Monster Trucks review

When reviewing a film, a lot of "critics" (never the good ones) forget about the audience that the film they are watching is intended for. When reviewing a children's film, for example, it's important to keep in mind that it's intended to be enjoyed by youngsters, which means an adult might not find it entirely to their liking.

Monster Trucks is a perfect example of "critics" forgetting that they were watching a kids' film. Upon its theatrical release early in 2017, Monster Trucks was torn to shreds by those assigned to review it, calling it variously "bland, a wreck, boring, one of the silliest things put on screen in a long time, a car-tastrophe, a stalled blockbuster, goofy, cheesey, ridiculous, inconsequential and dumb". Harsh indeed, and while the film certainly has its faults (quite a number of them) it really isn't that bad.

More of a Spielberg-lite fantasy than an out-and-out monster movie, Monster Trucks is the story of high school student Tripp (Lucas Till, looking much closer in age to 30 than 20) who works at a junkyard owned by Mr Weathers (Danny Glover) in his spare time. One night he comes across a big, strange and goofy-looking tentacled squid-like creature and the two quickly bond when Tripp learns that the creature – which he cleverly names Creech – has rather special abilities.

On the plus side, Monster Trucks is fast paced and action packed, with a decent ecological message. While Till is a bit bland as a leading man, the supporting cast around his is all quite decent, with Amy Ryan as his mum and the always terriific Jane Levy as fellow high schooler and potential love interest Meredith. Rob Lowe has fun as the villianous head of the local fracking company Terravex Oil, who is keen to kill Creech and his fellow creatures that live in caverns below the town and feed on oil, while Barry Pepper is terrific as the local sheriff and Thomas Lennon (late of The Odd Couple) is fine as a scientist working for the nasty oil company.

Now to the negatives. The idea for the film supposedly came from the four-year-old son of Adam Goodman, the president of Paramount at the time. It's actually not a bad idea – what if monster trucks were actually driven by MONSTERS! – but the film doesn't really make enough of the idea. The film, which allegedly cost the studio $125m to make, was shot in 2014, but it sat on the shelf until January 2017 ... and on release it didn't set the box office alight. It's directed by Chris Wedge, who has directed a number of animated projects for Blue Sky Studios - Epic, Robots and Ice Age - and makes his live-action debut here. He makes a decent fist of it, but the idea (and budget) might have been better off in a more experienced pair of hands.

Still, for the most part, Monster Trucks is a decent enough romp that the kids will certainly enjoy more than the grown-ups (and the film "critics"). The creatures are endearing (and beautifully animated), the truck action is fast and furious (if sometimes a bit too careless) and the ecological message is sound. It may not have been a box-office monster, but it's a solidly decent experience at home.

EXTRAS: There are six Deleted Scenes (8:36); a Gag Reel (4:35); the behind-the-scenes Production Diaries (10:13); the featurette Who's Driving The Monster Trucks? (7:06); the featurette The Monster In The Truck (4:57); and the featurette Creating The Monster Truck (6:29).

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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