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Despite flashes of inspiration, the singularly high-concept Monster Trucks shows that it takes more than monsters and trucks to create a compelling feature film.
Despite flashes of inspiration, the singularly high-concept Monster Trucks shows that it takes more than monsters and trucks to create a compelling feature film.
All Critics (91)
| Top Critics (20)
| Fresh (29)
| Rotten (62)
Audiences could do (and have done) a lot worse than this genial throwback to a time when Kurt Russell was Disney's #1 living, breathing attraction.
These elements are all well and good, but if you're above the age of 12, it becomes considerably harder to reconcile the sporadic tone-deafness.
Monster Trucks is a wreck, fueled by the crazy belief that noise and repetition can disguise the lack of credible writing, directing, acting and FX.
The story and characters are so bland and color-by-numbers that it's hard to care about this juvenile adventure romp
CGI creatures have more personality than the humans. Characters and logic are sacrificed for images and gags.
A film that makes good on its laughable, low-concept premise, one that relies on an out-of-fashion moral clarity that may actually benefit its presumed child viewer.
This heavily flawed family film retreads a generic formula so safely that the only way it would be acceptable is for it to be put into a time machine and left in the 90s.
Despite all the silliness, I began to get used to the ride.
Monster Trucks feels like it was tailor-made for boys under 10 everywhere. Boys like monsters. Boys like trucks. At least, that's what the thinking is for a studio executive.
Action-packed and big-hearted, a safe Christmas family outing movie pick.
You can't have a ridiculous premise like Monster Trucks and not take advantage of it.
While there is some knockabout fun to be had along the ridiculous truck-chase way, the inevitable environmental message really couldn't be more confused.
Look, I've had some stupid ideas for movies in my life. There's one that I'm, actually, really proud of in that it features one of the biggest villains in all of media sort of becoming a religious cult leader (ala Jonestown), where, let's just say, he meets someone that he's very close to in the medium this villain originates in. It would certainly be a retcon of all the established lore surrounding the character, but I love the idea of a villain becoming a cult leader, after a particularly nasty beating by his arch nemesis, in order to recruit people to fight this person once again. Plus there's some interesting dynamics to explore with the person that he meets that's close to him, given their perception among some dumbasses who willfully ignore some of the unhealthier aspects of their relationship. I've not named any names, though the clues are there if you know what to look for. I don't name names because, as extremely limited as my review reach is, I don't want anyone stealing a potentially really good idea from me. Of course, I'm no writer, so this is where the problems start to show up. Anyway, the point is that I've had plenty of dumb ideas for movies (so dumb that I can't even remember them at this point), but I don't think I've ever come up with quite as dumb an idea as literal monster trucks. It's just something that you don't even think about serious because, I mean, nobody would be silly enough to fund a movie about a sea creature (or monster) that likes to hide in trucks and drive them and actually call it Monster Trucks. It's like this is bottom of the barrel brainstorming. Like people just DESPERATE to come up with SOMETHING decent. They've gone through everything and nothing sticks. Yet they, somehow, keep coming back to Monster Trucks, because it's the only one they can somewhat do something with. Look, I felt that I was destined to watch this movie. Because I may talk about about how even I would not have come up with an idea this silly, but, let's be serious, I probably would. It's like watching what a movie made by me would look like, but it's also put through a PG-13 filter, so with all the swearing, gore and sex cut out. Though, having said everything that I have said, in terms of this being a stupid idea, would you believe me if I said that this actually ended up being a pretty decent little movie. I see you reaching for your pitchforks. Yes, this movie was a major flop, making $64 million WORLDWIDE against $125 million budget. That's barely half of what it cost and it lost Paramount $120 million. So, no, this won't turn into a franchise, which is what, I'm assuming, Paramount and Nickelodeon were hoping for. The fact that the movie flopped, however, shouldn't have any bearing on the quality of the film. Scott Pilgrim vs The World was a major flop, but I loved that movie and still do to this day. I'm not saying that I love this movie, but I definitely, while not thinking it was good, had some fun watching this. The thing is that this follows rote narrative established popularized by E.T. You know the type of films I mean, where a kid grows close to a...being that the government/corporation/organization/etc. wants out of the picture for one reason or another. Hell, the first season of Stranger Things is, basically, E.T as done by Stephen King. In this case, it's an oil company who's drilling into a lake that's above the oil they want. The operation ends up releasing three sea creatures, two of which are caught and one of which escapes. The oil company's goons are on the lookout for the third creature, since the discovery of a new ecosystem will put their drilling to a stop and, obviously, they'll lose out on a ton of money. Isn't it great to see such black and white villainy in films? The creature that escapes ends up in the junkyard Tripp works in. Some contentiousness at the beginning, Tripp and Creech end up becoming fast friends, if you can call it that. Tripp finds that Creech likes to hide in the truck he's been working on and, basically, likes to drive around while inside it. But, of course, given that the oil company's goons are after them, then it's not all fun and games. With the help of a schoolmate, Meredith, he runs from these people. It's all really basic, simple stuff that you've seen before, but there's absolutely nothing wrong with it and, really, you can even get into some of this. I don't even know why, might be the silliness of the concept or the fact, that really, it's just a competently made movie. But, honestly, it's a competently made movie without any real soul or substance. I feel that this was a movie made for all the wrong reasons. I think they just wanted something they could make a franchise out of and, of course, it failed. As decent as this movie was (with or without soul), where would you even go with a sequel? There's nowhere that you can go creatively, in my opinion. As much as I hate the Transformers film franchise, at least there's different stories that you can explore. There's nothing to this world, franchise or characters that'd even be remotely interesting for a sequel. Of course, I'm probably just talking about something that's not even that important anyway. Everything is just so one-dimensional. Look, I'm not gonna criticize a movie like this for not, really, employing any actual character development. But, as I was watching the movie, I wasn't feeling anything. I like Jane Levy and Lucas Till is better than I was expecting, but I just felt like Meredith and Tripp were just two good-looking robots. And I mean the characters. It's like everything that's happening around them is a simulation and they're acting as their code states they should. Again, it's nothing about the performances of Lucas and Jane individually, it's more about how the characters themselves were presented. The movie just moves along rapidly and nothing really sticks in your memory. Of course, a movie doesn't really have to be memorable to be enjoyable. Goodness knows how many movies, that I've enjoyed, I've forgotten. Just because they weren't memorable. That space, in my opinion, is usually reserved for my favorite flicks. I can recall more scenes from Oldboy, a film I last watched like four years ago, than I could probably recall from this movie, which I just finished around late last night. Though, to be fair, I've seen Oldboy (the original, of course) about five or six times and it is my favorite movie ever. Not fair to compare the two, but it illustrates my point about remembering greatness. I don't mean shit on this movie because, again, I thought it was decent, I'm just not gonna overlook its flaws just because it was better than I could have ever hoped. I will say that there's some pretty cool chase and action sequences with the trucks in the climax. Surprisingly good, actually. To the point where you wonder how a full-on action film would have fared instead of the family-friendly film that we got. I mean, it is a Nickelodeon film so there was never gonna be much in the way of pushing the envelope. It's just wishful thinking. But, again, these action bits were quite inspired. To the point where I actually, for ONE second, thought of giving this 3 stars upon having finished it. I knew that wasn't gonna hold once I got under the hood and examined this movie on a deeper level. I don't know, I guess I got everything I needed to say out of my system. It's so much better than its stupid title might suggest, but it's also not as over-the-top as its stupid title might suggest. Lack of identifiable characteristics, one-dimensional characters and forgettable experience keep this from being a solid popcorn movie. It's silly, to be sure, but I can't say that it's good. I liked it better than this review might imply, but I still wouldn't really recommend it. If you've got nothing better to do and a couple of hours to kill, you'll be fine but, if you're watching on Prime, then Lady Bird and The Disaster Artist were added, why aren't you watching that instead? It's advice I probably should have followed myself.
Monsters and trucks, monsters are kewl, monster trucks are definitely kewl. How could this not turn out to be awesomely kewl??
So there's this fracking company fracking away North Dakota. One night they accidentally release three creatures from the subterranean caves far below the Earth's surface which in turn causes the destruction of their set up, a big news event. The company catches two of them but one escapes and finds its way to a local junkyard. Tripp (Lucas Till), the young man who works at this junkyard eventually discovers the creature and starts to slowly bond with it. Naturally of course the company is wanting to find this creature to cover up its big incident so they hire professional thugs (as you do). Meanwhile Tripp has discovered that the creature enjoys hiding itself inside the shell of his souped-up, modified pickup truck (for reasons only useful to this movie and its title). So Tripp must now avoid the hired thugs, avoid the creature being seen and try to get it back home. Oh and he's gotta save the other two creatures from within the evil fracking company too. Heavy week!
I knew nothing about this movie and at first I honesty thought this was gonna be your stereotypical underdog racer story. You know what I'm talking about, Tripp is a languishing truck racer, possibly up and coming but waiting for his breakout moment. He then finds this monster which can power his truck, he enters races and gradually starts winning, slowly moving up the ranks and finally entering a championship. Eventually reaching the final, up against his arch nemesis, he comes from behind to win. He then lives happily ever after with his pet monster, or the monster goes back to its habitat leaving Tripp sad but happy with how his life has gone. Basically a [i]Herbie[/i] type rip-off is what I was expecting here.
First lets look at the good, the only decent bit before the problems. The entire premise isn't particularly original for sure, its basically 'E.T.' (and every other clone ever since). A young man finds an alien type creature, befriends it and tries to save it from corporate baddies. We've seen this type of thing a gazillion times before. But the one thing I did quite like was the idea of undiscovered subterranean creatures, again its not totally original but its a fair crack isn't it. The actual design of the creature wasn't exactly something I would have gone with myself but it works well for the plot. It was probably created with some scientific research into its natural habitat which would explain its squid-like body shape and bioluminescence. So while the creature was a bit 'Disneyfied' in the face department (biggish eyes and a slightly expressive face overall), I did like the whole subterranean aspect of it. Its a shame we don't see anything of these creatures in their underwater world but I guess that adds to the intrigue...and fuel for the sequel.
Right lets take a look at the various issues, the predictable stereotypes, the crowd pleasers etc...Staying with the creature for a minute, its bloody obvious from the get go the creature is in fact a younglin, a child, whilst the other two that are captured are in fact its parents. You don't pick up on it at first, but once you hear the nasty fracking company caught the other two, you just know it. This does of course lead to the inevitably gooey finale where the creature will want to save its parents with Tripp's help (before escaping back underground). The creature itself is of course quite large, simply a moist mass with tentacles. So you do have to ask yourself, how is this thing not being seen all the time? Also how is it surviving out of the water? Yes it may be able to survive outside of water but for this long?? Lets remember it does primarily live underwater so why would it be able to survive for so long out of the water? The creature also makes lots of loud noises including laughing...which seems idiotic but hey its a kids flick right. Oh and it lives on...oil? Well that could lead to a...sticky situation...aaah I'm terrible.
OK so the main angle of the movie is monster trucks, pickup trucks and 4x4's...oh and monsters (even though in the movie I wouldn't say the creature is a monster, but more of a large Cephalopod. Yes I realise its also a play on words). Anyway so the hook here is, once Tripp discovers the creature, he finds that it enjoys 'living' inside his pickup truck shell. The creature is also able to somehow power the truck with some kind of energy from its tentacles...no clue. So Tripp modifies the truck so the creature can live in it (hidden away), he then proceeds to 'drive around' in the truck which is now...monster powered...get it? Ah there it is, we got there.
Thing is, why does the creature wanna stay cooped up inside this rusty pickup truck? This is an underwater creature, but now it likes driving a truck with its power tentacles...eh? This also leads to so many obvious questions that mainly revolve around control. How the hell would Tripp ever be able to control this living creature that is controlling his truck? Sure we get some sequences of him getting to grips with this problem but it never really seems solid to me. During this time Tripp naturally experiences problems...massive insurance related problems I'm sure. By that I mean he wrecks many many cars including an entire car dealers line up (monster truck style), almost kills people (must have) and totally destroys the side of a woman's car whilst she's driving it. Surely any of this would alert the police no? Nah don't be stupid, no consequences in this movie bucko.
I honesty don't know how many of the characters in this movie get away with half the stuff they do. The baddies run (drive) around trying to capture this creature causing all sorts of chaos along the way, while Tripp ends up breaking into the fracking company facility, illegal use of a car dealership garage (that just happened to have all the right tools for truck modification) and eventually stealing 4x4's! Not only that but he then proceeds to cut the trucks up so the other two creatures can fit in them when they break them out of the facility. Not quite sure how they knew what size truck they would need, or how to modify them correctly for the other two unseen creatures. What if they didn't fit?? But at the end of the day, to save the creature, all Tripp and co would need to do is expose the creature. In this day and age the discovery of a large new aquatic animal like that would be headline news around the world. Almost everyone would be filled with joy and stepping up to protect it and its habitat. So in my opinion simply exposing it to the media would save the creature right away.
Believe it or not the finale is where this movie gets a bit too ridiculous. The goodies are trying to reach the original caves where the creatures came from, and they are trying to shake the hired thugs. This involves a long 4x4 chase between the baddies in their all black 4x4's and the goodies in their stolen modified (complete with spoilers), monster powered 4x4's (and Tripp's piece of crap looking pickup truck). This ends up going up a mountain which of course means what goes up must come down. Oh boy do they come down, they literally drive their trucks off a cliff edge...like a thousand feet up or whatever. Somehow the humans don't get smashed to pieces inside the trucks and manage to survive unscathed. The trucks also manage to hold together and not disintegrate on impact, ditto the creatures manage to survive too. I'm still not really sure how these creatures could survive this fall or prevent the trucks from being destroyed, they're not magical, they can't fly. Suspension of disbelief is generally in order here obviously, but there are certain levels, certain limits.
So yes this is a case of throwing E.T. and Herbie into a blender and coming out with a somewhat generic, cookie cutter product low on original ideas. Lets be honest it was never really gonna be anything more than that even though the movies poster is pretty sweet. There is a lot more I could mention that I picked up on but its not worth it, minor continuity errors and such, the review would be too long. Although I will just mention that almost everyone in the movie appears to drive a 4x4 or pickup truck, which feels kinda like overkill on product placement to me. Overall the movie isn't as lame or schmaltzy as I thought it would be, the effects are fine, lovely location scenery and the acting is perfectly acceptable for what this is. This is one of those cases where (I think) had the movie come out in the mid to late 80's (or even early 90's) it might be looked upon now as a bit of a cult classic. Unfortunately these type of films don't really fly anymore because its all been done, but truth be told this wasn't actually too bad.
Over a year ago, I found myself scrolling through upcoming releases and became fascinated by a film called Monster Trucks. Without a plot synopsis, I was incredibly curious how they would pull off a film that is based around the fact that giant trucks leap over cars. Then the plot details were released, then the first trailer debuted, and then I found myself sitting in the theatre wondering why this film was ever made. It may be a harmless film for children between the ages of 4 and 10 to enjoy, but there is no way it's going to win over the parents that bring their kids or even the teenagers who like going to the monster truck events. There is a reason why this film was placed in January and here is why I believe Monster Trucks was doomed from the start.
We've all seen this premise done a million times over, so what makes this interpretation so special? The answer is nothing. Tripp, a high-schooler who wants nothing more than to get away from his boring life, spends his Friday nights working at a junkyard, assembling a truck for himself. After an explosion at an oil facility, a creature escapes, wreaking havoc on the surrounding areas. Eventually finding a home under the hood of Tripp's truck, it becomes the engine he needs to power the truck, as well as an unlikely friend, whom also allows itself to be an icebreaker between Tripp and his friend Meredith. Sound silly? That's because it is. Due to the fact that this film is done with care and tries very hard to impress the younger demographic, it's extremely hard to criticize. Having said that, Monster Trucks really isn't that good of a film.
From loud-mouthed bullies that are solely there to make our main character seem smaller, to generic plot devices like an absent father, to wanting to be his own man and prove he is worthy to the sheriff, there are so many laughable elements to Monster Trucks, and yet it plays out as if it doesn't even realize it clearly has these issues. The fact that every single scene is practically hiding a flaw makes this film look like a joke as a final product. Having said that, most young children will not have a clue that they have seen stories like this before, because it just embraces it. That is why this film is solely for children. I honestly feel that I would have loved this film if I had been a five year old sitting in the theatre. Also, there is one particular scene that bugged me. When the truck drives itself through the town for the first time in classic monster truck fashion, it drives over and crushes about 20 cars at dealership, and not a single person comes after them. Logic was completely out the window on that one.
It should come as no surprise that trailers show far too much when it comes to any big-budget studio film that over-markets itself. Having said that, the trailers for Monster Trucks are some of the worst I have seen in a long time, due to the fact that it hides any slow moments and focusses completely on the action sequences. I think every single action scene was shown almost from beginning to end throughout the trailers, probably because the studio needed to showcase the "monster truck" element as much as they could. The studio themselves came out a couple months ago, stating that they whole-heartedly believed this film would be a failure. Well, if the opening weekend numbers are any indication, then an $11,000,000.00 haul for a film that cost the studio $125,000,000.00 should definitely be a wake-up call.
In the end, I can't deny that this film tried its very best in making a competent picture, aiming itself at a very young demographic, but since it focussed so heavily on pleasing kids, there is not enough substance for adults to connect with. Sadly, there is more substance in Pixar films, due to the fact that they are children's films, aimed at all ages, helming extremely powerful stories. Monster Trucks squanders any promise it has and even though there is some clear effort put into the making of this film, there is not much to commend in the end. Overall, Monster Trucks boasts a few likeable characters, impressive visuals for what they are, and kids can have a blast with the action scenes and cute creatures, but as a film, it's just not very good. I admired the effort, but it's a flop in many more ways than one.
Monster Trucks is a film designed to be enjoyable for children and to be a boring ride for everyone else. If you have nothing else to do than watching your child dying to see this movie, go ahead and do it, but please bring equipment. This film is literally a borefest.
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