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Monsters vs. Aliens

Review Written by: Estefan Ellison
Film: B-

Directed by: Rob Letterman and Conrad Vernon
Written by: Rob Letterman, Maya Forbes, Wallace Wolodarsky, Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger
Produced by: Lisa Stewart
Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Hugh Laurie, Seth Rogen, Will Arnett, Kiefer Sutherland, Rainn Wilson, Stephen Colbert, Paul Rudd
Studio: DreamWorks Pictures

Animation is a wonderful medium that allows us to create worlds and creatures that would not be possible in the realm of live-action filmmaking. However, like in live-action, the most important aspect in animation is the story. No matter how fantastic your visuals will be or how funny and multi-generational your jokes are, if your script is not up to snuff, your film is going to be simply average. Featuring an all-star cast of talented film and television actors, Monsters vs. Aliens is similar to an amusement park ride. You have fun while on it, it all passes by very quickly and then you forget about it some moments later as you go on the next ride.

When a planet explodes and a metorite enters the Earth's atmosphere, Susan Murphy (Reese Witherspoon) comes in contact with it and soon she grows into a giant. Naturally, she is caught by the government and detained in a top-secret building with other monsters: a scientist who experienced a botched experiment to give people the live-span of cockroaches (Hugh Laurie), a gelatinous blob with no brain (Seth Rogen), a playboy fish-ape hybrid (Will Arnett) and finally, the chemically-altered Insectosaurus. When an alien leader Galaxaar (Rainn Wilson) attacks the planet, the President (Stephen Colbert) calls upon this group of monsters to help save the day.

Monsters vs. Aliens just feels like a fun excuse to show off some impressive visuals, but without a concrete story, it's hard to care for the main characters or their quest to save the world. Susan is quite under-developed and I didn't feel much emotion for her character in the same way I did for, say, Stitch (from another animated science-fiction comedy Lilo & Stitch) or last year's Wall-E. The best aspect of the film is B.O.B. Seth Rogen does a great job in the role and even when he's not saying anything or when the scene is not centered on him, the character's facial expressions are hilarious to watch. Stephen Colbert also does some funny work as the President of the United States (the role he was pretty much born to play). The rest of the actors do good jobs, but nothing quite impressive. Had a professional voice actor like Jim Cummings and Tress McNeille taken on those roles, they would have knocked them out of the park.

In any case, the film has enough good humour and well out-together action sequences that the audience will not be bored by it and Monsters vs. Aliens feels half as long as the advertised running time. However, some added character development would have helped the film from being just another run-of-the-mill DreamWorks animated comedy. While certainly better than the likes of Shark Tale or Madagascar, it doesn't reach the heights of their other comedies, most notably Shrek and Bee Movie. Monsters vs. Aliens is a good enough for a rental or a cheap matinee screening, but paying extra for the 3-D glasses isn't a good investment for such an adequate product.

The Missing Link, Ginormica and B.O.B are just three of the monsters featured in Monsters vs. Aliens.
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