Too often, 3-D technology does not serve a story adequately. Three-dimensional sequences, whether animated or live action, can feel more gimmicky than integral to the tale. Happily, such is not the case with the entertaining "Monsters vs. Aliens."
Dazzling colors, winning characters and energetic visual effects all work in concert, with the 3-D animation serving to intensify the experience.
While the message of personal empowerment is familiar, witty dialogue enhances the lively story. An impressive vocal cast features such comic talents as Seth Rogen, Stephen Colbert, Paul Rudd and Will Arnett. Actors better known for their dramatic skills — Hugh Laurie, Reese Witherspoon and Kiefer Sutherland — round out the cast impeccably.
Witherspoon stars as Susan, whose wedding to the self-absorbed Derek (Rudd) is marred when an apparent meteorite crashes on Earth. Radiation renders her mega-gigantic. She is spirited off by government operatives and deposited in a top-secret facility. In a funny montage, it's revealed that monsters have been put there to keep the populace tranquil.
The film pays affectionate homage to '50s sci-fi horror, while also offering topical one-liners. The U.S. president is voiced by Colbert, a stroke of inspired casting. He greets an alien spaceship and plays the five signature notes from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, setting the tone for his officious, daffy character. "Do something violent!" he bellows at the military.
The alien leader, Gallaxhar (Rainn Wilson), threatens the populace, though he insists his takeover bid is purely business. General W.R. Monger (Sutherland) puts the monsters in play. Susan, dubbed Ginormica, is joined by B.O.B. (Rogen), Dr. Cockroach (Laurie) and The Missing Link (Will Arnett). A battle scene on the Golden Gate Bridge, involving a pile-up of cars vs. an enormous alien robot vs. the monsters, is eye-popping.
With its mix of sweetness and light satire, "Monsters vs. Aliens" is a playful fantasy augmented by spirited action and a delightfully cheeky attitude.