Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

Planet 51

In this day and age an animated feature usually has little to no buzz behind it if it’s not distributed by either Disney, DreamWorks or Fox.  Planet 51 was produced by three small production companies and is being distributed by TriStar Pictures, which coincidentally also distributed District 9 earlier this year.

I find this interesting of course because this story uses the main themes of District 9, such as fear of the unknown and intolerance of those that are different. Planet 51, however, brings role-reversal to the classic alien tale and this time the human astronaut is considered the alien as he lands in what is considered a UFO on another planet. Those of you familiar with Twilight Zone will be sure to remember the episode in which a woman is terrorized by little creatures who turn out to be human astronauts.

The astronaut in Planet 51 is voiced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson who is right fit because the characters persona is that of the leading man. He arrives on the planet, American flag in hand, hoping to gain more fame and accolades. The surprise comes when he realizes the planet is inhabited by green sea-monkey-looking life forms that really just look like your prototypical comic book alien.

Two young aliens are voiced by Justin Long and Jessica Biel and they look just like what I would imagine alien Justin Long and Jessica Biel would look like. Long’s character (named Lem) decides he is going to risk his well being and try to save the astronaut Capt. Charles Baker from the authorities and help him find his ship and get back to Earth.

What I enjoyed most about this film were some of the ways it paid homage to the classic sci-fi films. There was some music from 2001 - along with a little robot that looked like HAL - as well as a pet dog that was a miniature replica of the creature from the Alien movies. It’s always a plus when the writers and directors show their affection for the classics in their scripts however minute those tributes may be. Such tributes usually work especially well in animated films because it gives the adults something to look forward to.

Planet 51 is definitely full of your cliché animated moments, including wild and wacky chases and some funky dance moves. These days, I feel like there is dancing and slapstick in every animated film not produced by Pixar. Outside of classic movie references and some adult jokes, parents may get a little tired here, but it is just about the right length and slightly entertaining.


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