FILM REVIEW: Monster Trucks

Monster Trucks

Stars: Lucas Till, Jane Levy, Barry Pepper, Amy Ryan, Rob Lowe, Danny Glover, Thomas Lennon, Holt McCallany | Written by Derek Connolly | Directed by Chris Wedge

Looking for any way to get away from the life and town he was born into, Tripp (Lucas Till), a high school senior, builds a monster truck from bits and pieces of scrapped cars. After an accident at a nearby oil-drilling site displaces a strange and subterranean creature with a taste for oil and a talent for speed, Tripp may have just found the key to getting out of town and a most unlikely friend.

When I first heard the premise of this film I couldn’t help but feel a little ridicule – after all, a movie about a LITERAL monster truck? Sounds like a perfect direct to DVD title to me. But then I saw the first trailer for Monster Trucks and I was sucked in. There was something about what I saw that felt very familiar and very, for want of a better word, homely. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but there was something that compelled me to want to see this bizarre sounding film.

Whilst the concept may be somewhat out there, Monster Trucks does come from good pedigree. Helmed by Chris Wedge, who directed the first Ice Age movie; and with a screenplay from Derek Connolly – who is a name you may not recognise but has also penned screenplays for the blockbuster Jurassic World AND its forthcoming sequel. With credentials like that how could you not give this family-friendly film a go?

It also didn’t hurt that the film was packed with familiar names and faces: Danny Glover, Rob Lowe, Thomas Lennon, Barry Pepper, Frank Whaley, and in particular the films two leads, Lucas Till and Jane Levy. I was a huge fan of Levy from her work not only in the Evil Dead remake but also the fantastic (and under appreciated here in the UK) series Suburgatory. And Till? Well If you haven’t seen the stellar work he’s been doing on the redux of MacGyver you really should. I never thought anyone could replace Richard Dean Anderson, Till hasn’t – instead he’s made the character, and the show, his own through sheer charisma and screen presence alone – both of which qualities he brings to Monster Trucks too.

For the more cine-literal readers out there, you may notice that Monster Trucks features quite a few actors who gained fame in the 80s (Glover, Lowe and Whaley) I say this because this film is like a throwback to that era and that is the real reason why I found this film so appealing. Yes, that original trailer screamed “80s monster movie” to me and that’s what the film is: one of the finest modern examples of the old-school, 80s family-friendly monster movies I’ve seen in years!

Creech, the titular monster (in the truck), is at once ugly yet loveable: like Maurice in Little Monsters or the aliens of Joe Dante’s Explorers. In fact it’s Explorers that Monster Trucks most evokes. Only instead of aliens in outer space, who learn by watching Earth’s TV transmissions, we get a monster from inner space – in this case a pocket of water buried hundreds of miles under the ground – who learns by watching TV… Plus the monsters’ love of guzzling oil and it’s ability to learn is also echoes Spielberg’s classic kids film E.T.!

I reference other films not to belittle the story of Monster Trucks but to celebrate just how much fun this film is. Like those films we grew up on in the 80s, Wedge’s all-new tale appeals to the ENTIRE family – it never relies on over-exposition and doesn’t talk down to the kids watching. Like all good family films, it treats the audience as equals, which makes it perfect family viewing this holiday season.

**** 4/5

Monster Trucks is in cinemas across the UK now.

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