Review: “Monster Trucks”

Posted by Michael Parsons on January 15, 2017 in / No Comments


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, Monster+Trucks+Posterwhich 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.

Area Theaters

—M. Parsons 2017

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Michael Parsons

Father. Realtor®. Movie nut. After pestering my parents for their commentary on “Star Wars” when I was four years old, my mind went into a creative frenzy. I’d imagined something entirely different than the actual film, which I didn’t end up seeing until its 1979 re-release at the Uptown Theater in Washington, DC. This was my formal introduction to the cinema.

During that long wait, which felt like an eternity to a child, my mind was being molded by more corrosive stuff like “Trilogy of Terror” and “Rosemary’s Baby”, most of which I’d conned various babysitters into letting me watch on television ( I convinced one poor lady that “Jaws” was actually “Moby Dick”).

The folks were pretty strict in that regard, so the less appropriate it was for a kid to watch, the more I was fascinated by it. Horror staples like “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th”, as well as lesser-known low-budget fare like “Madman”, “Sleepaway Camp” and “Pieces” all ended up sneaking their way into the VHS on a regular basis.

Since then, I’ve developed an obsession with the entire film industry. Even though I watch and review a wide breadth of films these days, my appreciation for the campy, poorly lit micro-budgeters still lends itself to my evolving perspective on movies just as much as the summer blockbusters and Oscar contenders. As I recall my trips to the movie theater, I realize that this stuff is about much more than just a fleeting piece of entertainment.

A couple years ago, I was finally given the opportunity to lend my opinion on films to a publication, The Rogers Revue, with a subsequent run at Reel Film News. It's been both a privilege and a gateway to what we’re doing now. Most of my experience has come from interviewing independent filmmakers, who consistently promote innovation. The filmmaking process is grueling and relatively unforgiving.

Fellow film enthusiast Eddie Pasa and I have created DC Filmdom as a medium for film reviews, discussion, and (inevitably) some debate. And so, the creative frenzy continues.

(Michael is a member of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association).

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