A film review by Craig J. Koban March 11, 2017


2017, PG, 104 mins.


Lucas Till as Tripp  /  Jane Levy as Meredith  /  Thomas Lennon as Jim Dowd  /  Barry Pepper as Sheriff Rick  /  Rob Lowe as Reece Tenneson  /  Danny Glover as Mr. Weathers  /  Amy Ryan as Cindy  /  Frank Whaley as Wade Coley

Directed by Chris Wedge Written by Derek Connolly




Well, I'm certainly in no position to label MONSTER TRUCKS as an unoriginal film.  

There's has most definitely not been another family film about centuries old subterranean water dwelling creatures that are installed in trucks as an alternative power source that I can recall, which does, yes, make MONSTER TRUCKS one of a kind.  On a level of chuckle inducing ingenuity, the film has a B-grade premise that's actually quite nifty. 

What's not really a laughing matter is that MONSTER TRUCKS was in serious release hell for several years, which is usually the qualitative kiss of death for most films (it was shot in 2014 for a release in 2015, only to have its release pushed back multiple times until January of this year).  That, and MONSTER TRUCKS cost an unfathomably large amount of money to make ($125 million), only to have made back just half of its budget in worldwide box office grosses, which forced its studio Paramount to take a $100-plus million write-down on the film before release in fear of its losing potential.  

This all leads me to ask a few very simple questions: (1) What studio executive would ever give the go ahead greenlight for a ludicrous project like this with such a cost prohibitive budget and (2) why would this same executive think that a film like this had any chances of making a reasonable return on his investment?  

MONSTER TRUCKS has no business existing in its current form for the price tag it cost. 



Well, the preposterously high budget certainly didn't go into scripting.  The basic premise of MONSTER TRUCKS involves a young high school outcast named Tripp (Lucas Till) that has dreams of someday having his very own high powered monster truck.  He works at a junk yard, which affords him the option of using any spare truck body he can find that can be salvaged, but a fully charged and mechanically sound engine seems out of his grasp.  Thankfully and rather luckily, he discovers a rather large tentacled monster (think the Woola from JOHN CARTER morphed with an octopus) pilfering around his garage that seems to have a rather ravenous appetite for motor oil.   

Why oil?  Well, if that is the only logical question that you ask regarding this film then you clearly have issues.   

Now, what Tripp doesn't initially now is that the creature (which he dubs "Creach") was actually unearthed during an oil drilling operation perpetrated by a fairly despicable company called Terravex, headed up by a boss (Rob Lowe) that will stop at nothing to destroy the local ecology to get as much crude as his corporation can nab.  Of course, Creach manages to escape the evil corporation's clutches, seeing as they certainly don't want the existence of an ancient breed of animals that are being uprooted by their drilling being discovered by the local media.  As Creach and Tripp bond he makes a startling discovery: Creach can not only inhabit his truck's body, but can also power it with his tentacles.  Soon realizing that Terravex's hired goons on hot on their heels, Tripp and his tutor Meredith (Jane Levy) decide to assist Creach with freeing two members of his family that were captured by Terravex and return them to their natural underground habitat.

MONSTER TRUCKS is one of the strangest films that I've ever seen, but that's not entirely a criticism.  The movie demonstrates kernels of imagination here and there when it comes to the creature itself, which is indeed done with fairly competent computer generated visual effects that are decently incorporated into the live action.  Creech himself is sort of an adorably grotesque entity whose perpetually slimy facade and penchant for mischief makes him oddly endearing to both young and old viewers alike.  MONSTER TRUCKS also has a few action set pieces that are not altogether terrible, featuring the Creech enabled 4x4 climbing up the sides of buildings eluding authorities and, in the climax of the film, having his way with enemy vehicles leading to spectacular car crashes that would make George Miller blush a bit. 

I guess the main problems with the sometimes infectiously silly MONSTER TRUCKS is that it really has no lingering and memorable staying power despite some of its flashier scenes and good creature design/VFX.  The film features a terrific cast that is embarrassingly wasted in nothing roles, like, for starters, Amy Ryan in a split second or two cameo as Tripp's overworked mother.  Also squandered is Barry Pepper as Ryan's boyfriend who also serves as the small town sheriff and constant thorn in Tripp's side.  Then there's Frank Whaley's equally marginalized appearance as Tripp's absentee father and Roby Lowe's fairly inane turn as the immoral Terravex head honcho.  Hell, even Danny Glover shows up as the owner of the junk yard that Tripp works at, and he appears so bloody confused throughout his brief scenes in MONSTER TRUCKS that he seems to be performing his character nearly at gunpoint. 

Here's another issue that plagues MONSTER TRUCKS: The lead young adult character is...kind of a dick.  Lucas Till is an appealing actor with low wattage, but sustainable charisma that serves him well, to be sure, but Tripp is a fairly selfish and petulant lout that treats just about everyone around him like a nuisance.  Take his treatment,  for instance, of the extremely easy on the eyes nerd that is Meredith, who sends him beyond obvious signals throughout the entirety of the film that she's attracted to him...sometimes in almost stalkerish ways.  Now, for reasons only intellectually bankrupt Hollywood scripting logic dictates, she remains steadfastly devoted to Tripp and his cause despite his insensitive treatment of her, which would be enough to send any sane minded woman abandoning him like the plague.  Jane Levy (who was recently in DON'T BREATHE) has a natural, down to earth luminosity and spunk that helps elevate even the most pedestrian of scenes in MONSTER TRUCKS, but her character of Meredith is almost condescendingly shallow as someone that perplexingly fawns over the hunky male hero.   

MONSTER TRUCKS is the kind of low rent schlockfest that would have graced video store shelves in the mid-to-late 1980's...and the 10-year-old Craig of that era would have enthusiastically ate this film up.  42-year-old Craig in the present, though, was struggling to stave off boredom while enduring it.  MONSTER TRUCKS has some modest charm, not to mention that it contains an underlining noble minded environmental/animal rights message that's good for children.  Yet, I simply couldn't reconcile my feelings over what has to be the single worst misappropriation of studio money in recent memory.  MONSTER TRUCKS is way, way too inexplicably weird and dumb to have cost a studio a small fortune.  Kids will undoubtedly enjoy it for what it is, and I can certainly recommend it to that target audience.  As for everyone else, it would be irresponsible of me to say it's worth seeing...especially for the money that went into that can't really be seen on screen.   


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