You’ve got to approach these Pixar and Dreamworks projects with the right kind of expectations. For the most part, they’re not going to wow you with intense character development and a deeply involving plot. Instead, you get treated to some wonderful animation and a few sight gags along the way.
With Monsters vs. Aliens, the Earth is being invaded by an evil alien creature (voiced by Rainn Wilson) and the US government (Stephen Colbert plays the President) enlists the assistance of some monsters to rid us of this otherworldly threat. Reese Witherspoon provides the voice of Susan, a woman who has unexpectedly grown to the size of a small apartment building.
While the depth and sophistication of Monsters vs. Aliens are nowhere near what we experienced in Ratatouille or even in Kung Fu Panda, there is enough entertainment value here if you’re looking for a quick and easy diversion. For me, the voice talents of Seth Rogen (who voices the brainless B.O.B.) made for most of the laughs. His unique chuckle is enough to make me chuckle.
If you have the opportunity to catch Monsters vs. Aliens in 3D, you should take advantage. I didn’t get to watch Bolt in 3D and I can see how the sometimes gimmicky 3D element adds a fair bit to the overall experience.
Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea
Hayao Miyazaki is easily one of the most respected visionaries in Japan and for good reason. He is the man behind such legendary animated movies as My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. If you’re a fan of his unique whimsical style, you should be attracted to Miyazaki’s most recent project, Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea (Gake no Ue no Ponyo). It was released in Japan last summer by Studio Ghibli and it will be dubbed in English for North American audiences for release this summer. Among the English voice actors are Frankie Jonas, Tina Fey, and Matt Damon.
It’s unlikely that Ponyo will named among the summer blockbusters this year, but it is easily worthy of your attention. The tale follows a goldfish/mermaid named Ponyo who is saved by a five-year-old boy named Sosuke. Ponyo gets a taste of what it is like to live like a human and strives to leave her ocean life behind in favor of life on the surface with Sosuke. Taking on the form of a young girl, Ponyo drinks tea and eats ramen for the first time.
As with other Miyazaki films, Ponyo is filled with a great sense of wide-eyed wonder and imaginative spirit. You really need to suspend your disbelief and once again see the world through the eyes of a child. This is more than just a diversion. Far too often, we lose sight of the simple joys in life and the movies by Studio Ghibli take us back to that childhood wonder. This movie is positively endearing and while I wouldn’t put it up there with Spirited Away, it’s still worthy of a recommendation. Check out the trailer for a better look.