“Monster Trucks” (2017)
Running Time: 104 minutes
Written by Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger, Derek Connolly and Matthew Robinson
Directed by: Chris Wedge
Featuring: Lucas Till, Jane Levy, Amy Ryan, Rob Lowe, Danny Glover, Barry Pepper and Holt McCallany
Reece Tenneson: “I’m not into hurting people..”
[Nods to Burke]
Reece Tenneson: “..that’s his job.”
When movies go bad they really go bad and not much can save them. Enter “Monster Trucks” (2017), a film that was actually made a few years ago, had multiple date changes and was released at the movies recently, now arriving on DVD/Blu-ray very quickly and quietly just to get it off the studios books. This film marked the debut of Chris Wedge as a live action film maker, he had been making successful animated movies up to this time, helping found Blue Sky Productions, he wanted to spread his wings into live action – it appears this was not the film to do that on.
At the start of the film, Terravex Oil is in the midst of a fracking operation near a lake in North Dakota, overseen by CEO Reece Tenneson (Rob Lowe) and geologist Jim Dowd (Thomas Lennon). The operation releases 3 subterranean creatures and destroys the drilling rig. Two are captured by Terravex, but one of them escapes the site. Meanwhile, high school senior Tripp (Lucas Till) is looking for something to do to escape the life of his family and has taken up a part time job at a local junkyard and has created a hobby of building a pickup truck to impress his classmate Meredith (Jane Levy). One night, Tripp encounters the escaped creature in the junkyard and captures it but the creature escapes before he can seek authorities.
This isn’t an entirely bad movie, its just a little slow and very formulaic, much like the latest Power Rangers film, which on the surface seems to share some mutual DNA. All of the characters seem way too familiar having a ‘been there and done that’ vibe; even the ending of the film is overblown, noisy and pointless. If there had been some originality from the writers or director this could have been interesting, maybe concentrating on the science angle, whilst decreasing the sheer number of characters would have been a start.
In cases where the market you are aiming for are young people and families it may help to actually show families with issues that can then be a start for three dimensional people that you can understand and care for. This is what makes films like this work, the ultimate example being “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” (1982), is a grounding in some reality with the rules of the world being set up and clear which is something Spielberg always tackles extremely well. It is something new film makers should learn – in particular with this film for example gravity does not hold sway over the vehicles which is not very realistic – what it has always meant to me was that anytihg is possible, this does not lead to any real peril for the heroes as the seem to be able to get wawy with anything.
I can see why this film failed, its really not hard but if you have some children hat want to watch something at home these holidays you could do worse – faint praise but then that’s about as positive as I can be about this big budget folly.
Released on DVD & Blu-ray 12th April 2017.