Last year when the trailer was released for Monster Trucks, I was kind of blown away. Not because it was a great trailer, but because the concept was so bizarre and that they seemed to be earnest about the concept. I had a lot of questions, like “how was this film greenlit?” and “how can this movie not be so bad it’s good?”. While the first film will probably be never answered (unless some crack reporter at The Hollywood Reporter breaks the story), I can answer as to whether this film is so bad it’s good: it’s not.
The story is thus: Looking for any way to get away from the life and town he was born into, Tripp, a high school senior played by Lucas Till of X-men and Taylor Swift music video fame, builds a Monster Truck from bits and pieces of scrapped cars. After an accident at a nearby oil-drilling site displaces a strange and subterranean creature with a taste and a talent for speed, Tripp may have just found the key to getting out of town and a most unlikely friend.
Oddly, the story has remarkable similarities to some other films and franchises (wait, I guess that’s not odd because we live in the age of junkyard filmmaking where we take scraps, mash them together, and throw it at the wall to see if anything sticks). The opening scene is remarkably like Deepwater Horizon (a amazingly done yet depressing film, IMO) where Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe) is a Southern CEO of an oil empire instead of John Malkovich. And like Horizon, the workers are cautious about digging deeper for oil yet the executive tells them to push forwards. Oh, and Rob Lowe’s Southern accent is pretty awful.
The second similarity is to the Harry Potter franchise. I kid you not, Monster Trucks involves a tri-panionship of an outcast trying to prove himself, an annoying/charming/beautiful super smart girl, and a ginger (i.e. a red headed friend).
The movie itself actually works on a whole. It does what it set out to accomplish: to entertain grade school boys while hoping not to annoy their parents too much.
Lucas Till brings everything he has to the film, and I probably wouldn’t have bought the story if it wasn’t for him. The Hermione-esque protagonist, played by the lovely Jane Levy, was a strength to the story as well. I was actually surprised how not-terrible the characters were. It definitely felt like a top-notch script doctor had gotten their hands on this and added several things that made it palatable. The special effects were a bit hokey and there were some Fast and Furious-level “Come on!” moments, but overall it’s not bad.
So, no: the Monster Trucks wasn’t so bad it’s good. It’s just “fine.” I wouldn’t go in with high expectations, but it’s a serviceable family film, especially for families with little boys. I’d rather watch it than another Transformers film, which is the best compliment I can give it.
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