(2013)1.5Perry SeibertBy ripping off visual elements from Toy Story, plot lines from Monsters vs. Aliens, and the same complete lack of humor as Space Chimps, the animated Escape From Planet Earth makes for a miserable experience.
Rob Corddry voices the main character, Gary Supernova, a brilliant figure at an alien mission-control center who helps bail his stupid but famous astronaut brother Scorch (Brendan Fraser) out of dangerous situations, which the beloved hero often finds himself in because of his vainglorious derring-do. The brothers have a falling out just before Scorch is assigned to visit "the Dark Planet" (aka Earth), where he's quickly apprehended by the military. Knowing he has to do what's right, Gary flies to Earth as well and is promptly captured by officials and imprisoned in Area 51, which is run by General Shanker (William Shatner). Shanker collects aliens and forces them to help build a superweapon, promising to release them once it's completed. As a result, Gary, possibly the most brilliant alien in this or any other universe, has a chance to be the hero his brother has always been.
Outside of the witty font on the opening title card, Escape From Planet Earth is a singularly joyless experience. Directed by Cal Brunker (who also co-wrote the screenplay), the film lazily runs through a checklist of familiar stereotypes and conflicts. The only moment that comes close to originality happens early on when they explain that Earth used to be home to a gentle race possessing higher intelligence (dinosaurs) until human beings came along. That's the extent of the comedy as well as the social insight. How humor deficient is this movie? Ricky Gervais provides the voice of a computer, and he can't even provoke a smile.
The characters are often as unlikable as the picture is unfunny. Scorch is such an unpleasant, cocky jerk that you wonder why Gary is willing to go to such great lengths to save him. Then, just when you think the film will be about Gary saving the day, his idea to rescue everyone goes awry and he laments that all the planning in the world doesn't matter if you don't have a hero to pull it off. What kind of lesson is that for a family movie?
An attempt by the Weinstein Company to enter the lucrative animation genre, Escape From Planet Earth is the kind of brainless time killer that will make parents grumpy and kids bored. It's yet another reminder of how valuable and precious Pixar's annual output is.