November 19, 2009

Planet 51

Star Bores

Grade: C –

Director: Jorge Blanco

Starring the voices of: Dwayne Johnson, Justin Long, Jessica Biel, Gary Oldman, Seann William Scott, and John Cleese

MPAA Rating: PG

Running Time: 1 hour, 31 minutes

American astronaut Charles T. Baker (voiced by Dwayne Johnson) lands on faraway Planet 51, inhabited by little green people who have a hearty fear of, well, aliens. Their world is draped in a 1950s Americana pastiche, and the film itself plays off some ‘50s alien invasion conventions – the plot itself is essentially a dumbed-down version of The Day the Earth Stood Still. Of course, that era’s schlock was essentially a metaphor for Cold War paranoia, and there is no such political or social subtext found in this unfunny, derivative timewaster.

Like writer Joe Stillman’s Shrek flicks, pop cultural references litter the landscape: Star Wars, Alien, 2001: A Space Odyssey, E.T., Close Encounters, Singin’ in the Rain, and others get their moment in the “pun.” Constant, inane one-liners land like moon rocks, and even the parallel historical mash-ups have no internal logic: The aliens’ nascent technology includes rotary phones, black-and-white TV, and…hovercraft? And, oh, don’t forget to toss in the proverbial pee jokes, together with such unexpected “surprises” as anal probe, penis, homosexual anxiety gags.

Want to imagine how the folks at Pixar might handle this material? Go rent The Iron Giant.

Neil Morris

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