Fulfilling every expectation of a long-delayed, long-troubled blockbuster set to give Paramount a hefty $115 million writedown, Monster Trucks is a well-meaning but soullessly bland, over-budgeted misfire that’s hugely bereft of charm.
High school senior Tripp’s (Lucas Till) humdrum life is flipped upside down when he meets a tentacled alien creature displaced by a nearby oil drilling excursion. After nicknaming the alien Creech, he finds the squid-like discovery has a fondness for Tripp’s cobbled-together monster truck, climbing inside it and serving as the engine for both the vehicle and Tripp’s adventures.
Though there’s a version of this rough-hewn tentpole that probably could’ve made good on a contemporary, Transformers-esque boy-and-his-dog tale, the live-action debut of Ice Age director Chris Wedge is just too low-effort and dull to make much impact with anyone behind the most deprived and easily-satisfied youngsters.
For starters, Creech himself isn’t especially cute and additionally rendered in rather uninspired style, and he’s playing opposite up-and-comer Till, who while working just fine as Havok in the X-Men movies, is hopelessly uninteresting working from such a joyless script. Together, they just can’t muster the sense of fun, adventure or spectacle Wedge is clearly shooting for.
Most flabbergasting, though, is the absurdly talented roster the film somehow amassed, most appearing for mere minutes a-piece and likely taking a huge chunk of the budget with them. Amy Ryan, Rob Lowe, Danny Glover, Barry Pepper and Thomas Lennon (the movie’s single entertaining performance) all put in face-time for a payday, and most probably forgot the gig days after.
Equally bizarre is the strangely infantilised Jane Levy (who plays Tripp’s feisty love interest, Meredith), for while it’s nothing new to see mid-20s women playing high schoolers, Levy is curiously de-aged even further by wearing a bright pink rucksack and childish hair clips. Yes, the film was shot almost three years ago, but still, it’s glaringly distracting.
Though it flirts with some entertaining action beats from time-to-time, Monster Trucks is frequently an excruciating bore, with actors who are incapable of enlivening a formulaic script that had no business getting the executive thumbs up. Not quite as atrocious as you might expect or even hope, but in its boredom, probably less watchable.
Monster Trucks is in UK cinemas now and US cinemas January 13th