I went to see Monsters vs. Aliens today, and while I was entertained I couldn't help but think about how much better Pixar's movies are than the ones coming from the other animation studios. At least, that's what I always suspect, as Pixar's are the only ones that I bother to see in the theater, and the others simply never looked interesting enough for me to check out (with the exception of the first Ice Age and the first Shrek). After seeing this one, which was from Dreamworks, my feelings have only been confirmed.
I wrote some time ago about how I enjoy kids movies just as much as I enjoy movies that are for adults. I just tend to like them in different ways. Also, I hate the rationale that a movie can be a piece of crap so long as it's for kids. Why should the expectations go down for kids' movies? Sure, their standards are lower, but why should movies cater to that? Kids will like a smart movie just as much, and what's better, they'll still like them when they get older (as the classic Disney movies have proven).
Now, I wouldn't call Monsters vs. Aliens a piece of crap. After all, it's getting generally good reviews, which is one of the deciding factors behind me going to see it. (The first, and more important, factor is that I simply love the premise. It's so goofy that I just couldn't resist it.) There's also a lot about the story that's pretty good, as it has a pretty positive message. Not only that, but it really looks amazing. While I don't have any interest in buying it when it comes to Blu-Ray, I'm glad that I saw this one on the big screen and in 3-D.
There were just a few things that kinda bothered me about it. First of all, the 3-D, while amazing at times, was often just plain gimmicky. Characters did things for no reason other than to show off the 3-D technology. For me, that was pretty distracting and took me right out of the movie every time it happened. When it was just part of the story, then it was great, but some producer or something probably saw the completed product and told them to shoe-horn in some more images that fly off the screen.
Secondly, while I like most of the actors who lent voices to the movie, I felt like it was more like stunt casting to impress the adults more than anything. Reese Witherspoon really worked in the lead role, but Seth Rogen was distracting, as I was constantly aware that it was him. Worst of all was Stephen Colbert as the President. While I'm definitely a fan of Colbert, I was taken out of the movie every time the President spoke.
Thirdly, there are a lot of really cheap gags in it - some of them didn't even make any sense. The most glaring one that comes to mind was (dont' read ahead if you don't want to know) when the President went up to the alien spaceship in order to make contact. The first thing he did was play the Close Encounters theme on a keyboard. Okay, that's funny. Next up, he makes the Star Trek Vulcan greeting with his hand. Still, pretty amusing, as obviously all he knows about aliens is from the movies. Then he starts to play "Axl F." on the keyboard while doing a silly little dance. "Axl F"? What the F? You know, it's the theme song from Beverly Hills Cop. Yeah, the one that every jerkoff with a keyboard could play shortly after the movie came out. Of course, the kids were laughing as they watched the President do his silly little dance, but I was wondering what exactly the adults were laughing at. What exactly is the joke there? Why would he even do that? Yeah, yeah, it's a cartoon, I know. I can handle plot inconsistencies, but I take my humor seriously. What annoys me the most is that I know that there could have been a much funnier in-context joke that would have worked much better.
This is the sort of thing that made me avoid so many other animated movies. I guess it all started with Shrek, as it had all sorts of pop-culture references, but then a wave of movies hit afterwards where that seemed to be all they had going for them. This one wasn't nearly as bad as that, but I still felt like they were trying too hard to impress the adults, when adults will be more impressed with a good story. (Some of them will, at least.)
So, if you have some kids that you have to take to see a movie, then you'll enjoy it enough to not feel like you wasted your time. I suppose that technology geeks will get a kick out of the 3-D. Other than that, you can pretty much skip this one.
Me? I'm going to watch Wall-E again tonight to cleanse my palate a little.