DoNotWant: Monsters vs. Aliens.

June 18, 2009

Ah, Dreamworks, how ye have fallen.

I remember, way back in the day, when you used to be a respectable movie-making company.  Back in the days before you discovered CGI, remember?  Back when you were still making films like The Prince of Egypt and The Road to El Dorado.

Those movies… they were classics.  Funny (El Dorado), inspiring (Egypt), mostly-timeless incredible pieces of cinematography (both).  No, they weren’t the most “hip” things ever.  And they certainly weren’t up to Disney’s level, but not for want of quality.  You guys made some fine movies.

Then came Shrek.

The great thing about Shrek was that it was different.  It took a classic fantasy world, turned it on its head, then blended it with the modern world to create a unique, entertaining and seamlessly brilliant piece of work.  It was an instant hit, and with good reason – it was complete genius.  No movie could ever have been its equal.

Especially not the shameless rip-offs you guys have been producing ever since.

Yeah, I’m not blind to what you’ve been doing.  In your greed for cash, you’ve decided that the only solution is to reproduce everything that you thought we loved about Shrek, then wrap it in a new package and cram it down our throats.  Shark Tale? Shrek underwater.  Madagascar? Shrek on a deserted island.  Shrek 2 & 3? I think they speak for themselves.

The latest piece of crap you throw at us is Monsters vs. Aliens, a.k.a. Shrek with a Female Lead. And you’ve fallen into the exact same pitfalls.  Good story?  Check.  Star-studded cast?  Check.  Decent acting?  Strong script?  Houston, we have a problem…

Monsters vs. Aliens could have been so much better than it was.  It starts out with a good premise.  It carries it with an awesome cast.  But that is as far as it gets.  The script – which would have made a great first draft – is shaky and weak, and soon collapses under the weight of its own pop-culture references.  The characters, with the exception of Susan, feel flat and unrealistic.  Dr. Cockroach is supposedly a human scientist who mutated himself in an accident many years ago – except that he acts like he’s been a roach-man his entire life, and that life seems to have started maybe two weeks ago (during which time he learned modern dance moves and the expression “OMG”).  Link is even worse, with no obvious motivation even to live – he gets a passing reference to a fitness obsession, but this is treated like a throwaway gag.  At least Bob and Insectosaur, being inherently mindless characters, have a good reason – but none of the characters manage to feel like anything more than wall decoration.

And then there’s the acting.  Oooohhhhh, the acting. As I said before, the movie has a decent story – the tale of a young woman whose (personal) world is effectively destroyed on her wedding day, and who must learn to cope.  Unfortunately, she also lives in an alternate reality where all humans are obnoxious, overacting Pixar ripoffs – a common flaw in Dreamworks’ CGI films.  The characters speak as though they’re under a time limit – presumably because every character feels the need to supply a witty line in EVERY scene – and Susan’s voice is almost unbearably shrill.  The film, whose success seems to ride largely on its incredible cast, manages to distort every actor into a mangled, barely-recognizable caricature of themselves – to say nothing of the visual designs.

I know you guys can do better than this.  You did Sinbad – a silly but largely entertaining piece of work – and you did Kung Fu Panda, for goodness’ sake.  Admittedly, the latter falls into many of the same pitfalls as MvA, but you pulled it off.  Probably because it was set in a fantasy world where realism would have required the characters to speak Chinese.

Here, you were dealing with our world, our time period, and our people.  And, in your overzealous efforts to make the film accessable to the Blu-Ray generation, you blew it.  You took an incredible story and turned it into a shallow, largely pointless waste of an hour and a half.



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