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Monster Trucks: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Review

Monster Trucks (2017) movie poster Monster Trucks

Theatrical Release: January 13, 2017 / Running Time: 105 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: Chris Wedge / Writers: Derek Connolly (screenplay); Matthew Robinson, Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger (story)

Cast: Lucas Till (Tripp), Jane Levy (Meredith), Thomas Lennon (Jim Dowd), Barry Pepper (Sheriff Rick), Rob Lowe (Reece Tenneson), Danny Glover (Mr. Weathers), Amy Ryan (Cindy), Holt McCallany (Burke), Frank Whaley (Wade Coley), Aliyah O'Brien (Junior Scientist), Daniel Bacon (Technician), Faustino Di Bauda (Roughneck), Jedidiah Goodacre (Jake - Letterman Kid), Samara Weaving (Brianne), Ruairi MacDonald (9th Grader), Stacey Scowley (TV Reporter), Tucker Albrizzi (Sam Geldon), Chris Gauthier (Mr. Geldon)

Buy Monster Trucks from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD DVD Instant Video

"You could make a movie out of that" is something you might say to someone sharing a good idea or a fascinating story. But the fact of the matter is you could make a movie out of anything.
Movies are made all the time out of bad ideas and generic stories. Take Monster Trucks. The conception for this film just had to be the question "What if monster trucks had real monsters in them?" Transformers made billions and billions of dollars off of robots that turned into vehicles. How different could this be?

In terms of quality, not too different. The Transformers movies are so light on creativity and artistic value that it would be difficult to make something worse with a 7-figure budget. In terms of public appeal, though, Monster Trucks was no Transformers. This $125 million PG-rated production opened in sixth place on Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend and ended up grossing just $33 million domestic and slightly less from foreign markets. It was trashed by critics (nothing new for a January movie) and was out of the Top 10 and the public's consciousness (if you can claim it ever held a place there) by its fourth weekend.

Monster Trucks opens with oil drillers encountering something unusual. They've found water deep in the Earth's surface, which could mean the discovery of an ecosystem. Annoyed to have been summoned, the boss (Rob Lowe) advises to keep drilling, something his nerdy scientist (Thomas Lennon) agrees with. Next thing we know there's a Deepwater Horizon-type incident...which reveals three large amphibian creatures.

A newly-discovered sea monster befriends a teenage boy named Tripp (Lucas Till) in "Monster Trucks."

Two of the beasts are captured by the big bad corporation, but one sneaks out and attaches himself to a junker of a truck being worked on by Tripp (Lucas Till), a high schooler with cool hair. The monster becomes an engine of sorts for the vehicle and as the big bad oil company tries to track it down, Tripp and his clearly enamored lab partner Meredith (Jane Levy) take chase and try to keep the monster safe.

Basically, this is like last year's acclaimed yet unappealing Pete's Dragon remake, only even dumber. Sheriff Rick (Barry Pepper), the new boyfriend of Tripp's mother, gets involved. Tripp's estranged father (Frank Whaley, claiming his most visible role in a decade) also features as he invites Tripp and Meredith for lunch in his trailer at work. Oh, and Danny Glover plays some wheelchair-bound mechanic who helps the cause.

Big on effects and action, small on brains and heart, Monster Trucks is the kind of dumb movie that people point to when they say that good live-action family films are in short supply. Those complaints are not new, but they are more worth listening to than the undiscerning types who will try to defend this inanity as harmless fun for children. Children don't want harmless fun. They might not make a big fuss about it, but they're not going to get nostalgic about it twenty years later. While it is the rare month that I don't make use of Angels in the Outfield and Space Jam GIFs these days, I saw Cop and a Half in theaters as a child, yet have had no real desire to revisit it. Just because a kid sees a movie once and thinks it's okay doesn't mean it's really okay.

Little nuance is given to the bad guys played by Rob Lowe and Thomas Lennon.

Chris Wedge makes his live-action directing debut here. He previously worked at Blue Sky, where he helmed Ice Age, Robots, and Epic. The animation studio might welcome him back,
if he were interested and after this disappointment, it's tough to imagine he wouldn't be. The story of Monster Trucks is credited to a duo who wrote Kung Fu Panda, Trolls, and more than one Alvin and the Chipmunks sequel, as well as Matthew Robinson, the writer-director of Ricky Gervais' The Invention of Lying. The screenplay is alone attributed to Derek Connolly, a young man who contributed to the scripts of Jurassic World and Kong: Skull Island.

Perhaps the nicest thing you could say about Monster Trucks is that it leaves no aftertaste. It's dumb, but never in some grandiose way. It's a routine family film with lots of whiz-bang, very few clever ideas, and a hollow core. If it was worse, it probably would have been more fun. Instead, it's just an unremarkable movie you're anxious to see end about a half-hour before it actually does.

Just in time for tax returns, Paramount brought Monster Trucks to DVD and the Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack reviewed here.

Monster Trucks: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: Dolby TrueHD/Atmos 7.1 (English); Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish, Portuguese, English DVS)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish, Descriptive Video Service)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese; BD-only: English SDH
DVD Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: April 11, 2017 / Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as standalone DVD ($29.99 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

A $125 million 2017 movie better look perfect on Blu-ray and gladly, Monster Trucks does, regardless of how you may feel about the computer-animated monsters. The 2.40:1 visuals are clean, sharp, and vibrant, while the Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 soundtrack is as lively and immersive as you expect it to be.

Danny Glover is apparently not getting too old for making comedies. Thomas Lennon gets silly with a clapboard in the gag reel for "Monster Trucks" (working title "Formula M").

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Blu-ray's all-HD extras begin with "Who's Driving the Monster Trucks?" (7:06), a general making-of featurette, the highlight of which may be Barry Pepper subtly getting the director's name wrong.

"The Monster in the Truck" (4:57) looks at and celebrates the animation used to bring the monsters to life.

"Creating the Monster Truck" (6:29) deals with the actual vehicles used. Yawn.

Next, a gag reel (4:35) preserves the usual cast goofs and tomfoolery.

Innuendo pushes the boundaries of the PG rating in this deleted detention scene featuring Meredith (Jane Levy) and Tripp (Lucas Till). A crew member uses hydraulics to give Lucas Till a wild ride in this production diary short.

Six deleted scenes run 8 minutes and 38 seconds altogether.

They are offered without commentary. The first, in which Tripp and Meredith serve detention features more sexual innuendo than you'd typically find in a PG-rated film as she tutors him on reproduction. The others are more action-oriented, though effects are unfinished.

Finally, we get ten production diaries, which sounds intimidating and summons the word "overkill." Fortunately, they only run 10 minutes and 13 seconds altogether with the "Play All" feature, offering focused behind-the-scenes looks.

The DVD, which per Paramount's practices, includes no extras except for a Previews section that runs full trailers for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water and Capture the Flag. The Blu-ray currently streams the same three ads at insertion, though it will likely update them with current ones in the future.

Surprisingly, Monster Trucks is one of the rare new releases with packaging that demands comment. The embossed slipcover offers a marketable design, while underneath the keepcase artwork sports a poster-adapted design in the vein of Drew Struzan's Indiana Jones and Star Wars posters. Inside, two plastic-smelling wall decals featuring illustrations of the film's trucks join a Digital HD insert and the two plainly-labeled discs.

Meredith (Jane Levy) and Tripp (Lucas Till) stand by their truck in "Monster Trucks."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Some movies sound dumb on paper but manage to win you over when you watch them. Monster Trucks is no such movie. Monsters in trucks makes for just as mindless an experience as you expect. This family action flick deserves the bad rap critics gave it in theaters. Paramount's Blu-ray combo pack treats the film to fine picture and sound plus some substantive extras, but this isn't a movie you need to see even once unless the concept fills you with morbid curiosity.

Buy Monster Trucks from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD / DVD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
New to Disc: The Founder Lion Why Him? Moana Tangled: Before Ever After
Lucas Till: X-Men: First Class Hannah Montana: The Movie The Spy Next Door Paranoia
Jane Levy: Fun Size Evil Dead | Rob Lowe: The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar Brothers & Sisters: Season 1
Thomas Lennon: 17 Again | From the Writers: Jurassic World Kong: Skull Island | Directed by Chris Wedge: Epic

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Reviewed April 30, 2017.



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