Posted on Tuesday, December 27th, 2016 by Angie Han
Nearly three years after it started shooting, Monster Trucks is finally getting ready to pull into theaters. And while we’d normally say something hopeful here about the possibility of it being worth the wait, the truth is that expectations for this movie couldn’t be lower. Not only is Paramount Pictures dumping it in the doldrums of January here in the U.S., it’s already taken a $115 million writedown on the film. So the question here isn’t so much “is Monster Trucks any good?” as “okay, but how bad is it really?”
Well, the first reviews are rolling in, and the answer seems to be… well, find out for yourself. Get the Monster Trucks early buzz below.
For the uninitiated, Monster Trucks is basically a very literal interpretation of the phrase “monster trucks.” Lucas Till is a teenage boy who befriends a giant sea creature named Creech who hangs out inside his car, and he needs to protect it from the sinister government agents (including Holt McCallany) who would like to get rid of Creech and his friends. If you think this sounds like the kind of premise a 4-year-old would make up, you’re not wrong — Monster Trucks stemmed from a conversation that a Paramount exec had with his very young son.
The first Monster Trucks trailer was a bounty of WTFery that left me very, very curious to see the end results. As it turns out, the critics aren’t exactly fawning over it. Personally, I’m still eager to witness it for myself, but then again I’m also the person who dragged six of her friends to a 10 PM showing of Nine Lives earlier this year. My tastes are probably not to be trusted.
Hey, how about monster trucks with…wait for it…real monsters in them? Cool, right? That’s essentially the gist of the pitch in search of an actual plot that is Monster Trucks, a tone-deaf mix of live action and computer-generated animation that never engagingly clicks into gear.
A $125m demolition derby. The movie is completely innocuous, passably enjoyable in fits and spurts, and clearly a giant mistake. Shot back in the spring of 2014, and significantly reshaped in the interim, it’s been waiting to skulk onto our screens at an opportune moment.’
That’s not to say there isn’t some way to take that setup and spin it into a successful studio franchise, the way Pixar did with “Cars.” And there are probably worse ideas than hiring Chris Wedge (director of “Ice Age” and “Robots”) and screenwriter Derek Connolly (“Jurassic World”) to make it work on the big screen. But the concept was never good enough to support a movie of this scale, and those early-word spoilers have destroyed what little enthusiasm there might have been for such a movie — which is sort of a shame, since the creative team managed to assemble a sturdy forbidden-friendship movie, where men in black want to separate a well-meaning human from his misunderstood pet.
What if monster trucks had real live monsters in them? This remarkably idiotic idea has been developed into a movie by one-time studio president Adam Goodman at the behest of his then four-year-old son. What could possibly go wrong?
With low, low expectations in mind, the film is not utterly atrocious. A workaday mash-up of ET and Transformers, its messy central conceit makes you wonder what that four-year-old was smoking, but it’s still a marked improvement on the most recent Transformers films.
The plotting, of which almost nothing makes sense and tangential thoughts momentarily appear (Tripp has severe daddy issues born out of something never explained) has the grandiose feeling of a think-tank of writers slamming their faces against the keys just days before production. The story is credited to three different people which begs the question, how? How? How is that of those three writers, not a single person chose to stand up and declare the entire affair a farce?
Switching to live action 15 years after directing the first Ice Age, Chris Wedge hits on pockets of mild throwback charm. […] It is very mild, however – its stunt driving forever more functional than exciting – and the emphasis on petrolhead boys and their big, big toys leaves the women in the over-qualified cast with precious little to do: Jane Levy has to dial down her usual intelligence and wit to fit the role of adoring love interest, while erstwhile Oscar nominee Amy Ryan has but half a scene in the retro-regressive role of “Mom”. It has tentacles and hot wheels, yes, but not the legs or bright ideas to sustain itself.
The model is familiar but still largely effective for family audiences, but this can’t quite sing as it should. Perhaps that’s partly down to the fact that this country does not, largely, worship at the altar of the unfeasibly huge pick-up truck. Mostly, however, it’s the underdeveloped characters. The monster is sweetly puppy-ish and well realised, but Tripp himself veers from childish silliness to action hero machismo too often to convince. Amy Ryan, as Tripp’s mother, is thrown away on barely half a scene, while Barry Pepper isn’t quite foolish enough as the disbelieving local sheriff. Only Levy’s smitten brainbox and Thomas Lennon’s squirrely scientist inject the necessary humour to keep us going until am entertaining action finale.
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