Who’s In It: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Jessica Biel, Justin Long, Seann William Scott, Gary Oldman, John Cleese
The Basics: An all-American NASA astronaut named Chuck Baker (Dwayne Johnson) lands on Planet 51 only to find that it’s not uninhabited after all – an entire society of green-skinned aliens live there. Even weirder, they all speak English and live in a pseudo-‘50s Americana society, complete with shady military warmongers, shoddy covers of soda fountain songs like “Lollipop,” and theaters that play B-movie creature features. When Chuck implores local youth Lem (Justin Long) to help him back to his quarantined space ship, the two reluctant buds forge a friendship and learn lessons about tolerance and crap.
What’s The Deal With Foreign-Made Animation? Crafted in Spain by Ilion Animation Studios and HandMade Films, Planet 51 is a case of a message getting lost in translation, the message being that 21st century Americans don’t care about the 1950s anymore. (In the case of Astro Boy, foreign filmmakers didn’t seem to get that killing children in cartoons is a traumatic and frightening way to entertain kids.) We got our fill with Back to the Future, a movie that actually understood that the ‘50s were a silly decade. Planet 51 doesn’t understand this; it thinks that we’ll be delighted at the sight of a retro America populated by aliens and a script that cribs liberally from everything from E.T. to Wall-E. Even the Righteous Brothers are aped, in the form of a horribly vanilla version of “Unchained Melody,” and that is an offense I will not abide.
And Another Thing: Celebrity astronaut Chuck Baker, despite being voiced by the eminently likeable Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, is a pop culture-spewing, pompous jerk. There’s just nothing appealing enough about him to root for, even after a predictable last-act revelation when he momentarily sheds his self-righteous posturing. Almost equally unlikeable is Lem (Justin Long), a dweeby nice guy who pines for a girl (Neera) but can’t grow the pair he needs to actually ask her out. Together, they make for an insufferable duo.
Wait, Gary Oldman Is In This? When you can’t tell that Gary Freaking Oldman is voicing a character, someone has failed miserably. Also, John Cleese is in this movie! You won’t be able to tell, as the material is so bland it permeates the entire film.
The Dwayne Johnson-Seann William Scott Curse: I should have seen it coming. The first time Dwayne Johnson and Seann William Scott worked together (The Rundown) was the charm. The last time we got Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales. The Johnson-Scott movies are getting progressively worse, so please guys, stop it already.