A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Monster Trucks is a sometimes-tense adventure about Tripp (Lucas Till), a brave teen who befriends a huge, newly discovered creature that consumes oil. Despite its size, the tentacled creature, which is dubbed "Creech," is cuter than he is frightening. There's gun violence (including kids being shot at), crashes/destruction, deadly threats, and high-stakes car chases, as well as a couple of apparent deaths and scary special ops agents. But most of the movie is fine for young elementary schoolers who enjoy cars, animals, and a combination of the two. And the film's messages promote teamwork, environmental stewardship, protecting animal habitats, and realizing there are things more important than profit and status. Romance is limited to flirting, hand holding, and a couple of quick hugs; language is mostly insults/crude comments like "loser," "junkyard dog," "took a dump," etc.
What's the story?
MONSTER TRUCKS is set in small North Dakota town, where many families have benefited from land leases to Terravex oil. Unfortunately for Terravex CEO Reece Tenneson (Rob Lowe), one area can't be drilled because an unusual water-bound ecosystem seems to be separating potential pockets of oil. During a drilling accident, three extraordinary creatures escape. The Terravex team manages to contain two of them, but the last one slithers its way to the junkyard, where high-school senior Tripp (Lucas Till) works the night shift for Mr. Weathers (Danny Glover). While Terravex's top scientist (Thomas Lennon) studies the two captured specimens, his boss sends a secret security force to look for the missing one. Meanwhile, Tripp calls the town sheriff (Barry Pepper), who's also his mom's boyfriend, but the creature escapes by the time the cops arrive. Soon, Tripp realizes the creature, which he names "Creech," is friendly and that it consumes oil. The gas-guzzling "land squid" can even power his custom truck (hence the movie's title). With help from his biology tutor Meredith (Jane Levy), Tripp must keep the greedy oil company and its goons from secretly destroying Creech, his entire family, and their natural habitat.
Is it any good?
Considering the rock-bottom expectations for this $125-million movie, it's actually not that bad of a story about a teen and his extraordinary, endangered bestie; but that doesn't mean it's good. Till and Levy are both in their late 20s (and look it, despite the shaggy haircut on Till and cutesy barrette on Levy) and should be beyond playing high-school characters. But at least that means they give decent performances despite paper-thin material. And the filmmakers wisely keep any romance between them to a minimum, so the movie won't alienate younger kids.
The supporting characters don't have a whole lot to do, but it is nice to see a stepdad-type character turn out to be supportive and helpful instead of antagonistic. Pepper, who's been good with a gun in his hand since Saving Private Ryan, is more than the typical country bumpkin stereotype as Sheriff Rick. And then there's veteran comedian Lennon as the curious Terravex scientist who for once doesn't want to let his boss get away with something unethical. He adds a bit of humor to the proceedings, which otherwise vary between surprisingly tense (the special ops agents can be pretty scary) or light and silly (like when Tripp and Creech are playing around or testing out how fast the Creech-powered truck will go). Ultimately, unless you have a monster-truck-obsessed child, Monster Trucks is definitely a skippable movie.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the messages in Monster Trucks. Do you think the environmental themes are strongest, or is it the friendship elements? How does the movie promote teamwork?
What parts of the movie did you find scary? How much scary stuff can young kids handle?
Who do you think the movie's target audience is? How can you tell? Compare this movie to others that deal with a kid and his extraordinary best friend. How is this one similar/different?
- In theaters: January 13, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: April 11, 2017
- Cast: Lucas Till, Jane Levy, Rob Lowe
- Director: Chris Wedge
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Cars and trucks, Monsters, ghosts, and vampires
- Run time: 122 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: action, peril, brief scary images, and some rude humor
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.