Monster Trucks is a family adventure film about a teenager who befriends a large creature newly unearthed by a local oil drilling operation. In an attempt to hide his new companion and to assist it in its trouble moving on land he rigs up a truck/wheelchair contraption so it can move around while also providing our protagonist with a set of wheels himself which he wants so much. Together with friends they aim to evade the clutches of the evil oil company executive and to return the creature home.
Monster Trucks is definitely a kids film though it may be dark at times it’s very reminiscent of a cross between ET, Free Willy, The Love Bug and other such films with a mix of The Fast and Furious.
A supporting cast which includes Jane Levy, Thomas Lennon, Rob Lowe, Danny Glover, Barry Pepper & Amy Ryan elevate what otherwise would be largely forgettable roles. Some of them could have been expanded however, certain characters are introduced then never show up again until they’re necessary to push the story forward near the end of the film. Amy Ryan playing our protagonist’s mother in particular has a surprisingly small role for an actress of her prestige, being introduced at the beginning then despite the perils her son is involved in over several days doesn’t return again until a brief shot before the end credits.
Some children’s films are made to be appreciated on another level by adult and some aren’t. This is one of the latter types and that’s perfectly fine I think. That said there are a few dialogue heavy portions of the film where children will, and did in the screening I attended, become restless. It reminded me of The Smurfs movies in that regards. During the plot & dialogue heavy moments without much creature or vehicular action on screen the target audience begins to lose focus. The final half hour of the movie which features most of the “monster Truck” action surely regained and kept their interest however.
I’m willing to extend a lot of leniency to a kids film such as this which unashamedly is not targeted towards someone like myself. One thing I did have a problem with however was how unlikeable I found the main character as we introduced to him. When we first meet Tripp (Lucas Till) he’s a teenager frustrated with where he is in his motoring life. He has to ride a school bus while richer kids have cars, his mother is dating the town sheriff whom he doesn’t get along with and he’s behind in his studies. The problem is he treats many of those around him like dirt. When his fellow student & tutor Meredith (Jane Levy) comes on a Friday night to his job at a junkyard to help him with his schoolwork he tries to send her away to walk home alone. Granted at this point in the story he has other things to worry about but it’s typical of his dismissal of her at every other point they have interacted up till now.
Even when Tripp decides to modify an old wrecked truck to work as a mode of transportation for the otherwise crippled creature the point is made that he doesn’t see it as “a wheelchair for it” he sees it as “it’s an engine for MY car”. His selfish nature isn’t really something his character grows out of so much as it is something the movie moves on from. I enjoy watching protagonists grow from their selfish ways and I do think these themes can be tackled in children’s films but I don’t think they were handled so well here or if they should’ve been at all in a movie about monsters that go into trucks and make them go vroom vroom really fast.
Generally though I enjoyed the movie as did the children in the audience. I can’t say much for the movie’s appeal to adults however it could very well in years to come be a “The Garbage Pail Kids” type film for the adults of tomorrow.
3 1/2 out of 5