Movie Mom

Movie Mom


Monsters vs. Aliens

posted by Nell Minow
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for sci-fi action, some crude humor and mild language
Profanity:Some crude schoolyard language
Nudity/Sex:Potty humor
Alcohol/Drugs:None
Violence/Scariness:Action and cartoon violence, characters in peril, tension, lots of explosions, guns, apparent death of character
Diversity Issues:A theme of the movie
Movie Release Date:March 27, 2009
DVD Release Date:September 29, 2009

An expert blend of silly fun, action that is mostly more exciting than scary, a few clever barbs, and some wow-worthy visuals make “Monsters vs. Aliens” the best family film in months.

“You’re glowing,” says the groom to his bride as they are about to be married.” And she is, but not in a good way. Exposed to a meteor just before the ceremony, Susan (voice of Reese Witherspoon) has a greenish glow. And then she starts to grow. Before she can say, “I do,” Susan is suddenly 50 feet tall. And before she can say, “How did I get to be 50 feet tall,” she is whisked away to a secret government compound for monsters where she quickly becomes a sort of house mother for a motley crew of assorted mutants, turning into a sort of cross between Alice in Wonderland in her giant mode, Snow White with the dwarfs, and Mary Ann with Gilligan, the Professor, and the gang.

Susan’s fellow monsters amusingly cover the full range of of B-movie monster origins. We have “The Fly”-style one mad scientist who became the victim of his own experiment with insects and turned into Dr. Cockroach, Phd (voice of “House’s” Hugh Laurie), one “Creature from the Black Lagoon”-style Missing Link thawed out of an arctic ice floe centuries after all others from his species had become extinct (voice of “Arrested Development’s” Will Arnett), and a giant bug (a la “Them” or “Mothra”). And then there is my favorite, Bicarbonate Ostylezene Benzoate, known as BOB (voice of Seth Rogan), a brainless but genial one-eyed gelatinous ooze along the lines of “The Blob.” These monsters are isolated as a matter of national security until an even bigger threat comes along. If you’ve heard the title, you know that it is aliens — or rather, one alien named Gallaxhar (voice of Rainn Wilson of “The Office”). He plans to take over earth. The monsters are the only hope of saving it.

It was filmed in digital 3D, in part an homage to the cheesy sci-fi films of the 50′s. It begins with the usual 3D trick as a bored technician plays paddleball and the ball on the elastic band seems to stop just short of our noses. But after that, the effects are more subtle and immersive. The animators have literally gone to unprecedented lengths — it almost feels as though we can touch objects that go back the length of a football field. The scenes are brilliantly designed to make the most of the 3D technology and the action scenes, particularly one on the Golden Gate Bridge, are as immediate and involving as any big summer explosion-fest. The story is fast-paced and funny, with many knowing references to classic sci-fi and a solid story of friendship and self-realization. The voices are all excellent, especially Stephen Colbert as the dim-witted President, Witherspoon’s Susan, who remains very real and human even after she becomes what the government christens Ginormica, and Laurie’s cockroach, who has the manners of a butler and the laugh of a mad scientist. And Wilson hits just the right note of petulance to keep the alien from being too menacing.

But the graphic character design is uneven. As with most animated films, the humans are often stiff and artificial. The big bug, the cockroach, and the Link are not particularly engaging. BOB, however, is simply sensational. Rogan’s husky voice and unabashed cheery laugh is a perfect match for the animated marvel of a big blue gooey thing that is endlessly pliant and effortlessly resilient. More than any other part of the movie, this charmingly silly little character shows what this technology is capable of, when the script has a great character to put on screen. In the battle between monsters and aliens, it is this little blue monster who saves the day.



  • Your Name

    i thought this movie was a real yawner, too loud, needless violence and almost no charm. a waste of money.

  • Your Name

    Nell, we read your reviews before going to any family movie. I was surprised that you set the audience on this at 4th to 6th grades. My son is in kindergarten and is one of the few in his class who have not seen it. Apparently, the marketing has been directed at this younger crowd, too. Obviously, that marketing leaves out the “cartoon violence, characters in peril, tension, lots of explosions, guns, the apparent death of character, tense confrontations (mostly silly but a bit scary), some potty humor, brief implied nudity, and some crude schoolyard language.”
    Thank you for being on watch for us!

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    That’s exactly what I hope for! Many thanks.

  • Adam

    So, is this movie too much for a kindergartener?

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    It depends on the kindergartner, Adam. Some will be fine with it, but others may find the zapping and peril too scary, especially in 3D. This one is really a judgment call for the parent. One of my kids would have been fine with it at age 5 but the other would not have until about age 8.

  • Cindy

    My 4 year old superhero loving son thought this movie was terrific. He loved all the action and excitement, although I think some of the plot went over his head. The teen and adults in our group, however, thought is was a yawner and couldn’t wait for it to be over.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks, Cindy! I liked this one but have heard that many people did not. I really appreciate the feedback.

  • stephanie

    I recently watched this movie with my husband and our 2 and 4 year olds. They loved the movie, but I was quite irritated that it was marketed to such a young age ( we have Happy Meal toys from this movie). I specifically wondered why the scene with the boy and girl who are “parking” was put in a movie directed at young children. My boys, of course, didn’t pay it any attention or understand it, but it makes me wonder why every children’s movie has to contain scenes such as this. Why can’t the movies be innocent, like the children they are made for are supposed to be? This is the sort of thing that over time desensitizes people to immoral behavior.

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