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Planet 51

Planet 51

Review by Cassam Looch

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

JOINING the plethora of animated movies, Planet 51 is a strange yet likable effort that won’t win any awards for originality but does have a charm that makes it worth watching.

Lem (voiced by Justin Long) is an average teenager working on getting the girl and furthering his career at the local planetarium… the setting is familiar with 1950’s Americana littering the landscape.

Of course, Lem is an alien at least to astronaut Captain Charles T. Baker (Dwayne Johnson) who crash-lands on Lem’s home planet and finds himself stranded. Things wouldn’t be so bad if the local population weren’t stirred up into a frenzy by the media which have painted all ‘aliens’ as brain-eating zombies intent on obliterating the natives.

Baker finds himself hiding in Lem’s house while the youngster’s friends try and keep the secret from the government… But can the team get to Baker’s ship and send him back home before it’s too late?

The hysteria that surrounded the Cold War is clearly on display throughout this film and the story makes no effort to hide its influences. The sense of a genuine small town America in the grip of McCarthy era witch hunting is wonderfully recreated down to the smallest of details.

The central plaza, where everyone seems to convene, has more than a passing resemblance to the square from the Back To The Future franchise and this helps set the tone for the rest of the action.

Hippies and radical thinkers also play a part in facing up to ‘the man’, embodied by Gary Oldman’s gruff general. It’s a well worn tale but done with enough knowing humour to keep you engrossed throughout.

Dwayne Johnson makes for a great egotistical outsider who is more interested in posing than getting the job done. And the pairing of the instantly recognisable Justin Long and slightly more aloof Biel also does a good job in conveying the teen angst the film wants to get across.

Indeed, it’s only the out of place evil scientist (voiced by John Cleese) who annoys from time to time.

The animation does the job but never really wows on any level. It’s competently done and never distracts from the onscreen action but afterwards you wonder if it could have been done differently.

The film is more focused at entertaining the kids than the likes of Coraline or 9, but this makes a pleasant change and Planet 51 can honestly be called fun for all the family.

There are numerous other nods to classic sci-fi films from all eras and it’s another part of the appeal to try and spot them as well as place the characters in their original settings.

Certificate: U
Running time: 91mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: March 29, 2010