"Planet 51": Movie Review (2009)

11/21/2009 Posted by Admin

Movie Review

"Planet 51"

Directed by Jorge Blanco, written by Joe Stillman, 91 minutes, rated PG.

By our guest blogger, Jeremy Wilkinson

The latest computer-generated film to land in theaters is “Planet 51.” The movie is a joint effort from the fledgling Ilion Animation Studios and the more established HandMade Films ("Monty Python’s Life of Brian"). It doesn’t rise to the level that some other children’s movies do, but kids should enjoy the film and most adults won’t be too bored with the movie.

Lem (Justin Long) is just your average green-skinned teenager who works at a planetarium in a town that resembles America in the 1950s. Everything is fine until a spacecraft carrying Charles Baker (Dwayne Johnson) lands near Lem's home. The astronaut (believing the planet to be uninhabited) is horrified to find there are people living there. The natives are in turn horrified by his alien presence because of the depiction of humans in the popular sci-fi franchise “Humaniacs.” Charles flees the scene, setting off a chain of events that change Lem’s life forever.

The movie is bright and colorful with an interesting setting. It looks as it’s set in the '50s and the town’s architecture includes a heavy flying saucer motif. The paranoia the '50s is known for also is present throughout the film. Various allusions to sci-fi movies are scattered throughout the movie (including a dog that looks like a xenomorph).

The cast has some big names and up-and-comers among its ranks. Justin Long does fine voice-over work as the protagonist Lem. Dwayne Johnson (as the cocky, foolish astronaut “Chuck” Baker) gives a performance one would expect of him in a comedic role--slightly over-the-top and with enough charm to keep the character likeable (despite being slightly irritating in places). John Cleese and Gary Oldman lend their talents as an arrogant scientist and rigid military general, respectively.

All of the characters have their humorous moments and the story has some jokes that children in attendance probably won’t get. Some of the movie seems a little crude for a kid’s flick, but then again, humor in general seems cruder these days. Overall, it’s funny enough to keep everyone entertained for the 91-minute running time.

The major problem with the film (as with many children’s films) is its predictability. Any adult is going to figure out what’s going to happen next in quite a few parts. In addition, some of the jokes fall a little flat, like a running gag involving the acidic urine of the aforementioned xenomorph dog--surely someone would have thought of a preventative measure for that.

While it does follow the “children’s movie” formula for the most part, it is cute, and it does feature a great idea and setting. Its target audience will enjoy it and most adults shouldn’t feel too bored. If you have kids and are seeking a family night, catch it at a matinee and everyone should be happy.

Grade: B- 

View the trailer for "Planet 51" below.  Thoughts on the movie?

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  1. jellosheriff said...

    Entertaining enough to keep a pair of 7-year-olds amused, but not engrossed. It had elements that were reminiscent of many different recent films (Wall-E, Monsters vs. Aliens, etc.) and rather predictable throughout. Not a bad film, but not a particularly good one either.
    Bottom line: will my child want to watch it again? Probably not. Will I want to see it again? No.