This week at the movies, we’ve got a war of the worlds (Monsters Vs. Aliens, with voice work by Reese Witherspoon and Seth Rogen), a demonic abode (The Haunting in Connecticut, starring Virginia Madsen and Martin Donovan), and a royal rumble (12 Rounds, starring John Cena). What do the critics have to say?
Monsters vs. Aliens pays loving homage to B-grade 1950s monster movies, utilizing state-of-the- art 3-D CG animation and a crack voice cast. And critics say it’s rousing, wry, and technically impressive. When Susan Murphy (voiced by Reese Witherspoon) is hit by a meteor on the way to her wedding, it causes her to grow nearly 50 feet tall; she’s ostracized by society, but it turns out that she and her fellow monsters may be the only ones that can save earth from an alien invasion. The pundits say Monsters vs. Aliens is often more whiz-bang than emotionally resonant, and many of the gags will probably soar over the wee ones’ heads. However, those may be small prices to pay for a film of such remarkable visual invention and good humor. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we rank every DreamWorks animated film by Tomatometer, and be sure to take our our DreamWorks Cartoon Challenge.)
The Haunting in Connecticut is allegedly based on a true story. However, most critics feel this New England-set supernatural thriller has more in common with other haunted house flicks like The Amityville Horror than real-life supernatural occurrences. Virginia Madsen and Martin Donovan star as a couple who move to the Nutmeg State only to find the nice old Victorian they’ve just purchased was once a funeral home, and it’s haunted by a demonic presence that only avails itself to the couple’s teenage son. Bedeviling ensues, along with creaking floorboards and (presumably) bad caulking. The pundits say The Haunting in Connecticut has some effectively spooky atmospherics, but ultimately it’s mechanical and cliched.
It appears the folks behind 12 Rounds were afraid their film would receive a critical beatdown, since it wasn’t screened prior to release. Renny Harlin directs WWE superstar John Cena, who plays a cop in the midst of a cat-and-mouse game with a terrorist who has kidnapped his girlfriend. Kids, take a break from your study of Thuganomics and guess that Tomatometer!
Also opening this week in limited release: