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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Monsters vs. Aliens (***)


Color me surprised by how good and how much fun Monsters vs. Aliens is. I've long held a "No CGI cartoon movies not made by Pixar" policy, but last year's Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs just about blew me away with its quality. Monsters vs. Aliens isn't quite in its league, nor the equal of Up, but it's very enjoyable as pure entertainment. Reese Witherspoon leads an all-star voice cast as Susan, who grows into a fifty foot tall woman after being exposed to a radioactive alien meteorite. Imprisoned by the US Government and renamed Ginormica, Susan and her fellow monsters, the mad scientist Dr. Cockroach Ph.D. (Hugh Laurie), fish monster The Missing Link (Will Arnett), and the horrible gelatinous blob B.O.B. (Seth Rogen), are soon called upon to halt an alien invasion. Rainn Wilson provides the voice of the alien conqueror Gallaxhar. The screenplay is a go-for-broke crackerjack of witty dialogue and B-monster movie inspired action beats. There are also odes to E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and the "Axl F" theme from Beverly Hills Cop for no reason other than it's cool. The animation is terrific and the characters are remarkably expressive. Witherspoon is excellent; her performance is probably her best overall since Election, as Susan learns to accept and even prefer bring Ginormica. She and her fellow monsters become empowered to save the world and more importantly, earn a little respect. Arnett delivers a remarkably nuanced performance as the fish monster; he has the best dialogue and positively kills it. In a good way, not in a monstrous way.