Planet 51: Make mine The 80's

Movie:Planet 51
Company:Ilion Animation
Directors:Jorge Blanco
Javier Abad
Marcos Martínez
Featuring:Dwayne Johnson
Jessica Biel
Justin Long
Gary Oldman
Seann William Scott
John Cleese

        It's a perfect little world living in the 1950's. It's got Lover's Lane, The Malt Shop, and Rock & Roll. It's even got 'B' Movies and comic books which feature horrific invading aliens from outer space. However, this idyllic world, Planet 51, is inhabited by humanoid, yet non-human, little green men complete with antennae. In an allegory to our own 'Red Scare', the inhabitants of this world are obsessed with imaginary and violent, one-eyed invaders, the Humaniacs, which are a natural product of their own xenophobia. Unfortunately for Charles T. Baker, astronaut and actual human, a faulty probe showed Planet 51 to be uninhabited and uninviting. The probe was half right.

        Dwayne Johnson voices for Charles T. “Chuck” Baker, an American who lands on the planet and is immediately separated from his ship. Justin Long voices for Lem, a teenage inhabitant who reluctantly helps Baker back to his ship before its orbiting command module returns to Earth without him. Lem is helped by his conspiracy obsessed friend, Skiff (Seann William Scott), his love interest, Neera (Jessica Beil), a hippie rival for Neera's affections, Glar (Alan Marriott), and the errant space probe, Rover. Standing in their way are the military led by General Grawl (Gary Oldman), Professor Kipple (John Cleese), and Planet 51's xenophobic society all of whom believe that any contact with a Humaniac will turn you into a mind controlled zombie.

        The animation is very well done and the movie is filled with inside jokes to keep the sci-fi savvy parent amused. Star Trek's Captain Kirk and Chuck share the same accentuated, yet unexplained, middle initial. A pet resembling Giger's alien from the Alien movie franchise urinates acid onto lampposts and is named Ripley. During a chase scene, Chuck and Lem are propelled through the air and past the moon, a la “E.T.”. In addition to the “Plan 9 From Outer Space” mind controlled zombie theme, Planet 51 has a secret military base named “Area 9”. Even Lem's name is a probable nod to the name of NASA's Apollo Lunar Lander.

        However, along with the amusing winks and nods comes the usual Hollywood message and stereotypes. Chuck, as a typical stupid imperialist American, leaves his lander and is oblivious to the fact that he is in an inhabited neighborhood as he plants Old Glory and claims Planet 51 for the good old USA. Lem must choose to turn in or help Chuck and in doing so throw in with the blond haired, square jawed, righteously indignant, fascistic military leader, General Grawl or the peace loving, guitar playing, enlightened (despite his drug induced stupor) hippie, Glar. Grawl and Kipple accuse people at random of being zombies, the buffoonish and unquestioning regular soldiers arrest the accused, and Kipple removes their brains for study. In a puerile swipe at "The Rich", once the brains of the accused are removed, the accused suddenly become ridiculously refined, eloquent, and effete. Glar outs with banalities like “The times they are a-different”, almost gets the girl despite his hippie funk, and teaches Planet 51 teens “a new thing called protesting”. And then there's the scene which shows the depths of Hollywood's bigotry toward the military. A search squad, which is about to locate Lem and Chuck, is distracted by Glar singing a protest song as a diversion. The soldiers in the squad knowingly and maliciously smile as they pull out their nightsticks and descend upon Glar to give him the beat-down of his animated life.

        With its cynical send-up of suburban life, loathing of the military, soundtrack selections like, “Stick It To The Man”, protesting alien teens chanting, “We're really upset!”, and Chuck's farewell of “Call me when you get to the 60's”, this movie might have better stayed on ice in a secret underground facility.

Hollywood, STFU Rating: 3.5 Hammer and Sickles