Crazy Creatures

The funny 'Monsters vs. Aliens' edges DreamWorks ever closer to Pixar territory

Monsters vs. Aliens is a clever mishmash of '50s-style alien-invasion/monster movies and modern-day CGI animation. It possesses a terrifically offbeat sense of humor, creating endearing characters out of stuff like the Blob and gigantic caterpillars.

It is also sharp, crisp 3-D entertainment for those of you near the theaters that are offering the 3-D option (including the AMC Loews Foothills 15, the Century Theatres at El Con and Park Place, the Harkins Tucson Spectrum 18 and the Tower Theatres at Arizona Pavilions).

Susan (the voice of Reese Witherspoon) is getting set for her marriage to Derek (Paul Rudd), an egocentric weatherman, when she winds up underneath a meteor from outer space. After dusting herself off, she arrives at the wedding literally glowing, and experiences a growth spurt that does serious damage to the church. Measuring in at nearly 50 feet tall, she winds up at a government compound, where she is dubbed Ginormica and must room with a series of freaks who have been collected over the years.

There's Dr. Cockroach Ph.D. (Hugh Laurie), an obvious tribute to The Fly. The Missing Link (Will Arnett) has physical similarities to the thing from Creature From the Black Lagoon, but rather than dragging people down to their aquatic deaths, he just wants people to like him. Then there's my personal favorite, B.O.B. (hilariously voiced by Seth Rogen), a blue, harmless version of the Blob, the former movie nemesis of Steve McQueen.

As it turns out, the element that has turned Susan into Ginormica is coveted by an alien race. Gallaxhar (Rainn Wilson) seeks to extract the precious energy source from Susan and then take over the world. Therefore, Gen. W.R. Monger (Kiefer Sutherland, having some obvious fun), under orders from the president (a perfectly cast Stephen Colbert), pits their monsters versus the aliens.

The first confrontation takes place in San Francisco, where Ginormica wages an impressive battle against a giant alien robotic probe. At one point, she's wearing cars as roller skates, taking on San Francisco's many hills at perilous speeds. The sequence ends on the Golden Gate Bridge in a scene of mass destruction that reminds of the Godzilla movies of old. This section represents the 3-D effects at their best; the bridge collapsing into the water below is very well-done (and sort of scary).

The movie, from the DreamWorks animation factory, looks impressive. It's not as good as some of Pixar's greater works, but it's a cut above the last couple of Shrek films and much better than garbage like Space Chimps. The writers have a blast referencing everything from Close Encounters of the Third Kind to E.T. with their jokes, and I often found myself laughing hard. There's a weather scroll during a televised newscast that got something akin to a guffaw out of me.

Rogen gets special notice for what is becoming a nice side career. He has voiced four great animated characters in the last two years, including Hogsqueal in the unjustly overlooked The Spiderwick Chronicles and Morton in Horton Hears a Who! Rogen calls upon his stoner chuckle for many moments with B.O.B., a gloriously unaware character. The actor is a tremendous improviser, and I have to think some of the crazy stuff B.O.B. says must've sprung from Rogen's mind.

This one is ripe for sequels, and I'd be happy to see the monster squad going to work against new alien forces in future installments. I especially recommend the 3-D version; it might cost a little more, but you'll get a lot of bang for that extra buck.

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