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Monster Trucks – Movie Review

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Monster Trucks – Movie Review

Rating: D (Very Bad)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Paramount Pictures

When people who grew up in the 1990s and early 2000s look back fondly at their childhood films, they tend to think of the high quality pictures that still resonate in a heartfelt way or the flawed movies that remain a nostalgic pleasure. However, buried deeper in the brain are high-concept family films that annoyed the parents dragged to see them. We try to forget we saw Jack Frost and My Favourite Martian and Big Fat Liar, but occasionally, their DVDs peek out from the bargain bin. Monster Trucks falls into that category of family film. Everything about it feels like a product from twenty years ago that has finally been unearthed and unleashed for the masses to witness. With the talent involved, it only makes the final product even more sad.

Monster Trucks comes from the “boy and his pal” sub-genre of family films and yet there is no connection between car mechanic Tripp and the ugly-as-sin monster Creech residing in his truck. The main pull of the film is non-existent as the audience is treated to montage after montage of Tripp working on his truck and Creech happily guzzling on oil. There is little chemistry between a monster given one personality trait and the boring protagonist. The screenplay, credited to Derek Connolly with likely uncredited rewrites by studio-hired scribes, tries to force a friendship between Lucas Till’s Tripp and Jane Levy’s Meredith in the most contrived way. It’s written more as a platonic relationship rather than a full-on romance, but both are so dully written, it would not have affected the plot much. Even the usually charming Levy is surprisingly annoying in Monster Trucks.

The villains, led by obviously evil oil tycoon Rob Lowe, are moronic and don’t pose much of a genuine threat. Their heavily-guarded facility might be one of the easiest to break into in recent cinema history and the exposition Lowe and Thomas Lennon’s scientist spout is full of overly convoluted technobabble. The one person who one finds some empathy towards is Barry Pepper’s Sheriff Rick, who is the only character with his head on straight and the film does subvert the “bad new boyfriend” cliché, one of the few compliments one can give to Monster Trucks. The biggest insult is the nothing role given to Amy Ryan, who is given maybe five lines and then disappears from the rest of the film until the cheesy end montage.

The humour falls flat at every turn, opting for cheap gags and cringe-inducing lines. The chase scenes have a surprising lack of energy and are edited in a distractingly choppy manner. There is little investment and it’s easy to zone out at points as the “monster trucks” jump from one building or hill to the next. The pacing is all askew as it moves at a turgid pace through multiple set-pieces and the few attempts at emotion never register. David Sardy’s score adds to this, as it feels recycled from every ‘90s family film you can imagine. Finally, the designs for the monsters are not charming, but rather creepy and an eyesore to look at. The filmmakers tried to go for a cute look for Creech and his family, but they instead look like a deformed cross between a shark and a beluga.

The most disappointing aspect of Monster Trucks is remembering Chris Wedge serves as its director. With his animated films Ice Age, Robots and Epic, he has proven himself one of the most imaginative directors working in Hollywood today with a real understanding of cinematography and creating elaborate worlds. None of his signature style and the magic of his earlier works are anywhere in Monster Trucks. It feels like a hire-on assignment with no creative control handed to him. With the constant release delays this project has faced, Wedge is already back at his home turf of Blue Sky Studios and likely busily working on another wonderful animated feature. The sooner we forget he was behind the camera on Monster Trucks, the better.

 

Stefan Ellison
THE SCENE