Escape from Planet Earth's mediocrity is absolute and unrelenting

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Escape from Planet Earth's primary quality is that it's 90 minutes long. Its second quality is that it does not at any point play Smash Mouth's "All-Star." Oh, it wants to. Desperately. It practically screams it from every frame of it's remarkably good enough CG. But it knows that to use it would date the movie horribly, and this is a film whose desire to swim right in the middle of the mainstream is fervent, almost maniacal.

Gary Supernova (voiced by Rob Corddry) is a blue, nebbish alien from the planet Baab who works as a Mission Control operator, and is forever in the shadow of his heroic, none-too-bright, but infinitely more popular brother Scorch (Brendan Fraser, whose motto "Scorch me, baby!" never stops sounding vaguely sexual). Obviously, Gary is too cautious and timid to be admired by Scorch, his boss, or even his kid Kipp, who idolizes Scorch to Gary's obvious dismay. Even Gary's loving wife Kira (Sarah Jessica Parker) seems to have long accepted her husband's inability to act.

Gary and Scorch butt heads when Scorch is assigned to visit "the Dark Planet," from which no alien has ever returned (three guesses which planet it is). Gary wants to plan, but Scorch takes off, lands at a 7-11 (in the most egregious but hardly solitary product placement in the film) and captured by the evil General Shanker (voiced by William Shatner, whose presence itself is clearly supposed to constitute gales of laughter from the audience). In standard kids movie procedure, Gary goes to rescue Scorch, meets some wacky aliens voiced by comedians, discovers Shanker's evil plot to kill all aliens, and saves the day. Kira and Kip have their own daring deeds to perform, thanks to Gary's evil boss (Jessica Alba), who is in cahoots with Shanker for reasons too dumb to mention. It all proceeds with the efficiency of one of those pegboards, where all the pegs are round but all the holes are, too.


There are only three surprises in the film: the first is the vastly overqualified voice cast. The second is that while you'd expect there to be a lesson about brains being better than brawn, as Gary succeeds where his over-muscled brother failed, it doesn't –- it seems to be promoting the idea that thinking actually holds a hero back from acting. Last, it's odd that the movie focuses on an actual father rather than a kid; it's like the film is saying, "hey, kids, your dad may be a drag, but… he could theoretically be a hero if he ever gets the balls."


As such, parents of children who can behave themselves will probably not regret taking their kids to see Escape from Planet Earth. Parents used to the sly, subtle humor and unexpectedly rich characterization of Pixar and Dreamworks' better films might have some regrets, as Escape aims to do nothing more than keep the little ones occupied for an hour and a half. Parents with children who can't keep quiet in theaters would probably do better to just put How to Train Your Dragon in the DVD player at home, or another movie that offers more excitement and characters kids can get invested in. Even Shrek would work, although then you'd still have to hear "All-Star."