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edge staff writer


‘Monster Trucks’ a total wreck

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Kiddie sci-fi flick fails on almost every possible level

There are some movies that are eagerly anticipated, films that excite you. There are many paths to generating that excitement, but the actual feeling itself doesn’t vary much. On the flip side, there are those movies whose very existence seems poorly thought out, movies that cause you to question the judgment of all involved. You hear of these films and wonder what on Earth possessed their makers to, well … make them.

To be sure, there’s no accounting for taste and everyone’s list will look slightly different, but there are some movies that firmly and nigh-universally ensconce themselves on one side or the other.

“Monster Trucks” is one such firmly-ensconced film. You can probably guess on which side of the divide it rests.

Tripp (Lucas Till, TV’s “MacGyver”) is a high-school kid living in a small town in North Dakota. His mom is involved with the town’s Sheriff Rick (Barry Pepper, “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials”), while his erstwhile biology tutor Meredith (Jane Levy, “Don’t Breathe”) might have a crush on him.

The town owes all it has to the oil deposits beneath its surface - and the massive conglomerate TerraVex that bought the rights to drill for them. However, an accident at one of the oil sites leads to the inadvertent release of a number of massive creatures that were somehow living beneath the surface. Two of them are quickly captured, but a third escapes, leaving the company – specifically site boss Reece Tenneson (Rob Lowe, TV’s “Code Black”) and lead scientist Jim Dowd (Thomas Lennon, TV’s “The Odd Couple”) – to figure out how to capture it before its discovery shuts down the operation.

That creature winds up in the junkyard where Tripp works. He’s also assembling a truck for himself using various salvaged parts, but when the creature takes up refuge inside, Tripp discovers that there’s a whole lot that his new “monster truck” can do. However, when TerraVex’s forces track them down, it’s up to Tripp and the newly-named Creech – along with a little help from Meredith – to stop TerraVex and save not just Creech, but his imprisoned fellow creatures and all of his kind still living deep beneath the surface.

It’s honestly even dumber than it sounds.

“Monster Trucks” is undoubtedly an effort to capture the spirit of 1980s-era kiddie sci-fi; unfortunately, it’s just not a very good one. Kids might not require a whole lot in the way of narrative complexity, but they certainly deserve more than this. It’s clunky and thin, without even the benefit of interesting action or quality effects work. There’s nothing here.

Of course, the studio knew this as well as anyone – the release date of “Monster Trucks” has been pushed back numerous times (its release was initially scheduled for March of 2015) and Paramount took a $115 million writedown on the film due to anticipated losses – but they had to release it eventually. Long-delayed films tend to be long-delayed for good reason. And so here it is, scattered amongst the rest of the January detritus.

One imagines that pretty much everyone involved is less than thrilled about the whole situation. Both Till and Levy are 90210-levels of too old to be in high school (though to be fair, Levy can almost pull it off; meanwhile Till looks like a young dad riding the school bus); their performances are impacted accordingly. They’re both charming actors, but that charm is meaningless when rendered in service to a traffic accident like this movie.

The supporting cast behaves precisely like you’d expect. Lowe is fine as the oily oilman, even though he’d be hard-pressed to phone it in any harder. Pepper’s just grateful for the work and Lennon reads like someone who gets off on what a goof the whole thing is. Oh, and Danny Glover is in this for reasons that are opaque to anyone other than Danny Glover – I’d guess blackmail photos?

This is director Chris Wedge’s first movie with actual people in it – his previous efforts have all been animated – which would explain why Creech is the only thing that’s even intermittently interesting about the movie. There’s plenty of blah-blah and a few feints at environmental concerns or whatever, but this is basically a 122-minute (!) empty hole that they’ve unsuccessfully attempted to fill with a CGI squid monster.

Movies aimed at kids are as good as they’ve ever been. So there’s no need to take them to see vacant placeholder fare like this. Sure, people will slow down to look at a car crash, but a car crash has the advantage of being vastly more interesting than “Monster Trucks.”

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