TL;DR – Honestly this is one of the silliest premises I have ever seen for a film, but wow it was a surprisingly good film, with great creature creation, and some great action, well worth a look.
Score – 4 out of 5 stars
I was not expecting much from Monster Trucks, I mean it has one of the silliest premises I have ever heard, well not the silliest, I mean it is no ‘Tetris the Film’ silly but still. However, the more it went on the more I really started to like it, maybe even against my better judgement, but here we are. Now I am under no illusion that it is not a perfect film, none at all, but in a world where children films is usually a cover for lazy filmmaking, it is great to see a film take care and effort with the small details.
Monster Trucks has a very simple setup, an oil prospecting company is drilling a test well in North Dakota to search for new oil deposits when instead they stumble across some deep, very deep underground lakes, which nothing could live in, but surprise. Of course, then everything goes wrong and pressure shoots up the test well shooting three of the creatures into an unsuspecting mid-western town. Now while all of this is happening we have the standard, ‘I’m a moody teenager, whose mum is seeing a new person who just so happens is an authority figure to rebel against, whilst you are trying to get out of this small town’ story. Now it should be no surprise these two stories collide when, and I don’t think is a spoiler as they have it clearly displayed prominently on the posters, but when we find out that Creech can climb into cars, and then shenanigans ensue.
Firstly I want to talk about the creature design, movies where one of the central characters is a CGI monster live and die on their creature design. Honestly, I think they did a really good job on the design of Creech blending a squid with a shark and giving it a personality of an intelligent dog. It is an odd combination but it really works, much like last year’s Pete’s Dragon (Click here for Review), because the actors interact with it like it was real, and because a lot of time was spent animating even the smallest features of Creech. When it comes to the rest of the CGI, there actually is not as much in here than you would usually have with the filmmakers going for more practical effects, but there were a couple of sequences towards the end which used CGI cars, and while you could tell they were CGI it was not as bad as I have seen in the past. Indeed, when it comes to the action not only was it good to see it be mostly shot in camera, but just, in general, there were some really solid action sequences, and good old fashioned car chases, only with Monsters in the Trucks, because the movie is going for that literal interpretation.
When it comes to the story it was generally a bit predictable, there are no real surprises here, however even though it is nothing new the actors really commit to it. This is one of the key things that makes Monster Trucks work for me, yes the premise is silly, and yes most of the characters are drawn with a very large brush, but still they all commit to it. This along with some well-timed humour really got the audience on board in the showing I was at, and trust me it is hard to get a whole cinema laughing along with you, but Monster Trucks did it. However, Monster Trucks does take the easy way out at times, with the bad guys literally being a combination of Oil Executives and Private Military Contractors, the go to enemy for any situation, and maybe it is just that I grew up with Rob Lowe being on West Wing and Parks and Recreation but he didn’t really feel like a strong bad guy for me. However there are also some really interesting character moments like when the main henchmen just turns to the Town Sheriff and directly states that the oil company employs the town so back off unless you don’t want to be re-elected, like wow you don’t see such blatant critique of the role of money in elections in most kid’s films.
Now is Monster Trucks a perfect film, noooooooooo, not in the least, there are quite a lot of issues, there is the predictable story, but there also are some issues with the tone, and since we are going to be talking a bit about the story we will now be engaging SPOILERS for the rest of the paragraph. While characters are written with a large brush, they can also go from responding reasonably to a situation to overreacting disproportionately very quickly. Like when a trained professional tried to kill a teenager but knocking him off a cliff when he could just have him detained. As well as this as far as I can tell there are zero consequences for the probably 100,000s of dollars’ worth of property damage the protagonists cause in this film.
In the end I might be alone here as from what I can see of the critical reaction to Monster Trucks has been quite critical, but to be honest, it just really jelled with me. Look I was not expecting it but I had a really good time with Monster Trucks and from the reaction of the people in the cinema where I saw it, I was not the only one. So sure, as far as films so it is not that deep, but there are a lot of nonsensical rubbish films out there that think a kids film is code for releasing a substandard production or thinks if you cut every half a second then people will be entertained, and while Monster Truck might just be a popcorn pleaser, it is a really well-made popcorn pleaser.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Directed by – Chris Wedge
Screenplay by – Derek Connolly
Story by – Matthew Robinson, Jonathan Aibel & Glenn Berger
Music by – Dave Sardy
Cinematography by – Don Burgess
Starring – Lucas Till, Jane Levy, Barry Pepper, Amy Ryan, Danny Glover, Thomas Lennon, Holt McCallany & Rob Lowe
Rating – Australia: PG; Canada: PG; NZ: PG; UK: PG; USA: PG – for once everyone agrees, what a rare sight