Thursday, April 9, 2009

Witherspoon's Biggest Role

I recently read a review of Monsters vs. Aliens that was the epitome of damnation with faint praise. Essentially, the reviewer was complaining that the movie wasn’t “about” anything more than what you saw on the screen; that the mise-en-scène was lacking a certain je ne sais quoi, that the voice talent was just trading on their star quality to phone it in, that ...

Dude. The flick is called Monsters vs. Aliens. You’re lucky you get that much.

The problem with movies whose title is the pitch is -- well, nothing, really, unless you’re expecting some long-lost classic by Abel Gance or something similar. If that’s what you were expecting, maybe you wandered into the wrong plex at your local multi. In which case, I can understand you being disappointed. The rest of us saw a perfectly acceptable animated 3-D movie. The CGI critters all hit their marks, nobody flubbed his or her lines, the 3-D was fun and only occasionally intrusive, and when it was over everyone knew enough to get the hell offstage.

True, it’s advisable to park your brain at the door. But, as B.O.B. (Seth Rogan, voicing a semi-sentient non-Newtonian fluid who resembles The Mad Scientist’s Glowing Glop™) says, “Turns out you don’t need one!”

And you don’t. The reviewer I quoted at the top also says something to the effect that 3-D was, is, and shall ever be, a gimmick. I could urge anyone who thinks so to hie thee hence and see Coraline, but there’s a broader point to be made here -- namely, that movies are a gimmick. Each and every one of them. Occasionally we get one that transcends the inherent limitations of the media, and for which we’re grateful. But the fact remains: movies are storytelling by artifice. And we’re lucky that they are, because most of ‘em are pretty good entertainment.

Like Monsters vs. Aliens. Pay the money (matinee, if you can; it isn't that good), trade in any semblance of intelligence you have for a pair of ill-fitting 3-D glasses, and for the next two hours be content that your fate is not your own. You’re in ... decent hands.

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