★ ★ ★ ½
The Onion made a video a few years back depicting a mock morning-show interview with “the screenwriter for the latest Fast and the Furious movie,” a five-year-old boy who threw his Hot Wheels in the air and hollered: “Pcheeeeeew! I want the cars to go fast!” That same hyperactive spirit must have been behind the elevator pitch for Monster Trucks: Kids like monsters, kids like trucks, so how about a family film in which high-school misfit and budding mechanic Tripp (Lucas Till) discovers a creature in his garage that’s half Cthulhu and half baby-faced manatee? It guzzles oil, makes cooing sounds, and loves to wrap its feelers around the axles of a beat-up pickup truck and burn rubber around town; unfortunately, a mean old oil-company CEO (Rob Lowe) and his hired goon (Holt McCallany) want to exterminate said beast in order to cover up the accident that unearthed it and two other members of its species. It’s up to Tripp, his plucky, biology-tutor classmate (Jane Levy), and a concerned company scientist (Thomas Lennon) to get “Creech” the creature home. If all of this sounds as stupid as Snakes on a Plane, then the joke’s on you, because Monster Trucks is actually great fun in the vein of the “wheeee!” stuff a pre-gravitas Spielberg used to executive produce in the ’80s (think *batteries not included). Tenderhearted kids will warm to cuddly Creech, and their more energetic peers will enjoy trucks racing, crashing, and driving over other trucks in the many well-done action sequences. And their parents might appreciate it, too, along with the fact that there’s no cursing, no fart jokes, no mushy kissing scenes, no one gets hurt, just trucks! Trucks! Pcheeeeeew!