What if Monster Trucks were actually monsters? The idea for this family friendly fantasy adventure famously came about as a result of conversation between former Paramount president Adam Goodman and his four-year-old son.
That certainly explains the frankly bizarre concept, in which a large, alien-like subterranean creature discovers that it can operate a truck by crawling inside the chassis and spinning various axles with its many tentacles. Admittedly, it’s a tough sell, but if you can get past that ridiculous premise then it’s surprisingly entertaining.
Set in present-day North Dakota, the film stars Lucas Till as truck-loving teenager Tripp, who befriends a weird, oil-drinking creature he finds hiding in his junkyard. After the creature (which Tripp names Creech – creativity isn’t his strong suit) demonstrates his truck-pimping-and-driving ability, Tripp and his smitten classmate Meredith (Jane Levy) embark on a mission to rescue Creech’s parents from the evil mining corporation that are holding them captive.
Director Chris Wedge (Ice Age) proves the right choice for this cartoon-ish, kiddie-friendly romp, providing both a snappy pace and a sense of goofy fun. On a similar note, the film frequently taps into a nostalgic fondness for the sort of Eighties knock-off alien-based pictures that sprung up after the success of ET – think Mac And Me, only with much better effects.
The logistics of the monsters operating trucks don’t really bear close scrutiny, but hey, at least they’ve got cute, smiley faces and gurgle adorably when they laugh.
The script could have used another pass, as some of the supporting characters are very poorly served (Amy Ryan has just two scenes as Tripp’s mum, and Tucker Albrizzi is wasted as Tripp’s nerdy friend), and the dialogue is occasionally clunky, but the cast play it commendably straight, with Till making for a likeable lead and Levy delivers a scene-stealing performance that saves the film from two-star ignominy.