"Monsters vs. Aliens" may win the box office this weekend, but this new 3-D animated feature is unlikely to be contending for any major awards. Based on overall mixed reviews, "Monsters vs. Aliens" scored a mere 55 at Meta Critic and a barely better 59 with the top critics on Rotten Tomatoes.
By way of comparison, Oscar champ "Wall-E" came in at 93 on Meta Critic and a jaw-dropping 97 with Rotten Tomatoes. Oscar also-ran "Kung Fu Panda" — which swept the Annie Awards — managed 73 at Meta Critic and 74 at Rotten Tomatoes.
Of the top critics, only Claudia Puig of USA Today was enthusiastic about "Monsters vs. Aliens," noting, "Dazzling colors, winning characters and energetic visual effects all work in concert, with the 3-D animation serving to intensify the experience." However, most reviewers agreed with the sentiments of Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, who says, "I didn't find the movie rich with humor, unless frenetic action is funny. Maybe kids have learned to think so. Too bad for them. Think of the depth of 'Pinocchio.' Kids in those days were treated with respect for their intelligence. 'Monsters vs. Aliens' is also lacking in wit."
"Monsters vs. Aliens" is written and directed by Rob Letterman, who helmed the 2004 Oscar-nominated "Shark Tale," and co-directed by Conrad Vernon, who was part of the team behind "Shrek 2," another 2004 Oscar nominee. Both those pictures lost the animated feature race to "The Incredibles."
This new movie about supersize heroes is unlikely to be another contender for DreamWorks, which has a honored history with the Oscars. The studio won the first animated feature Oscar with "Shrek," in 2001 and was nominated four more times on its own — "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron" (2002); both "Shark Tale" and "Shrek 2" (2004); and "Kung Fu Panda" (2008). In addition, it co-produced 2005 champ "Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit."
Last month's animated 3-D release — "Coraline" — did far better with the critics, earning a solid 80 at Meta Critic and 79 with the top reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes. That film, based on the acclaimed book by Neil Gaiman, was directed by Henry Selick, who helmed two highly acclaimed stop-motion films — "The Nightmare Before Christmas" (1993) and "James and the Giant Peach" (1996) — that predated the introduction of the animated feature category at the Oscars.