For a good portion of 2009, moviegoers have been seeing teasers and trailers for a unique animated experience called
Planet 51. The most popular teaser shows a fully-suited United States astronaut as he lands on a foreign planet
and plants an American flag into the ground. When he looks around him, he sees that the entire alien planet is functioning
like a human one, except that the inhabitants are green alien creatures. Most of the promos for the film don't give too many details
away, which leaves the actual viewing of Planet 51 to be mostly a surprise. The end result is an entertaining
feature film for nearly all ages.
What's really fun about Planet 51, which I didn't know until I was actually in the theater watching the movie
play out, is that the film is shot entirely from the perspective of the alien planet... which resides in a sort
of 1950's era. A present-day American astronaut then "invades" their planet and what unfolds is sort of a mix of
The Day The Earth Stood Still and War Of The Worlds, only backwards. The young aliens of the planet are
mostly obsessed with visitors from another planet - obviously human-like aliens that might come and invade their planet.
The film's central alien is a teenage boy named Lem, voiced by Justin Long (Galaxy Quest, Die Hard 4,
those Mac Vs. PC commercials), who feels like everything is starting to go right in life... that is, until the "alien"
shows up. All mayhem indeed breaks loose when U.S. astronaut Chuck Baker (voiced by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) arrives.
And he's quite the pompous and arrogant
goof you might not entirely expect him to be. To assist Chuck is a miniature land rover that acts like a cross between a
pet dog and WALL-E, who steals many of the scenes its in, despite frequently bringing to mind the Pixar film that
features said titular robot.
The idea alone of turning Planet 51 itself into a human-like planet sounds like fun, but setting it in our 1950's era
really opens things up for a whole mess of opportunities and even pop culture references to come into play. Chuck is not
only caught off guard by such an alien race, but the fact that they're all stuck in the 50's. From the classic style monster
movies the aliens love to watch, to the town square (which seems to bear an uncannily inspired by Back To The
Future) to the very idea of alien conspiracies and Area 51 paranoia of the 50's. And when Chuck is thrust into the mix, he
can't help but make random and direct references to The Terminator or even Star Wars. There are all kinds
of fun and clever little nods and references sprinkled throughout Planet 51, which is liable to entertain adults
just as much as the younger audience it targets. But there's an element to the approach of the film that, because it
relies so heavily on reminding us of familiar alien and monster lore that Planet 51 feels at times more
like it's one big spoof or homage than its own standalone story. And it isn't really the downfall of the film - since I do often
enjoy cleverly placed cultural references - but there are moments where the film just feels a bit flat or underdone.
And that feeling is entirely not due to its visual quality. Although the film is done by first-time director Jorge Blanco
and two co-directors, the animation itself is breathtaking. Planet 51 looks beautiful from start to finish. The
only time things seemed slightly off is when Chuck - the human - would speak. Sometimes his words more clearly didn't
naturally match his lips, but overall, from the backgrounds to the fluid motion of the characters and surroundings,
Planet 51's animation is first-rate. It's certainly an impressive production.
The content of Planet 51 may be its most questionable aspect. More than just a couple times does the
content venture into the suggestive arena, offering some jokes that are a bit off-color at best. From the opening
scene where two teens are "parking" at a lookout point and share a kiss, to a carefully timed use of the
phrase "What the... duck?!" and even a couple gags that involve butt plugs and suppositories, Planet 51
skates on thin ice when it comes to rude and crude humor. The majority of the most offensive gags are likely
go over the kids' heads, but still it felt strange to see some of the jokes that worked their way into the film. It
gave it all a slightly more adult feel - especially partnered with older cultural references that children just
wouldn't understand - and it's a good chance that such a feel is what dampened its quality a bit.
In the end, Planet 51 is a good animated family film, but not without its faults. Those looking
for the random humor of Cloudy With a Chance Of Meatballs or the family charm of a Pixar film, will be
disappointed that Planet 51 tries to be many different films in one and ultimately looses a bit of its
own personality in the process. It's still a worthwhile and fun piece of entertainment that encourages its audience (once again) to
embrace those around you that are different than you... just don't expect it to be anything more.
- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 11/24/09)
Blu-Ray Special Features Review
I remember sitting in the theater in November thinking this film would look amazing in Blu-Ray. Sure enough, it does and because
of the intense detail in this film's animation, it's especially fun to watch at home.
The Blu-Ray isn't exactly loaded with special features, but what they do have is done well. The deleted/extended scenes (2:50) are all brief moments
cut from when Lem hides Chuck in his house. While all of it is pretty minor, it's nice to at least see these bits in completely finished form. Most of the time,
deleted scenes from animated films end up being just animated hand-drawn rough storyboards. Here, they're finished in great detail. Because these bits are so
brief, it would have been nice to have the option to watch them within the finished film. There's also the Target 51 Game, which utilizes your
player's remote for directing your spaceship out of harm's way. There are several gameplay modes once you start, the easiest being shooting alien ships out of
your way, the hardest being a small pod needing to avoid and fire upon debri and alien ships coming at you. It's not especially exciting, but kids might enjoy it.
The World of Planet 51 (2:54) - is merely a panning of the different backdrops and scenery from the film. It feels a bit
thrown together / lifeless since there's no narrative, but it does give fans of the film a chance to look a little closer
at what's going on behind the action: the detailed alien designs of the houses, the clever play on the 1951 stylizing, etc.
Life On Planet 51 (12:04) - This is the first real featurette. It opens with part of the trailer for the film,
and then features Dwayne Johnson, the voice of Chuck, explaining the story. From there, the real meat of the featurette
showcases the voice talent in the film, and gives a look at each central character and their performers. We then get a fun look into
the animation process, storyboarding, and learn that this project has been seven years in the making!
Planetarium - The Voice Stars of Planet 51 (3:18) - This little featurette features a little more
of Justin Long, Jessica Biel, and Dwayne talking about their individual characters, interwoven with actual footage from
the movie. Oddly enough, some of the footage and interviews repeat slightly, but it's still a fun bonus. It probably
could have been made part of the "Life On..." featurette or expanded on more, but is still a nice little addition.
Planet 51 Music Video Montage (2:11) - This is kind of a pointless featurette, utilizing
clips from the movie set to song clips.
Animation Progression Reels (15:53) - The final major bonus feature is a pretty cool look at
the progression of animation for several scenes -- from the drawn storyboards to two levels of groundwork animation,
to the final film animation.... four full panels playing simultaneously on the sceen. Animation buffs will
especially find this fascinating. It's also really neat to see how the initial idea changed over time and the variations in
details in the background, foreground, and characters.
All in all, Planet 51 makes a great Blu-Ray package. For Cloudy With a Chance Of Meatballs, Sony only allowed the digital download
of the movie available for people with PS3 systems. Thankfully, the Planet 51 DVD/Blu-Ray/Digital Copy package fixes this by allowing it for iTunes as
well as Windows Media Player. You can easily port this sucker to your iPod if you want to! And if you don't have a blu-ray player just yet, a DVD combo
like this one is a smart buy as you look to the future. Your family will be happy you have both versions if you ever make the hyperjump to HD.
- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 3/8/10)
Parental Guide: Brief Summary of Content
We see a couple parked on a lookout point and the girl comments to the boy that she has parked before. He says
he's not that kind of guy and he knew she was not that kind of girl and they share a passionate kiss before
being interrupted; Skiff comments on the aliens doing experiments and probing, and hands Lem a cork and motions for him
to stick it in his butt (referring to anal probes). He then hands Lem a different one and says that the one Lem's holding
was one he already tried out (which grosses out Lem); Chuck is naked except for a sheet
around him and when he stands up, the sheet falls off. We don't see his nudity, but Skiff and Lem do. We see Skiff looking
at Chuck's crotch and he remarks, "That's a weird place for an antenna!"; A couple shares a passionate kiss; We see
an alien woman with cleavage and another male alien looking at it, to which she gets annoyed and tries to divert his attention
from her body; Chuck tries to teach Lem how to dance and potentially sweep Neera off her feet. Chuck then dips Lem
and demonstrates how he would go in to kiss her, but Skiff walks in just then, so it looks like Chuck might try to
kiss (or eat) Lem. Skiff then frantically tells Lem to use the cork he gave him; Two commercial mascots (toothpaste and a
toothbrush) compliment each other's performances, and the toothbrush comments that he feels he does a better job as a
1 implied "a" word (Lem starts repeating "astronaut" but hangs on to the "*ss" sounding part really long, so Chuck jumps in
and says "tronaut!"); Chuck stands on something and says, "What the-" and when he looks down and sees a rubber ducky,
he quasi-finishes his exclamation with "...duck?!"
We see two brains floating in jars that have been removed from two living alien bodies
In a monster movie that the aliens are watching, a large alien attacks the planet and starts destroying things, including
incinerating a few aliens; besides random comedic cartoon violence, we see a car get blown up, a soldier accidentally
shoots another soldier in the leg, a group of soldiers are accidentally electrocuted; A building goes up in flames
and starts to self-destruct; A little alien dog attacks a mailman who was teasing it; We see that two aliens had their
brains removed (in an unseen seen) and we see their faces are all bandaged up. Later, during a scene in the credits, the
two approach another man with a buzzsaw blade and tell the person they recommend getting the same surgery done; a singing,
protesting hippy is pulled away by security and clubbed
** Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most
reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not on content. However, if the content
really affects the reviewer's opinion of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's rating.