(2009) dir. Jorge Blanco, Javier Abad, Marcos Martínez
Not one of my top picks to see from last year’s slew of animated feature films, a sickday home with my son turned to boredom as the mother of invention, or at least, the mother of opportunity for such a viewing. Planet 51 is a pastiche of ideas, riffing across a broad spectrum of sci-fi alien movie references (it’s title a nod to the legendary “Area 51” where supposedly US UFO secrets were once stowed away). But really, it’s basic premise is kind of simple. It’s sort of a what if of The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) if the spacesuit was on the other foot, meaning, what if the alien that landed was a human landing on an alien world?
And this alien world is one where friendly green humanoids not only reek of 1950’s Americana (tons of re-recorded popular classics of the period play throughout), but the whole concept of 1950’s technology, science, cultural complexity are homogenized for humor’s sake. There are the sock-hop drive-ins, the aw-geez simplicity of “American” ideals, but also the limited understanding of the universe (the alien observatory notes that “the universe is 5000 years old and that there are thousands of stars in it”) and their xenophobia is in a sense a mild critique of the period for our humanity.
The film is surprisingly decent, though never really great. The characters and characterizations are resoundingly and comprehensively bland and unoriginal. But, like in many an animated feature, it’s the little things that are more amusing than the big things.
The alien’s dogs are little, friendly versions of the Alien (1978), which is kind of funny. The film references everything from E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) to Star Wars (1977) to War of the Worlds (1953). It’s a mish-mash of a little of this, that, and everything. And all the while, nothing particularly fascinating in and of itself.
Still, there are worse things, I suppose.