Starring: The voices of Reese Witherspoon, Seth Rogen, Hugh
Laurie, Will Arnett, Keifer Sutherland. Rated PG.
When DreamWorks Animation chairman
Jeffrey Katzenberg hit the road recently to show off the groundbreaking 3-D
technology used to make Monsters vs. Aliens, he advocated nothing less than a revolution
full-scale reinvention of the moviegoing experience intended to lure people
back to theaters with the promise of a visually unprecedented communal
experience. His company’s first foray into 3-D delivers just that in the form
of a sly homage to ’50s B-movies like Attack of the 50 Foot Woman and The
Not long ago, the idea that the
future of American cinema could be linked to 3-D – the much-hyped novelty most
often resurrected by floundering franchises (Jaws, A Nightmare on Elm Street) in need of a fix – would have been good for a chuckle. No
longer. As Monsters vs. Aliens
demonstrates, the technology is finally coming into its own, used to create a
dazzlingly lifelike spectacle that seems to jump off the screen and into the
theater beside you.
While Dreamworks has traditionally
played second fiddle in the storytelling department to Pixar, Monsters vs.
Aliens complements its visual brilliance
with an engaging fantasy that owes as much to technology as it does to the era
of simpler, 2-D entertainments.
After a close encounter of the
second kind transforms her into a giant of super-human strength, Susan (voiced
by Reese Witherspoon) is whisked away to a government facility reserved for all
manner of benevolent monsters. Her cellmates include an amorphous blob, infused
with giddy, childlike exuberance by Seth Rogen, and a mad scientist turned
cockroach, inspired by 1958’s The Fly and voiced by House star Hugh Laurie.
Even in an age of near-constant
terror alerts, monsters in America rarely see the light of day, except when
megalomaniacal aliens from a galaxy far, far away set their sights on
conquering earth. Gallaxhar (Rainn Wilson) and his army of Borg-like clones are
more than happy to oblige, giving Susan a perfect excuse to flex her newfound
muscles, with her band of merry mutants in tow. That they destroy the Golden
Gate Bridge in the process of saving the world is perhaps the only downside to
their haphazard plan.
Too little attention is paid to
the actors who lend their vocal cords to movies like Monsters vs. Aliens, but in this
case, recognition is due. Rogen and Wilson,
who seem to be winking at the audience as their comically inept alter egos
dominate the screen, are particularly effective. And Kiefer Sutherland, doing
his best R. Lee Ermey impression, seems perfectly cast as a tough-talking but
surprisingly genial army general.