Sunday, January 15, 2017

Movie Review #551: "Monster Trucks" (2017)

Director: Chris Wedge
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hour, 44 minutes
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When an oil company called Terravex drills through a water deposit, they inadvertently release three undiscovered creatures from their subterranean environment. After one of the creatures escapes, the company will do whatever it takes to keep its existence hidden from the public so they can continue drilling. When a young man named Tripp (Lucas Till) finds this blob-like specimen in the junkyard where he works, he befriends it and uses it as a motor for his lifted truck. 

"Monster Trucks" is directed by Chris Wedge, who has previously only directed animated feature films like "Ice Age" and "Epic." The concept for this film sounds like it was thought up by a four year old child, and word has it, it actually was. We can just imagine the pitch in our heads: "You know how there are those big things called monster trucks? Well, what if we double down on the monster trucks idea and have the characters in our movie literally be monster trucks? The monsters will be used as engines for the trucks. Oh, and the monsters in the trucks also like to watch monster trucks." BINGO! You have "Monster Trucks." That's the plot of this movie in a nutshell (or should we say camper shell? HEYOOOOOO!).

We went into "Monster Trucks" having seen the trailer a handful of times, and each viewing of it was somehow worse than the last. We expected this movie to be a slogging dumpster fire like "Nine Lives," or "Norm of the North," or "Jem and the Holograms," or "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" (2014), or "Eight Crazy Nights," devoid of humor and ripe with burp and fart jokes. As the credits rolled, there was a period of dead air in the theater between BigJ and I as we sat, stunned by what we had just seen, staring at the screen in disbelief. He turned to me, and I to him, and at the same time, we both uttered, "I didn't hate it."

This movie stars Lucas Till as Tripp, a young man with a bit of a chip on his shoulder, who works at a junkyard owned and operated by Mr. Weathers, played by Danny Glover. When an oil company called Terravex tries to usurp environmental laws by drilling through a water deposit, they unintentionally release three undiscovered subterranean creatures to the surface. One of them gets away while the other two are captured, and Terravex sets out after it so it can be kept a secret. This creature, which eats oil, shows up in the junkyard looking for food and runs into and eventually befriends Tripp. When the monster crawls inside the empty engine bay of Tripp's truck, he discovers this being makes a damn fine engine. Now, Tripp must do what he can to keep the creature safe, along with the help of Meredith, played by Jane Levy, a girl from Tripp's school who is supposed to tutor him and is clearly smitten with him even though he does not give a hoot about her whatsoever.

First of all, let us say that "Monster Trucks" isn't a good movie in the traditional sense. The acting is borderline awful, the dialogue is atrocious, Till's hair color changes multiple times, even in the same scene, along with lots of other inconsistencies, and the story is loaded with plot holes like the creature's aforementioned oil-drinking. Is it not one of the biggest contradictions ever put into a script to make a greedy oil company the villain of the movie, only to watch the protagonist spend hundreds of dollars on gas to feed the monster oil?! Talk about a mixed message! It also doesn't help that the protagonist has a fondness for lifted trucks with big block V-8 engines sporting duel four barrel carburetors. Some won't be able to get over this glaringly dumb contradiction, and we get it. Filmmakers have to make movies that make sense, but kids won't care when there is a goofy looking gelatinous goo-monster driving an awesome truck on screen! We personally don't really look too hard for messages in silly adventure films for children, unless they are made by Disney, Pixar, or Laika.

We can't sit here and say we hated this movie because we sort of had fun watching it. Not a ton of fun, but we were not so miserable that we wanted to be at the dentist rather than at the movies (which is how we felt watching any of the above listed films). There are a lot of fast car chases and massive amounts of wanton destruction without any sort of consequences starting at the very beginning of the movie. These fun action sequences often left us, shockingly, with a smile on our faces. This reminds us a lot of other various films from our childhood, ones like "Richie Rich," "Jumanji," "Blank Check," or "Matilda," where a ton of destruction and multiple illegalities happen, but by movie's end, all is forgotten because everyone is safe and alive! "Monster Trucks" will be some little kid's "Jumanji," fun and flashy on the outside, but utterly devoid of sense come age 9-14. The CGI surprisingly isn't terrible despite what the trailers may have shown, but what do you expect from a film with a $125 million budget? Even though the creature is a slimy little squid-like monster, it's actually kind of cute. In the end, we "enjoyed" ourselves a lot more than we expected to, which proves you can never judge a movie by its crappy trailer (ohhhhhhh yes you can...see, we can make contradictions, too). This movie may have a lot of appeal for a younger pre-teenage audience, but we won't be the least bit surprised when it doesn't make any money at the box office.

My Rating: 5/10
BigJ's Rating: 5.5/10
IMDB's Rating: ~5.4/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ~31%
Do we recommend this movie: Meh.

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