Overview: A subterranean creature befriends a high school senior and gives his truck the upgrade of a lifetime. Paramount Pictures; 2017; Rated PG; 104 minutes.
For Kids: When it comes to children entertainment, the “it’s for kids” claim shouldn’t be an excuse for poor filmmaking qualities. That’s not to say movies with inherently silly sensibilities should also be tossed aside for not being serious enough (good luck convincing me Gremlins 2 is anything short of a masterpiece). Monster Trucks falls somewhere in the upper echelons of January entertainment. Mind you, that grading scale is on a major curve here, but the wasteland of January still bears some form of merit.
Taking obvious inspiration from coming-of-age Amblin movies, Monster Trucks follows Tripp Coley, an angsty high school senior with aspirations outside of his contained life. The seemingly ageless Lucas Till continues his streak of hopping across the age spectrum (reminder: he plays a 40 year old in X-Men: Apocalypse). Till is an actor who may never be a standout, but he’s certainly got enough charisma to be noteworthy. There’s not much beyond that for Tripp’s personality or interest. Speaking of interests, Tripp is is pursued by Jane Levy’s Meredith character. Meredith is too good for Tripp, and honestly, it’s flabbergasting how much her character is into him. Jane Levy still is charming as ever and she’ll likely continue to garner roles in small genre pictures.
I say small genre pictures because even with a 150 million dollar budget Monster Trucks feels like a miniscule movie. The budgets feel very basic cable with some CGI interactions that feel a little too cartoonish. Then again, this movie was inspired by the mind of a studio executive’s four-year-old son (an executive no longer at Paramount).
Meeting Creech and Expectations: It works in the film’s favor that Creech and his ilk visually look like something a child would have constructed on a piece of paper. Creech has a goofy smile, reminiscent of a happy pug (if the pug was an exceptionally competent driver), the ability to supercharge car engines, and is wanted by government agents. Tentacles protrude from the insides of trucks to do extensive flips and improbable stunts on par with the Fast & Furious series (in concept, certainly not execution). This is where the issues actually begin with Monster Trucks. Despite the inherently silly nature of the story and creature designs, Monster Trucks isn’t nearly as fun as it should be.
It’s no surprise that this movie wasn’t exactly destined to be a big hit. Yet I find myself rooting for it after being pleasantly surprised by the moments that do work. Dare I say, it’s even downright charming? The relationship components between the humans is solid enough, and Creech and Tripp make for a worthy entry in the “boy and his dog” category of films. I’ll also go to bat for any movie that puts effort into their poster designs.
As a story we’ve seen before (an adolescent befriending an alien creature) the specifics in this story should embrace the ridiculous in terms of the titular monster and truck mechanics. But a few cute creative moments aside, Monster Trucks only verges on weird, cult-classic territory. It never fully reaches the potential of its oddest sensibilities. But in the wasteland of January, this might as well be an honorary Amblin entry.
Overall: Neither as shockingly bad as you might expect nor entertaining as the clear inspirations, Monster Trucks is adequate, well-intentioned entertainment.
Featured Image: Paramount Pictures