Genre: CG Animation
Director: Jorge Blanco
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Jessica Biel, Justin Long, Gary Oldman, Seann William Scott, John Cleese
RunTime: 1 hr 30 mins
Released By: Shaw
Official Website: http://www.planet51.com/
Opening Day: 10 December 2009
"Planet 51" is a galactic sized animated alien adventure comedy revolving around American astronaut Captain Charles "Chuck" Baker, who lands on Planet 51 thinking he's the first person to step foot on it. To his surprise, he finds that this planet is inhabited by little green people who are happily living in a white picket fence world reminiscent of a cheerfully innocent 1950s America, and whose only fear is that it will be overrun by alien invaders...like Chuck! With the help of his robot companion "Rover" and his new friend Lem, Chuck must navigate his way through the dazzling, but bewildering, landscape of Planet 51 in order to escape becoming a permanent part of the Planet 51 Alien Invaders Space Museum.
If us humans went to visit those little green things with antennas on their home planet, could we still call them “aliens”? Perhaps not- since if you think about it, we would actually be the aliens instead. So it is with this cheeky twist that the filmmakers at Madrid-based Ilion Animation Studios have approached “Planet 51”- and what a jolly good romp it is, a surprisingly witty, engaging and delightful action adventure that is a sure treat for the whole family.
The story goes like this- American ‘poster boy’ astronaut Captain Charles “Chuck” Baker visits a foreign planet thought to be uninhabited to plant the American flag no less, and discovers this civilisation of little green people living in what looks to be 1950s America. They speak English, they read comic books, they watch black and white television (complete with flagrant commercial placements even on their news programs), and they have barbeques on weekends in their backyards! The only difference being that we don’t look like them and they don’t look like us.
Indeed, to portray how similar Planet 51 is to ‘50s Americana, director Jorge Blanco has spent much attention to detail painting the lovely town of Glipforg where Captain Baker makes an unannounced visit. Besides the jukebox tunes of “Lollipop” and “Long Tall Sally” playing in the air, there’s also the vintage-looking cars that the residents of Glipforg cruise around in along their idyllic roads. And to top it off, these folks also have a love of science fiction and paranoia of alien invasions- reminiscent of the American sentiments in the Cold War-era.
It is through this last quirk that director Jorge Blanco and writer Joe Stillman (one of the writers of “Shrek”) find an excuse to insert many clever references to sci-fi classics like E.T., Alien, Star Wars and 2001: A Space Odyssey (one suspects these jokes might just fly over the heads of the younger audience). But even the kids won’t miss the opening sequence that spoofs DreamWorks’ “Monsters Vs Aliens” – by titling their movie “Humaniacs” and portraying the ones being invaded as these asparagus-coloured little creatures.
Yes, there’s quite a bit of familiarity in the air around “Planet 51”. A good many of its parts are inspired from this and that movie- among some of the other familiar bits, Captain Baker’s loyal, rock-collecting robot dog which very quickly reminds one of Disney’s “Wall E” and the Shrek-like look of the inhabitants on the planet. But if originality isn’t one of its strengths, the movie certainly makes up for it with plenty of witty lines and hilarious setups- one particularly funny sequence has the typical warmonger General Grawl (Gary Oldman) appointing his army of minion soldiers to shoot one another in the event that one or a few of them “get their minds taken over” by the evil Captain Baker.
“Planet 51” also boasts a stellar voice cast that bring alive the myriad characters in the movie. Once again displaying his flair at family comedy, Dwayne Johnson is a crackling joy as the befuddled and bemused Captain Baker, thrust into an unknown world so familiar yet backward to his own. The standout pleasure however is John Cleese, who plays the resident diabolical scientist Professor Kipple with much verve and spunk. Just listen to what he thinks us humans are trying to say by reading the bar code at the back of our candy bar of Twix.
Tongue firmly in cheek, “Planet 51” mixes action and comedy to great effect, delivering a thoroughly entertaining package of family-friendly entertainment. While the candy-coloured visuals and exciting action sequences will keep the kids engaged, the adult pop-culture references will please the grown-ups familiar with the alien-themed movies the movie pays an abundance of homage to. For a destination that promises great family fun, look no further than the exotic and wonderfully fantastical “Planet 51”. Besides, it’s nice to experience a little ‘50s nostalgia now and then.
(For some great fun and laughs for the whole family, look no further than Planet 51)
Review by Gabriel Chong