Planet 51

Yes, I was the only grownup in the theatre without a kid in tow. This is my first time reviewing a movie aimed at the younger set, so it was kind of an experience. And I wasn’t really sure what to expect — some people kept saying it looked silly, others that it looked good and they wanted to see it. As it turned out, it was actually pretty fun, once I got over the idea that all the other adults were looking at me funny because I was there by myself.
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away — except I think this is actually in our galaxy. Anyway, there’s a planet out there that’s full of little green aliens who don’t wear shoes, eat food that glows, drive little round hovercars, and are obsessed with scary 1950’s-style sci-fi movies about being invaded by beings from outer space. Best-known are the Humaniacs, villains of an ultra-popular movie trilogy. In spite of the name, they don’t look very human; they’re roughly human-shaped, but have just one giant hypnotic eye where their heads should be. And they want to eat your braaains!
So says Skiff (voiced by Seann William Scott), comic-book store employee and alien expert. His best friend, Lem (Justin Long, wisecracking computer hacker from Live Free or Die Hard, newly promoted to junior assistant curator at the observatory, isn’t so sure. He’s busy mooning over the girl next door, in true 1950’s style, because everything in this movie is pretty 1950’s, basically. Everything’s also round, hovers, and/or looks like crop circles. But the girl next door is Neera (Jessica Biel), who’s learning all about something new called “protesting”, and though she likes Lem, too, it’s almost impossible for them to get a minute alone.
That problem only gets worse when Captain Charles T. Baker, astronaut (Voice of Dwayne Johnson, of Get Smart fame) lands in the middle of Lem and Neera’s perfect little suburban neighborhood, thinking he’s just claimed an uninhabited planet for the United States of America. As startled as the natives are to see him, he’s even more startled to discover that he has an audience, and things just go downhill from there. It turns out that Rover, the adorable little mobile camera and sample-taker that was sent out to investigate the planet, was programmed to find and photograph rocks, so that’s what it did — just the rocks. So the little green aliens turned out to be quite a shock.

Skiff is the one on the left, and he’s right to look nervous.

Paranoid as they are, Len’s friends and neighbors are all ready for this alien invasion, led by tough General Grawl (Gary Oldman) and mad scientist Professor Kipple (John Cleese). Except all Chuck wants is to get back home, and he has to get back to his spaceship before the automatic liftoff sequence begins, or he’ll be stuck there, with everyone trying to kill him. But of course the army’s ready, and they’ve got his spaceship surrounded. It’s just like a scene from The Day the Earth Stood Still, either version. In fact, this movie features all sorts of famous lines and images from just about every sci-fi movie you can think of, from Invasion of the Body Snatchers to Terminator to Alien. In fact, if you liked the Alien franchise, be sure to keep an eye on what they call a dog on Planet 51.
Anyway, the kids in the theatre seemed to like it, I enjoyed trying to find all the in-jokes and rooting for Rover (because really, how can you not root for something so cute?) and it was basically a fun ninety minutes. I’m giving it a respectable three and a third idols. Parents, you probably won’t be bored, and kids, you’ll love Rover. So Ashley, go ahead and have mom and dad take you to see it. And don’t leave as soon as the credits start! They’re fun, too.