Release Date: February 15, 2013
Rating: PG (action and mild rude humor)
Genre: Animated/Science fiction
Run Time: 95 min.
Director: Cal Brunker
Cast: Brendan Fraser, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jessica Alba, Rob Corddry, Ricky Gervais, Sofia Vergara, William Shatner
Normally when a movie’s not screened for critics, it’s a stinker with a capital "S."
But in what’s been a thoroughly disappointing week for new releases (yes, Safe Haven, Beautiful Creatures and A Good Day to Die Hard, we’re looking at you), the animated sci-fi tale Escape From Planet Earth is actually a pretty pleasant surprise.
Sure, the well-worn premise won’t exactly score big points for originality, but the execution of this family-focused storyline has a few flashes of brilliance. Making the most of top-tier vocal talent (Ricky Gervais particularly sparkles as a snide computer straight out of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, while William Shatner easily steals every scene he’s in as a toupee-sporting baddie), the remarkable attention to detail in the film’s bright and colorful 3-D animation is also a highlight.
Centering around two brothers who really couldn’t be more different from each other, Gary Supernova (Rob Corddry, Warm Bodies) is clearly the brains. On Baab, the planet he and the far-flashier Scorch (Brendan Fraser, Extraordinary Measures) call home, he basically runs their equivalent of NASA and has invented all sorts of cool gadgets and gizmos. But despite being all nerdy-cool like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, it’s his brawny brother who gets more universal admiration. And yes, the bulk of Scorch’s attributes would be filed under "superficial" at best.
Not surprisingly, all that changes when the story kicks into crisis mode. After the criminally understaffed Mission Control receives an SOS from outer space, Scorch immediately reacts without anything resembling a long-time objective. Naturally, this drives his perpetually plan-oriented brother crazy, and even more so when Scorch lands in serious hot water.
See, the enemy here is that nefarious Planet Earth (insert ominous cackle here), where a powerful and opportunistic military man (Shatner) is determined to capture any alien life forms because of their supposedly superior intelligence leads. Adding a welcome injection of humor to the sci-fi proceedings is the way that Earth and its inhabitants are portrayed. Grown-ups in particular will get a chuckle over misconceptions about what life on Earth is like in a sequence involving outdated gender roles.
Thanks to a few surprising twists along the way, not to mention a wacky madcap spirit, Escape From Planet Earth holds your attention for most of the film's 95 minutes. There’s even a little substance tucked in with the fun: themes of bravery, devotion to family and using whatever gifts you're given to the fullest.
- Language/Profanity: A single exclamation of God’s name. “Darn” stands in for its rougher counterpart.
- Sex/Nudity: No sex or nudity depicted, just some kissing.
- Drugs/Alcohol: A character is shown drinking wine.
- Violence: A handful of fighting sequences, some of which could be a little scary for the younger set. The humans use tranquilizer guns against their alien foes.
Christa Banister is an author and full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. Based in Dallas, Texas, she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog.
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