What the truck?
Monster Trucks is directed by Chris Wedge and stars Lucas Till, Jane Levy, Amy Ryan, Rob Lowe, and Danny Glover. The film was co-produced by Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies.
I studied mathematics during college, so I'm only speaking the obvious when I say I dealt quite a bit of time with numbers and equations. Here's a bizarre claim of mine: Monster Trucks is a mathematical formula that doesn't work. The film takes monsters, adds them to trucks, and thinks that the final result is a good kids movie. No, monsters plus trucks, in reality, equates to a tone-deaf and largely unsatisfying kids film. I honestly appreciate how Nickelodeon Movies was a co-producer for this film, because Monster Trucks has that feel of a film that would be better suited as a Nickelodeon TV special on a Friday night and not a wide release during the dreaded cinematic dumping grounds that is the month of January. It would have saved hundreds of parents the time and frustration of driving out to the theater and being forced to sit through a film that the kids have about a 110 percent chance of enjoying more. Any parent with a working knowledge of movies will quickly realize that the film is a rough copy of E.T., which is what basically every kids film with a touch of science fiction goes for nowadays.
Monster Trucks takes place in a town in North Dakota of all places. A boy named Tripp (Lucas Till) works a part-time job at the town's junkyard, where he is building his own pickup truck. Tripp desires to leave the town and start a new life somewhere. One night, Tripp meets a slippery, oil-consuming creature that he later names Creech. It turns out that Creech escaped from a nearby drilling rig when the oil company Terravex messed up on a fracking operation and released Creech from wherever he was originally living. Tripp quickly befriends Creech, who eventually resides itself within Tripp's pickup truck. Tripp also befriends a girl named Meredith (Jane Levy), who is supposed to be his biology tutor. Meredith eventually learns of Creech's existence and comes to help Tripp in keeping Creech safe from the Terravex authorities.
Let me reiterate if the math explanation didn't make things clear. Do you see why the movie is called Monster Trucks? There is a monster inside a truck, so, therefore, it is a monster truck! Creative genius! A monster truck is also a custom-built vehicle that has massively sized wheels, which is applicable to this film's definition of monster trucks. I want to believe that the film is attempting to generate humor by relying on the sheer stupidity of this simpleminded concept, but there is no dialogue from any of the characters to support this. I would've totally bought into Tripp and Meredith having a conversation while driving down the road, where Meredith would say something like, "So how different is this truck with Creech inside it?" and Tripp would respond by saying something such as, "Well, it's bigger and faster, like a monster truck." It would be stupid, but that doesn't automatically mean that it can't be funny. Let's not forget though, this is a kids film. Calling the cute and cuddly Creech a monster would just be a little too mean-spirited. Then again, a lot of kids films and TV shows are mean-spirited.
- Despite everything you can object to in Monster Trucks (and there are a lot of things to object to), the film rides along as totally harmless. The film can easily be brushed off as bad, but it isn't offensive or anything like that. Although, you could say that the film is offensive from a business standpoint. Adam Goodman, who was the president of Paramount in the summer of 2013 when this film was in the early production stages, originally conceived the idea of the film alongside his son, who was four years old at the time. A little kid thinking up movie ideas might sound cute to some, but not to whoever the big money-grubbing honchos are in Hollywood who only care about the numbers. Kids can be highly creative and imaginative, but the brutal truth is that there is just no creativity or originality in putting a slug-like creature with a goofy face into a pickup truck. What might really shock you is the 125 million dollar budget that was behind this film. I mean, does a film with a concept as simple as putting monsters into trucks really need that much money? The effects aren't the worst I've ever seen, and I'm sure most of the budget went towards all of the monster truck driving action that goes on throughout. The box office gross got barely half of the budget back, so let that be further proof that putting random monsters and trucks together doesn't equate to a successful, profitable film.
- The poorly-written characters. We have a basic understanding of why Tripp wants to leave his North Dakota town, but the fact that he wants to leave is about the only notable trait that we get for Tripp. Meredith is written even worse. She goes to visit Tripp at work one night (the film does not address how Meredith knows where Tripp works), and mostly just follows him around for the rest of the movie. Tripp and Meredith develop obvious romantic feelings for each other, but it's the common case of two people falling in love just because they got to share a crazy adventure together. That seems to be the number one way that a kids movie explains how to find your significant other. There's never really any "bonding" time between Tripp and Meredith, and Lucas Till and Jane Levy aren't exactly delivering Oscar-worthy performances here which doesn't help. Any other relevant characters, hero or villain, are reduced to their typical, respective characteristics. Rob Lowe, who plays the CEO of Terravex, only cares about cutting corners and making all the money. Jedidiah Goodacre plays a hot-stuff jerkwad named Jake who picks on Tripp. Whatever brief descriptions you would give to these characters would describe basically all of the characteristics that they've been given.
Monster Trucks would've been better off as a prime-time TV movie aired on a channel like Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network. It's as straightforward as any kids movie can be, but it heavily suffers from a banal premise that might be better off gone and forgotten within the frigid snows of January. The entire thing is a harmless E.T. knock-off, and a pretty bad one at that. Needless to say, I didn't give a truck.
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