I expected 2 things from this movie: either a surprisingly heartwarming adventure film, or a stupidly-entertaining, cheesy, clichéd mess. I got the latter.
Monster Trucks is directed by Chris Wedge and written by: Derek Connelly, Matthew Robinson, Jonathan Aibel, and Glenn Berger. Stars-Lucas Till, Jane Levy, Barry Pepper, Rob Lowe, and Danny Glover. Premise-While drilling for oil, a company unearths subterranean creatures with strange abilities. One of them escapes to a junkyard manned by Tripp (Till), a down on his luck engineer who yearns for a life outside of his dull hometown. When he discovers the monster, they quickly become friends, and Tripp modifies his custom built truck to house the creature. But the corporation does not want any knowledge of these monsters to reach the public, so they hunt down Tripp’s new friend.
Did that sound like an incomprehensible (if not familiar) premise? That’s because Monster Trucks is one of the ridiculously clichéd movies I have ever seen! I left the theater shocked in disbelief of what I just watched. Time to rip apart a once-respected director’s disasterpiece.
This film was produced by Nickelodeon Movies (whose production credits include Good Burger, Rugrats Go Wild, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, Barnyard, and The Last Airbender), and loosely based off of the toys and famous trucks. I say loosely because there is little to no connection to the actual monster truck toys or the real thing. At best, we get a 3 second clip of Grave Digger (I think) on a box TV, but that’s it. Instead, ugh, we get actual monster trucks. One of the reasons I saw this trash was because of Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger. These guys have turned stupid premises into great movies before (the Kung Fu Panda trilogy). Heck, they wrote Trolls, another toy-based cash grab, and even though it was a bad film, the amount of lore and attempts at charm were decent. I cannot believe how lazy the writing and direction is, so I guess we’ll just have to go over why.
Within the first 10 minutes, you know the movie is going to be a predictable mess. Our first encounter with the main protagonist tells you he is your average, generic, pretty tennager who wants to leave his crummy little hometown (has this cliché seriously been around since the 40s?). He has a bland, loving mother (Amy Ryan), and a stepfather (Pepper) he doesn’t get along with (reason-nonexistent). Tripp is an outcast at high school, but finds solace in working at a junkyard, where his boss Danny Glover (who cares what the character’s name is) will occasionally give Tripp car parts so he can build his own truck. We then cut to a generic oil company run by a generic, evil, rich white guy (Lowe) who doesn’t care about environmental risks. After discovering possible sub aquatic life where they are drilling, Lowe demands that they continue. Predictably, they unearth 3 creatures, and capture 2 while the third escapes.
If you couldn’t tell, everything about this movie is a cliché, especially the characters. Tripp’s mom and Glover don’t get any development, Lowe is a caricature, and the supporting cast is even worse. There is a female student, played by Levy, who enters the plot to help out Tripp with his homework (now that’s character motivation). Of course these two planks of wood have to get together (even though they have as much chemistry as Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt in By the Sea) then save these monsters. Unfortunately, most of their scenes amount to filler. Whenever this girl contributes to the plot, she’ll say something like, “My dad has tools” or “My dad has an empty barn that he never looks inside of.” All this girl does is provide Tripp with Dues Ex Machina’s! What is really annoying is that they do this at least 4 times!
Oh gosh I haven’t even gotten to the acting in this movie! Everyone is atrocious! Till is awkwardly strange, Ryan/Lowe/Pepper aren’t even trying, Glover has 3 minutes of screentime, and Levy is… just the worst. Wedge must have been absent for every one of her scenes, because it’s almost like she doesn’t know what acting is. Everyone in this movie has given good performances in the past, but that’s what happens when your script is sewage.
There is a reason why I chose not to make this a spoiler review. Judging from the sound of laughter in my theater, I can say that little kids will have a blast with it. Not to say you (someone over the age of 14) should waste your money on it, but there is an audience that likes it. You could probably predict every scene up until the climax. Speaking of which, the third act (which is oddly similar to that of Starman) thoroughly defenestrated any suspension of disbelief that I still had. The CGI is terrible from the start, but it really shows in this climax, it contains a poor use of the Wilhelm scream, physics are abused, and the ending is incredibly cheesy. That’s it, we’re done.
Monster Trucks is not one of the worst films out there because it’s not insulting, nor offensive, just absurdly stupid. It’s the type of movie that you would watch on a Friday night with your buddies, dollar store popcorn in one hand and alcoholic (I prefer H2O) beverage in the other, and let the belly laughs ensue. It may not be as confusingly entertaining as The Room or Birdemic, but trust me; it’s in the ballpark. Monster Trucks gets Guy’s Guru Grade of a D.