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Cinema In Focus: ‘Monsters vs. Aliens’

The latest 3-D version of the animated film for children mixes monsters and aliens on the same screen

2 Stars — Shallow

A double-edged fear among children is not only that there may be monsters lurking in the dark, but also that they themselves might become some hideous creature rejected by family and friends. In the new DreamWorks animated film, Monsters vs. Aliens, both fears are brought together in 3-D realism as the dark of space brings both fears to earth.

The central character of the story is Susan Murphy (voice by Reese Witherspoon). An insecure young woman who is getting married to an ambitious weatherman, Derrick Dietl (Paul Rudd), Susan is plummeted by a space meteor on her wedding day, which gives her the most powerful energy in the universe. Its effect is to make her a gigantic human woman. The obvious implication that marriage is a life-changing and uncontrollable event becomes part of the humor of the moment as Susan bursts from the church and is captured by a secret government agency that names her Ginormica.

Imprisoned in a secret facility for monsters, Susan is introduced to three other “monsters” who are also imprisoned by the government. The first is a mad scientist who gave himself the survival abilities of a cockroach only to exit his transformation chamber as a bipedal insect named Dr. Cockroach, Ph.D. (voice by Hugh Laurie). Cockroach and Susan are joined by a half-man, half-fish creature found frozen in the ice named The Missing Link (voice by Will Arnett). The fourth member of the group is B.O.B. (voice by Seth Rogen), who is a sentient gelatin creature accidentally formed by a food research lab. And the final member of the monster team is a caterpillar radiated into gargantuan form.

The predictable plot plays off familiar science fiction films with a humor that is often targeting adults rather than children. The villain is a single alien named Gallaxhar (Rainn Wilson) who has many eyes and tentacles in his squid-like form. Having destroyed his home planet, Gallaxhar has come to Earth not only to regain his power but also to destroy humanity while making earth home for himself and his clones.

Directed by Rob Letterman and Conrad Vernon, Monsters vs Aliens offers little that is new in either the science fiction, animation or three-dimensional world. It is a simple film that gives provides basic entertainment for children.

Discussion:

» Susan’s discovery that Derrick is self-absorbed occurs only after her transformation, which was symbolized by the wedding. Do you believe we only discover who our mate really is after the wedding? Why or why not?

» The discovery that Susan is far more capable than she realizes is the message given to children. What do you believe causes so many children to lack confidence? Is there a way we could raise our children that would give them appropriate confidence without the excessive self-esteem and its resulting entitlement that we too often see?

» Do you believe the three companions of Susan mimic the characters of the Wizard of Oz with B.O.B. needing a brain, The Missing Link needing courage and Dr. Cockroach needing a heart?  Why do you answer as you do?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church on the Mesa. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com.

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