As with the cheerfully vacuous Bolt, Monsters vs Aliens exemplifies the virtues of today’s 3D cinema – eye-popping to watch, leavened with self-referential humour that makes it easy to digest, but also playing things so painstakingly safe that any resonance evaporates the moment the end-credits roll.
The monsters imagined here are a motley crew of freaks and losers based on archetypes of 1950’s sci-fi cinema including The Blob, The Fly and The Creature From The Black Lagoon, namely a blob called BOB (voiced by Seth Rogan), Dr Cockroach (Hugh Laurie) and a reptile/man called The Missing Link (Will Arnett). Into the monsters’ top secret facility comes Susan Murphy (Reese Witherspoon), whose proximity to a fallen meteorite has raised her to just one foot short of a statuesque 50 foot woman, and hence the name Ginormica.
Together with her fellow outcasts, Ginormica soon finds herself pressed into service as mankind’s last hope in a war against the aliens, with ruler Gallaxhar (Rainn Wilson) fielding a variety of interstellar weapons ranging from a huge one-eyed robot to a Heath Robinson-style cloning machine capable of creating an army of little Gallaxhars.
The question eventually posed by Rob Letterman and Conrad Vernon in their accomplished animation is: can the self-doubting but individualist team of monsters overcome the self-confident, mass-produced aliens? With such a meaningless yet potentially entertaining premise, the creators lash out with a barrage of quick-fire gags, which recall the irreverent heyday of Tex Avery. These range from Bob the Blob’s faltering romance with a jelly on a dessert tray to an elaborate parody of the climax of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, with the US president (Stephen Colbert) attempting to make first contact by playing a funked-up version of Harold Faltermayer’s Alex F theme.
General release from Fri 3 Apr.