I don’t care how mature you are--everyone loves a good cartoon once in a while. Sometimes you just need to leave the adult world behind and relax with some youthful hilarity. The problem with Planet 51 is it’s not youthful, it’s infantile. Planet 51 is so inane that not only is adult enjoyment unattainable, even younger audiences will be on to its lack of intelligence and novelty.
Planet 51 has a fantastically fresh premise: an astronaut lands on an alien planet where he’s perceived to be the invader. You’ve got your archetypal handsome, narcissistic moon man, Chuck Baker (Dwayne Johnson), but there's an entire alien population to explore to put together an innovative group of curious creatures. For some bizarre reason, writer Joe Stillman opts to trash any ingenuity and model all of the aliens after complete stereotypes.
Justin Long voices the protagonist, Lem. He’s the nice geeky guy who gets caught up in Chuck’s mess and has to help him return to his ship before the ship’s autopilot sends the vessel back to Earth without him. But Lem can’t do this alone; he needs sidekicks. First up is Skiff (Sean William Scott), Lem’s best pal and a certified screw-up. There’s also Eckle (Freddie Benedict) who’s clearly modeled after any 10-year-old boy with an imagination. The worst of the good guy bunch are Neera (Jessica Biel) and Glar (Alan Marriott), with Neera filling the role of the hero’s token love interest and Glar, the guy who’s stealing her away from him.
I can let the stereotypical stuff from Chuck, Lem, Skiff and Eckle slide, but Neera and Glar are cringe-worthy. Glar very well might be the most irritating character of 2009, an overwhelmingly obvious pacifist trying to sing everyone into serenity as you wish his songs of tranquility would turn into songs of shut-the-hell-up. What makes Glar far more infuriating is his direct connection with the film’s second most loathsome character, Neera. Talk about a weak portrayal of women on Planet 51. Neera is pathetic, aloof and adds absolutely nothing to the story. All Glar and Neera do is detract from the few parts of Planet 51 that actually work. -
The one character caught in the middle is Rover. Every dog featured in a cartoon makes my heart melt. Well, Rover’s not really a dog, he’s a robot that acts like a dog, which qualifies him for dog-like charm. He’s loveable, loyal and garners, by far, the most laughs. My unconditional love for Rover is completely spoiled by the fact that he’s a total WALL-E rip-off. Everything from the solar panel on his back to his personality reminds me of my favorite little waste allocation load lifter. I’m a one-robot kind of girl, and WALL-E will always be first in my heart.
I feel silly introducing the villains because you can probably already guess what we’re dealing with. There’s the rough and tough General Grawl (Gary Oldman) and the mad scientist Professor Kipple (John Cleese). You see, Planet 51 mimics the American 1950s and monster movies are all the rage. When Chuck arrives, the residents assume he’s as evil as the terrifying ‘Humaniacs’ in the movies. General Grawl puts the army on red alert and ruthlessly tries to hunt down Chuck.
Now that I’ve completely torn apart the film, a ray of light for parents who’ll have no choice but to see Planet 51 this weekend: it’s bad, but tolerable. If your child is under eight, he or she will likely be mesmerized by the bright colors and bubbly animation. On the other hand, the filmmakers completely underestimate the pre-teen crowd. Ages nine and up will be as aware of the lack of ingenuity as adults and might even find it condescending. As long as you’re accompanying younger kiddies you should be safe with just enough amusement to keep them entertained throughout the film. Planet 51 is short, sweet and has a fast enough pace to get you to the end unscathed. You might even crack a smile when it pays homage to classics like E.T. and Star Wars.