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Monsters vs. Aliens 

It's appealing, but Monsters vs. Aliens' magic is extinguished by too many committee decisions.

Monsters vs. Aliens has its share of appealing ideas and half-realized scenes. But just as the title lays out the simple draw of its premise, it also illustrates the fit-for-Happy Meal-toys reduction of it all. Monsters vs. Aliens' magic is extinguished by too many committee decisions. This doesn't make for stirring pop fantasy, though it comes close with a story thread about a woman who grows into a giant during her wedding ceremony. Exiled to a monster stronghold following her dramatic growth burst, Susan Murphy (voice of Reese Witherspoon) is forced to overcome her ideas of marital success, and experience life as an outsider (under new identity Ginormica). When her fiance rejects her new size, his lack of support exemplifies the fear of commitment that can occur when illness or physical change enters a relationship.

That's brave ground for a family sci-fi comedy, but Monsters vs. Aliens hasn't the faith in its scenario to see it through. Despite Susan looking repulsed at her mother-in-law's grotesquely small thumbs, it barely establishes her superficiality before she mutates. Pop cultural references abound, and they're sometimes clever, but everything is steamrolled by noise and indecision.

The Dr. Strangelove war-room scenes were already carried to an alien invasion plot in Mars Attacks!. When the president (voice of Stephen Colbert) communicates to a spaceship by playing the Close Encounters theme, before finding out if he'll have more luck with "Axel F," it's a good idea on paper. But the movie never allows itself the breathing room to become a classic. The best scenes, such as a young couple's "parking" date interrupted by a UFO landing, are cut too short. Everything's been so agonized over that not much of it remains inspired.


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