Laremy Legel February 15, 2013
The strangest part about “Escape from Planet Earth” is that it paints humans as the worst sort of sentient beings. That’s not a deal-breaker premise, see everything from “Traffic” to “Toy Story,” but in this case it makes the whole endeavor ring hollow, as all of the aliens involved also act exactly like humans. Complete with petty jealousies, a pointless sibling rivalry, and completely myopic villains, this film has it all for people looking for nothing. Really, this is the classic case of “less intelligence, more problems,” as “Escape from Planet Earth” is only capable of ringing one single solitary note for both its lead and tertiary characters. Gifted voice actors Rob Corddry, Ricky Gervais and Paul Scheer are all largely wasted in a story that goes from Point A to Point A, making a few stops along the way for lame physical comedy.
If you’re a parent trying to find some solace in a film clearly not intended for you, “Escape from Planet Earth” offers crisp animation. Aesthetically, it looks very solid. I can’t speak to the 3-D version, because I opted for 2-D, though I can’t imagine this one isn’t treading the same trodden ground as every other cash-grab 3-D surcharge. Regardless, a clever look and a decent premise don’t cover up the black hole of a plot. Nothing really happens here, as aliens from Planet Baab try to rescue one of their heroes, Scorch Supernova (Brendan Fraser). He’s been marooned on Earth, and the comedy is intended to spring forth from there. Whereas films like “Despicable Me” and “How to Train Your Dragon” built the laughs around the personalities involved, “Escape from Planet Earth” attempts to build them around people getting hit repeatedly in the face with shovels. You know, like “Looney Tunes,” only 80 years later. It’s not entirely clear if the folks involved here thought there was some semblance of a movie within, or if they were simply winging it, hoping the animation would carry the threadbare dialogue and meager story offerings.
There are two main arcs in “Escape from Planet Earth,” and both revolve around Gary Supernova (Rob Corddry). Both plot points are introduced at the outset of the film, the first is the brain vs. braun dynamic between Gary and his brother, Scorch. The second involves tension between Gary and his son, Kip (Jonathan Morgan Heit). Kip wants to be just like his Uncle Scorch, so really the problems are one and the same, and clearly both will be resolved in a manner in which everyone will learn and grow.
Unfortunately, “Escape from Planet Earth” must throw up plenty of barriers toward that inevitable conclusion, if only to draw out the running time past something more than an animated short. Most of the film is spent presenting the idea that our heroes are doomed, they’ll never get it together, and everyone should probably just give up. What the creators of the film don’t seem to grasp is that by making their characters inept and idiotic, it’s impossible to pull for them at the end. Where “Monsters Inc.” offers you hope that things will get better, making it easier to get emotionally invested, “Escape from Planet Earth” offers up a bunch of rubes constantly tripping over their own feet and getting in each other’s way.
Not recommended for anyone but the hardiest of animation completists, this one is a definite skip. There’s nothing to note, nothing to grasp, nothing in which to find mirth. You could ‘Escape from Planet Earth,’ but you’re better off just ignoring it.
Laremy wrote the book on film criticism and really enjoyed “Monsters vs. Aliens”.
Categories: ReviewsTags: Animation, Escape from Planet Earth, Paul scheer, Ricky gervais, Rob corddry, Weinstein animation