DreamWorks’ 2009 film Monsters vs Aliens is a film that the entire family can enjoy. Such is the case with most animated movies but there’s something about this film that makes it different. Perhaps the thing that makes MvA different is the fact that there are so many different jokes that are aimed squarely at adults. It’s obvious why it was given a PG-rating instead of a G-rating. Despite the more adult content, it works as a film because of the sharp writing and the voice talent as well as the unique premise.
When Susan (Reese Witherspoon) is struck by a meteor on her wedding day, she turns into a white-haired 50-foot woman. She is renamed Ginormica after she is captured by the U.S. government and imprisoned with four other monsters. B.O.B (Seth Rogen) is the result of an experiment at a snack factory and the poor guy doesn’t have a brain. The Missing Link (Will Arnett) is a 2000-year-old fish man who was unearthed and thawed out who proceeded to wreak havoc on a beach full of co-eds on spring break. Dr. Cockroach (Hugh Laurie) merged his DNA with that of a cockroach, ala The Fly but far less gruesome, and tends to be billed as an evil scientist. The four of them have no hope of seeing the outside world again until Gallaxhar (Rainn Wilson) sends down an alien robot for the substance that made Susan large. Under the protection of General W.R. Monger (Kiefer Sutherland), the four monsters fight the aliens and learn their place in the world.
What really impresses me about MvA is there are a whopping five screenwriters credited with the creation of the script. Typically, that many people attached to a script can only spell trouble. Maya Forbes, Wallace Wolodarsky, Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger, and Rob Letterman, who also served as co-director, manage to create a cohesive story that entertains and plays well to laughs. There are so many allusions to other films in this movie. The President plays the jingle from Close Encounters of the Third Kind when the alien ship crash lands near San Francisco. Dr. Cockroach, as mentioned earlier, is a nod to Seth Brundle from The Fly. There are others but I don’t want to make this review a list of allusions. Basically, the writers managed to shove a whole bunch of Easter eggs into their film while also keeping the dialogue sparkling and engaging yet simple enough to appeal to children.
Laurie, Witherspoon, Rogen, Arnett, and Wilson are all comedy giants in their respective fields. While Witherspoon has since moved away from comedy, and so has Laurie, their chops are on full display here. No doubt, a lot of the credit goes to the talented writers but without the impeccable timing the cast posses, the writing, and performances, would have fallen flat but they don’t. If anything, this comedic team and their performances far outpace anything Disney released in 2009 which is saying something coming from DreamWorks whose biggest hits can easily be narrowed down to Shrek and How to Train Your Dragon.
The last thing that really made MvA a hit, in my book, was the premise. The audience has seen Universal’s monster movies. Most of the time, the monsters are kept apart from each other and given their own franchise. This time, the monsters (which I just realized are all riffs of the classic monster movies such as The Blob and The Fly and The Creature from the Black Lagoon) come together to defeat the alien and save the world. Typically, it’s the humans against the monsters and the aliens and I thought MvA’s answer to that was well done and different than anything I’ve seen before.
In that vein, the world and the audience deserves more films with unique concepts like Monsters vs Aliens. Not only that, I think children and adults alike need films that they can appreciate together. MvA is that film and sadly, I’ve not seen anything else like it since its release.
Now, when are we going to get a sequel that features the team in Paris? Anyone? Bueller?
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