Sixteen year old Lem (voice of Justin Long) lives on Planet 51, where his white picket fenced world is reminiscent of 1950s America. He dreams about dating Neera, the girl next door (voice of Jessica Alba) as well as running the local planetarium. But one day, everything changes when the spaceship of astronaut Captain Charles (Chuck) Baker (voice of Dwayne Johnson) crashes down in the middle of a family barbecue. Unaware of his surroundings, Chuck plants the US flag triumphantly before realizing there are green faces staring at him. Lem agrees to help Chuck get back to his ship before it returns to earth without him, but first they have to outrun and outwit the paranoid Planet 51 Army who is determined to capture Chuck.
Review by Louise Keller:
Taking the concept of little green aliens and turning it on its head, this animated adventure comedy is cute and clever, but keeps it simple enough to entertain the whole family. This is Planet 51, a candy coloured reality reminiscent of 50s America, where its green faced inhabitants live in fear of a human-alien invasion. So when a big-headed astronaut 'with the Right Stuff' crash-lands and finds that he is now the alien, the fun begins. The adventure unfolds through the eyes of 16 year old Lem (voice of Justin Long), who until now, has been an observer, not a participant in the hustle bustle of every day life. The film is a curious mix of original and derivative with characters with Shrek-green faces and aliens that look like B.O.B. from Monsters Versus Aliens. But the story sits well and its message about conquering fears and reaching for dreams is a universal one.
To begin with, the detail in the setting of Planet 51 is striking. Houses look a bit like spaceships; in fact everything looks like a spaceship - including the trees and silver dog with a projectile tongue that adheres to everything it touches. As for the green inhabitants, they have a lot in common with the humble banana. Their hair looks like a bunch of bananas; facial hair too. When we meet Lem, newly appointed assistant curator at the local Planetarium, we know straight away that he is a dreamer. He is forced to be pro-active when the stranded astronaut (voice of Dwayne Johnson) finds himself in Lem's bedroom.
Much of the detail will go above the heads of its young audience, but adults will enjoy the clever touches, like the Alien Hotline, the upcoming anticipated release of the movie Humanian 3 and the rock-collecting probe called Rover who is in seventh heaven when he discovers it rains rocks on Planet 51. I also like the scene in which Rover clings to the lamppost, in a tip of the hat to Singing in the Rain. The trials and tribulations of how Lem saves Chuck are pretty predictable, but all's well that ends well, and even if the film doesn't set the world on fire, it has a sweet heart and audiences will respond accordingly.
Email this article
PLANET 51 (PG)
(Spain, UK, 2009)
VOICES: Dwayne Johnson, Jessica Biel, Justin Long, Gary Oldman, Seann William Scott, John Cleese, Alan Marriott
PRODUCER: Guy Collins, Ignacio Pérez Dolset
DIRECTOR: Jorge Blanco, Javier Abad
SCRIPT: Joe Stillman
EDITOR: Alex Rodríguez
MUSIC: James Seymour Brett
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Julian Muñoz Romero
RUNNING TIME: 91 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hoyts
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 10, 2009