Oh January movies. I always mean to take January off but I went and saw Monster Trucks anyway. It’s directed by Chris Wedge, who directed the Ice Age movies. I have to admit, I am not the ideal audience for this film; it was not made for me. But I’m feeling well disposed to Monster Trucks, despite its flaws, because it had an original premise and completely delivered on it. If you’ve seen the trailer, it’s exactly what is says on the tin – it’s Monster Trucks with Real Monsters.
Looking for any way to get away from the life and town he was born into, Tripp (Lucas Till), a high school senior, builds a Monster Truck from bits and pieces of scrapped cars. After an accident at a nearby oil-drilling site displaces a strange and subterranean creature with a taste and a talent for speed, Tripp may have just found the key to getting out of town and a most unlikely friend.
Monster Trucks is a ‘High Concept’ film, like Jaws or Jurassic Park. It starts with an idea (Monster Trucks with Actual Monsters) and builds from there. I wish they had kept building. I got the sense that this came out before it was ready, either that or saw the budget for the CGI and fired half the writers to cut the costs (while keeping the pitch ideas). The dialogue is flat, the characters are simplistic (and often unbelievable) and the pacing is a bit wonky. It did not pass the Bechdel Test. It takes a long time to get going. But once it gets up to speed, it’s a lot of fun to watch.
I loved the truck monsters. To my untrained eye, the CGI was really good – the monsters seemed to have weight and interacted seamlessly with the real actors. They had surprisingly good emotional expression and each monster character could be easily told apart from the other. The way they explained the truck driving was almost believable and there were a couple great moments of seeing them in a different element that added complexity to their design.
Cards on the table, I went to see this movie for Lucas Till, the star of Monster Trucks. I could watch him all day. Turns out he was Havok on X-Men: First Class and he was dreamy in that too. I felt a bit conflicted about ogling his character in Monster Trucks because while he had the body of a 26 year old (and the face of an angel), his character had the sex-drive and emotional development of a 12 year old. He’s intelligent and good with mechanical things but a little underdone inter-personally. Still, the Lucas Till can act, his relationship with the CGI monster was dynamic and convincing, which could not have been easy.
So is Monster Trucks worth watching? Probably not, unless you LOVED the trailer (or Lucas Till) and wanted to see a feature-length version of it (or him). Lucas Till keeps his shirt on the entire time. Still the chase scenes are fun and watching a truck climb a building to drive on the roof was a hoot. But despite this I can’t really recommend it all that much.