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Monsters vs Aliens: Mutant Pumpkins from Outer Space DVD Review

Monsters vs Aliens: Mutant Pumpkins from Outer Space DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Monsters vs Aliens: Mutant Pumpkins from Outer Space
Special & DVD Details

Director: Peter Ramsey / Writers: Adam F. Goldberg (screenplay); Rob Letterman, Conrad Vernon (characters)

Voice Cast: Reese Witherspoon (Susan Murphy/Ginormica), Seth Rogen (B.O.B.), Hugh Laurie (Dr. Cockroach Ph.D), Will Arnett (The Missing Link), Kiefer Sutherland (General W.R. Monger), Rainn Wilson (Wicked Jack), Julie White (Wendy Murphy), Jeffrey Tambor (Carl Murphy)

Original Air Date: October 28, 2009 / Running Time: 27 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish), Dolby Surround 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French; Closed Captioned; Featurette Subtitled and Captioned
DVD Release Date: September 13, 2011 / Suggested Retail Price: $14.99
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5) / Black Keepcase
Also available in Halloween Party DVD Pack ($19.99 SRP), released September 27, 2011

Buy Mutant Pumpkins from Outer Space from Amazon.com: Halloween Party DVD Pack with Scared Shrekless Individual DVD

The animated holiday special, such a treasured tradition in the 1960s, '70s, and '80s,
appeared to be headed for the same obscurity to which network television has relegated miniseries and movies of the week. Rankin/Bass had essentially gotten out of the game in the 1980s. The Peanuts gang has grown scarce and they've already celebrated every major holiday anyway. Fortunately, the format has had a bit of a revival in recent years, due in large part to two of the leading animated film studios: DreamWorks and Disney.

DreamWorks had success with Shrek the Halls, a half-hour Christmas cartoon that drew over 21 million viewers in its day before Thanksgiving 2007 premiere. That paved the way for other specials to be adapted from the universes of their popular franchises. In 2009, the studio doubled its holiday output, covering Christmas in Merry Madagascar and, shortly before that, Halloween in Monsters vs Aliens: Mutant Pumpkins from Outer Space.

Ginormous Susan Murphy checks in on her parents in Modesto, California. So excited by the sight of a bowl full of candy, B.O.B. forgets the words he's supposed to say ("Trick or treat!").

Airing just weeks after the film from which it was spun hit home video, Mutant Pumpkins does really the only thing it can, which is to return the monsters to our civilization. Alerted to an alien invasion of Farmer Jeb's Pumpkin Patch in Modesto, California, giantess Susan Murphy (voiced by Reese Witherspoon) heads back to her human hometown to check in on her parents. Joining her on the mission are wisecracking gelatinous blob B.O.B. (Seth Rogen), tightly-wound bug-headed Dr. Cockroach Ph.D (Hugh Laurie), and ape-fish hybrid The Missing Link (Will Arnett).

Their goal is to stop the eponymous mutant pumpkins, which have been widely and freely dispensed to the public. They soon come to life, sprouting twiggy arms and legs and glowing faces while causing Gremlins-like menace. Candy makes the pumpkins grow fast and furiously. The special delays this conflict though, allowing comic relief B.O.B., Cockroach, and Missing Link to experience the thrills and challenges of trick-or-treating.

I consider the film Monsters vs. Aliens to be DreamWorks Animation at its most mediocre. Oh, it's certainly watchable and good for some chuckles, but it just feels like such a commercial venture, designed above all else to appeal to as many people as possible. Somewhere in there was a desire to tell a story inspired by 1950s monster movies, but it was overshadowed by slick visuals, clearly delineated jokes, and a sorta new 3D technology intended to thwart piracy and increase theatrical admissions.

B.O.B., Dr. Cockroach Ph.D, and The Missing Link see an ordinary neighborhood's Halloween observation quickly change. The mutant pumpkins come together to form this large looming presence.

Boasting the same voice cast (who probably recorded their lines alongside the movie) and sensibility but with less experienced individuals in the helm (Peter Ramsey, head of story on the film, makes his directing debut),
Mutant Pumpkins unsurprisingly does not exceed or even meet the film's modest heights. There are a couple of okay gags, one involving a ringtone of John Carpenter's Halloween theme (for the adults!), the other the Murphys' all-out festive lawn decoration. And there is a brief, unremarkable E.T. homage. On the whole, it's pretty uninspired stuff, a parade of unspectacular jokes with the story purely an afterthought.

You can hardly fault it for that design. A slow end credits scroll runs a disproportionate six minutes, leaving only 21 for the show itself, a standard half-hour of commercial airtime these days but not enough to do much with, especially when it takes a little while to get reacquainted with characters who aren't as familiar as, say, the Shrek cast.

Almost two years after its NBC debut, Mutant Pumpkins has come to DVD, but not Blu-ray.

VIDEO and AUDIO

In 2011, it basically goes without saying that a computer-animated entity is going to look flawless on disc as the product of a direct digital transfer. That is even true of this TV cartoon, which seems to boast just about all the production value of a DreamWorks theatrical effort. More appealing technically than comedically, Mutant Pumpkins looks and sounds terrific in 1.78:1 widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. The latter does less than you might expect to engulf you in the show's fantastic universe, but it presents everything with perfect crispness.

Dr. Cockroach Ph.D and The Missing Link sing Steppenwolf's "Born to be Wild" in their Karaoke Music Party short. In "Modern Monster Movie-Making", DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg talks about 3D like it's the best thing since sliced bread.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The main bonus features are gathered under the heading Tricks and Treats.
They hail from Monsters vs. Aliens' DVD and Blu-ray releases, so there's a good chance anyone buying this DVD already has them in their collection.

Three Karaoke Music Party shorts (previously exclusive to Blu-ray) have characters singing some tunes that parents will know. Lyrics appear on screen to fulfill the karaoke part of the title and most of the animation is recycled from the movie. Ginormica performs Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" (2:05). Enamored with a Jell-O mold, B.O.B. merely dances to the original Bee Gees recording of "More Than a Woman" (1:46). And Dr. Cockroach Ph.D and The Missing Link together sing along with Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild" (1:42).

The featurette "Modern Monster Movie-Making" (17:26) pertains not to Mutant Pumpkins, but Monsters vs. Aliens. It celebrates the voice cast and, already somewhat laughably, the 3D technology which CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg compares to the advent of color.

The disc opens with trailers for Kung Fu Panda 2 and Puss in Boots, both of which can be accessed from a Previews menu.

World of DreamWorks Animation SKG is transparent promotion for the studio's franchises and latest standalone film. You've no doubt encountered most if not all of this material before, since the section is a fixture of the company's DVDs. Pages are dedicated to Shrek, How to Train Your Dragon, Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar, and Megamind. Each offers a speaker and a disc graphic, which respectively lead to a short music video and a more traditional DVD commercial. The music videos are "I'm a Believer" (1:16), "Fly High" (1:49), "Kung Fu Fighting" (2:35), "I Like to Move It, Move It" (1:03), and "Megamind Rap" (0:58). The trailers promote Shrek: The Whole Story (1:45), How to Train Your Dragon (0:57), Secrets of the Furious Five (1:03), "Penguins of Madagascar" DVDs (0:55), and Megamind with The Button of Doom (0:30). A computer graphic is added to promote the online gaming of Kung Fu Panda World (1:22). The lack of a "Play All" button turns watching these ads into work, as do the disclaimers/sales pitches that follow each.

The main menu finds the characters grooving out to music resembling the Black Eyed Peas. Left on it for about a minute, the disc automatically starts playback. Other menus are also winningly animated and musical.

No inserts, slipcovers, or disc art spruce up the basic black keepcase, which is also available packaged side by side with last October's special, Scared Shrekless, in a Halloween Party DVD Pack.

The main menu finds the human-sized monsters and mutant pumpkins engaging in spirited dance.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Like the film it is based on, Monsters vs Aliens: Mutant Pumpkins from Outer Space offers diversion of the painless and forgettable varieties. A little more wit, thought, and creativity would have gone a long way to distinguish this special, but as is, it will only win over those entering with fondness for the characters. Even those fans are more likely to appreciate this as a one-time viewing than a new Halloween tradition. The mere existence of this short appealed more to me than the content.

If you're set on adding this welterweight disc to your collection, know that on Amazon it is currently the same price on its own as it is paired with Scared Shrekless, so make sure you opt for the double feature instead. The two programs probably ought to have just shared a single disc anyway.

Buy Monsters vs Aliens: Mutant Pumpkins from Outer Space from Amazon.com:
With Scared Shrekless / On Its Own

Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews:
DreamWorks Television: Scared Shrekless Shrek the Halls The Penguins of Madagascar: I Was a Penguin Zombie
DreamWorks Films: Kung Fu Panda Megamind Shrek the Third Bee Movie Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
New: Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory The Lion King Goosebumps: Attack of the Mutant Zookeeper Footloose
Halloween Specials: It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (Remastered Deluxe Edition) Alvin and the Chipmunks: Trick or Treason
Halloween Films: The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas Hocus Pocus
Halloween TV Movies: Halloweentown & Halloweentown II Halloweentown High Return to Halloweentown Twitches Twitches Too
Monsters, Aliens and Such: Monsters, Inc. Pixar Short Films Collection, Volume 1 Chicken Little Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

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Reviewed October 20, 2011.



Text copyright 2011 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2009 DreamWorks Animation SKG and 2011 DreamWorks Home Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.