Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

The inhabitants of Planet 51 arenít unlike the inhabitants of our planet, or at least those who inhabited our planet in the 1950ís, not that I was around in the 1950ís but from what Iíve seen of the fifties on TV it looked a lot like this. White picket fences, cookouts, girls in long skirts and everybody was the same color. Green in this case. This animated film sets up like most movies of this ilk as we meet Lem (voiced by Justin Long), a hard working young boy who has a big time crush on his pretty neighbor Neera (Jessica Biel), has an obnoxious best friend in Skiff (Seann William Scott) and plays older brother to Neeraís precocious little brother Eckle (Freddie Benedict). But in one brief minute Lemís life went from almost perfect, as he was finally about to ask Neera out on a date, to a complete disaster as his planet has been invaded by an alien.

This alien would be super silly American astronaut Chuck Baker (Duane Jones) who thought that he had just arrived on an uninhabited planet but instead finds that he has landed on a planet that is plenty populated and fairly well adjusted with the sole exception that the citizenry do have deep rooted fear of being invaded by aliens. This is bad for our man Lem because he is the only member of the planet to cross paths with Chuck leading to the astronaut to plead and beg Lem not to turn him in but just get him back to his space pod so he can get back to his ship before it automatically leaves to return back to earth. Lemís agreeing to help Chuck out of his predicament automatically makes Lem an enemy of the state, or at least an enemy of General Grawl (Gary Oldman) who has been waiting for just this moment in time to show what he can do.

Also, as tends to happens in movies of this ilk, the madcap hijinks kick into overdrive as Chuck and Lem, who have picked up Skiff and Eckle along the way in addition to Chuckís super cute rover pod, appropriately named Rover, all run around like crazy to avoid the inept forces of General Grawl who is guided by the moronic alien expertise of Dr. Kipple (John Cleese). In between all of this, the obnoxious astronaut and the shy green boy will learn about life, love, friendship, heroism and freestyling on the dance floor.

From the time Chuck the astronaut manually slo-moís his way through Planet 51ís normal gravity atmosphere to plant the American flag ĎPlanet 51í was consistently amusing if never achieving the heights of being overly amusing. The action is fast, the voice acting was good, the animation was solid and on occasion the dialog found a way to be clever in addition to being funny but something seemed to be missing from the movie to push it over the top, and I donít know exactly what that missing element was.

Thereís plenty of popular culture references abound in this movie thatís for sure, some of which I caught and a bunch more Iím sure passed me by which had wondering how many eight year olds wouldíve caught these witticisms. Though Iím sure the majority of eight year olds probably have seen E.T., Iím not sure how many of them have seen ĎGreaseí or ĎAliení or ĎAttack of the Fifty Foot Womaní and I donít how many kids could appreciate the homage that was paid by the directing team and writer Joe Stillman to the 1950ís which was almost as important to the movie as the characters themselves.

The good things is, while all that that stuff is shooting completely over the youngíuns tiny heads, they should have no problem appreciating the cute and cuddly images that animators were able to create and the brisk action which should effectively keep the most of the kids, and a good number of adults appropriately entertained.

While ĎPlanet 51í isnít transcendent in any way, shape or form, it is solid entertainment which should keep the children plenty entertained with its fun story and tight animation and also has enough clever adult style humor that should keep the parents from checking their watches wishing it all would come to a swift end.

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