I’ve spent most of the recent 3D animation era as a Pixar snob.  To quote Mike Myers (sort of), ‘If it’s not Pixarrrr, it’s crrrrap!’  Indeed, that was my motto for a long time, partly because I come from a family of Pixar snobs.  My older brother is a brilliant artist and spent a lot of time and money learning the art of 3D animation.  From him I have gained a discriminating eye and I appreciate good scene composition and smooth animation with the pretentiousity of a wine connoisseur.  And yes, ‘pretentiousity’ is a word I just made up. 


I hold gems like Toy Story and A Bug’s Life very close to my heart and I get a joyful, tingly feeling every time I hear that Pixar is at it again, making a new movie that’s bound to be beautiful in all the important ways.  Beautiful and funny, because really, that’s what I care about the most.


Enter Dreamworks, Sony, and other film companies who dared to make their own 3D animated films.  Shrek and Shark Tail were funny without a doubt, but they lacked the timelessness that would set them apart as classics when all is said and done.  Do you really think your grandkids will get all those jokes that Eddie Murphy as a donkey cracks about Britney Spears throughout the Shrek films?  In contrast, is there anything in The Incredibles that doesn’t appeal to everyone at every age and their desire to be a superhero?  Will the short film Presto ever NOT be funny?  I leave it to you to decide, Dear Reader.


Anyway, getting to the point (via the scenic route), I found myself purposefully staying away from any 3D animated movie that wasn’t made by Pixar.  My entire artistic family turned up its collective nose at anything that didn’t promise us genuine, witty and beautifully animated films.


Enter Surf’s Up, the endearing 3D animated mockumentary with all the greatest attributes of a Christopher Guest romp.  It’s about penguins.  Surfing penguins that talk to us as the subjects of this hilariously authentic-looking documentary.  After I spent the entire film laughing, ooohing and aaahing, I was madly in love.  A film company that was not Pixar (Sony, in this case) managed to woo me to their cause and they did it with some of the most beautifully executed animation I’ve ever seen. (My goodness, have you seen how real the water looks?) And, of course, it was delightfully funny.


And then came Kung Fu Panda.  It was Dreamworks’ turn to wow me with their brilliant story and gorgeous filmmaking.  I laughed quite ridiculously and pulled my jaw off the floor after viewing the lovely panoramas of the Forbidden City shown in an animated style reminiscent of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.


I was quite calm as my beliefs in Pixar supremacy were eventually abolished.


In my new state of open-mindedness, I was super excited to see Dreamworks’ new contribution to the 3D animation genre: Monsters vs. Aliens.  The cast list, which looks a bit like a Hollywood studio party waiting to happen, was very impressive and the trailers were promising.  It looked funny!  I was excited.  My expectations after enjoying the afore-mentioned prejudice-crushing films were very very very high.


Monsters vs Aliens movie posterLesson for film goers #467.2 : Never let your expectations get that high. 


Was Monsters vs. Aliens all I hoped it would be?  No.  It wasn’t.  There were weaknesses in the writing that left too much time between jokes and sight gags with not enough story to fill in the gaps.  Whoever made the trailers we all viewed over and over again on television made the mistake of putting 80% of the best lines out there weeks before anyone saw the movie.  So, when a great line dropped in the film, all we as the audience could muster was a mild chuckle that said "Yeah, I know that joke.  It was amusing a month ago."


However, the voice talent was top notch.  Hugh Laurie as the mad scientist cockroach, Seth Rogan as B.O.B.  and Rainn Wilson as the invading alien Gallaxhar were quite comfortable in their respective elements and it was very evident.  Rainn Wilson’s animated character had some of the best sight gags in the entire film and, fortunately for us, they hadn’t been shown in the trailer.  I was most impressed with Jack Bauer  Kiefer Sutherland and his voice work as the crazed General W. R. Monger.  As a lunatic fan of 24 I strained to hear the melodious tones of my beloved Kiefer.  They were there, but I was so impressed with his ability to be someone else besides Jack Bauer.  If I hadn’t known he was doing the voice beforehand, I never would have guessed it was him. 


Despite my criticisms of this particular film, I remain unprejudiced.  Monsters vs. Aliens still fulfilled its purpose for me: I was entertained.  Not only was I entertained, but I was entertained safely.  I didn’t have to worry about gratuitous violence or swearing or someone’s naked rear showing up when I least expected it.  Granted, all of those things have their respective places in the art of filmmaking, but even though I’m 30 years old I tend to shy away from them and move toward what’s cozy, funny, and safe3D animated movies give that to me and now that I’m no longer a Pixar snob, I have so much to look forward to!  Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs?  I can’t wait! And Battle for Terra looks so stunning that I sat there in the theater and considered the thought of an Ender’s Game adaptation in 3D animation. (geeky side bar: AUGH!!! WOULDN’T THAT BE AWESOME???)  And I’m really looking forward to Pixar’s very own Up


My snob recovery progresses.



3.5 Chicas out of five.