Restraint means not doing something despite the fact you can. For instance, if you have $60 million lying around, you can certainly spend it on making a cartoon, but then again, maybe there are better things to be spending it on than a loud, crass animated movie such as Planet 51. This movie is yet another case of just because you can, doesn’t necessarily mean you should.
The onslaught of technology has made the creation of animated films simpler and faster, which in turn has opened the floodgates for all shapes and sizes of animated mediocrity to come tumbling out. A lot of times, this just adds up to the plain old awful and perfunctory (for the four people who watched Delgo (2008), you know what I mean). In the case of Planet 51, you get a good smattering of the crummy and pointless, but with some added idiocy to help make sure you feel like you’re getting your money’s worth.
The setup is simple: It’s a basic alien-invasion-meets-cultural-misunderstanding scenario (think E.T. (1982)), but in reverse. We start off on an alien world full of green, antennae-sporting, pants-less creatures that are not too far removed culturally from the whitewashed American ‘50s. Here, we meet Lem (Justin Long), a teenage space alien with a good job and hopes of finding love with local sweetheart Neera (Jessica Biel). Lem’s life is seemingly perfect—at least in his mind—until he runs into a cocky blowhard American astronaut named Chuck Baker (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), who is exploring Lem’s planet. Chuck, being the alien in this situation, finds himself a hunted man by the local military, and it’s up to Lem to—reluctantly—help out Chuck.
Planet 51 then becomes your usual stock buddy adventure/comedy. Honestly, it could’ve been workable, but there’s a complete lack of tact that drags the movie down. Most of the film is frenzied and loud, but not in any imaginative, energetic kind of way, more like an ADHD-afflicted youngster hopped up on Mountain Dew. The jokes range from the cheesy to the lame and feel like they should be accompanied by a laugh track. And that’s when the movie is trying to be highbrow.
Aside from Pixar, finding the requisite toilet humor in a children’s movie is no surprise, and Planet 51 is no different, except here they try to push the envelope. Never before have I seen a movie that skips the scatology and goes straight for the rear end. I mean, there are multiple—as in more than one—scenes involving the use of corks for the prevention of alien probing. None of it’s funny, but I can’t even call it offensive or off-putting. Odd is about as far as I can go. For anyone in dire need of an animation fix, please, just go pick up a copy of Up and see how this kind of thing should be done. Rated PG for mild sci-fi action and some suggestive humor.