Director: Chris Wedge
Stars: Lucas Till, Jane Levy, Danny Glover, Barry Pepper, Rob Lowe
Released: 13/01/17 in the US and is currently showing in the UK
As an adult, you make choices in life.
Tonight I could have seen Martin Scorcese’s grand opus, Silence, which looks brilliant. Or, there was Monster Trucks. Time constraints and morbid curiosity propelled me into a world where bizarre squid monsters that feed on oil and act as engines for cobbled together trucks.
As you may have guessed from that description, I didn’t pick Silence.
Given the already infamous reputation this film had, and the little to zero promotion it has received, being dumped in the death zone of January, hardly the best time for a family blockbuster, expectations were as low as they could be. Stories are going around that the film has already lost the studio over $100 million, and it such a strange and silly concept that it isn’t difficult to see why audiences might not flock to see it. In a world where Star Wars and comic book movies reign supreme over the box office, there really isn’t much of a place for films like this.
That being said…
Monster Trucks is fun. No, really. I thought I would laugh at how awful the whole thing was, and while I’m not sure I can say it’s a good film, I will say that it made laugh for the right reasons.
Every story beat is predictable, obvious to the point of cliché. But in the end, that doesn’t really matter, there’s a good vs evil angle, adorable monsters that need saving, and whole lot of fun to have along the road.
An oil company (bad, hiss, boo) discover an underground network of tunnels and caves deep below the surface of the earth, upon forcibly drilling into it, the release three creatures of an unknown species, one of which escapes and finds its way into the shell of a battered old truck without an engine, and into the life of down on his luck car fanatic Tripp (Lucas Till)
At times, you can see what the writers were going for, the film that weirdly fits the DNA of Monster Trucks, and that film is none other than E.T.
There’s a bond between Trip and Creech, that occasionally echoes that of Elliot and E.T. And there are far worse things to try and emulate.
One thing that struck me, was how the film dealt with family. Tripp’s real dad ends up betraying him to the bad guys, while his mother’s boyfriend Rick, also the town’s Sheriff, is initially presented as an obstacle and not at all fond of Trip. Before the end, things have changed, and the Sheriff ends up helping during the crazy and quite hilarious final scene. Films often represent step parents and new boyfriends/girlfriends as unpleasant, almost as minor villains, it was nice to see this wasn’t the case.
The special effect have ropey moments here and there, particularly during the bigger action cause sequences, largely though, they work quite well. The star of the film is the main monster, the loveable and cute creature named in inspired fashion, as “Creech. He’s an adorable creation and can’t help but bring a smile to even the most cynical viewer (that’d be me) every time he’s on-screen.
The actors also help, Lucas Till, who most will recognise as Havok from X-Men: First Class, and Jane Levy as the female lead are having fun with the weirdest idea for a motion picture since, well, in a very long time. The only real problem here is that Til’s character is meant to be in high school and he looks every bit his 26 years.
The rest of the cast is rounded off by more familiar faces such as Rob Lowe, Danny Glover and Barry Pepper.
Monster Trucks is ridiculous. And not necessarily in a bad way. It is good natured, goofy fun. Exactly what you expect from a kids movie, which is what this is. It isn’t trying to be anything complicated, anything more than it is or wants to be.
The direction could be a lot worse, and the script is completely earnest and committed to its premise, allowing the audience to genuinely care for the titular monsters.
It’s hard to hate Monster Trucks. The premise is so absurdly zany that you, much as the actors did, just go with it and enjoy the ride. Utterly harmless and largely forgettable, if you have young children who want to be entertained and amused, you can’t really go wrong with Monster Trucks.