Monster Trucks

Somewhat surprisingly, given that this is a Cuckelodeon production, Monster Trucks is a mostly child-friendly and fun adventure film. Distractingly cute young costars Lucas Till and Jane Levy star as high school students who find themselves caught in the middle of a corporate conspiracy when they discover a tentacled, subterranean creature that lives on oil (a literal gas-guzzler!) and enjoys embedding itself under the body of a truck like a hermit crab. Rob Lowe appears as the head of the nihilistic oil company that, through unscrupulous drilling practices, has inadvertently brought these creatures to the surface and now seeks to apprehend them, with Thomas Lennon toadying in a comic supporting role. The film is endearing, the digital animation is brilliant, and even adults should be entertained by this one.

4 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Monster Trucks is:

5. Inclusive, allowing diverse token gimp Danny Glover to take part in the heroics.

4. Class-conscious. The male protagonist’s chief rival at school is a “rich boy” with fancy wheels.

3. Family-ambivalent. The hero’s absentee father is an untrustworthy drunkard, but the troubled young man’s reconciliation with his mother’s rugged beau does at least leave him with a responsible male authority figure at home. The teen male and female leads join hands as they witness the touching reunion of a monster family, the implication being that they will be inspired to marry and start a family of their own.

2. Anti-corporate. Townsfolk, while recognizing that their small community’s economy is dependent upon Terravex’s presence (“All the money in this town comes from Terravex Oil”), also resent the inordinate and quasi-governmental clout that the company wields. “The company I work for employs everyone in this town – and that includes you,” a corporate representative arrogantly informs the sheriff. Company scientist Thomas Lennon also admits to falsifying environmental reports. (Subverting the anti-corporate messaging, however, is the film’s product placement for brands like Beanitos and Chrysler).

1.Green. The problems begin with a sin against nature – “like the earth got mad and let something bad out”. Had Terravex – which, as its name indicates, molests the earth – taken more care not to disturb an unfamiliar and misunderstood ecosystem, it could have avoided its hour and a half of difficulties. Somewhat disappointingly, it seems not to have occurred to the writers what a godsend the existence of oil-gobbling monsters would be in the case of an oil spill. More likely, an oil concern would want to keep such potentially useful creatures on retainer rather than try to destroy them. There is, too, something not quite kosher from an environmentalist perspective about the idea of turning America’s gas habit, visualized by the creatures’ appetite for oil, into something cute, cuddly, and endearing, albeit cartoonishly monstrous.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.