‘Monster Trucks’ Inexplicably Well-Cast, Expectedly Blandly Written

monster_trucks_posterThis is one of those instances where you sit watching a movie and the entire time you think, “how the hell did this thing get made?”

“Monster Trucks” is a “family comedy” (both terms used lightly) starring Lucas Till as a high schooler who finds out a monster from a drilling accident has taken shelter inside his truck (GET IT, THE TITLE IS A PUN!!). Jane Levy stars as his love interest as Amy Ryan, Rob Lowe, Danny Glover and Barry Pepper also inexplicably appear. Chris Wedge directs.

Much like “Fantastic Four” a few years back, the making-of stories behind this film are a lot more interesting than the final product. Delayed various times since its announcement in July 2013, this was supposed to be a “Transformer-level franchise” for Paramount and was a “top priority” for the studio’s president. Fast forward to modern day, that president has long been fired and this film has already taken a $115 million write down due to its impending losses (it cost $125 million before promotion). All that is part of a very interesting timeline I’ll link here. Now given all the confusing decisions and failed risks this could have been a disaster, and being buried in January would imply so much, but “Monster Trucks” isn’t the worst thing ever; it’s just kind of… there.

This film reminds me of most every kids film from the mid-2000s in that it boasts big, award nominated actors cashing easy paychecks and has “teens” (both lead actors are in their mid-20s) outsmarting some unbelievably dumb adults, and that would be fine. It worked with “Big Fat Liar” (a guilty pleasure of mine to this day) and the formula was also implemented last fall with “Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life.” But here, nothing feels entertaining or even lighthearted. In fact this film has an incredible disregard for human life; people get run off cliffs and flattened by machines and none of the characters bat an eye or show remorse. In one instance they even make a quip about “I hope they were wearing their seatbelts” after two men all but certainly were crushed by a motorized vehicle and were sent to meet their Lord and Savior.

And I have to address the actors in here. Lucas Till and Jane Levy being here… fine, cool, whatever. Young actors who just want to have their name at the top of a blockbuster billing. But Academy Award-nominee Amy Ryan has one scene and three lines, Rob Lowe is a cartoon bad guy as the head of an oil company sporting a fake Southern accent and Danny Glover has two scenes as a Till’s (randomly paralyzed) boss. They’re obviously all here for paychecks and that’s fine, but it would have been nice to at least see the script and director give them something fun to do.

The creature design itself isn’t bad, it’s a nice mixture of scary and cute with slimy tentacles and rows of sharp teeth. But the first time we’re introduced to it is by it burping while slurping on an oil drum [eye roll] and we never really get a reason to care about it besides “it’s cute and the bad guys want to hurt it!”

Obviously I am not the target demo of a film like this, but even the kids in my theater seemed bored. There wasn’t much laughter or giggles and you can often get a sense of how an audience is enjoying a film and in this case, they weren’t.

“Monster Trucks” seemed doomed from the start and despite its big price tag and (almost impossible to explain) impressive cast, it just isn’t that fun, whimsical or inventive; it just has nothing under its hood [smirks]. The film was made with the best of intentions, but you know what they say about the road to hell…it’s driven on by monster trucks.

Critics Rating: 4/10

Paramount Pictures

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