Escape from Planet Earth: Harmless Fun
By Sandra Olmsted
The new animated film, Escape from Planet Earth, explores the sibling rivalry between the Supernova brothers, Scorch (voice of Brendan Fraser), the brawn, and Gary (voice of Rob Corddry), the brains. While Scorch goes on missions and earns the accolades of the entire planet of Baab, Gary, the “king of nerds,” stays out of the limelight at Mission Control, where he gets Scorch’s bacon out of the fire time and again.
Gary’s son, Kip (voice of Jonathan Morgan Heit), idealize Uncle Scorch’s heroism and thinks that his dad’s work behind a computer console is boring Together Scorch and Gary are a great team, but when the overly-cocky Scorch expedites the dangerous mission to the Dark Planet aka the Earth against Gary’s advice, Gary quits, leaving Scorch to his own dimwitted devises.
Watching Scorch land on Earth and ill-advisedly approach “the light” via live, streaming video, Gary realizes he needs to help Scorch. The light turns out to be a 7-11 in the middle of the New Mexico desert near Area 51 which apparently attracts aliens like a bug zapper. The megalomaniac General Shanker (voice of William Shatner) happily adds Scorch to his collection of aliens, who he forces to invent things he can sell to big business. What Scorch and Gary don’t know is that their boss, Lena (voice of Jessica Alba), is in cahoots with Shanker.
Despite the objections of his wife, Kira (voice of Sarah Jessica Parker), Gary soon follows Scorch to Earth and quickly ends up in the same prison as Scorch, Io (voice of Jane Lynch), a large, lobster-esque alien with anger management issues, the mouse-like Doc (voice of Craig Robinson ), a radio psychologist who has a “program” for Io’s anger, and Thurman (voice of George Lopez), a three-eyed, slimy-dripping, slug-esque, rocket scientist, who have been promised freedom in exchange for innovations. Meanwhile, Lena is loading up enough high-powered energy source to destroy the galaxy as a gift for her fiancé aka Shanker, who has convinced her they will rule the galaxy together. When Kira and Kip realize what Lena is up to, they show that they have the heroism gene, too. Back on Earth, Shanker forces Gary to install his present from Lena in a high-tech weapon that can destroy planets and plans to start with Baab because he hates aliens coming to Earth. “Short on options,” Gary works with Shanker, but correctly wonders what happened to all the aliens who came before him.
Director Cal Brunker’s movie sounds like it should be exciting, but the adventure never quite coalesces. The animation is very good, with excellent textures, colors, and movement; however, the 3D isn’t used very well and isn’t worth the extra ticket price. The blue-skinned Baabians, fortunately, aren’t the cliché little green men or Smurf knockoffs. All the characters are, alas, underdeveloped, but the scattershot story is helped by the solid acting of the whole cast, including Sofia Vergara as Gabby, a report head over antenna in love with Scorch, and Steve Zahn and Chris Parnell as stoners, who want to be abducted by aliens. The world created in the movie is detailed and has its own realism and logic, but it shouldn’t be a surprise that Brunker’s movie would excel in this area because he previously worked as a storyboard artist.
Some of the highlights that adults can look for are the documentary about the “backward evolving” planet Earth and the Mission Control computer (voice of Ricky Gervais) whose personality is a homage to HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey but with a vibe similar to Kryten, the sardonic humanoid robotic butler from Red Dwarf. Unfortunately, these feature provide only brief moments of humor rather than influencing character actions and creating running jokes. The story, on which Brunker is credited as a writer, is derivative of a number of films, including Planet 51, Pixar’s family-friendly films, Toy Story visual elements, and Monsters vs. Aliens.
Escape from Planet Earth is has a gentle humor which children and adult can enjoy and has enough plot twists to keep the audience interested without overwhelming the youngest viewers. Although the movie never satisfactorily settles whether Io, Doc, Thurman, or the other aliens trapped in Area 51 ever get home, given the feel-good nature of the movie, children can be easily convinced that everything ends happily. A Rainmaker Entertainment production, Escape from Planet Earth, which is released by The Weinstein Co., is rated PG for action and some mild humor and runs 129m.
More of Olmsted’s reviews are available at <www.thecinematicskinny.com>.
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