By Nico Beland
Movie Review: ** out of 4
PARAMOUNT PICTURES AND NICKELODEON MOVIES
Talk about a film that came out twenty years too late, what do 90s kids love? Cars and big trucks, aliens, and things that are extreme and totally rad. Let’s put all these elements together but here’s the catch, let’s wait until the late 2010s to release this movie, at a time where Marvel Comics movies and resurrected Star Wars movies are the big bucks around here.
And that’s one of the many problems with Monster Trucks, the latest family adventure from Nickelodeon and director and Blue Sky Studios alumni, Chris Wedge (Ice Age, Robots, Epic). When I first saw the trailer, I was (somewhat) interested in seeing it, a movie about trucks that are literally operated by monsters, sounded kind of fun.
Despite an imaginative concept, the movie fails to deliver on it, and the result is a lazy rehash of much better sci-fi adventure films, forgettable characters, really bad CGI although the design of the monster was kind of creative, and top it all off with really forced humor and insufferable jokes. The plot of this movie is literally if you take the premises of E.T. and Lilo & Stitch and add trucks to it…connect the dots folks.
The film follows high school senior, Tripp Coley (Lucas Till-Walk the Line, X-Men franchise, MacGyver) who builds his own truck out of pieces of scrapped cars in a junkyard in hopes to escape his miserable life and town. After an accident occurs at an oil-drilling site displaces an unknown subterranean creature, Tripp meets the creature literally named Creech (Accurate Name!) who apparently can transform into an engine for his truck, not to mention he has a serious addiction to motor oil.
Tripp befriends Creech and the two of drive around town looking cool and impress his classmate and tutor, Meredith (Jane Levy-Suburgatory, Evil Dead (2013), Don’t Breathe). But their friendship may be in jeopardy as a government organization is closing in on Creech and will do anything they can to capture him, also they got his parents.
With the help of Tripp’s paraplegic junkyard boss, Mr. Weathers (Danny Glover-The Color Purple, Lethal Weapon franchise, 2012) and a scientist named Dr. Jim Dowd (Thomas Lennon-Herbie: Fully Loaded, 17 Again, The Dark Knight Rises) they must infiltrate the organization, save Creech’s parents, and bring them back home before it’s too late.
The film also stars Amy Ryan (War of the Worlds (2005), The Office, Goosebumps) as Tripp’s mother, Cindy Coley, Rob Lowe (Saturday Night Live, Austin Powers trilogy, The Invention of Lying) as the film’s antagonist, Reece Tenneson, Barry Pepper (Saving Private Ryan, True Grit (2010), Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials) as Cindy’s at-home boyfriend and sheriff, Rick, Holt McCallany (Fight Club, Heroes, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back) as Reece’s henchman, Burke, Frank Whaley (The Twilight Zone, World Trade Center, Gotham) as Tripp’s estranged father and Cindy’s ex-husband, Wade Coley, and Tucker Albrizzi (Treasure Buddies, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, ParaNorman) as Tripp’s friend Sam.
Overall, Monster Trucks is a big disappointment, aside from a few moments of fun, some of the car chases can be entertaining to watch. But whenever the characters aren’t in a truck, it’s about as fun as vehicular manslaughter (and by that, I mean being the victim).
The film relies so heavily on CGI and it’s not very impressive; every chase scene has CG all over the place and not once was I convinced that what was shown on-screen was really there. I thought the design of the monsters was a little neat (Despite looking like something that belonged in Men in Black) but the effects of him controlling the car and jumping around, they look more like effects that belong in Flubber, which came out years before this.
CGI aside, the movie also fails to give an emotional connection with the characters, the main characters are about as interesting as a Nickelodeon or Disney Channel sitcom. I love Lucas Till as an actor, but his character is a complete tool and I was never invested in what was going to happen to him.
Besides the sci-fi movie rehashing, you can figure out very quickly what kind of plot clichés the film will rely on. The awkward teen who wants to impress a girl with a cool car, and he’s got a chubby best friend as the comic relief, and a one-dimensional bully.
However, this film managed to surprise me with something about the side characters, none of them make an impression, the bully only appears twice (and another scene from a window) in the movie and never does anything and before the climax the last time we’ve seen the best friend was the beginning of the movie, I completely forgot he was even a character.
Monster Trucks isn’t the worst film under the Nickelodeon name, that dishonor still goes to The Last Airbender, but I can consider it far from being one of their good films. It’s mostly harmless and if you got little kids that just want to see monsters and trucks, it’d probably be a fine distraction but that’s it.
Aside from that, this “Truck” belongs in the junkyard and your money should go to Moana, Sing, or Rogue One.
PS: YES NICKELODEON, YOU MADE SPONGEBOB, PLEASE SHUT UP!