Planet 51

by Rick Grant
On an alien planet, on the other side of the galaxy, light years from Earth, a civilization of green people live, speak English, and are living in a 1950s styled world. Funny thing about these people, their worst fear is an alien invasion by hostile creatures hell bent to turn them into zombie slaves.
Yes, the people of Planet 51 suffer from alien invasion paranoia. The entire population of the planet espouse alien conspiracy theory, somewhat like their Earthly counterparts, circa 1950, after the Roswell incident.
Astronaut Captain Charles “Chuck” Baker, (Dwayne Johnson) who is chock full of the “right stuff,” lands on Planet 51 thinking it’s uninhabited. He planned to plant the American flag and take some soil samples using the little robot that loves to pick up rocks. Then he would blast off toward Earth.
Ah yes, Captain Baker’s plans are shattered when he lands in the back yard of the populated planet, scaring the bejesus out of the natives whose worst fears have come true. Thus, it’s a fish out of water tale featuring Captain Baker trying to stay alive with a little help from an alien friend named Lem (Justin Long).
This TriStar/Sony project was co-directed by Jorge Blanco and Marcos Martinez, who created an animated alien culture overview.
The stellar A-list voice-over cast developed characters with panache so the audience can identify with them. Lem bravely helps Captain Baker, at risk to his own safety. The robot character almost steals the movie with its dog-like personality, much like other recent animated movie characters.
Of course, as in every alien invasion movie, Planet 51’s military, led by General Grawl, (Gary Oldman) immediately want to capture the astronaut so that Professor Kipple (John Cheese) can study his brain. This necessitates removing his brain, leaving the astronaut quite dead.
Meanwhile, Lem and his friends are trying to locate the military’s secret base where Captain Baker is being held to save him from Professor Kipple. Ironically, the inhabitants of Planet 51 are 50 years behind Earth in some technology but advanced in antigravity. Their vehicles hover just above the ground, are oval shaped, and look like 1950s American cars.
A Bob Dylan-like folk singer leads a protest movement not to harm the alien and instead of ‘The Times are A-changing,” he sings, “The Times are Different.” Clearly, this humor will go right over the kids’ heads. But older viewers will catch these hip references.
It’s like the green denizens of Planet 51 got a time capsule from Earth (1950s-1960s) and interpreted it by putting their original spin on 1950s American pop culture. Nonetheless, they’re adorable. When one of Lem’s friends falls in love with the robot, he is devastated when the Army captures it along with Captain Baker. The Captain is strapped to an operating table with Professor Kipple ready to crack open his skull. Oh my…will he be saved in the nick of time…or will the mad scientist of Area 51…oops, Planet 51 carve the space visitor into astro giblets?
Overall, this is a funny and entertaining animated feature that has plenty of slapstick for the kids and subtle adult comedy for the parents. Since there is an insatiable market for animated features, this will fit nicely into the holiday schedule.