Sinister aliens and one ginormous girl
More so than Pixar, DreamWorks culls its casts from the biggest names in Hollywood, from Mike Myers to Jerry Seinfeld. Monsters vs. Aliens is no exception. In addition to leading lady Reese Witherspoon, the list of voice actors includes Hugh Laurie, Stephen Colbert and everyone’s favorites from “The Office,” “Arrested Development” and Judd Apatow movies - all three of which inspire cult followings among the 20-something set.
With such a lineup, Monsters vs. Aliens looked poised to hit it out of the ballpark. But as awesome as it is to see a Colbert presidency come to life, or to hear Kiefer Sutherland as a protocol-supporting general (sooo not Jack Bauer of him), Monsters vs. Aliens is a pretty shallow movie.
Reese Witherspoon carries the bulk of the film as Susan Murphy, an average bride-to-be who undergoes “Alice in Wonderland”-esque growth when she’s accidentally exposed to an alien substance. Dubbed “Ginormica,” she’s locked up in a secret government compound of fellow monsters, including the gelatinous B.O.B. (Seth Rogen), Dr. Cockroach (Hugh Laurie) and The Missing Link (Will Arnett).
Horrified, homesick and heartbroken, Susan wants nothing more than to return to her normal life with her family and fiance Derek (Paul Rudd) - that is, until a sinister alien warlord wreaks havoc on San Francisco in order to reclaim the alien substance that’s turned Susan into Ginormica. As she realizes her power, Susan begins to own her identity as Ginormica, saving innocent San Franciscans and relishing her new exceptionality.
Breaking away from the ordinary to become extraordinary is a noble, if hackneyed, message, and Susan is certainly a worthy do-gooder heroine. But the character, despite being voiced by one of the most expressive, charming voices in the industry, is one-dimensional. Susan’s embrace of her “monster” self comes rather easily, and she’s too quick to realize that Derek is just a selfish jerk upon their reunion. In a more vivacious performance in “Legally Blonde,” Witherspoon’s spurned Elle Woods went through the whole movie before coming to a similar conclusion about her ex. This film, on the other hand, just glosses over the pain that comes with such a catastrophe. A Pixar piece would have closely examined such emotional conflict.
There are a few chuckles to be had in Monsters vs. Aliens, but none that will stay with you. It’s almost as if it’s trying too hard to appeal to too wide an audience. With a joke for the kiddies here, and then a naughty wink for the grown-ups there, it just never goes far enough in one direction to get truly wickedly funny. The same goes for the cast as a whole. With so much talent on the audio track, it’s impossible for anyone to really shine through.
In the end, the film is a lot like a large puff pastry - it’s made to be sweet, blown up by its big names and slick production, but it’s ultimately hollow inside.
Monsters vs. Aliens
Animation, Sci-Fi / English
By Hannah Bae Contributing writer [email@example.com]