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Planet 51 (2009)

Something strange is coming to their planet...Us!

Rating: 5/10

Running Time: 91 minutes

US Certificate: PG UK Certificate: U

I saw Planet 51 yesterday, and I’ve pretty much already forgotten it. There’s nothing bad about, it’s mildly entertaining, and for what it is—a kids film meant to draw in the families looking for some safe family viewing after a holiday meal that ISN’T related to vampires or world destruction—it’s an OK way to spend 90-minutes. It’s just that in a year that produced movies like Up and Coraline, it’s like I’ve said before—a bar was set, and now that we know what to hope for, it’s a letdown when we don’t get stories of that quality in the animated world.

Lem (voice of Justin Long) is a teenager-type with a new job doing what he loves—talking about space—at the museum. He’s got a funny best friend (voice of Seann William Scott), a cute girl next door that likes him (voice of Jessica Biel), and everything seems to be going OK. Then one bright day, out of the sky arrives an alien visitor (voice of Dwayne Johnson) in the form of American astronaut Captain Charles “Chuck” Baker, sending Lem on the run to grudgingly protect his new friend and risk everything to keep his own planet from spiraling into an anti-alien frenzy.

So, while it may not stand out as especially remarkable or memorable, the premise of Planet 51 is somewhat original as far as a kids movie. It’s sort of a nice idea to let kids see that maybe we’re NOT the center of the universe, so to speak, and though it’s been done before (and better), there’s always room for another lesson that different is OK. The story is enough to keep its intended audience watching, the jokes are funny, there’s a cute robot dog (probably the best character in the whole thing), and the hero is likeable enough. For sci-fi buffs, there are references galore to all sorts of genre classics like 2001, Alien, Star Wars, and more, which is sort of fun for adults, as kinds most likely won’t catch them. It’s just that there’s nothing really noteworthy about any of it—the animation is OK, but Lem and his friends look a little like a hybrid of Sea-Monkey and Who from Whoville; the jokes are funny, but they’re not all that clever; the story works, but it’s nothing new. It’s like there was a promising concept, but somewhere along the line, too many people got involved and threw in their two cents about what makes a successful cartoon, and all those voices managed to suck out any real flavor, leaving a bland, watchable, but overall forgettable viewing experience.

It's Got: Some funny jokes, a cool 50s soundtrack, Characters with names like "Glar"

It Needs: More interesting animation, more humor, better characters


Absolutely nothing memorable, Planet 51 is still a mildly entertaining kids flick that’s not too dumbed down for adults.