While Pixar, and increasingly Dreamworks, seem to have cornered the market when it comes to Hollywood animation it’s not going to stop others from taking a shot at the title. The Weinsteins are more commonly associated with Oscar baiting dramas but Escape From Planet Earth is their shot at a more mainstream family film. But does it sore like an Up and How To Train Your Dragon or flop like an Epic?
Alien Gary Supernova (Rob Coddry) is the brains to his younger brother Scorch’s (Brendan Fraiser) brawn. While Scorch goes on dangerous missions Gary heads mission control to guide him. But when Scorch is sent to “The Dark Planet”, commonly known as Earth, he’s soon taken hostage by General Shanker (William Shatner) leaving Gary no choice but to go into the field and save his brother.
Great animations make you forget you’re watching anything other than a well-executed story, tapping into universal themes the audience can identify with. Escape From Planet Earth may be set in a universe but it never really works as anything other than eye-candy. So bright are the vibrant colours with which this world is painted they’re likely to give you an E-numbers high for the eyes.
Where it really lacks is in finding a way to amuse a more mature audience the way great animations do. What attempts there are to engage parents, while the kids are distracted by the colours, feel forced and cheap. Referencing Simon Cowell and James Cameron never elicits the laughs it’s aiming for. Furthermore someone should really have pointed out that if you’re going to base characters around The Beatles, there were four, not three; see The Jungle Book on how to get this right.
What you’re left with is a fun, yet forgettable, group of quirky aliens who are almost entirely designed around marketing ploys. Ironic given the cheap jokes made at the expense of Scorch’s endless sponsorship deals making him the ultimate alien sell-out.
The key duo of voices of Coddry and Fraiser never really dazzle but they are helped out by a fun supporting cast. Shatner is clearly relishing playing the sneering villain while Craig Robinson and George Lopez bring a couple of earth-bound stranded aliens to wonderfully comic life.
At one point during the film one character says “My star gazing days are over” – the frustrating thing is that Escape From Planet Earth is so desperate to emulate the stars of animation at Pixar that it tries to follow a formula that never quite clicks.
Young kids will no doubt get a kick from it but this Escape From Planet Earth fails to reach lift-off.