“Monster Trucks” is not the worst movie ever made. Considering it was filmed in 2014 before having its release date pushed back at least four times, and considering Paramount has already written it off as a $115 million loss, this is something of a surprise. That’s not to say that “Monster Trucks” is a good or even decent movie; it’s bad, but for a movie that even its distributor expected to be a historic bomb, it’s bearably bad. It’s boring, clichéd and has no entertainment value for anyone over the age of six, but the one thing that can certainly be said for “Monster Trucks” is that it could have been worse.
Lucas Till (“X-Men: Apocalypse”) stars as Tripp Coley, a high schooler who splits his time between working on a monster truck of his own and brooding at the middle distance about “what the oil companies did to this town.” You know, as high schoolers do. After Tripp finds a subterranean creature hiding in a junkyard, he realizes the monster can be used as an engine for his truck, and decides to help it evade the big bad oil men who are hunting it for some reason. To his credit, Till seems to be trying to give something resembling a good performance, but he isn’t given anything to say besides clunky one-liners and even clunkier non-sequiturs.
Helping Tripp along the way is Meredith (Jane Levy, “Don’t Breathe”), his tutor. Throughout the movie, Levy can hardly speak a line without laughing, presumably at the grim reality that she is appearing in “Monster Trucks.” When she isn’t poorly dubbing her lines, she’s longing after Tripp, who shows no interest in her until the power of the folk music-set montage intervenes, thereby marking the two as fated for each other for all to see. It’s all very romantic. The supporting cast is filled out by Rob Lowe (“Parks and Recreation”) playing the evil businessman, Barry Pepper (“The Kennedys”) playing the jerk stepfather, Thomas Lennon (“Transformers: Age of Extinction”) playing the scientist character who is best described as “human C-3PO sans charm” here, and Tucker Albrizzi (“ParaNorman”) playing the nerdy kid who no one wants to hang out with because he is nerdy.
Then comes Creech, the monster in the titular monster truck, who resembles the unholy spawn of an octopus and one of the Rathtars from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” The creature effects actually aren’t that bad until they have to be seen in daylight or interact with anything real, which is unfortunately often. Still, they are practically Oscar-worthy compared to the truly godawful green screen effects on display during the climax.
Honestly, the biggest problem with “Monster Trucks” is that it is simply, egregiously boring. Children in the audience may ooh and aah at Creech, but it’s unlikely they’ll get anything out of the oil company subplot that dominates large parts of the runtime and helps get across the green message. Parents and older audience members will feel similarly stranded by the lack of humor and entertainment value. Aside from an admittedly decent gag involving a wrench early on, the only laughs are unintentional, like a shot of the then-24-year-old Till sitting on a school bus surrounded by actual high schoolers.
Yes, “Monster Trucks” undoubtedly could have been worse, but no, that doesn’t mean it’s anything approaching good. Besides a few decent gags and a lead performer who is desperately trying to save the thing, it has little to entertain kids and even less to entertain teens and adults. As it ends by playing out yet another folk-set montage, this time to Phillip Phillips’s “Home” in case anyone forgot the movie was made three years ago, there is little reason to expect it won’t be forgotten before the car ride home.