THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
"ESCAPE FROM PLANET EARTH"
Escape from Planet Earth is an animated comedy about Scorch Supernova (voiced by Brendan Frasier), a famous and much-admired interplanetary traveler from the planet Baab. He's also a bit of a blockhead. His brother, Gary (Rob Corddry), is the head of the planet's Mission Control, i.e. the brains behind Scorch's missions. Much to Gary's dismay, his son Kip (Jonathan Morgan Heit) idolizes Scorch. It breaks his heart that he isn't his own son's hero.
One day, Mission Control gets a distress signal from something they refer to as “the dark planet.” Scorch decides to send himself on a rescue mission. He arrives on Earth and is immediately captured, then shipped off to a containment center where other aliens are also being held by the deranged General Shanker (William Shatner). Gary, sensing the chance to finally earn his kid's respect, sets out to rescue Scorch, against the advice of his wife, Kira (Sarah Jessica Parker). What he discovers is that Shanker has been luring aliens to Earth as part of a nefarious scheme. Gary and Scorch must find a way to free all the captive beings and stop Shanker.
The plot in Escape from Planet Earth is not as tightly constructed as it might have been. At times, it feels as though the movie is making itself up as it goes along. (A dopey mid-story food fight is a great example.) For that reason, it lacks the kind of magic found in the very best animated features. However, the movie has something working strongly in its favor: it's funny. There's a significant amount of wit at play here, with a number of jokes very cleverly conceived. When Scorch first arrives on Earth, he makes his way to a 7-11, where one of those inflatable men flaps in the breeze outside. He mistakes it for an alien signaling for help, which proves comically disastrous. That made me laugh, as did the subtle sci-fi movie references scattered throughout.
Visually, the film is pretty good, too, with bright colors and interestingly designed characters. A chase scene in the second half is nicely animated, providing a touch of action. Perhaps most importantly, Escape from Planet Earth has a sweet message about the value of family that will appeal to children and adults alike. All in all, this makes for a solid Family Movie Night feature.
( out of four)
Escape from Planet Earth arrives on Blu-Ray (in 2D and 3D formats) and DVD on June 4. The Blu-Ray version is a combo pack that also includes a DVD and digital copy.
Bonus features begin with audio commentary from director Cal Brunker. There is also a 20-minute making-of segment featuring interviews with the all-star cast. This is largely promotional in nature, with little in the way of actual information, but kids will enjoy seeing the actors talk about their characters. Somewhat more enlightening is “How to Make an Animated Feature,” in which Brunker explains, with visuals, the progression of steps that went into making Escape from Planet Earth. Roughly four minutes of deleted and alternate scenes are no great shakes but, again, kids may get a kick out of them. Same goes for the three music featurettes highlighting soundtrack artists Delta Rae, Owl City, and Cody Simpson.
Picture and sound quality on the Blu-Ray are first rate. Of particular note is that the 3D version is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, while the 2D version is in the theatrical 2.35:1 ratio.
Escape from Planet Earth is rated PG for action and some mild rude humor. The running time is 1 hour and 29 minutes.
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