Tom DeLonge is famous for two things – being a member of the rock band Blink-182 and being an enthusiastic UFO conspiracy theorist. The idea of him directing and co-writing a movie about a trio of young dudes blowing the lid off a government cover-up of alien existence sounds like it would be fun. After all, he’s dealing with a subject he’s passionate about. Unfortunately, with Monsters of California, DeLonge has made a movie every bit as derivative as his music.
The main character is Dallas (Jack Samson), a teenager who takes part in paranormal investigations with buddies Toe (Jack Lancaster) and Riley (Jared Scott). His father, who worked for a shadowy government agency, mysteriously disappeared. Yes, it’s that hackneyed sci-fi predicament again. When Dallas finds a top secret document and disc drive in the basement, he and the boys head out to find answers. Tagging along is the obligatory New Girlfriend, Kelly (Gabrielle Haugh).
What do they find? There’s a bizarre encounter with Bigfoot that results in the mythical monster peeing in Toe’s mouth. (DeLonge’s sense of humor seemingly topped out in 7th grade.) A meeting with an on-the-lam scientist named Dr. Walker (Richard Kind) promises to take them further, namely to the extraterrestrial visitors who have been hiding on our planet. The former partner of Dallas’s dad (Casper Van Dien) is here to act as a foil. He represents a military that wants to keep secrets hidden away.
Monsters of California does nothing right. Nothing. The characters are one-dimensional and dull. The performances (Richard Kind aside) are boring. The pacing is glacial, with scenes going on far longer than they need to. The visual effects are cheap. A bland domestic drama is inserted into the proceedings, with Dallas’s religious mother upset that her son doesn’t believe in God, and Dallas upset that she’s engaged to a new man.
Worst of all, there are too many long, drawn-out speeches about “what’s really out there” and why we shouldn’t trust the government. DeLonge has no clue how to integrate those ideas naturally, so he has Dallas and Dr. Walker deliver clunkily-written monologues about them. We know the director has long believed UFOs are real and evidence of them is being kept from the public. His film often halts actual storytelling to shove in a diatribe.
From beginning to end, Monsters of California is a mess. Not many rock stars can successfully direct a movie. David Byrne and Rob Zombie pulled it off. Prince, Fred Durst, Bret Michaels, and Bob Dylan did not. If nothing else, DeLonge is in good company.
out of four
Monsters of California is unrated, but contains strong language. The running time is 1 hour and 50 minutes.