There is a fine line for animated films that hope to appeal to the masses. On one side you have to be simple enough to entertain younger audiences, while on the other side you have to be complex enough to keep the adults interested as well.
Fortunately, “Monsters vs. Aliens” effectively achieves that balance - a visual delight, full of memorable characters that will appease both young and old.
The film begins as a young woman (Reese Witherspoon) is struck by a meteorite on her wedding day. The accident causes her to turn into a giant monster and she is whisked away to a secret government compound and given the new name, Ginormica.
While in the compound, she meets a group of monsters also captured over the years - including a half man/half cockroach (Hugh Laurie), a blob named B.O.B. (Seth Rogan) and the Missing Link (Will Arnett).
She quickly learns that the monsters are meant to be locked away forever. That plan changes when Earth comes under attack by an alien (Rainn Wilson), leaving the monsters as the only hope for preventing world domination.
“Monsters vs. Aliens” has an old-school, “B” movie feel that I really appreciated. The screenplay from Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky takes pride in those “B” movie roots with plenty of sight gags and dialogue that pays homage to those films.
The all-star cast adds to the fun. My favorite was Rogan, who delivers some laugh-out-loud lines that will probably get lost on the younger crowd.
The film also has a great look, especially in 3-D, that rivals previous Dreamworks films like “Shrek” and “Madagascar.”
Both of those films have become franchise players for the studio. “Monsters vs. Aliens” leaves the door open for further adventures, so it certainly has the chance to join those films in a growing library of quality family entertainment.
DVD dandy of the week
This week’s dandy is “Slumdog Millionaire” (A), the Academy Award-winning film that is both heart-wrenching and heartwarming and certainly lives up to the hype.
Based on the novel “Q & A” by Vikas Swarup, “Millionaire” tells the story of Jamal Malik (Dev Patel), an 18-year-old orphan from the slums of Mumbai, India, one question away from winning 20 million rupees on India’s “Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?”
But when the show breaks for the night, Jamal is arrested for suspicion of cheating.
Determined to prove he is innocent, Jamal begins to tell his life story and his desire to reunite with his childhood love, Latika (Freida Pinto). As his story unfolds, Jamal is able to reveal moments in his life that ultimately led him to the answer of every question on the show.
The brilliance of “Millionaire” lies in Swarup’s story and Simon Beaufoy’s delightful screenplay. The film manages to balance a tone of intense despair with an uplifting and inspirational final act that doesn’t feel manipulative.
Director Danny Boyle, the man behind the brilliant drug film “Trainspotting,” deserves credit, too, for a film that reminded me a lot of the foreign gem “City of God,” with a completely original spin.
The cast, led by Patel, is very good as well.
I did have a minor gripe with the relationship between Jamal and Latika - especially in the early stages when it looked like it was headed in a “Forrest Gump”/“Benjamin Button” direction - but ultimately it won me over, like everything else in this film.
From the opening shot to the nod to Bollywood in the final credits, this is a film that filled me with sheer joy - more so than any other 2008 release.
“Slumdog Millionaire” is rated R for some violence, disturbing images and language.
— Sportswriter/movie reviewer Micheal Compton - who’d rather be an alien than a monster, but is perfectly happy being a plain ol’ human being - can be reached by e-mailing email@example.com.