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Mind Your Business: Reviewing 'Monsters vs. Aliens'

Mark Simon gives us humans a peek at DreamWorks Animation's first foray into 3-D, Monsters vs. Aliens (opening Friday).

Mark Simon, World Conqueror. Composite by Mark Simon. BG art by HumzaKhan.com.

Pay attention humans. I have been witness to what you call a 3-D stereoscopic animation. I call it a wonderful holographic documentary of the impending invasion of your world.

On a recent Saturday, I captured 15 humans and forced them to watch Monsters vs. Aliens. It was horrifying to see them all laughing hysterically from beginning to end.

Monsters vs. Aliens is truly the first movie to live up to the promise of what 3-D movies can be. The visuals were truly amazing. Even better, the rest of the movie was just as good.

From the opening 3-D dimensional shot looking through the rings of Saturn, to the tongue-in-cheek, wink-at-the-audience paddleball-in-the-face shot and every other big action sequence, the use of 3-D felt right, added to the story and made this a movie you MUST see in a 3-D theater. I locked my humans into an IMAX theater and we all agreed that it was absolutely the best stereoscopic 3-D we had ever seen. Unlike the old make-you-cross-eyed glasses, these were comfortable, clear and amazing, even for my four eyes.

Since this movie was designed and edited specifically for 3-D theaters, those of you seeing it in standard 2-D will see a slightly different movie, says co-director Rob Letterman. "We made sure we were telling our story first in 3-D. And then, when we did the 2-D cut, what we changed were such things as pacing: for example, 3-D shots need to go longer because the human brain cannot absorb all of that information as quickly as 2-D. So what works in 3-D may not have the same energy and pace in 2-D."

The use of music was also smart, funny and added to the story. From snippets of Close Encounters to Beverly Hills Cop to E.T., the audience was laughing just from the choice of music. Luckily, they were laughing with the movie, not at it.

The movie is Susan "Ginormica" Murphy's story. Susan (Reece Witherspoon) is about to marry local self-obsessed weatherman Derek Dietl (Paul Rudd). When she is hit by a meteor, she grows to nearly 50-feet-tall. We follow Susan as she is captured by the government, meets a group of imprisoned monsters and fights an alien invasion, all while trying to salvage her relationship. Her character has the biggest arc when she realizes her own strength, both internally and externally.

Hope Sherman, 40-something mom, commented about Susan's character after the movie, "This is a great monster movie, even for girls. It's very empowering for girls."

Often, that type of comment would mean death for the boys market, but each of the boys in our group loved it as well. They also all agreed on one thing: B.O.B. is their favorite character.

B.O.B., aka Biocarbonate Ostylezene Benzoate, is the indestructible result of combining a genetically altered tomato and a ranch-flavored desert topping. Perfectly voiced by the funny and eternal party-boy Seth Rogan, this is not the blob of my childhood.

With each step, these monsters make 3-D less monstrous. © DreamWorks Animation.

Marty Sherman, another captive adult in our group, loved all the scenes with the President, voiced by Stephen Colbert. Sherman found the character, and all the scenes in the War Room, very clever, while the kids loved his slapstick. If you are a fan of Colbert's Tek Jansen series, you have an idea of how he plays this character.

But Sherman was also the sharp-eyed captive of our group. He noticed one of the great insider visual gags in the movie. I won't give it away, but General W. R. Monger (voiced by Kiefer Sutherland, of all people) has something other than a pin of an eagle on his chest. Animation fans will approve of this. (The first person to post this hidden gem wins the "eagle eye" award.)

There is some political commentary, but it is kept light and very funny. My favorite line was by the Missing Link, voiced by Will Arnett, whose character had been frozen for more than 20,000 years and then was locked away by the government for 50 more years. "It feels hotter. Is it getting hotter? That would be a convenient TRUTH to know." Al Gore should be proud.

F

The movie's website has lots of great extra's (MonstersVsAliens.com), including movie clips and behind the scenes material. I was fascinated by watching Damon O-Beirne, head of layout, use a hand-held camera to move the virtual camera in the animation to layout the shots and track performances. Plus, if you kept the 3-D glasses that were handed out for the Super Bowl promo, you can watch the trailer in 3-D and it looks MUCH better on a computer monitor than it did during the big game.

After watching the disastrously terrible 3-D movie Journey to the Center of the Earth on our interstellar viewing device, I was afraid for the future of 3-D. Now, seeing how the effect can be used by true masters, Monsters vs. Aliens has excited me. Jeffrey Katzenberg said he wanted to showcase the new generation of 3-D and all the bells and whistles with Monsters vs. Aliens. He has done that and DreamWorks has saved the future of 3-D.

Mark Simon is an award-winning animation producer/director and speaker. He owns Animatics & Storyboards, Inc., A&S Animation, Inc. and is co-founder of SellYourTvConceptNow.com, the ultimate resource for TV show creators. He is offering AWN readers a FREE MONTH of his TV Pitch Tips Audio Postcards. Go to TvPitchTips.com and register for your weekly audio postcards of insider Hollywood pitch tips, tricks and secrets.

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