Are you fucking kidding me?
No seriously, are you fucking kidding me, Hollywood? The trailer not only looked like a big WTF, but this movie already ruined the lives of several people. What do I mean? The idea behind this film came from the mind of the four-year-old son of the President of Paramount Studios, who in turn committed over $120 million (generous low ball figure by the by) to this mess. And they’ve already informed their investors to expect a $115 million loss on this particular production…because they knew they’d never recover the money back. Imagine that, some poor kid is waiting tables in Los Angeles and possibly degrading themselves to put food on the table as they pray for someone to notice their script for a multi-million dollar idea and some snot-nosed brat got his shit stain of an idea funded by his daddy. Unfair? Yes. Evidence of a cruel, uncaring world? Most definitely. But is there any merit to such a premise? It’s a little more complicated than you might initially think.
Look, as with yesterday’s Pete’s Dragon (2016), this is a story of a boy and his adorable monster. But as with that film and it’s brethren in E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, Gremlins, and both versions of Pete’s Dragon, you actually need a boy and an adorable monster. This movie somehow fucks up with both requirements out of the starting gate somehow. Your main character is a guy named Tripp (played by X-Men: Apocalypse‘s Lucas Till) who looks like a thirty year old man as opposed to a kid in high school. And before you tell me, “Oh come 0n, Hollywood has had twenty years olds portray teenagers all the time, why is this terrible?” Keep in mind that your first scene with this dude is in a literal short bus next to a bunch of middle school children, so it looks fucking absurd.
Hell the dude’s “best friend” (hold that thought for a moment), looks half of Till’s age! The only other character that looks like his age is the protagonist dorky girlfriend is Jane Levy (that chick from Don’t Breathe)…again ridiculously not even close to high school. On top of that, the movie tries to give Tripp a bully…who never actually says anything directly to Tripp. He’s basically there to show off a tricked out pick-up truck with his blonde girlfriend in tow, but he serves no purpose whatsoever. But don’t worry age of the characters is the least of this movie’s problems, let’s hold off them for now and let’s rag on the “adorable” monster.
So the origin of this freak of nature is that he’s among a species of creatures that live in underground bodies of water and they like to drink oil. While an “evil” oil corporation lead by Rob Lowe (I’ll give you a moment to cry for an 80’s icon dying career) digs into the ground, they accidentally yank out a trio of the creatures and one of them (dubbed “Creech”) hides out in a truck. Apparently this tentacle-porn-lover’s wet dream likes to pile drive right into pick-up trucks and rip out the gas tanks for sustenance and winds up in Tripp’s junkyard (because this is the 1980s again where ALL teenagers hung out in junkyards for…some reason). It’s through a series of contrivances does Tripp discover what Creech eats and finds out that the animal is hyper intelligent enough to customize an old truck and modify it to have the creature as the engine / suspension system / all-terrain (and I mean all-terrain) capabilities. He basically enslaved the stupidly happy abomination from God’s rectum.
I don’t throw the slavery jargon around loosely either with Tripp because he’s a gigantic fucking asshole. Usually your protagonist in these kinds of movies like Pete in Pete’s Dragon or Elliot in E.T., are just average fatherless kids thrust into a situation way in over the their heads and the strength of the bond with their monster buddy helps them win the day. Monster Trucks says “fuck all that noise” and has Tripp exploit the business resources of one of his “friends” (who he only sees on two occasions in the entire film including asking the dude for a favor), uses the home of his girl-toy’s parents for experimentation purposes, exploit Creech as per above, and generally act like a sociopath who cares not for the wants and needs of others through some good ol’ fashioned murder. The movie tries to give him some pathos by explaining his dad left him in an early age…I think…and concocts a meeting with the father that goes poorly and he gives a bunch of fake tears in a perplexing scene where Lucas Till simply didn’t give a shit to give a convincing cry. Again…sociopath.
Hell, his relationship Jane Levy’s character is painfully shoestring and they spend a massive amount of screentime together even as he’s usually found telling this chick to fuck off and she keeps coming back like an unwanted puppy. They’re connection is something I didn’t care for and it’s still somehow the most developed one found in the film. Seriously, Tripp’s mom (Amy Ryan) is in all of two thirty-second scenes tops while her new boyfriend (Barry Pepper) implies some distrust between the two guys (fuck calling Tripp a “boy”) that goes nowhere fast. On top of that, Tripp’s reaction to finding out where his dad is through a news report where he just says, “That’s my dad” to himself, alone, in an empty garage. There’s no point to the scene, it does establish any character development or relationship, it was just fucking useless.
Now hark, you say, did your eyes read murder a little while ago? Oh yes, this movie racks up quite a kill count committed by our protagonists that are quickly laughed away or ignored. Now death in a kid’s movie isn’t strange. Hell, the plot Who Framed Roger Rabbit? center all around a homicide committed in the wake of an apparent adulterous liaison. But that movie treated the death as a big fucking deal, Monster Trucks treats the murder of nameless goons with the same apathy reserved by the “heroes” in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, randomly gunning down their faceless henchmen. Which is a shame too, because it would have taken nothing to make it look like these dudes made it out okay or just got severely injured and the film would have had a few decent action set pieces.
There was a spark of imagination in some of the car chase sequences by having this “monster trucks” scale buildings and fly through mountains using a mix of wheels and tentacles to maneuver about. When the movie is all about that (which is about 10 minutes of your hour and 45 minute run time), then it becomes a bearable experience that kids can easily enjoy. But to get to those scenes you need to go along with your thoroughly detestable protagonist and a parade of jokes that aren’t funny, but are mercifully not tortuous and awful like an Adam Sander movie can be. And that’s what kills me, the filmmakers had every opportunity to make an enjoyable kids movie and squandered them.
It wouldn’t have been difficult to punch up this script to make your hero more likable or sympathetic, it would have taken very little effort to make the jokes land a little easier, and you could have hired actual teenagers currently in the employ of Nickelodeon (which released this film in conjunction with Paramount) to portray your protagonists like they did in Harriet the Spy and Clockstoppers. Easy freaking fixes that would have made this an easy recommendation for a family outing, but comes across as just irritating to me.
Now kids in my theater did like it, I mean it’s pretty hard not to entertain kids (though I have seen certain films that have bored even them); so if that’s your standard for wanting to take your children to the theater, go ahead and see this as a MATINEE, but I’d recommend praying to whatever God will answer your prayers for your kids to ignore this shit and you can just Redbox this movie for them. When I left the theater on Friday night, I didn’t think the movie was that bad as the abysmal trailer lead me to believe; but after typing out my Pete’s Dragon review, I realized how much fucking effort Disney put into making you believe a boy could become friends with a giant, green furry dragon. Something equally as impossible as monsters hiding out in trucks, and yet Disney gave a fuck.
They wanted to create a quality family movie and succeeded. Monster Trucks didn’t even fucking try, Paramount Studios just dropped $120 million to the dude who directed the first Ice Age and believed they had a hit family movie on their hands because the boss’ kid thought it was a great idea. That is some sweet, sweet, smelly bullshit. Because this film frustrated me, I was so close to giving this a low RENTAL…but really, if I’m being honest with myself this is more of a high…
SOME OL’ BULLSHIT
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