MONSTER TRUCKS (USA/PG/104mins)
Directed by Chris Wedge. Starring Rob Lowe, Lucas Till, Jane Levy, Amy Ryan, Thomas Lennon
THE PLOT: After an explosion at an oil drilling site, teenager Tripp (Lucas Till) finds a strange creature hiding in the car repair yard where he works. On discovering the creature – nicknamed Creech – is friendly, and has a talent for making cars go faster than he ever thought possible, Tripp realises he has something special on his hands. The trouble is that Terravex – the oil company drilling the site – are on the hunt for Creech, and it is up to Tripp, and his friend Meredith (Jane Levy) to get him back home.
THE VERDICT: ‘Monster Trucks’ is a strange sort of film. Although it is a strictly by the numbers creature adventure movie, aimed at 8-10 year olds, it boasts an impressive cast, including Jane Levy, Danny Glover, Rob Lowe and Thomas Lennon. The creature is cute and the car chases fun, but the literal title and lack of faith from Nickelodeon Movies suggests that ‘Monster Trucks’ is not going to be the box office smash and Christmas classic that it was potentially hoped to be.
The cast of the film do fine in their roles. Rob Lowe works fine as the villain of the piece, with Thomas Lennon being the voice of reason to his oily – sorry! – evil. Lucas Till makes Tripp a likeable enough teen, but the true confusion arises with Jane Levy – who was fantastic in Don’t Breathe earlier this year – Amy Ryan, and Danny Glover signing on to play underdeveloped and clichéd roles.
Derek Connolly’s screenplay feels as though it has taken its inspiration from any 80s adventure movie you care to name – ‘Flight of the Navigator’, ‘ET’, ‘The Goonies’ – and added big cars for the sake of a little more vroom! There is nothing inherently wrong with the screenplay for ‘Monster Trucks’, it is just that it is familiar, has been done before, and thus feels rather cliché and familiar. Also, many of the characters are totally underwritten, and while it is nice to see that Jane Levy’s character is not just another version of the female eye candy in the Transformers franchise, making her a one-dimensional book worm is only marginally better.
‘Monster Trucks’ is director Chris Wedge’s first live action film – he previously brought us the animated films ‘Robots’, ‘Epic’ and the first ‘Ice Age’ film – and he does fine with the film. The action set pieces are where the fun of the film lies, and there are problems with some of the performances in the film, since they feel one-dimensional and rather overblown, but ‘Monster Trucks’ is a film aimed at 8-10 year olds who like monsters and cars, and the film ticks both of those boxes. As well as this, Creech is rather cute, and there is a nice relationship between this CGI character and the teenager who befriends him.
In all, ‘Monster Trucks’ is not necessarily disappointing, but it stumbles in standing out from any other monster adventure movie in recent years. There is a sweetness to the film, but the emotional heart is somehow lacking, and many of the cast seem to over do their roles, and the ones that don’t are wasted in the film. Still, those obsessed with cars and monsters are sure to have fun with ‘Monster Trucks’, and for the adults accompanying them to the cinema; hey, at least some of the chases are fun.
RATING: 2/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

  • filmbuff2011

    The live action debut of Ice Age head honcho Chris Wedge, Monster Trucks has been oft-delayed and at one stage even had Nickelodeon Studios withdrawing from the project during post-production. Opening here ahead of its American debut, it’s marginally more acceptable as stodgy Christmas nonsense rather than a studio’s unwanted child dumped out into the frozen wasteland of January.

    Teenager Tripp (Lucas Till) lives a smalltown life but is dreaming of bigger things. Part of that involves the monster truck that he’s building. He gets more than he’s bargained for when he discovers a multi-limbed water creature in the scrapyard one night. With the laziness of a California sealion, the look of an octopus and the friendliness of a dolphin, Tripp dubs the creature Creech. Creech has emerged from a subterranean world due to the drilling efforts of an oil boss (Rob Lowe) and has become separated from two other water creatures. Tripp discovers that Creech loves oil, but needs a way to move him around easily. So, he integrates him into his monster truck to become the engine and to give his new buddy freedom to move. However, the pair are pursued by the oil company’s sinister agent, Burke (Holt McCallany)…

    Monster Trucks is a curious beast. You can see why it was shifted around the release schedule so many times – it’s too dumb for adults and probably too stupid for kids. It also focuses on that curious American phenomenon of ridiculously over-sized cars – something which won’t be appreciated as much on this side of the pond. It’s a film that never really decides on what it wants to be, mixing in too many over-used cut-and-paste plot devices (evil drilling company, misunderstood creature, turncoat employee, kindly cop, blah blah blah). It’s like E.T. all over again, but without the emotional intelligence, sweeping John Williams score or an iconic image for the poster. A similar story was told earlier this year to far greater effect in the Pete’s Dragon remake.

    With four writers credited to the film, it’s a mish-mash that doesn’t really gel into a coherent form. Till is a bit bland but the other performances are allright, though a waste of talent. It’s not hard to imagine that good actors like Barry Pepper, Amy Ryan and Jane Levy are just picking up paycheques here to pay their mortgages or rent. Lowe grins his way through his evil schtick again. That said though, the film does have its cutesy moments involving Creech which are mildly charming. It’s just a shame that the script wasn’t fine-tuned to make it less predictable and a bit more imaginative. Monster Trucks is passable nonsense, rather than a Christmas turkey. That’s not a recommendation though. **