The Road to Mediocrity is Paved with Good Intentions: Dreamworks Animation Studios in Review

Quick what’s your favorite computer animated movie? In all likelihood your answer came from Pixar.

When studios try to make these kinds of films Pixar’s shadow is inescapable. Dreamwork’s animated output ranges from “A- for effort” (Shrek and Kung Fu Panda) to nearly unwatchable (I’m looking at you Madagascar!) but their entire oeuvre all caries the stigma of “well that was OK but it was no Toy Story….or The Incredibles….or Wall-E, etc.”

The studio’s latest offering is Monsters Vs. Aliens, a 3D riff on the monster movies of yesteryear . There are nods to Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, The Fly, Godzilla vs. Mothra, and The Creature from the Black Lagoon. It has the great voice cast that seems to come standard with this type of picture (Stephen Colbert as the President: inspired if a bit underutilized). It also has animation that rivals anything being put out by their competitors, but Monsters vs. Aliens is still missing that secret Pixar ingredient: heart. It may sound odd but I was genuinely looking forward to this movie. It has a great premise but it seems wasted on a by the numbers family comedy. No doubt kids will love it, but the best part about Pixar’s films is that their parents do too.

Detractors aside, the film is by far my favorite of the Dreamworks efforts, but that really isn’t saying much. It has some laughs and some solid action, it’s a good time waster especially if you’re a young’n, but lacks all of the artistic punch of a Pixar film.

Monsters Vs. Aliens is a step in the right direction, but with Pixar poised to release its first 3D offering it’s looking less and less likely that the Disney-backed colossus can ever be bested.

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