Animation
 

Planet 51

Distributed by: TriStar Pictures


Reviewed by Melissa Minners

 

            Ever since I saw the promos for Planet 51 with the Alien-looking dog peeing acid on a hydrant and an alien being telling her son to take his medicine or the boogieman will get him just as a human astronaut crashes through the window, I couldnít wait to see this animated film.  Unfortunately, I missed it in the theaters, but as soon as it came out on DVD, I pounced on it.  Originally shown in 3-D format in the theaters, the DVD version I rented was happily 2-D.

            Planet 51 is a quiet little place, much like America in the 50s, where family values are at the forefront and everyone hopes for a good job, a family and a home with a white picket fence.  Itís the great American dream with some exceptions.  The inhabitants of Planet 51 look a bit different than most Americans.  For one thing, theyíre green and have four fingers on each hand.  Their cars donít drive on four wheels, they hover.  Their dogs look like the monster from the movie Alien and pee acid.  And the occupants of Planet 51 wouldnít have it any other way.

            Lem (Justin Long) is one citizen of Planet 51 on his way to realizing his dreams.  He has just landed a job at the Observatory where visitors are taught that there is only one galaxy and there are no life forms other than those found on Planet 51.  Lem is ready to settle down and start a family, hopefully with his next door neighbor Neera (Jessica Biel), despite the fact that he can barely find words to ask her out, much less marry him.  His best friend Skiff (Seann William Scott) laughs it off.  He works in a comic book store, dreaming of the day when aliens will invade Planet 51 and worrying over conspiracy theories.

            Lem thinsk Skiff is crazy until one day, a spaceship lands in his backyard.  Everyone speculates about what the alien occupant of the ship looks like, comparing him to their own ideas of what an alien should look like.  Spurred on by the latest series of alien horror films playing at the local movie theater, they believe that the alien is here to conquer Planet 51 and take over the minds of all its citizens.  Only Lem knows the truth about the new visitor.  Heís the only one who has seen and talked with him and Captain Charles Baker (Dwayne Johnson) is only interested in two things: his image and getting back to some place he calls Earth.

            But the close-minded and behind-the-times citizens of Planet 51 believe Baker to be a threat, placing Baker and all who protect him at serious risk.  Lem has only hours to return Baker to his planet orbiting starship before it returns to Earth, leaving him stranded on Planet 51.  Can Lem and his friends get him there in time?

            This movie is hysterical.  I couldnít stop laughing.  I loved the way Planet 51 resembled 1950s America from its looks to its morals and fears.  America in the 1950s was a country on the verge of great changes which would take place with the exploration of space during that decade and with other events in the decades to come.  Planet 51, despite the modern means of transportation, resembles this time period in our history perfectly.  They wonder about space, but donít really know what itís like.  While their technical growth is great in some aspects, their emotional growth is somewhat stunted and unable to accept new ideas until this unexpected event marking the landing of a United States astronaut on their planet opens their eyes.

            Dwayne Johnson is funny in his role as the self-absorbed Captain Chuck Baker, but the most comedy comes from the denizens of Planet 51 and his droid Rover.  Although I enjoyed all of the characters, I did have a couple of favorites.  Of course, I loved the dog resembling the monster from Alien - it was simply a hysterically funny idea and offered a nice homage to the Alien movies.  I also loved Rover, an exploratory robot which basically looks like a computer camera mounted atop a container of tools and riding on tank treads.  Rover steals the movie with his antics, acting exactly like a cross between R2-D2 and a puppy.  One hysterical scene features a very scared Rover having an accident, releasing a puddle of oil all over the floor as he quakes in terror.

            Planet 51 contains plenty of references to past science fiction films, including Alien, Star Wars, Star Trek and more.  In fact, one funny scene features Captain Baker re-enacting a Star Wars battle scene for his alien friends while waiting to get back to his ship.  The scenes in which the planetís military attempt to annihilate Baker and his friends are reminiscent of both Independence Day and Mars Attacks!

            Planet 51 is one of those movies that kids will love, but adults will love more.  There are funny moments for kids in this film, but it is obvious that this film was created with adults in mind.  There are references and homages to films that adults will remember seeing as kids and jokes that only adults will actually get.  Thatís what makes Planet 51 such a great animated film - itís good clean fun for viewers of all ages.  I thoroughly enjoyed this film and expect that any science fiction fan will, too.

 

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