Saturday, November 21, 2009

Planet 51 (Review)

     I don't usually go to see CGI kids movies unless I think there is going to be something special about it.  I didn't know what to expect with "Planet 51."  It's the first offering from Madrid based Ilion Animation Studios.  I'm disappointed that it isn't anything too special, but I'm also pleased that it deviates from the typical  route taken by a lot of Hollywood's CGI 'extravaganzas.'  (Also pleased that it isn't unnecessarily 3-D!) 

     The story here is extremely stereotypical and well worn.  An alien lands in the 1950's.  Everyone is scared.  The military is mobilized.  Local kids help the alien, who is actually peaceful and just wants to get back home.  In the end, everyone learns a lesson about prejudice and the alien is allowed to leave.  The twist, which is no secret, is that the alien is a human astronaut landing on an alien planet.  That, and a pretty good time, is what kids can expect to get out of "Planet 51."  Adults, well, luckily, this film doesn't feature the usual, occasional off color joke to keep the parents paying attention.  It does, however, feature a lot of spoofs, parody, and in jokes, which I found to be a lot more entertaining than the usual schlock.  The entire movie is, basically, a parody of 1950's alien/horror movies, right down to the extremely 1950's look and feel of the town and aliens.  There's other humor as well, like a rover probe, sent in first by NASA, that is so obsessed with gathering rock samples that it completely misses an entire alien civilization and an alien dog, that looks like the aliens from the movie "Alien", named, Ripley.  Unfortunately, much of this is forced to take a back seat to the plot in the third act.  Happily, there is a story, plot, and character development.  Oh sure, I saw it all coming, but it managed to keep me interested. Voice talents include Dwayne Johnson, Jessica Biel, John Cleese, and Justin Long as the alien Lem.  (LEM, pronounced exactly the same way as they do in the movie, is also what NASA called the Lunar Excursion Module used during the moon landings.  I love nerd humor!)  Thankfully, Long acts, rather than attempting to inject his SNL persona into the film, like too many comedians tend to do in these types of movies.  Although, I wouldn't have minded if Cleese had injected a bit of Cleese into his part, but I can't blame the director for wanting to make a movie and not a vehicle for comedians. 

     "Planet 51" definitely isn't the next "Shrek," but I laughed a lot more than the kids in the audience did.

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