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Escape from Planet Earth (3D)

2013-04-19 11:42
Escape from Planet Earth
What it's about:

Gary, the nerdy head of Mission Control for the planet Baab finds it upon himself to rescue his astronaut brother who is trapped on one of the most reviled and feared planets in the galaxy, a planet called Earth.  

What we thought:

This weekend our cinemas will see the release of nothing but three very different science fiction movies, each vying for your hard earned rands, but only two of which are even remotely worth bothering with. Robot and Frank and Oblivion may have their flaws, but they're both infinitely better than the pathetic underachievement of the kids-only animated sci-fi of Escape from Planet Earth.

What's especially irritating about it is that Escape has a pretty great premise to work off. It is, in effect, an alien invasion movie but with the twist that the humans are the bad guys. It's a fun, fairly fresh idea that is just about never done justice by a film that is lazy, underwritten and tonally awkward. Not even the voice presence of the one and only William Shatner as the bad guy of the piece can save it from descending into forgettable mediocrity.

Now, this may seem a bit harsh considering that the film is clearly aimed at children but, ya know what, kids deserve better than this. And frankly they do tend to get a lot better than this in the vast majority of the animated output from the likes of Disney, Pixar and Dreamworks. Young kids may well be enamoured by the colourfulness of the animation and the film is zippy enough to perhaps hold the attention of slightly older kids but this is not something they're going to want to watch again and again of DVD.

Worse, if you're the sort of adult who enjoys Toy Story or How to Train Your Dragon even more than the little ones do – and, really, why wouldn't you be? – you are sure to be sorely disappointed by everything in Escape from Planet Earth. The animation of the film is basically competent but its sense of design is beyond underwhelming. Contrast the psychedelically imaginative visuals of The Croods to the bland character designs and uninspired settings of Escape to see how far below par this film hits.

The storytelling though is even less inspired. The premise is genuinely very promising, but because the film is presumably aiming at the youngest of audiences – it certainly doesn't deserve its overly cautious PG rating – it is never allowed to properly explore so satirical a premise. Sure, there is a grown-up gag or two that does land (especially the one about Earth being the only planet where its inhabitants devolve, as they move from the majesty of dinosaurs to the brutal savagery of humanity) but they feel completely out of place. They'll go right over the heads of the kids and they will only further drive home to older viewers just how paint-by-numbers everything else going on screen is.

As for the all-important characters, the film is sorely lacking in anything even remotely close to a Buzz Lightyear – and that's despite the fact that one of the main characters is clearly modelled after that beloved Toy Story character! And when a Buzz Lightyear rip-off is easily the most memorable character here, you know you're in trouble.

Most mind-boggling of all though, is the film's horribly outdated message. Had the film come out three decades ago, its message that it's cool to be a smart kid who works with computers would have made some sense.

Today though, when every kid is a whiz on their iPods/ smart phones/ computers, it comes across as hilariously out of touch. Honestly, every time one of the "jock" characters "made fun" of Gary, the film's central hero, by miming out typing on a computer (yeah, really) it was all I could do not to check my own cellphone to check that the whole cinema hadn't been magically transplanted back to 1973.

Escape from Planet Earth? I just wanted to escape this bloody awful movie.    

It may work for very, very young kids but everyone else is far better off sticking to The Croods for quality, kid-friendly animation.

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