“Monsters vs. Aliens”
At Quality 16 and Showcase
Dreamworks Pictures

3.5 out of 5 stars

“Monsters vs. Aliens” has been surrounded by hype, expectations abounding that it will help usher in the re-emergence of 3-D film as a credible art form. And while the end result is a film that certainly looks amazing, it suffers a bit from lack of creativity.

Susan Murphy (Reese Witherspoon, “Legally Blonde”) was just an average woman — that is, until she was hit by a meteor on her wedding day, causing her to grow into a giant. After the government captures her, she is placed into a holding facility along with several other government-captured monsters: Dr. Cockroach Ph.D. (Hugh Laurie, TV’s “House”), The Missing Link (Will Arnett, TV’s “Arrested Development”), B.O.B. (Seth Rogen, “Knocked Up”) and a gigantic caterpillar known as Insectosaurus who only speaks bug.

Earth soon comes under attack by the evil alien genius Gallaxhar (Rainn Wilson of TV’s “The Office”), who’s bent on world domination, and it’s up to the monsters to save the day. Of course, there are lessons to be learned along the way: Believe in yourself, friendship is the most important thing in the world, appreciate everyone for their differences, etc.

Unfortunately for “Monsters vs. Aliens,” the action and lessons have all been done before (and done better too). “Monsters” comes off as a retread of DreamWork’s successful “Shrek” movies, except with aliens. And more monsters.

But the film has plenty of spunk to make up for what it lacks in originality. In particular, the moments where the monsters are just hanging out, playing cards and talking with each other are hilarious. But when the action scenes arrive, they’re mostly a letdown — the audience deserves more time to get to know the monsters.

The risk of using 3-D in almost any film is the potential of looking campy or resorting to cliché gags (like throwing pies in its audience’s faces), but that doesn’t happen here. The look of the film isn’t just a concept — it actually enhances the movie. Everything looks crisp, and the 3-D really helps certain scenes pop. One can’t help but be amazed by the technology displayed here and think that 3-D films have certainly come a long way.

“Monsters vs. Aliens” also benefits from having an amazingly star-studded cast. Any film that can get Kiefer Sutherland (TV’s “24”) to voice a violence-crazed General and Stephen Colbert to play a bumbling President of the United States can’t be bad. Although it’s doubtful that small children know — or care — who Seth Rogen is, teenage and adult audiences will certainly appreciate hearing his signature laugh coming from a blue pile of ooze.

An animated movie is truly successful when it can entertain audiences of both young and old, and “Monsters” certainly can. Children will be blown away by the eye-catching 3-D effects, and older audiences can enjoy the sardonic, if not entirely sophisticated, humor.

DreamWorks may not always be able to hit the ball out of the park like its main competitor, Pixar. The company still has a long way to go before its films really connect with audiences the way, say, “Wall-E” does. But that said, “Monsters vs. Aliens” is an enjoyable and funny film with the added bonus of being amazing to look at.

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