Hello, Spongey here.
The time has come once again for another general review. Like Space Chips, I watched this not only for an upcoming list blog, but as a review candidate.
And as you can guess, it gave me little material, but I have enough to say for a regular review. This is an animated film I’ve heard about when people discuss really cliché/bad CGI animated films.
Which is sad, cuz I was interested in it as it was coming out, though I never saw it. Will this Sci-Fi tribute be as a lame as I’ve heard, or will it be the fun ride I Want it to be? Let’s find out!
This, is Planet 51
On Planet 51, green humanoids with snail-like feelers and pointed ears live peacefully in a society reminiscent of the 50’s, but with alien technology and with 1950s themed space-ships and alien homes. In the town of Glipforg, Lem is a teenage boy with a new part-time job at the local planetarium and a long-time crush on his neighbor Neera.
But then a mysterious alien shows up…from Earth. An astronaut named Chuck, who comes in peace but the citizens of Planet 51 are less than peaceful. He quickly makes friends with Lem and has to hide out from the evil general guy and maybe he can help teach Lem and the planet a lesson about…something.
The story is the aspect of this movie I’m the most torn on, so this is gonna take awhile. First off, the base concept is somewhat interesting. A human is treated like a hostile alien on a planet very similar to 50’s earth. And it’s filled with tributes to 50’s Sci fi.
So with that, it’s already more clever than Space Chimps, and Escape from planet earth. So you think they would really run with this idea…but they don’t. They almost do in the first half, but by the 2nd half it’s bogged down with used cliché after used cliché.
It’s almost like an after thought by that point. What could have been a clever movie ends up being another ET knockoff but with the roles switched. Seriously, it’s the whole “alien comes down and befriends hero and they try to get him but also make everyone see he’s nice” story. Only it’s with the roles switched…and nothing else.
This could be an Epic situation, where the specifics of this world make the writing strong. But nope, the cliches get to be too much…in the 2nd half. In the first act, some amusing jokes make the movie actually…meh. Still kind of bad, but mostly just meh.
But as the story goes on, I forget that it was once full of promise. Yet, I can’t even too negative about it. I don’t know what it is, but the story is honestly more….typical than outright bad.
It’s not a badly told story, like in Escape From planet earth, or a really empty one like Mars needs moms. Just a very disappointing one.
The humor is the least painful aspect of this, to be honest. Some of the sci fi references a tad bit amusing, and some lines and reactions score small laughs. Though there are plenty of facepalm worthy jokes.
But there are only two jokes that really bugged me. I won’t say them but…they are really grown worthy. Speaking of the references, this movie has too many at times. Some are good, like the Xenomproh dog (my favorite thing in the whole movie) but lots of things get referenced that are just….not good.
It’s not as reference crazy as some other movies, but it does have some pretty blatant product placement.
But back to my original point. They get into some pretty generic stuff, like when the love interest thinks Lem is against the alien like everyone else and it gets very grown worthy when Lem and Chuck discuss having “The right stuff”..
Yep,they do that thing where they have a really vague moral that is never really developed and the whole thing ends up having no point. The movie even ends somewhat abruptly when Chuck leaves.
This is where the movie pretty much gave up at trying to be unique. However, the idea still ends up being okay at certain points, like in the enjoyable opening sequence. It’s pretty cliché ridden, but I can’t even say it’s Escape from planet earth levels of basic.
It mostly has to do with the concept, which is somewhat original. It just simply gets bogged down by the usual cliches. It could have been a REALLY basic story with nothing good, but at points, a decent story tries to creep out.
But that nasty bug was stomped out, leaving a weak story. I hate to call it bad…but it’s a weak and disappointing story, even if it scores a few good ideas and some laughs.
With a typical story, you are sure to expect typical animation. However, the animation is still fairly decent. The designs are pretty typical on the aliens, but unlike Escape from planet Earth, they aren’t aggressively lame.
This was from a lesser known Spanish studio, on a budget of 70 million dollars. So the fact that animation is actually good shows how much effort they put into …this aspect. The one human looks good, which is great in a world where humans can look really creepy.
The world itself looks like…well earth but with alien stuff. But the 50’s style looks quite nice, the animations inserts amusing background jokes through this.
It’s nice and colorful with smooth character animation that can be nice to look at. The action-y scenes can be exciting, and while Escape From planet earth technically had better animation, this is much less of an eyesore in the design department.
It hardly saves the film, but at least the animators gave us a decent film to look at.
Much like Space Chimps, I will have very little to say cuz the characters are pretty dull.
First up, is Lem, voiced by Justin Long. He’s your typical nerdy main character who is the straight man. He doesn’t change that much except for realizing he has the “Right stuff” and getting the courage to ask that chick out. He’s mostly dull and he is not interesting, but he can likable at times and unlike…you know by now, he has some amusing lines, and you see why people dump on him.
He’s just a dull lead but eh, I’ve seen worse.. Next is our lost astronaut Chuck, voiced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. The rock is a pretty charismatic guy, but man is he mis-cast here. His character is very white, for one thing. You think The rock would bring some charm to this guy, but nope.
He’s not annoying, but he’s not all that amusing. He is a typical hero, but he’s not as cocky as these types of characters end up being. That should be good, but that means he ends up being…kind of goofy, and he doesn’t really change.
He does at one point have a talk about how Lem is a true hero for trying to save an “alien” and that Chuckie is all talk. But this doesn’t amount to much, and after that it’s not addressed again. He’s not terrible, but he was disappointing for a character voiced by The Rock.
And everyone else is just…there. No one else gets enough spotlight to be important, and thus no one else changes. There’s Lem’s friend Skiff, voiced by Sean william scott, who really believes in aliens before Chuck shows up.
He’s okay, and Sean William Scott actually tries to score some laughs, unlike everyone else. But he’s still typical, and by the end he’s just boring. There’s the love interest, Neera, voiced by Jessica beil…but she’s so dull I don’t remember a thing about her.
We do we see Lem’s parents, but they are just there and they barely even show up in the end to worry but their hero son. But we do have Glar, Neera’s hippie friend who is this new age dude no one gets. He’s the most annoying character, and once again, he’s simply pointless.
The only characters left are the villains, General Grawl and professor Kipple, voiced by Gary Oldman and John Cleese. Grawl is just the typical general guy who dislikes the “evil alien” but even unlike General Shatner in EFPE, he has no motivation for all this, and he even has a rushed change to good at the end.
Yeah, spoilers but do you even care? He’s not really that evil which makes the change okay but he acts so evil that it feels weird. Gary seems to be having fun but hardly makes this role work. Kipple is just the scientist, and not even John cleese and save him.
The characters aren’t as bad as in some other animated films (like the ones I keep mentioning today) but they are pretty dull and pointless. I didn’t really like any of them, not even this rover…dog thingy (an idea done much better in The Backyardians).
They aren’t that annoying like in, again, Escape from planet earth, but I didn’t like them all the same.
I don’t know how to feel about this movie. The story can get very lazy at times, and the characters are boring, but the animation is nice and some ideas are good.
In all honesty, this movie isn’t very torturous. At least it has a good CONCEPT, which is more than I can say for Space Chimps. Even when it gets REALLY cliché at the end, I didn’t really hate it.
But it doesn’t have that many clever or good things in it, and it IS cliché. But it’s not as aggressively “bland” as everyone says. It’s not like Antz where it’s middle of the road, now is it like Space Chips where it is sort of horrible but also not.
It’s a weird hybrid. It’s sort of bad…but not THAT bad. But even then, it gets worse by the end. So what is it? Well, it’s amusing enough that I wold be willing to let my theoretical kid’s watch it. It’s almost smart, but they really dropped the ball.
The fact the IDEA had potential makes it better than some others, but it’s a disappointing mess. It gets a big…MEH.
And that’s being generous, to be honest.