Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Monster Trucks (2016)

Monster Trucks poster.jpgMonster Mayhem

Director: Chris Wedge
Running Time: 104 Minutes
Starring: Lucas Till, Jane Levy, Amy Ryan, Rob Lowe, Danny Glover, Barry Pepper


The film opens up on a company site, where a big corporation are drilling for oil. After unwisely drilling too far, the scenery turns into results a Nickelodeon attempt at Deepwater Horizon, causing the release of three tentacled, oil guzzling creatures. Run by a slimy Rob Lowe and his jarring Texan accent, this oil greedy company are the basis for a ham fisted message about corporations and the environment. But if that sounds boring, then don't worry, as it gets buried within the rest of the film.

Our lead character is high school senior Tripp (Lucas Till), who wants to escape the life he's trapped in, so builds a monster truck out of spare parts. All he's really missing is an engine, which makes things convenient when Tripp crosses paths with one of the released creatures (which gets imaginatively nicknamed Creech). As Creech acts as an engine for the truck, the corporation have sent out hitmen to recapture him, resulting in a mission to get Creech home.

The inspiration is evidently clear, as the filmmakers try to deliver an E.T style tale, only with Monster Trucks. Yet all this inspiring does is deliver constant reminders of the better film, as well as a need to view Spielberg's classic instead (unless one really wants to see Lucas Till feeding a poor CG effect from an oil barrel).

Related imageWhat's rather jarring is how much senseless destruction occurs on-screen, as the reckless driving of Creech and Tripp causes multiple cases of vehicle destruction, near-death experiences for unwitting pedestrians, which is all laughed off as though it's just a bit of fun. Even more disturbing is the amount of severe injuries and deaths which most likely occur, and it's all caused by the reckless actions of the characters we're meant to root for. It's seeing these constant scenes which leaves one wondering if Tripp actually has a driving license.

With this material, it's unsurprising so many actors seem to be phoning in their roles. Lucas Till gets the short straw, portraying an unlikeable, reckless, self-absorbed tool who uses those who are supposedly his friends, yet we're meant to like because he wants to save Creech (after first trying to kill him). Not helping things is his cartoonish portrayal, delivering a greater sense of disbelief than the lacklustre effects used for his companion. Poor Jane Levy at least gives it a try, but her charming performance is for naught, as the poor script gives her nothing to work with.

And then there's the finale, which appears to be turning up the absolute ridiculousness. In spite of this, it's all played with a straight face, rarely allowing the fun to seep in. It's this aspect which makes this less entertaining for its bizarre nature, especially when compared to The Fast and The Furious films, which willingly embraces their bizarre nature, and has fun with it.

Chris Wedge has delivered quite the cinematic oddity. A feature more concerned on following a formula popularised by E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, as opposed to coherent character arcs, making characters likeable or logical, while glossing over a rising body count like its nothing. To be perfectly frank, Monster Trucks is a poor attempt at a motion picture, yet carries enough bizarrely entertaining beats to make it far from an outright disaster (even if they're most likely unintentional).

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