Boldly going back to Planet Earth
Escape From Planet Earth
2.5 stars (out of four)
Imagine if curious aliens came to Earth and reverse-engineered all of our animated movies about them, trying to figure out what we were up to.
The result might be something like Escape From Planet Earth, a sci-fi chuckler that somehow manages to elude tedium, despite being a revisionist rip of rival ’toons, from Pixar on down.
It’s got a lead character much like Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story, who gets into all kinds of intergalactic mischief with beasties and humanoids resembling the inhabitants of Monsters vs. Aliens, Monsters, Inc., The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and many other similar entertainments.
The central premise of aliens being trapped on Earth isn’t terribly new, either, with everyone from E.T. to TV’s Alf and Mork & Mindy having already gone down this interstellar path.
But no matter whether you call Escape from Planet Earth sincere homage or cynical thievery, it goes down well in its brisk 89 minutes.
Featuring the directing debut of Despicable Me storyboard artist Cal Brunker, scripted by committee and brought to you in UP3D (Utterly Pointless 3D), it gets by thanks to adventurous casting.
Brendan Fraser may not be much of a stretch as steroidal astronaut Scorch Supernova, egotistical hero to all the blue-skinned residents of distant planet Baab. Fraser did do George of the Jungle, after all.
But the usually cocky Rob Corddry makes for an out-there choice as Scorch’s timid older brother Gary, an egghead who has to break out of his shell and command a rescue mission when his reckless sibling is captured by scheming Earthlings.
The main villain of Earth? None other than Star Trek’s noble William Shatner, who boldly goes to top-secret Area 51 for nefarious reasons — and loves every hammy moment of it.
His vile General Shanker is exploiting captured extraterrestrials not only for their cool toys (where do you think iPods and the Internet came from?) but also for technical know-how that he can monetize and weaponize.
The space aliens could end up helping to blow up the very Earth they’re tying to escape.
Add in Ricky Gervais as a smartass computer, George Lopez as a three-eyed slug, and Jessica Sarah Parker, Jane Lynch, Sofia Vergara and Jessica Alba as femmes fatale and non-fatale, and you get a lot to smile about.
It could even make you forget that you’ve seen it all before.
Peter Howell is a syndicated Toronto Star movie critic.