The animated comedy-Sci-Fi adventure Escape from Planet Earth comes aimed squarely at the youngest movegoers possible, and there’s really nothing altogether wrong about that. Adults might groan at the sometimes simplistic jokes and gags, but they will also probably begrudgingly admit that even they sat through far worse experiences than this when they were younger. It’s all very basic stuff, but it’s done with some artistic ingenuity and a healthy dose of genuine silly fun that it’s downright curmudgeonly to hate on it. It’s not aiming very highly for anyone over the age of 7, but those kids should really eat this stuff up.
The best explorer on Planet Baab, Scorch Supernova (voiced by Brendan Fraser, trotting out his over-the-top heroic persona yet again) is about to be sent on a seemingly suicidal mission to “The Dark Planet,” a.k.a. Earth. No alien life form has ever returned from Earth, and when Scorch’s mission gets botched, it’s up to his nerdy mission control leader brother Gary (Rob Corddry) to rescue him. Gary’s son idolizes Scorch more than his old man, so the ultimate point of the mission is twofold, but things get complicated when the brothers end up in prison with a handful of other misfit creatures (George Lopez, Jane Lynch, Craig Robinson) making technological advancements from the power hungry American General Shanker (William Shatner).
The plot is kind of incidental to the silliness, and if anything the film feels a bit too close to Monsters Vs. Aliens in terms of creating passing nods to classic sci-fi flicks and leaning on elaborate set pieces, but the movie works perfectly fine on a functional level and it looks good doing it. The alien and creature designs are pretty basic, but the outlandish hijinks that are staged more than make up for that. Some really astute use of matte breaking 3-D shows some real filmmaking prowess and cleverness. If anything director Cal Brunker knows the fine art of keeping an audience happy and engaged.
The voice cast comes chock full of good sports (including a droll Ricky Gervais as the voice of the ship’s navigation system) and the family dynamics in play aren’t forced to feel unrealistic even in a film about aliens. It never talks down to kids, but it also isn’t the most adult film, either. Escape from Planet Earth had a few moments that made me chuckle, but even I knew who the movie was really aimed at, and the kids at the screening I attended were thankful and appreciative. That’s all that really matters with a film like this.
Side note: The showing of 7-11 product placement in the trailer isn’t as bad as one would think. It also gives the movie its best running gag. So there’s that, at least.