Planet 51

While watching this film I was reminded of the film "The Day the Earth Stood Still" as it has the same type of keep your eyes towards the skies as you never know what is coming message. "Planet 51" is like the less heady animated version of the early sci-fi film.

On a planet in space the people there are going through what best can be described as their own version of our 1950s. The white picket fences are there, the aliens from outerspace movies, dial telephones, records, and comic book stores. It is all very quaint. This idyllic existence is disrupted when a spaceship from 'outerspace' lands in Lem's (Justin Long – Accepted, Live Free or Die Hard) backyard. Thinking that they are being invaded by aliens from outer space the army is called in, led by General Grawl (Gary Oldman – The Dark Knight, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix). The entire city is in a panic believing they are being attacked by brain-eating zombies.

In actuality the 'spaceship' is a lost U.S. space shuttle manned by Captain Charles T. Baker (Dwayne Johnson – The Game Plan, Doom). Baker manages to escape and hide at the local museum, which is coincidentally where Lem works. When the two finally meet they are initially frightened, but then realize quickly that the other is not out to harm them.

Hiding out back at Lem's house, Baker tells Lem that he has just 72 hours to return in the shuttle to the orbiting space station or he will be left behind. Begrudgingly, Lem agrees to help Baker. This will be easier said than done as the whole town is on the lookout for the 'alien' and General Grawl and the mad scientist Professor Kipple (John Cleese – The Pink Panther 2, Shrek the Third) are fast on their heels.

The colourful animation and the playful nature of the film will keep young viewers attention, but it is the older filmgoers who might be disappointed. Written by the guy behind the Shrek films I expected "Planet 51" to be witty and funny. There were the occasional chuckles to be had, but overall the only similarity is the multitude of references to pop culture. The film is filled with cultural and film references (like making the creature from "Alien" be a harmless pet), but they don't really mean anything or bring about many laughs. They are kind of just fillers and have a kind of been there done it feel to them. Adults in the audience can try amusing themselves by attempting to identify all the references, but a movie that does not make.

As this is a strong year for animated films ("Mary and Max", "Up", etc.) a weaker film like this does not really make the cut. Too bad because the film looks great and the voice actors do a great job. The script is just not up to snuff and so, for the most part, I think this film will get lost in the shuffle.

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