It may contradict its own eco-centricity by introducing a species of subterranean creatures that are less fuel-efficient than an 8.4-liter V10, but “Monster Trucks” is an entertaining family movie, and definitely the most ambitious Dodge Ram ad I’ve ever seen.
After an oil crew in small town nowhere taps into a deep vein of water, three amphibious cephalopods are launched to the surface. Attempting to cover it up is the head corporate shyster played by Rob Lowe, back in comic form. With two of the newly discovered specimens in holding tanks at his evil corporation Terravex, he sends garden variety paramilitary animal control specialist (Holt McCallany) to wrangle the third creature so that science doesn’t interfere with his enormous payload.
Harboring the fugitive octopus is Tripp (Lucas Till), a high school junk yard dog who quickly picks up on the conspiracy and simultaneously figures out how to integrate the oil-guzzling creature into his beat up antique pickup truck, which happens to be in need of an engine. No more needling from the privileged class jerk once Tripp’s new friend “Creech” gets under the hood .
And then there’s Meredith, Tripp’s bubbly math tutor. An onionskin veil separates nerdy Meredith from the adorable allure of actor Jane Levy. Till’s mechanic-chic outcast eventually figures out that she’s a pretty cool, very pretty chick ( and she’s surprised to learn that he’s not too dumb, after all).
Both actors are suitable leads. Levy takes a break from a run of thrillers for a good romp in this Nickelodeon flick, as they race to return Creech to his family before the bad guys poison the well, so to speak.
Co-star Barry Pepper plays Sheriff Rick, the uptight boyfriend of Tripp’s mom (played by a scarce Amy Ryan), and Thomas Lennon as a Terravex scientist with a growing conscience and some terrific one-liners. Danny Glover cameos as the wheel-chair bound owner of an impound lot.
But let’s get down to torque, and “Monster Trucks” has plenty of it—a surprisingly good, sometimes clever family friendly adventure. One reckless driving scene without consequence sets a questionable example for the target demographic–the same group who will undoubtedly guffaw at a scene of exposed butt crack (okay, so did I).
The movie is directed by Chris Wedge, who is best known for “Ice Age”, and written by Derek Connolly who penned the excellent “Safety Not Guaranteed” (and has a couple of upcoming whoppers including a “Star Wars” installment). There’s not much else to it, so just have fun and take your kids to see a decent car chase with tentacles akimbo.
—M. Parsons 2017