A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that, like The Incredibles, this movie is too violent and intense for the youngest viewers. There's gunfire, explosions, widespread destruction, crowds panicking, and some deaths -- including one in which a good guy picks up a gun and accidentally shoots a bad guy, with no real consequences. Much of this is played for laughs, but it could be quite scary for young kids. One of the good guys is briefly presumed dead, which could also be upsetting. On the other hand, language is mild ("jerk," "stupid," etc.), and sexuality is mostly just flirting and discussing love/marriage, though there's one scene in which a couple is about to make out in a parked car. The movie is being released in both 2-D and 3-D versions; the 3-D one could be scarier for kids due to the finer line between fantasy and reality.
What's the story?
Susan Murphy (voiced by Reese Witherspoon) is about to marry one of Modesto, Calif.'s, biggest catches -- egotistical local weatherman Derek Dietl (Paul Rudd). But right before she walks down the aisle, a meteorite mysteriously endows her with intergalactic superpowers, and she suddenly shoots up to nearly 50 feet tall. The military immediately ensconces her in a secret prison; there, Susan (now known as "Ginormica") meets fellow internees BOB (Seth Rogen), a sentient blob-like mass; Dr. Cockroach, Ph.D. (Hugh Laurie), a mad scientist who morphed into a roach; The Missing Link (Will Arnett), a half-man, half-fish show off; and a humongous grub called Insectosaurus. When an evil alien (Rainn Wilson) unleashes a destructive robot on San Francisco, the government releases the monsters to take down the massive threat to humanity.
Is it any good?
This is the kind of animated adventure that even child-free audiences can enjoy. DreamWorks Animation often takes a backseat to the computer-animation masters at Pixar, but MONSTERS VS. ALIENS is practically Pixar worthy. Resurrecting the campy, old-school villains of '50s B movies as modern-day heroes is brilliant, even if the target audience won't get most of the references. Directors Rob Letterman and Conrad Vernon should also be applauded for the 3-D action scenes that are thrilling enough for adults without being too intense for tweens.
The voice talent is stellar -- from sweet-sounding Witherspoon to Dr. House as Dr. Roach to friendly shlub Rogen as a brainless blob to Kiefer Sutherland channeling Dale Dye as General W.R. Monger (get it?). And more than a few moviegoers will hoot for joy at the casting of Stephen Colbert as a doltish president who's first seen trying to communicate with the alien robot by playing both the tune from Close Encounters and "Axel F" on keyboard. The president also keeps accidentally almost pushing a big red button that releases nuclear weapons ... which is identical to the one that releases a latte. It's gags like that one that make Monsters vs. Aliens a real blast.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the impact of using violence -- even animated fantasy violence -- to elicit laughs. Why is it funny to see a character get shot? Would it have been as funny if it was a human (or monster) getting shot instead of a generic alien clone? What are the consequences of violence in real life?
Families can also discuss how Susan's character evolves in the movie. How does she change, both physically and emotionally? Is she a good role model for girls? Why or why not?
- In theaters: March 27, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: September 29, 2009
- Cast: Hugh Laurie, Reese Witherspoon, Seth Rogen
- Directors: Conrad Vernon, Rob Letterman
- Studio: DreamWorks
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Adventures, Friendship, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires, Space and Aliens
- Run time: 94 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: sci-fi action, some crude humor and mild language
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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.