We are all familiar with the fear of extra terrestrial life. There are more movies about aliens attacking our planet than ones who come here in peace. Mostly because impending danger is more suitable for creating an exciting movie than having some kids discover a cute alien somewhere and trying to help him home. OK, so E.T. worked, but for every E.T. there are thousands of movies about killer aliens. Planet 51 takes the E.T. formula and reverses it. What if a human was the alien on a far away inhabited planet that had to get home?
Set in a parallel world to ours, where the dominant species leads a life similar to ours but only with 60 years of delay as they are still in the 50’s. Life is so similar there they even have the same pop-songs we have, talk the same language we do, well in this case English of course, and basically have the same western environment we have. Families, pets, jobs and cars. And like we had in the 50’s movies and books about alien life forms are really the trend. So a natural fear of beings from another world is firmly implanted into this society when a NASA astronaut lands on the planet in the middle of the town. Guess how warm his welcome is…
Through a series of unforeseen events one young kid named Lem befriends the alien astronaut Scott T. Baker and tries to help him get back on his ship so that e can go home. But since his arrival hasn’t gone by unnoticed the whole town and alerted military is looking out for him. Meanwhile Lem has more problems of his own as he tries to impress the girl next door.
Planet 51 is a fun little movie, with a couple of big laughs, references to other movies and a story that is not so quite original. In the end it’s another E.T. story only with the tables turned. Despite it’s unoriginality the story has a quick pace, something most of these CG-movies have due to the cost of rendering, and the characters are given just enough depth to remain interesting even though they’re all stock-characters. Stealing the spotlight from the main leads are a Rover, a Wall-E-like robotic vehicle that has to explore unknown planets. He has an obsession for rocks, and neglects to report the presence of life on the planet. Another creature constantly recurring is Ripley, a dog-like pet that bears distinctive resemblance to an alien Sigourney Weaver dealt with some time ago. These two are funny and the most original characters of the bunch.
The story takes place in one or two days and is a bit shallow. It’s straightforward and doesn’t hold up any surprises or plot-twists and it’s pure scriptwriting by the numbers. The obligatory lessons of life are here, but they aren’t really impressive. I wonder if these movies would profit from them if they were left out.
Visually it’s all solid. The planet is bright and colorful and they paid attention to detail. There are sight-gags and I liked to updates our 50’s vehicles have gotten on their planet. The voice casting is nothing special. Big names are voicing these characters yet the characters themselves look nothing like the actor voicing them so they are just here to give the movie some extra credit and make it more easily marketable. Only John Cleese stands out in a supporting role as a scientist who know exactly how the alien human can zombify everybody if he likes to.
Planet 51 is quick appetizer for movies with more depth like “Up”, yet it’s entertaining for the parents and the kids, but it isn’t an instant classic. The movie is too unoriginal and too much by the numbers. But there are some big laughs and fun characters and you won’t be cheated out of 80 minutes of your life if you watch it.