Here’s a huge surprise: a movie about a truck with a monster in it called ‘Monster Trucks’ sucks. I know you’re shocked. I can’t believe it either. Somehow, we’ll get through this together.
For a movie destined to be forgotten within 24 hours of its release, ‘Monster Trucks’ sure built up a lot of hype. The film was allegedly the idea of the young child of a production executive at Paramount. It was completed three years ago with a massive budget but sat on the studio shelf ever since because the powers-that-be were just too embarrassed to release the thing. Unfortunately, there was too much money already invested to completely cut their losses. A cursory release was set up during the ass end of January when all of the worst studio movies are dumped into cinema screens to unceremoniously bomb and let the Oscar favorites make their money. Now ‘Monster Trucks’ is finally here and it sure does stink, just not as much as many may have feared. It stinks enough to fail at the box office for sure, but not enough for cult infamy.
Lucas Till (TV’s new MacGyver) and Jane Levy star as Tripp and Meredith a pair of 27-year-olds who are inexplicably still in high school. The movie never explains why. They’re presented as normal teenagers, but not for a second isn’t it obvious that they’re in their late twenties. Maybe they were held back ten years, have special needs, and this is actually a tragic tale of young adults let down by the small town American education system. Tough to say. Regardless, the elderly high schoolers have big crushes on each other and meet up for a biology study session (no innuendo intended… or is there?! Wink!) that’s rudely interrupted when Rob Lowe’s super evil oil man drills too deep and unleashes some tentacle monsters from deep within the Earth.
Fortunately, the friendliest CGI cartoon monster ever ends up at the junkyard where Tripp works. That may not seem like the greatest spot for a monster to live, but there’s some oil nearby to drink and the monster ends up playing around in the truck that Tripp is building to become king of his high school (‘cuz I guess it’s the 1950s or something). The good news is that the monster actually proves to be a better engine than the one that Tripp was cobbling together. In fact, when Tripp gets the hang of driving his new monster truck like someone riding a horse with a steering wheel, the thing is downright awesome. In fact, the monster truck is so good that Tripp will need to use it to fight an evil corporation. Why? Well, because that’s how these big stupid blockbusters designed to profit evil corporations work, dummy! Sheesh. Didn’t you figure that out yet?
Obviously, ‘Monster Trucks’ is one big dumb movie. It wants to revive that Amblin-ish charm that Michael Bay hijacked into the first ‘Transformers’ and J.J. Abrams pulled off for most of ‘Super 8’. Sadly, it doesn’t even have the heart or subtlety of the first ‘Transformers’ movie. It’s the product of a bunch of producers, screenwriters and one director (Chris Wedge, making his live action debut after ‘Ice Age’, ‘Robots’ and ‘Epic’) who all decided to make this thing because they thought it might turn a profit. No one thought they were making art. No one even thought they were making particularly interesting entertainment. They all just cashed their checks and spent way too much money on a big shiny tin filled with mediocrity and bullshit.
It almost goes without saying that the movie is stupid and irritating. The dialogue includes gems like, “I’m a scientist, I want to help you” and the jokes are played so big and broad that they’d still register for viewers who don’t speak English. Perhaps there was a time when the picture was intended to be a tongue-in-cheek riff on bad monster movies. That might have worked. Lord knows no one could ever possibly take a movie with this title and premise seriously.
In fact, the supporting cast that includes a lineup of people who should know better (such as Lowe, Amy Ryan, Barry Pepper, Danny Glover and Thomas Lennon) might even have been bamboozled into thinking they were making an ironic bad movie instead of just a straight-up bad movie. Either that, or there were more zeroes in their checks than normal. Regardless, you can assume they’ll downplay this entry in their IMDb résumés from here on out.
All that being said, enough money was forked over for Wedge to stage some moderately amusing set-pieces. The animation veteran at least tried to make the dumb script look as big and colorful and fun as possible. Still, the script is abysmal and everyone on screen is only half committed to it at best. This is a children’s movie that even children might consider pandering, if they care enough to show up. On the plus side, at least the overt attempts to set up sequels shouldn’t ever be fulfilled. Even if they are, we won’t have to see the results for a while since it would be part of the ‘Monster Trucks’ franchise tradition for any sequel to sit on a shelf for a few years while panicky studio execs decide what to do with their $100 million whoopsie.