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James is a Movie Critic and Celebrity Interviewer with over 30 years of experience as an Award-Winning Filmmaker.

Looking for any way to get away from the life and town he was born into, Tripp, a high school senior, builds a Monster Truck from bits and pieces of scrapped cars. After an accident at a nearby oil-drilling site displaces a strange and subterranean creature with a taste and a talent for speed, Tripp may have just found the key to getting out of town and a most unlikely friend.

has unfairly earned itself a bad rap before it has even hit movie theaters. According to the Hollywood Reporter, “the big-budget title has been delayed numerous times after originally being slotted to hit theaters more than a year ago.” In other words, Paramount has pretty much written off the kids film as a $115 million loss, the amount it supposedly cost to make. However, at the end of the day, the public will make its voice heard, either way. And if the press screening I took my ten year-old nephew Martin to is any indication, along with a packed theater full of young children, then Paramount may very well have a surprise hit on their hands. As a movie reviewer, it’s often too easy to sit and watch a film aimed at a much younger audience and write it off as childish, unsophisticated, even juvenile, and because we are a much older demographic, I think we sometimes forget to take off our hardened and cynical hats, and put our inner-child one on instead. That’s exactly what I did with this screening, I sat with my nephew, just as I did in a darkened theater in 1981 as I waited for what would become my all-time favorite movie, , to begin. And I had an absolute blast.

The story makes no apologies for existing in terrain, with its young lead, Tripp (), a high school senior, living with his mother and stepfather after his real dad abandoned him many years ago. With no mode of transportation to get to and from school, Tripp must use the school bus to get around. After an explosion at a nearby oil-drilling facility, accidentally releases three subterranean creatures, the firm’s private security manages to capture two but one escapes. In the evenings, Tripp works at a local scrapyard for Mr. Weathers (Danny Glover), a paralyzed veteran who allows him to take whatever scrap he needs in order to build himself a truck. While working one evening, he comes across the missing creature and after a scary introduction, the two become friends. Tripp calls him and when security from the oil company comes sneaking around, it hides in his makeshift truck to evade capture. Tripp quickly realizes that the oil company has no interest in trying to preserve the creature and along with Meredith (), a schoolmate and budding scientist who has the hots for him, together they must rescue the other two creatures and along with Creech, return them to their natural habitat in the mountains before the oil company destroys it and the other creatures that reside there.

“Monster Trucks” is a dig at the oil companies, spotlighting their ruthless and uncompassionate behavior but in a movie where there has to be good guys and bad guys, they always make for despicable and formidable foes. Tripp desperately wants to get out of the small, boring town in which he lives and when he meets Creech, their adventure together infuses his life with much-needed action and liveliness. The film illuminates the importance of friendship, and that no matter how weird, or peculiar, someone, or something else may be, being able to see past their physical attributes and peculiarities, could lead to a wealth of happiness and an unbreakable bond. Both Lucas Till and Jane Levy seem to be enjoying themselves while seasoned pros , , , , and , play their parts with conviction. The CGI-animated Creech is easy on the eyes and not in the least bit frightening, instead, he is given enough facial expression and physical countenance that you always know what emotion he is experiencing. The kids at the screening I attended, including my nephew, cheered and applauded in all the right places and because of them, my inner child was able to join them and revel in the movie wholeheartedly.

In theaters Friday, January 13th

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