A monster mess of a movie

Review: Monster Trucks

(PG) Lucas Till, Robe Lowe, Amy Ryan, Danny Glover

North Dakota is a land of beautiful scenery and has become a vast supply of mineral resources for corporations to consider. On the outskirts of Williston, an oil drilling expedition strikes an underground ecosystem inhabited by undiscovered lifeforms. In an attempt to keep this monstrous habitat under wraps, the corporation tries to study the creatures with the intention to eliminate these environmental ‘pests’. But one of the beasts escapes and find its way into town.

Unaware of this subterranean invasion, the sleepy North Dakota community offers anything but a dream lifestyle for teenagers. Tripp (Lucas Till) yearns to escape from his small-town existence. The one solace he has, amid his monotonous life, is the rebuilding of an old truck. One night, this brooding youth comes in contact with the escaped creature from the centre of the earth. Instead of being a lesson in horror, he finds out that this multi-tentacled beast, Creech, has special gifts which provide his beloved truck with ‘monstrous’ powers.

Soon after meeting this new-found friend and biological discovery, Tripp finds out he must partner with his friends to help Creech reconnect with his family. Their adventure keeps them a few steps ahead of the local law enforcement and the henchmen who work for the oil corporation. This adolescent team must work to deliver these creatures back to their buried residence and out of the reach of the corporate villains who want to eradicate them.

In the hands of a master film maker, this bizarre concept could have been a magical journey into the captivating world of Creech, his family and their affinity with monster trucks. While director of Ice Age and Robots, Chris Wedge, has the pedigree to put together good animated films, this live action teen-comedy places him out of his depth. Wedge has strived to piece together a plausible storyline from a poorly thought-out premise, an anemic script and and a wasted talent pool. How Rob Lowe, Amy Ryan, Barry Pepper and Danny Glover could have signed on for this project can only be explained as “financial decision” – and not for the advancement of their careers. Lead actors Lucas Till and Jane Levy do provide the necessary chemistry for a sci-fi comedy, but there is one glaring problem with their casting. They are meant to be teenagers. Understanding that many actors play characters from different age brackets, the issue is that Till and Levy look older than most of the teachers and authority figures in Monster Trucks. This merely adds to the multiple problems with this film, but one thing may help with this creature feature’s box office appeal.

From the audience response at the film’s screening, Paramount Pictures has successfully managed to target boys under the age of 10 years old. Monster Trucks had this market sector transfixed by the big trucks and the monsters inside them. Hearing the belly laughs and cheers after each truck crash – or whenever the lovable monsters make an appearance – would be enough to give the marketing team some hope. This crowd of younger viewers probably prefers to be entertained by prat falls and explosions, rather than a reasonable plot or quality acting performances. And that’s what they get with Monster Trucks – a monstrous outing that is harmless for children, but will cause most parents to yearn for the next Pixar release.

What should parents know about Monster Trucks? 

Harmless is a relative term to Monster Trucks. For the sake of small children, be warned that there are a few scary elements which might cause sleepless nights. But more harm actually might be found in the moral lessons taught by Monster Trucks. The animal conservation message at the core of the screenplay is undermined by the inexcusable behaviour of the lead characters to achieve their goals. To save the threatened fictional species, Tripp and his mates brush aside any sense of societal accountability. The endangerment of human life, the destruction of property and outright theft become acceptable means to an ends.

What is meant to be a lesson in taking the moral high ground against corporate greed becomes a lesson in moral relativism that leaves this production team with some explaining to do, to parents of young children.

What are the bigger questions to consider from this film?

  1. What does the bible say about living a moral life? Proverbs 22:6, James 1:22-25, 2 Timothy 2:15)
  2. What are the passages that talk about fighting for your beliefs? Psalm 119: 89-91, 1 Corinthians 15:58, 16:13)

Russell Matthews works for City Bible Forum Sydney and is a film blogger




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