Space, the final frontier, the one thing we still generally really don’t know that much about and remains a fascination for many. Is there, in fact, anybody out there? Well, according to Hollywood, yes, and they can be sorted into two distinct groups: friendly or wanting to destroy us. But what if the tables were turned and humans were, in fact, the alien species.
On the outskirts of Saturn lies Planet 51 which has, so far, been untouched by human exploration. Wanting to be the first man to step foot on the planet, astronaut Chuck Baker (Dwayne Johnson) lands to place the American flag there, only to discover the planet is already populated with aliens who live the idyllic American 1950s lifestyle. Front and centre of that is teenager Lem (Justin Long), who already has his life planned out before him, including a long a happy life with next door neighbour Neera (Jessica Biel) as his wife.
When Chuck’s ship arrives in his backyard, Lem is torn between disrupting life as he knows it or helping Chuck find his way home. Along the way he is helped by best friend Skiff (Sean William Scott) while being chased by a government task force lead by General Grawl (Gary Oldman) and crazy Professor Kipple (John Cleese).
A love letter to B-movies and a nostalgic look back at the idealistic values and culture of the 1950s, Planet 51 is a movie that doesn’t really know what it wants to be or who it wants to be for. Written by Joe Stillman , the man behind Shrek and Shrek 2, Planet 51 is an animated children’s movie that completely misses its target audience.
Filled to the brim with side comments and in-jokes that will entertain any well versed movie fan and are, in fact, the best parts of the film. Planet 51 just doesn’t connect where it counts, the main storyline.
For the past few years we have been spoiled in the animation field with studios like Pixar and DreamWorks as they have worked out the balance of making a story that is primarily for children with the odd in-joke here and there that adults can gauff to while the kids carry on watching none the wiser. With Planet 51, this formula has been switched on its head and is worse off for it.
The main story arch is flimsy in itself and, without many big action or comedy scenes, leaves pockets of time where not much is going on and time begins to drag slightly as you wait for something to happen. The characters are all likable, but not very memorable and as the story progresses there is no real sense of peril in their adventure, which is really what the plot needs, to keep you engaged.
The animation, although standing up well on the screen, isn’t a patch on what rival studios are turning out and you feel you are watching a cartoon set in space rather than being transported there as in the case of Wall-E, which, in my opinion, was one of the most beautiful films of last year, animated or otherwise. With CGI becoming the norm of most theatrical animated films now, you expect quality from your product. This, sadly, just does not materialise in this movie and, again, it is the worse for it.
What makes this more of a disappointment to me is that the idea for the movie is great and if they had developed it and balanced it right, it could have been amazing. But what end up with is similar to candy floss. It is enjoyable enough while you are eating it but once it has finished you almost instantly forget about it and are hungry for something else.
Planet 51 certainly isn’t the worst movie I have seen this year but it is also far from the best.
Planet 51 is released in the UK today.