Monster Trucks (2016)
On January 13, meet Creech
Nickelodeon? Well, we should be pretty well aware what we are getting into on this one already. Not saying it's gonna be bad, but I'm not saying it's gonna be good either. Their track record for me is a solid "entertained enough," which is largely all I ask of movies I watch. So grab your favorite squid-shaped friend and lets see if this movie can rev the engines, or ends up being one of those goofy trucks with tires way bigger than belong on it.
The first thing I expect when I see a movie with that Nick branding is generally cheese. Whether intentional or not, or maybe by design "for kids," there's always just this layer of corniness that could make a farmer jealous. This can bother some people, but being the pun-minded corn dog B-lover that I am, cheese of any kind usually just amuses me. This movie isn't any different in that regard, nor does it break the exception of the Nick mold - it's got some real cheesy moments in there, and although I might "pfft"about it or let out a little chuckle or grin, it's not beyond my imagining to think that some people are going to just hate that side of the film as though it's below their level of culture. It's still a step above most in that it doesn't bother with any fart jokes (although slightly sad and a missed opportunity really).
The rest of the humor is pretty much in turn - people acting far younger than they look, silly situations, or the occasional over-the-top reactions. It's par for the course - if you saw something like Goosebumps than you know what to expect in that regard. It handles it well enough, but I'm also not about to launch into a monologue about how much I laughed - as a pyrotechnician could probably count the number of times on one hand. It has those cheese factor grins and some good moods or otherwise upbeat moments, it just wasn't anything that particularly struck my funny bone enough to really drive home that comedy category. As I always feel obligated to say however, comedy is always a personal thing, so mileage will vary.
The soundtrack isn't terrible. It has that big-movie score in some moments (probably my preferred tracks in the movie at any rate) as well as some of those modern pop/country/soft rock that usually find themselves so prevalent in "family" movies. The later of which tend to find themselves pop up more during montage moments - and those moments certainly aren't not Rocky levels of endearing - and lent me a bit of a "Get on with it" Monty Python sort of feeling, largely due to the songs and slightly due to the somewhat meh nature. It's still largely better than when it isn't a montage and one of those songs pop up (I'm looking at you horse riding scene). Still, the "generic" score songs did a good job of bringing out those broad emotions, such as "this is a bad guy" and "you should be excited."
The actors do pretty good jobs here. Sure, there's some moments that could have been acted better, and a few issues can crop up with acting against the CG creature, but it's certainly passable. I'm not convinced the main character is in any way still in High School, although certainly the female main and the car dealer's kid (friend?) look passable enough for the parts. The chemistry between the lead and his squid-like friend is pretty decently portrayed (with the squid doing a great job of laughing whenever it scares or plays a prank on it's human pal), and the romance between the lead and his female counterpart is awkward at best although I'd probably hurt myself thinking of a "family movie" that doesn't have such. I was pretty surprised to see Danny Glover in there, even if he is a quite small part.
The effects works is pretty decent. It might not be this uncanny "I couldn't tell it wasn't real" level, but the squid-things all come off looking pretty nice, and the bio-luminescent effects were quite pretty. Most of the time vehicles look quite well practical (with some discrete or obvious CG additions like tentacles), but there is one scene with a giant dump truck where that kind of goes out the window and you might find yourself wondering how they can make believable "monster trucks" but then fail to make the plain trucks look actually passable in that moment. Although the movie starts with an explosion, most of the action-based staples are pretty low in quantity. You get some car chases with a few twists (such as driving on roofs), but this is certainly no Bay movie.
I've saved the plot for last because it's kinda washy. On the one hand, we have a lot of parts that are incredibly stereotypical - like the bruiser bad guy or the evil corporate man only out for money. On the other, you have a plot that's part E.T. and part environmental friends vs the evil corporation. I mean, it's nothing here that's going to break the mold. All that said, it does facilitate the events well enough, and although incredibly generic at times it handles it's little tentacles well.
This isn't a terrible movie. I wouldn't go out and buy it, but to kill some time as a rental or "look what's on the telly" sort of popcorn popper it's not a terrible choice. - especially if you have to take into consideration the kiddos. It might not excel at any given item, but it does provide some pretty entertaining chase scene twists as well as some pretty rad looking trucks - even if by rad I mean dedicated mechanic would probably be puking over how utterly cheesy and Hot Wheels looking they are.