Third dimension saves 'Monsters'

Monsters vs. Aliens: B-

Third dimension saves 'Monsters'
BURNING BRIDGES - After being shunned and isolated by the rest of society, the president calls on several monsters to save the day and fight against invading aliens. Voiced by an all-star cast, including Reese Witherspoon, Hugh Laurie, Seth Rogen and Rain

"Monsters vs. Aliens" is a relentlessly entertaining, 98-minute thrill ride; pure fluff without any of those pesky life lessons that typically accompany movies aimed at the pre-teen set. Sure, there might have been a few mentions of self-confidence and it's what's inside that counts, but if there's any significant point to be made in the movie, it's that 3-D animation has now reached the capacity to be absolutely mind-blowing.

The plot centrally revolves around the young, love-struck bride-to-be Susan (Reese Witherspoon) who has the unfortunate luck of being hit by a supernaturally endowed meteorite on her wedding day. The reactive compound within the earthbound rock causes Susan to grow to a height just short of 50 feet, and puts a hefty damper on her career-oriented fiancée's (Paul Rudd) vision of a perfect future together. Susan - or as she is later known, Ginormica - is transported to a top-secret military research facility, where she encounters the mad scientist, Dr. Cockroach (Hugh Laurie), a half-ape, half-lizard Missing Link (Will Arnett) and a brainless blue blob, B.O.B. (Seth Rogen). Imprisoned and isolated from society, the monsters are eventually called upon by the president himself (Stephen Colbert) to do battle with a scheming alien (Rainn Wilson) and save Earth from certain destruction.

The monsters themselves are blatant reuses of classic B-movie creations, and much of the movie's humor similarly draws upon a vocabulary developed by previous films of the science fiction and horror genres. Although the movie is restrained by its PG rating and young audience, some of the most humorous moments of the flick come when it begins to take on a more satirical tone toward its Hollywood predecessors. In its entirety, though, the film is lopsided in its ability to bring laughs. Rogen's B.O.B. is the most reliable source of chuckles, though politically-based comedian Colbert as the incapable and nuclear-loving president will bring giggles to adult audience members who are aware of his television persona. Susan's dominance of the plotline detracts from the weight of the surrounding cast, and while Colbert's wacky president and the ham-loving B.O.B. are the most intriguing of the supporting cast, their contributions still fall in Ginormica's sizeable shadow. Although the plot is comprehensive enough, as a whole it is only a weaker mechanism to support the visual splendor that is the real anchor of the picture.

The most significant reason to shell out the money to see "Monsters vs. Aliens" on a big screen is for its flawless use of 3-D technology to fully immerse the audience in its continuous spectacle. The detailed settings and epic battle sequences feel more like a high-budget theme park ride than a wide-release movie. There is only one obvious gag: a character bouncing a rubber paddleball back and forth directly at the camera. But the intricate construction of the outer space sequences and shattering destruction of the Golden Gate Bridge wouldn't be quite so epic in scope without the aid of the added dimension. The success of this movie on 3-D screens should be the final omen for theater owners to heed the domineering re-emergence of the 1950s fad and install the In-Tru 3-D technology. The extensive celebrity cast and massive marketing campaign of "Monsters vs. Aliens" will ensure its box office superiority, but still fail to give any additional weight or significance to its high concept and staggering plot line. Even though the movie casually preaches the morality of looking beyond the surface, it's the shiny exterior of this shallow and alluring product upon which audience members may most effectively revel in.

"Monsters vs. Aliens" hits theaters Friday.

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