Monster Trucks harkens back to the mid-90s era of ‘child and their magical _____’ films that major studios don’t really believe in anymore. The family-friendly adventure, which was notoriously shelved for two years prior to release, features a combination subterranean creature feature and eco-thriller for the all ages crowd that will play best with younger audiences. Still, it’s worth a spin for us more hardened, adult types as well.
Lucas Till (X-Men franchise) stars as Tripp, a small town teenage outcast who rides the bus to school and spends his free time working at a local junkyard. Through no fault of his own, Tripp encounters a squid-like creature that was freed when a nearby oil company tried to drill their way through an otherwise untouched river two miles below the surface of the Earth. The monster takes shelter in an old truck Tripp is trying to rebuild, which it also has the ability to power, and Tripp soon finds himself facing off against the oil company’s security detail in an attempt to save his new friend.
Along for the ride is a by-the-numbers love interest played by Jane Levy (Don’t Breathe, Evil Dead). Her role as the smart girl who is stupid for the lead actor is as dated as the genre this film is trying to give new life to, but Levy nonetheless finds a way to be as charming as the material will allow.
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The supporting cast of good and bad people is comprised of a notable group whose appearances in this film make little sense, but are very much welcomed. It’s hard to think of another film that could bring together Thomas Lennon, Danny Glover, Barry Pepper, Amy Ryan, and Rob Lowe (who speaks with a bizarre southern accent) while giving none of them much of anything to do. There is not a single emotional moment of note in the entire screenplay, but everyone commits to the project.
To enjoy Monster Trucks is to commit to 104 minutes of open acceptance in terms of plot, logic, and physics. You have to go with it from the jump or you will find yourself overthinking a movie that is made to appeal to an audience that primarily looks at movies as something meant to be fun. Monster Trucks, while riddled with inconsistencies, is an entirely fun movie. The subtext of caring for the environment never takes importance away from escapism, which hits its peak during any of the film’s numerous chase sequences.
Is this movie going to be the next E.T. or The Goonies for you, the 20 to 50-something reading this now? No, almost certainly not. It isn’t meant to be. But for a generation just now discovering the joys of cinema, the younger viewers who will eventually be able to stream this repeatedly on Netflix or some similar service, Monster Trucks could be an important film. It’s an exercise in originality that never attempts to build a franchise or be anything more than a harmless bit of fun.
The mileage you get out of Monster Trucks is going to depend largely on how much prejudice you bring to your viewing experience. My advice is to let go and have fun, if you can.