A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this animated alien comedy earns its PG rating with a fair bit of sexualized humor -- including jokes about anal probing and penises which may go over younger kids' head (though middle schoolers won't be duped -- in fact, they'll probably find it hilarious). There's also some mostly mild violence -- though weapons are involved -- as the alien army attempts to capture and subdue a human astronaut (voiced by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson), as well as references to a maniacal doctor's desire to suck out Chuck's brain for scientific reasons. The language is mostly tame ("moron" and "stupid"), if disrespectful; beyond the sometimes-crude jokes, the sexuality revolves around one character's infatuation with another, which culminates in a kiss. Despite taking place on another planet, there are a few brands featured in the movie, including Volkswagen, Twix, and iPods.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
On a distant planet that's exactly like an idealized version of 1950s America but inhabited by green aliens, adolescent Lem (voiced by Justin Long) works at a planetarium and spends his time hanging out with his best friend Skiff (Seann William Scott) and pining over his pretty neighbor Neera (Jessica Biel). When NASA astronaut Chuck Baker (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) lands on the planet, he's astounded to realize that there's already life on Planet 51 -- and that all the "aliens" speak and understand English and enjoy the diners, muscle cars, drive-ins, and B-movies reminiscent of the '50s. Unfortunately for Chuck, the most popular movie is about a "humaniac alien" that turns everyone into brainwashed zombies, so the planet's military tries to hunt Chuck down. But Lem and his pals strike up a friendship with Chuck and agree to help him get back to Earth before he's captured, studied, and imprisoned.
Is it any good?
Even if you take Pixar's incredibly sophisticated, high-grossing movies out of the running as a comparison, PLANET 51 is uninspired and forgettable. The movie's animation (particularly the landscape backgrounds) is flat, the dialogue is overly cluttered with pop culture references (to everything from The Right Stuff and E.T. to The Terminator and the Macarena). Allusions and double entendres work when they're seamlessly woven into a family-friendly script (as in the Shrek movies), but the lame penis and anal probing jokes are just off-putting in Planet 51.
Young kids may be drawn to the alien characters, especially comic book-obsessed Skiff and the dog-like creature that has toxic pee and a penchant for terrorizing the local mail carrier. And adults may get a laugh or two out of Neera's suitor Glar (Alan Marriott), a VW-van-driving, guitar-playing hippie who protests the planet's violent reaction to Chuck. But Johnson, who has proven he's a surprisingly talented family movie star, isn't given much to work with as the cocky astronaut, and Lem and Neera's "romance" is only slightly amusing when Lem goes to Chuck for dating advice. Ultimately, if you're hankering for '50s nostalgia, check out Back to the Future -- and for animated alien comedies, stick with Monsters vs. Aliens.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the movie plays on the media's standard jokes about and portrayal of aliens. Who is the "real" alien in Planet 51? How do the movies and comic books that characters read on Planet 51 affect the way its population reacts to Chuck?
What purpose do all of the pop culture references -- particularly to well-known movies -- serve? Is it funny? Is it original?
- To what kind of movies is Planet 51 an homage? How are the '50s portrayed?
- In theaters: November 20, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: March 9, 2010
- Cast: Dwayne The Rock Johnson, Gary Oldman, Jessica Biel, Justin Long
- Director: Jorge Blanco
- Studio: Columbia Tristar
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Adventures, Friendship, Space and Aliens
- Run time: 90 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: mild sci-fi action and some suggestive humor
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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