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Monsters vs Aliens

(2009) ** 1/2 Pg
94 min. DreamWorks/Paramount. Directors: Rob Letterman, Conrad Vernon. Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Hugh Laurie, Seth Rogen, Will Arnett, Kiefer Sutherland, Rainn Wilson, Paul Rudd, Stephen Colbert, Renee Zellweger, John Krasinski, Jeffrey Tambor.

/content/films/3377/1.jpgIn the case of Monsters v. Aliens--henceforth to be referred to as Monsters Vs Aliens--we find in favor of monsters. Said monsters are the heroes of the latest DreamWorks Animation release, rendered in CGI and presented in 3D: with a little luck, the ruling will hold, and four-eyed, six-tentacled aliens will not be our masters forthwith.

The parties involved in this sci-fi-themed action comedy include Susan Murphy (voiced by Reese Witherspoon), whose transformation from a petite bride into a fifty-foot-tall woman (alias Ginormica) we witness. Though no one else will go on record as to this point, Murphy stipulates the existence of four other government-sequestered monsters: lagoon-creature The Missing Link (Will Arnett), insectoid mad scientist Dr. Cockroach (Hugh Laurie), blob B.O.B. (Seth Rogen) and the Godzilla-meets-a-hamster creature Insectosaurus. Entered into evidence: footage of the fantastic five, as it were, doing battle with said four-eyed, six-tentactled alien overlord Gallaxhar (Rainn Wilson), whose nefarious intentions--to wit, world domination--this court denounces.

This court is most impressed by the testimony of government representatives General W.R. Monger (Kiefer Sutherland) and President Hathaway (Stephen Colbert, of course), though the gallery’s uproar was reserved for the introduction of overwhelming audio-visual evidence in the form of flash, dazzle, and pop culture references. Though much of this evidence was inadmissible, the kids sure loved it. The identity of the parties in the case has been called into question, with opposing counsel arguing that they appear to be Mars Attacks! and Men in Black rather than the named parties in the case Monsters vs Aliens. The prosecutorial evidence is compelling but not conclusive.

Prosecutors further suggested the “spot the reference” nature of the case threatens to make a mockery of ’50s science-fiction tropes, like some sort of Mad magazine for parents (President Hathaway indeed bears a strong resemblance to a Dave Berg character), and went on to claim that even a child could recognize the ripped-off plot point (or as defense attorneys noted, “homage”) from The Wizard of Oz. Lastly, prosecutorial arguments insisted the case brought on significant fatigue rather than heartening encouragement.

However, this court ultimately finds in favor of those darn monsters. Why, they’re so cute (if not exactly cuddly). Especially that B.O.B., who has no brain, but affirms, “Turns out, you don’t need one.” Delightful! The most compelling argument is not the sci-fi hoohah or even the three-dimensionally protuberant, fast-paced imagery. Rather, the coup de grace comes in the form of Ginormica, a clever metaphor of figurative and literal female empowerment. Susan grows into herself by learning to embrace her powers, fly her freak flag, and proudly stand alongside her fellow defendants, who, in turn, defend us from alien invaders. Plus there’s lots of explosions. Case closed.

[This review first appeared in Palo Alto Weekly.]

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