Monster Trucks
dir Chris Wedge
scr Derek Connolly
prd Mary Parent, Denis L Stewart
with Lucas Till, Jane Levy, Thomas Lennon, Barry Pepper, Holt McCallany, Tucker Albrizzi, Rob Lowe, Amy Ryan, Danny Glover, Frank Whaley, Samara Weaving, Jedidiah Goodacre
release UK 26.Dec.16, US 13.Jan.17
16/Canada Paramount 1h44
Monster Trucks
Creature feature: Till and Levy

pepper lowe ryan
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Monster Trucks With a gleefully silly tone, this childish action romp is surprisingly good fun, never taking itself very seriously as it dives into its absurd premise. It's all rather tame and cute, but the characters are lively and the monsters are surprisingly adorable. There's also a solid environmental message woven into the plot. So sit back and let it take you on a wild ride.

An outcast at high school, Tripp (Till) longs to leave his deadend North Dakota town. He works in a scrapyard building a getaway. Then an oil company unearths three huge tentacled creatures with their deep drilling, and one of them hides in Tripp's truck, learning quickly how to propel the vehicle without need of an engine. Tripp's school lab partner Meredith (Levy) gets involved in the craziness, which escalates when the company boss (Lowe) orders his henchman (McCallany) to capture Tripp's monster, and tells chief scientist Bill (Lennon) to kill the two they've captured.

Yes, the story plays loosely with the idea that oil companies are carelessly poisoning the earth to make profits, jeopardising any living thing that gets in the way. Thankfully, the script doesn't force the point, instead just getting on with the mayhem, which is playful and energetic. This is the kind of action movie that makes you smile rather than hang on for dear life. It's funny and cute, with characters you like and nothing terribly dark going on. Even the villains are more bark than bite.

Till anchors the film nicely as vaguely bad boy who gets through to Levy's popular girl. Their chemistry is never overplayed, rolling along as these two young people develop a begrudging respect for each other. Lennon provides comic relief as the emotive scientist. The initial antagonist is initially Pepper's harsh, obsessive stepdad, but he becomes more interesting as Lowe's snarling executive and McCallany's proper baddie emerge. None of this is convincing, but it's enjoyable to just go with it.

Wedge directs the film with nonstop peril that's never terribly scary. No one seems to get hurt, despite endless car-chase chaos with very high levels of vehicular destruction. Instead, it's bright and breezy, building momentum through sheer brio. And with surprisingly seamless effects, Tripp's monster Creatch becomes thoroughly loveable, even if he is a slimy, grey land octopus with teeth. There's nothing terribly sophisticated going on here, but it's so much fun that you almost hope a sequel is already in the works.

cert pg themes, violence 18.Dec.16

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