Planet 51 (2009)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Planet 51</strong> (2009)

(In theatres, December 2009) Most of its characters may be green and sport head tentacles, but there’s not much more to Planet 51 than a vintage “teen learns self-confidence” comedy for young adults.  Much of this old-fashioned approach is deliberate: The title winks less at Area 51 than at 1951 itself, and so our alien civilization takes place in this charmingly retro environment than hasn’t evolved much beyond nasal TV newsmen, poodle skirts and drive-in monster movies.  (One notes that the film originates from an overseas studio.)  It’s good for a few laughs -the best ones tackling alien-invasion clichés-, but the lack of Planet 51’s ambitions eventually feels hollow, and whatever good sentiment we have for the film aren’t rewarded by anything more substantial.  It’s for the kids, mind you, although the fifties nostalgia may end up flying over their heads.  But even on kids terms, the films’ art design may end up annoying rather than charming: familiar objects have been “alienified” by ludicrous design touches that stick out, and credibility matters aren’t helped by rock showers and pets urinating acid –although this leads to a couple of terrific gags, including a pretty cute one at the very end of the film.  Otherwise, well, most characters behave like they’re idiots, and the script’s jokes about hippies feel just as forced as they were in our own early sixties.  Of course, watching Planet 51 for cultural enlightenment is a waste of time: this is the kind of film designed so that parents can park their kids in front of the TV while they go do other things.

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