on recovering the powerful substance from the meteor that has given Susan her strength and size. The basic story is very much geared towards children, with an interesting mix of animation that includes realistic objects such as chairs, tables, and machinery, but also very generically cartoony vehicles (unlike the perfect rendition of a VW Beetle in the recent “Coraline”).
Hidden within the kids’ storyline are a few small nuggets of humor for the adults, including stabs at San Francisco’s Tenderloin district and outsourcing to India. At one point, Link ponders whether the earth has become warmer and refers to what he perceives to be a desirable warming trend as a “convenient truth.” The movie also offers some appeal to older siblings by having the President voiced by Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert – who is also in the news this week for winning the popular vote in the bid to name a room on the international space station.
“Monsters vs. Aliens” is a fun ride for younger kids, and is just amusing enough to keep the rest of the family entertained. There are several scenes that are set up to benefit from the 3D effects, but the basic appeal of the movie would be preserved in 2D. That said, some of the multiplexes have a surcharge for 3D screenings that cut the price differential compared to the IMAX – so it’s mostly a matter of taste and magnitude.