Written by: Joe Stillman
Directed by: Jorge Blanco, Javier Abad & Marcos Martinez
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Justin Long, Jessica Biel, Gary Oldman, Seann William Scott, John Cleese
My Advice: Not just no, but hell no.
It’s a lovely place to build a home and raise a family. There’s classic music, there’s good wholesome values and as long as you can deal with alien dogs that pee acid, you’re fine. Of course, what ruins everything is the arrival of one of those pesky humans in the form of Chuck Baker (Johnson), who is no doubt, being an alien, the vanguard of an alien force. Baker must be found and turned over to the government before it’s too late. The only person…um, yeah, sure, person…standing in the way is Lem (Long), a kid who has dreams of working at the local observatory.
The shame is that I was perfectly willing to go along with this quirky alien-to-us world. The alien dog peeing acid thing was amusing (the last scatalogical joke in the film to be funny, in fact), the animation and character designs were decent enough and the setup was funny. Then the actual plot of the film started. The astronaut shows up and quickly sets back–about ten years–the opinion of NASA in the minds of those with single digit ages. Now I know that astronauts probably have some ego–that’s to be expected when you’re chosen to be part of a small elite cadre that the U.S. government will spend billions on to light a fire under your ass and send you off-planet–but I certainly hope they’re not the smug, cowardly, self-centered pricks that Baker makes us think they are. I’d ask Buzz Aldrin but he might punch me.
[ad#longpost]Anyway, I’d like to interject here and state that it’s not Dwayne Johnson’s fault. In fact, the cast have no blame whatsoever. They showed up and did their jobs. The writing and characterization, though, are deplorable. A running gag is avoiding anal probes by strategic use of a cork, for one example. Another thing is watching characters change their mind for little to no reason. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I can say specifics, but I don’t think I could be specific if I wanted to–one very important change of heart happens and I can’t even tell you why.
The film isn’t terrible if you’re, say, six. Because you simply don’t know any better. And honestly, it’s not even that it’s a challenging family film, like Coraline, Up or Where the Wild Things Are. I know I used that context in my Wayhomer Review of the film, but there’s nothing wrong with a decent film that kids and adults will both enjoy. Not every animated film needs to be a Miyazaki or Pixar-level affair. But it at least needs to show up and entertain…like, say, Monsters vs. Aliens…but this barely manages to do even that. Then turns around and loses points where, if you were too thick to catch it on your own, it nails its message of tolerance right on the nose. Then reduces the nose to a fine powder so badly you expect it’s part of a joke setup…but no solace there.
If your six-year-old demands to see it, it wouldn’t do any serious damage to take them. But just make sure to counter the mindlessness of this film with something decent when they get out. And try not to buy it on DVD either.