Monster Trucks Might Please Your Littles
- Susan Ellingburg Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2017 12 Jan
Monster Trucks is a goofy, family-friendly monster movie that manages to be mildly charming despite its flaws. While it’s hardly E.T. for this generation, it's entertaining enough. 2.5 out of 5.
Tripp (Lucas Till) can't wait to get out of high school and out of town. Of course, that's going to be difficult since—unlike his classmates—Tripp's only mode of transportation is a bicycle. But when an industrial accident sets subterranean creatures loose on the earth's surface, Tripp finds and befriends one. Next thing you know, Tripp has a new ride: a truck powered by a monster. That's right, a literal "monster truck" (ba dum ching). Which would be great except for the big, bad company execs determined to find and eliminate the monsters so they can keep their project alive. Can Tripp and his companions win the race to get the monsters back to their home? (What do you think?).
I find Till much more believable as a disgruntled high school student than in his TV role as MacGyver. His sullen teen is a little bland, whiny, and spoiled, but he has his moments. And Tripp's poutiness makes him a good foil for perky classmate Meredith (Jane Levy) and his engaging creature friend. The "monster" of Monster Trucks is more cuddly than scary; he looks like an octopus-ish relative of Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon. "Creech" is kind of cute—also a good description for this movie as a whole.
Nobody does Smarmy Evil Dude like Rob Lowe, while Thomas Lennon made for a nicely kid-friendly villain with a conscience. Both of these company execs were comic-book-style baddies, which fit well into this live-action cartoon of a story.
It was nice to see a character in a wheelchair—Tripp's boss, Mr. Weathers (Danny Glover)—whose role had nothing to do with his handicap. Mr. Weathers is a perfectly capable guy who happens to get around on wheels rather than legs. His role could be meant as a sort of human reflection of the monster in the truck, but let's choose to celebrate the normalization of differently-abled people on the big screen.
This isn't the sort of story you want to think about too hard… if at all. The likelihood of a subterranean sea creature surviving, much less thriving, above ground is only one of the plot holes big enough to drive a (monster) truck through. Tripp is too busy feeling sorry for himself to inspire real empathy. I didn't appreciate his casual use of power tools without appropriate protective gear, either (kids, please don't try this at home). But it was his easy exploitation of an eager-to-be-liked classmate, even in a good cause, that I found particularly jarring. Other than that, he's nice enough. This is very much a "boys and their toys" movie with women relegated to adoring sidekick or nurturing mom (Amy Ryan) roles. But that could describe any number of automobile-inspired movies, couldn't it?
Christian Worldview Elements / Spiritual Themes
Other than "basic decency vs. big business," there wasn’t much of a theme at all.
CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers)
- MPAA Rating: PG for action, peril, brief scary images, and some rude humor
- Language/Profanity: Only the mildest of terms used and those rarely. Brief potty humor.
- Sexuality/Nudity: Just a light case of budding teen romance with the flirting that implies; one unfortunate encounter with plumber's—or in this case, mechanic's—crack.
- Violence/Frightening/Intense: There's nothing to really concern even the most tender of viewers. The "monster" is really not particularly scary to start with (and not at all after we meet him). Some wild driving leads to multiple car wrecks, but no injuries appear to result. Trucks jump from rooftop to rooftop, flip, and are knocked off ledges, but they handle it with aplomb. A truck and its passenger are briefly submerged in water.
Drugs/Alcohol: A man pours and partakes of an alcoholic drink in the presence of teens.
The Bottom Line
RECOMMENDED FOR: Anyone looking for a lighthearted movie that doesn't require much thought. Families, especially those with younger children; judging from the squeals of laughter from young (elementary school and under) viewers at my screening, kids will like it—and their parents probably won't mind watching with them.
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR: Energy company employees likely won't appreciate the way their industry is depicted and viewers uninterested in simplistic, kid-friendly stories will be bored.
Monster Trucks, directed by Chris Wedge, opened in theaters January 13, 2017; available for home viewing April 11, 2017. It runs 104 minutes and stars Lucas Till, Jane Levy, Thomas Lennon, Barry Pepper and Rob Lowe. Watch the trailer for Monster Trucks here.
Susan Ellingburg spends most days helping to create amazing live events and most nights at the movies, at rehearsals, or performing with vocal ensembles in the Dallas area. This leaves very little time for cleaning house. A natural-born Texan, Susan loves all things British, Sunday afternoon naps, cozy mysteries, traveling with friends, and cooking like a Food Network star (minus the camera crew).
Publication date: January 12, 2017