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'Monsters Vs. Aliens': When 3-D Attacks
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'Monsters Vs. Aliens': When 3-D Attacks



DreamWorks Animation, the film company that produced "Shrek" and "Kung Fu Panda," says that from now on, all of its animated films will be made in 3-D. That policy kicks off tomorrow with a 3-D science fiction comedy.

Bob Mondello says whatever else you think of "Monsters vs. Aliens," there's no denying it has depth.

BOB MONDELLO: Asteroids whiz past your head before you quite got your 3-D glasses settled on your nose. And a few seconds later, a character bounces a paddle ball in your face, at which point, the filmmakers figure they've established that their gimmick works and are ready to roll out a little plot, one that's been resurrected from 1950s sci-fi, actually - a radioactive meteorite landing just a little too close to a wedding.

(Soundbite of film, "Monsters vs. Aliens")

Mr. PAUL RUDD (Actor): (As Derek Dietl) Wow. You're glowing.

Ms. REESE WITHERSPOON (Actress): (As Susan Murphy) Thank you.

Mr. RUDD: (As Derek Dietl) No. No, Susan, you're like really glowing. You're green.

MONDELLO: Not only is she green and glowing, she's growing really big like attack-of-the-50-foot-Bridezilla big. And when the government spirits her away to its secret monster warehouse, she discovers that she's not the only '50s-feature creature they've locked up. There's an ape-fish hybrid from the Black Lagoon, a mad scientist with the head of a cockroach and a friendly but brainless blue, gelatinous blob.

(Soundbite of film, "Monsters vs. Aliens")

Mr. SETH ROGEN (Actor): (As B.O.B.) Oh, my back. Just kidding. I don't have a back.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HUGH LAURIE (Actor): (As Dr. Cockroach Ph.D.) Forgive him, but as you can see, he has no brain.

Mr. ROGEN: (As B.O.B.) Turns out you don't need one. Totally overrated.

MONDELLO: Or at least not for this kind of story, which is, let's note, designed to work on several levels, slapstick for the kiddies…

(Soundbite of film, "Monsters vs. Aliens")

(Soundbite of martial arts)

MONDELLO: …word play for their parents…

(Soundbite of film, "Monsters vs. Aliens")

Mr. ROGEN: (As B.O.B.) Has the earth gotten warmer? That'd be great to know that. That'd be a very convenient truth.

MONDELLO: …and '50s sci-fi campiness for any granny or gramps old enough to recognize a good Mothra reference.

But with all that going on, not to mention a five-eyed squid who wants to rule the world, sharp voicing by Reese Witherspoon, Seth Rogen and others and a battle that flattens the Golden Gate Bridge, you'd think the picture would be more engaging.

Instead, it's mostly an excuse to hop from one depth perception exercise to the next. It would be oversimplifying to say that, unlike Pixar animators who center their films - say, "Finding Nemo" or "WALL-E," on emotional stories, DreamWorks animators build pictures around gimmicks, but in the not-so-grand tradition that gave them nothing but Jerry Seinfeld shtick in "Bee Movie."

They are so reliant on three-dimensionality in "Monsters vs. Aliens" that they've had to put sightlines before storylines - setting up every scene so that something in it can be sent careening at your head. After a while, you start spotting the setups, and once you do, the careening is predictable and gets old pretty fast.

I'm Bob Mondello.

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