This year's Super Bowl broadcast featured one highly touted, heavily technical special effect—and I'm not talking about Bruce Springsteen's slide into the camera. TV spots leading up to the big game urged viewers to stop by their local grocery store and pick up a special pair of 3-D glasses, in order to view what was said to be the world's first 3-D television commercial, to be played some time during the game. It was a curious mix of the hi-tech and the lo-fi; as far as 3-D imaging has apparently come, you still need to obtain a pair of cheap, flimsy glasses in order for it to work at all.
In much the same way, the entire concept of a 3-D movie strikes one as being somehow futuristic and retro at the same time; as cutting-edge as the technology may be, it's hard to divorce it from images of the Golden Age of the B movie, when a pair of red-and-blue-tinted, cardboard spectacles were worn in order to see a zombie's hand or a flying saucer pop off the screen in whatever the week's serial adventure movie happened to be. One presumes that the visual gimmickry was largely designed to distract one's senses from the storytelling, which may have been just as flimsy as the 3-D glasses.
But back to that Super Bowl commercial: It was for a new animated film called Monsters vs. Aliens, one of just a handful of recent films to be presented in 3-D. And alas, for whatever old-school vibes the 3-D goggles might convey or vintage B-movie frivolity the title might suggest, the film is decidedly and unashamedly the product of modern-day trends in family movie-making. Which is to say: There are poop jokes. There are pop culture references. And there's not much in the way of storytelling or characterization.
The movie comes from DreamWorks—the ...