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  Monster Trucks Engine Failure
Year: 2016
Director: Chris Wedge
Stars: Lucas Till, Jane Levy, Thomas Lennon, Barry Pepper, Rob Lowe, Dannny Glover, Amy Ryan, Holt McCallany, Frank Whaley, Aliyah O’Brien, Daniel Bacon, Faustino Di Bauda, Jedidiah Goodacre, Samara Weaving, Ruairi MacDonald
Genre: Action, Science Fiction, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Near this small town in the middle of nowhere is an oil drilling research station, and that has found a large water table below the surface of the earth which could, according to their investigation, conceal a huge reserve of black gold. However, the resident scientist Jim Dowd (Thomas Lennon) expresses a concern there could be life in the water which would prevent them from going any further thanks to environmental laws and requirements, something that proves accurate when a creature is seen on the camera, and worse than that, when the water pressure causes a spout, three hitherto unknown beasts are sent up into the air with it. Two are captured - but one gets away.

There's a lesson to be learned in Monster Trucks, and it was not the ecological one you might have anticipated. No, it was more a lesson for studio bosses: not only do not entrust members of your family with concocting the high concepts for your would-be blockbusters, definitely make sure those family members are not four-year-old boys. That was the most memorable aspect of the movie, that the studio boss had asked his toddler son what he would like to see in a film, and the moppet announced that his dream project would be a story featuring monster trucks that were monsters, actual monsters, as well as trucks. If this sounds a shaky foundation to build your moneyspinner on, you'd be correct.

Indeed, this production, which apparently was haemorrhaging money even before it was released upon an indifferent world, was blamed for the poor performance of Viacom's film division for that year, more or less exclusively, as it apparently takes a lot of cash to realise the dreams of a little boy in cinematic form. As it stood, the film had a chance of building a cult following among those hardy few who watched it as kids, in the way that family movies from the nineteen-eighties amassed a nostalgic appreciation many years after the fact thanks to parents looking back on the tat of their youths and showing them to their kids. Of course, not all of that material was tat, some of it was perfectly fine.

Great even, but Monster Trucks was not that. It did contain some interest in watching grown adults trying to make a convincing integrity out of what would have been more accomplished as a crayon drawing held by a novelty magnet on a fridge door. Therefore a degree of world-building was necessary to crowbar the concept into something approaching a believable premise, within the context of the fiction at any rate, so we were asked to accept that there were subterranean monsters which lived on oil, fair enough, that's not too far above some fifties sci-fi B-movie, but also that they had no qualms about receiving that oil while crammed into a customised truck that they were powering, which was considerably less easy to swallow, it was in effect, downright bizarre without giving an inkling anyone thought it was.

A prime example of a project where nobody stopped to think, wait, isn't this just stupid, not to mention one of the thinnest premises outside of a straight to DVD cheapo CGI animated effort featuring talking animals that thoughtless parents buy for their little ones to keep them quiet for an hour and a half of peace. A lot like one of those Ice Age movies,which may be cheap and cheerful but had made a massive profit, and shared a director with Monster Trucks, Chris Wedge, except they were little more than lowest common denominator fluff, yet here we were supposed to be dealing with serious emotions (the lead character has parent problems), then there's the environment and faceless corporations to deal with for a straight-faced appeal to social conscience. When you boiled it down, this was your basic eighties smalltown family sci-fi given an update into twenty-first century oblivion, there was little to captivate any but the least demanding viewer, yet somehow it cost over a hundred million dollars, and lost about that too. Music by David Sardy.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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