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AN ALIEN CONCEPT



Published: Sat, February 16, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Roger Moore

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

If you’re a parent, chances are you’ve seen worse animated films than “Escape from Planet Earth.” Mostly, one might add, from the same studio that released this one.

But “Earth” is something of a giant — OK, mini-giant — leap forward for The Weinstein Co. It’s not much funnier than most of their earlier fare. But at least it’s not as ugly as “Hoodwinked,” “Doogal” and the rest.

Reaching that “Space Chimps”/“Planet 51” level of good-looking mediocrity is an achievement. Pop the champagne!

The blue aliens of Baab have this Buzz Lightyear-style hero, “Scorch,” a space rescuer-hero whose adventures are covered by live video feed from wherever in the universe he is sent. Scorch is all bravado and swagger and catch-phrase.

“Scorch me, baby!”

He’s a regular rock star — and a bit of a dope. He is voiced by Brendan Fraser.

Dopey Scorch always has his mild-mannered tech-nerd brother, Gary (Rob Corddry), back at Mission Control, pulling his blue biscuits out of the fire. Until that day that the egotistical Scorch “fires” Gary.

“I QUIT.”

Same diff. This happens just as Scorch leaves on a mission to “The Dark Planet,” the place where aliens — even those who “come in peace” — disappear, which is what Scorch does, right in front of the 7-Eleven on the outskirts of Area 51. Yes, the “Dark Planet” is our own — Earth.

Gary’s gung-ho son and ex-test pilot wife (Sarah Jessica Parker) shame him into attempting a rescue. Meanwhile, Scorch is discovering that the team of screenwriters has plagiarized “Monsters vs. Aliens” and that Area 51 is a vast holding pen where Craig Robinson, Jane Lynch (naturally) and George Lopez voice other imprisoned aliens, and William Shatner is the creepy general in charge.

The gags that work in this thing are mostly visual. Ricky Gervais voices a computer who uses old black-and-white movie and news footage to show the perils of “The Dark Planet” — “The only known world where evolution is taking place in reverse.”

The rich, textured animation is what sells “Escape from Planet Earth” — check out the fishnet webbing on Scorch’s space suit, the paint worn off the hardware and the perfectly rendered 7-Eleven.


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