Dreamworks once again gives Pixar and Disney a run for their money with the farcical 3-D cartoon Monsters Vs Aliens, an imaginative yet hilariously derivative sci-fi comedy that knows the best ideas to steal from, including (but hardly limited to) Attack of the 50-Foot Woman, Independence Day, Close Encounters, Mars Attacks and even Disney hits like The Incredibles and Monsters Inc. The movie barely disguises what it plagiarizes: B.O.B., the film's gooey blue monster, is basically the same goofy spook that slimed Bill Murray in Ghostbusters with a color and personality facelift.
The plot of Monsters Vs. Aliens is wholly secondary to the special-effects and visuals. After being flattened by a meteor carrying some extraterrestrial muscle juice, Susan (Reese Witherspoon) becomes Ginormica, a 50-foot tall giant with super strength. She is captured and imprisoned with various other monsters, including the gelatinous B.O.B. (Seth Rogen), mad scientist Dr. Cockroach (Hugh Laurie) and the Missing Link (Will Arnett), a variation on the Creature from the Black Lagoon. When aliens suddenly attack San Francisco, the government decides the monsters are our best defense, and the fun battle begins.
Although it tends to play fast and loose with issues of scale, the film is a visual masterpiece, the first computer-animated feature originally produced in 3-D rather than being converted to 3-D afterwards. There's plenty of humor for the kids, with enough pop-culture jokes thrown in just for adults to keep them happy too (few 10-year-olds will appreciate the classic reference to Close Encounters of the Third Kind). There's nary a dull moment in this wild and charming video game of a movie, which features an all-star cast of TV comedians, among them John Krasinski and Rainn Wilson (The Office), Amy Poehler (Saturday Night Live), Jeffrey Tambor and Will Arnett (Arrested Development), and even a few big-screen greats (Renee Zellwegger, Paul Rudd) thrown in for good measure. Rating: 4/5.