Sunday, March 28, 2010

Planet 51 (2009) - Over Kids' Heads

On the Menu: PLANET 51 (2009)
Ingredients: Voices of Dwayne Johnson, Justin Long, Jessica Biel, Seann William Scott, Gary Oldman and John Cleese. Directed by Jorge Blanco, Javier Abad and Marcos Martínez. Run time: 91 minutes. Rated: PG.

At First Bite: I laughed at the scene in the preview where the astronaut is planting the flag while humming his own theme music. I needed a non-thinking movie for once, and I've enjoyed the last couple of kids' movies I've watched: UP and CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS.

The idea here is it's a 1950s alien invasion film put in reverse, so the human is the alien.

Astronaut Chuck Baker (Johnson) thinks he's found an uninhabited planet, but ends up in the backyard of some English-speaking green beings in the middle of a cookout.

Lem (Long) works at the conservatory, and ends up harboring and befriending the "alien."

The townspeople fear Baker is there to destroy their planet, but he just wants to get home. The problem of getting home is much harder when the army has your ship and plans to study your brain.

Tough to Swallow: There's a scene where a street lamp falls into the street as a car drives away, but it disappears when the shot reverses to show the front of the car.

Sometimes it looks as though the animation of the characters' lips doesn't match the dialogue (like there's a lag).

The Rock has proven he can be a real character, but his voice doesn't stand out in this movie. This was a role for Patrick Warburton. And, it doesn't really make sense that the astronaut is so dumb. Also, why did they waste Biel on such a small, not-so-hot character? The forced love story slows the movie down.

It would have been nice to know how the green guys can speak English.

This movie has a lot of references to the 1950s and other films, which isn't a bad thing, but the references/jokes are going to fly right over the kids' heads.

Something to Chew On: The aforementioned references include black & white TVs, '50s music, drive-ins, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, ALIEN, "Star Trek," THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, THEM!, PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN, STAR WARS, E.T.: THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, THE TERMINATOR, THE RIGHT STUFF, SPIES LIKE US, 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, THE WAR OF THE WORLDS and GREASE. The kids might get the E.T. reference. Rover also looks a little like Eve from WALL-E.

Writer Joe Stillman also wrote the first two SHREK films. This is the first film from Ilion Animation, which is based in Madrid, Spain.

The film's budget was $70 million (really?), and it's box office numbers were $42 million domestically and $104 million worldwide.

The film currently has a 6.1 user rating on (6,421 votes).

Sides: The DVD includes 3 extended scenes, an obstacle course game featuring Rover, animation progression reels and 9 movie trailers. "The World of PLANET 51" is a tour of all the animated sets. "Life On PLANET 51" is a longer, behind-the-scenes featurette with cast and crew interviews. "Planetarium - The Voice Stars of PLANET 51" is a shorter version of the featurette I just mentioned. And, to round it out, there's a music video montage with scenes from the movie.

Aftertaste: If not for the two "dog" characters, Rover and Ripley, kids might lose interest. Granted those characters provide most of the laughs for adults as well. There's potty humor, but references to butt plugs, probes and suppositories will also be lost on kids as will the human-as-alien storyline.

I kept thinking Glipforg, the city or planet's name, was a word scramble like the town of Nilbog in TROLL 2, which is quite possibly one of the best worst movies of all-time. Alas, Glipforg is just a silly name.

The animation is all right (the "aliens" seem to have bananas for hair, but they ARE otherworldly). The characters are okay. The voices are so-so. The references are kinda funny, but more mature.

I'm afraid that might not be good enough for most kids. I never thought SHREK was really a movie for children either, but that didn't stop parents from taking their kids to see it or its sequels. "Don't judge a book by its cover" is a great moral to teach to children though. For me, I like PLANET 51 for its allusions to other films and its spin on the '50s sci-fi horror flicks.


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