Dreamworks puts together strong cast for weak movie

3D movies are the wave of the future. Everyone in Hollywood is talking about them: the advances in technology, the endless movie possibilities, and the potential for great cash rewards for the powers that be. Unfortunately, there has yet to be any film using this technology that has really captured the hearts and imaginations of the movie-going public. And while “Monsters vs. Aliens” comes closer to this goal than any previous film (it’s amazing to watch in 3D), it too narrowly misses the mark.
“Monsters vs. Aliens” is just what it sounds like: a bunch of monsters fighting off a bunch of aliens who are trying to take over the world. Yet within that storyline there are some great characters: Susan the 50 foot woman, Dr. Cockroach the mad scientist, Link the amphibious creature (akin to something from the Black Lagoon), B.O.B. the blob, and Insectosaurus the loveable giant insect who roars and secretes stuff out of his nose. Nevertheless it is Susan, the more human one of the group, who is the main focus of the film.
Her character arc from happy bride to freak-of-nature who finds her true strength and happiness is the closest this film comes to a plot that captures the heart of the audience. It still manages to fail, however, in actually making movie viewers care about the major emotional moments. Even worse, Susan’s arc seems downright predictable and is reminiscent of something audiences have seen many times before despite the original framing with monsters.
Perhaps this giant flaw can be laid at the feet of the five screenwriters and the two directors it took to complete this project. Or, much more likely, it can be blamed on the fact that once again Dreamworks is pushing a film based on a concept, not a great plot or great characters. Because in the end that’s what’s at the heart of this film: a gimmick.
If all a movie has to recommend for itself is a few laughs and some incredible new technology, it’s not going to be long remembered (regardless of how amazing that technology is).
And that isn’t to say that there aren’t some great laughs to be found here. Stephen Colbert (“The Colbert Report”) as president is quite amusing with some of the best lines in the movie, not to mention the best scene in the movie involving an “Axel F” riff on a synthesizer. And the clever pop culture references to everything from “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” to “Star Trek” will have the adults in the audience laughing in appreciation.
There are also some great talents cast in the film’s voice roles that actually work well for once, instead of just trying to bring audiences in. Hugh Laurie (“House M.D.”) as Dr. Cockroach has a great time playing the crazed scientist who can create amazing machines out of pizza boxes and legos at a second’s notice. And Seth Rogen (“Pineapple Express”) seems to have finally found the perfect fit for his voice and gravelly laugh with B.O.B. the blue goop creature without a brain.
Yet ultimately all of the fun to be had watching a geek’s science fiction dream come to life on the big screen falls flat. This is certainly no “Shrek” or “Kung Fu Panda,” but at least it is no “Shark Tale” either. Why Dreamworks continues to have this problem with dull plots that fail to engage the audience is one of the great mysteries of the age, but at least they keep trying.