A B-movie invasion

Sci-fi nods and manic goofiness will satisfy kids and their folks alike

DreamWorks’ addition to the new revival of 3-D movies Monsters vs. Aliens is a fun if slight effort compared to the recent heights of Coraline . The new Real-D is leaps ahead of the old blurry headache-inducing 3D of the past and Monsters vs. Aliens benefits by capitalizing on the new technology. Unlike the fantastic Coraline however it’s hard to see beyond the 3-D as a gimmick — you’re constantly aware of it as a visual trick rather than a part of the film. There are a few scenes that use it to great effect (a wild meteor shower a giant robot tearing down the Golden Gate Bridge) but far too many that have things popping out of the screen for little reason.

The film opens with Susan (Reese Witherspoon) getting hit by a radioactive meteor on her wedding day turning her into a super-strong silver-haired giant (thereafter dubbed Ginormica). The army captures her and sends her to a Gitmo-like prison filled with monsters (OK four other monsters) who wile away their time underground. There’s Dr. Cockroach PhD (Hugh Laurie) a mad scientist-cockroach hybrid; B.O.B. (Seth Rogen) an amorphous blue blob; The Missing Link (Will Arnett) a tough fish-reptile creature; and a giant fuzzy chirping caterpillar. When an evil multi-eyed alien Gallaxhar (Rainn Wilson) decides to invade Earth the U.S. president (Stephen Colbert) sends the team o’ monsters out to save the day.

The slick animation looks good (although it’s hard to get over the predilection computer animators have for giant heads and waif-like bodies) and it’s refreshing to see the story of a strong woman saving the universe for a change. Sci-fi fans will have fun counting the number of movie references ( Close Encounters of the Third Kind Attack of the 50 Foot Woman The Fly The Blob ) and there’s even some sly commentary on global warming and U.S. politics.

Though the film rarely takes full advantage of its bizarre material it has a number of great scenes with much of the humour geared toward parent approval (a scene set to Beverly Hills Cop’s “Axel’s Theme” and a hilarious Dance Dance Revolution joke) and a general manic goofiness that’ll drive the kids bananas.