Planet 51
dir Jorge Blanco
scr Joe Stillman
prd Guy Collins, Ignacio Perez Dolset
voices Dwayne Johnson, Justin Long, Jessica Biel, Gary Oldman, Seann William Scott, John Cleese, Mathew Horne, James Corden, Freddie Benedict, Alan Marriott, Rupert Degas, Emma Tate
release US 20.Nov.09, UK 4.Dec.09
09/Spain Ilion 1h31
Planet 51
Dude, where's my spaceship? Chuck, Neera, Lem, Skiff and little Eckle

johnson long biel
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Planet 51 Silly but not hilarious, this animated sci-fi comedy is enjoyable enough to keep both kids and adults entertained. It's also utterly undemanding, with a message that's so simplistic you might miss it.

When astronaut Chuck Baker (Johnson) lands on a distant planet, he's shocked to find that it's not uninhabited. Actually it's the home of a 1950s-style civilisation of green, antennaed people who have been whipped into a frenzy of paranoia by movies about brain-sucking alien invaders. So young Lem (Long) is surprised that Chuck is as scared of him as he is of Chuck. While hiding Chuck from the aggressive military (Oldman) and scientific (Cleese) authorities, Lem and his pal Skiff (Scott) and wannabe girlfriend Neera (Biel) try to help Chuck get home.

Packed with predictable references to everything from E.T. and Wall-E to Star Wars and Alien (an alien-shaped "dog" named Ripley), the movies biggest inspiration is clearly Back to the Future, as the filmmakers lift both small scenes and entire plot points. And it's all of this familiarity that lets us go with the wacky storyline and plasticky-looking characters. It of course also helps that the film is punctuated by riotous action sequences and some witty writing.

The vocal cast keeps things extremely lively, playfully punching the script's suggestive jokes while the animators have fun with the vulgar sight gags. Most of this is pretty corny and uninspired, but snappy humour continually catches us off guard, and the plot has a freewheeling feel to it. And while the character design is somewhat odd (the lack of trousers is kind of disturbing when combined with body-part innuendo), the overall look of the film is colourful and enjoyable busy.

Of course, the movie contains the requisite messages about acceptance and heroism and self-confidence, but at least they're mercifully unforced. It's as if the filmmakers knew it was all so obvious that there was no need to actually develop any of the subtext at all. So they just get on with another goofy bit of slapstick or action and leave it at that. It's definitely not a classic, but it's fun while it lasts.

cert u themes, violence, innuendo 15.Nov.09

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Planet 51 Still waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall