So, I got to go to a preview screening of "Monsters vs. Aliens" last night. I've been seeing the trailers for the past few weeks, thought it looked funny & was very excited to see it. Unfortunately, this is one of those movies where the individual parts are better than the whole.
The film takes way too long setting up it's premise & introducing the characters. Once Susan (the 49 1/2 foot tall woman, voiced by Reese Witherspoon) is locked up with the other monsters, it's explained to her by General W. R. Monger (Keifer Sutherland) that the government has been capturing and containing monsters for 50 years. Ten minutes later, when the earth is invaded by a probe from space, General Monger explains to the President (Stephen Colbert in a glorified cameo) that the government has been capturing and containing monsters for 50 years. You know, just in case anyone in the audience was suffering from that "Memento" short-term memory loss thing & forgot the speech they just heard.
The kids in the audience (at least the ones last night) aren't going to care about Susan's relationship woes with obnoxious fiancee Derek (Paul Rudd at his smarmiest). I know I didn't care about them. And with all the strong, empowered female characters available today, having a heroine who spends half the movie crying about how awful it is being different sends a troubling message. Yes, Susan does learn to accept & overcome, but it takes far too long for anyone to care.
Worse, the interesting supporting monsters, Dr. Cockroach, Bob & The Missing Link wind up basically becoming a Greek chorus/cheering section for Susan. They never get a chance to become truly rounded characters, outside of a few moments of glory. Which is a shame, because they're a lot of fun and wickedly voiced by Hugh Laurie, Seth Rogen and Will Arnett.
I know, I know, "It's a kid's movie. You're being too hard on it." I don't think I am. Kid's movies today (especially one with so many homages to classic science fiction films of the past 50 years) have gotten so much smarter and strive to be so much more, that "Monsters vs. Aliens" feels like a missed opportunity. Which is a shame, since I think it wanted to be so much more than it turned out to be.