Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Planet 51

directed by Jorge Blanco

Planet 51 poster  
An Earth astronaut lands on a planet he hoped was uninhabited, but it turns out to be full of aliens. The twist is, he's the alien and they're afraid he has come to invade. Chuck Baker (Dwayne Johnson) thinks he has the right stuff, but the residents of Planet 51 run screaming and call the army in when they first come across him. Only Lem (Justin Long), a young planetarium guide, realises Chuck is friendly and tries to help him.

Things go wrong for Lem when his attempts to help Chuck make him look bad in the eyes of his sweetheart, Neera (Jessica Biel). Glar (Alan Marriott) is moving in on her, and Lem struggles to find a way to help Chuck get back home and win Neera over before his rival can. But paranoia has gripped the community. Everyone is alert for beastly, brain-eating aliens poised to enslave their cosy little world. Their imaginations are stoked by monster movies with titles like "Humaniacs II". What's more, the brutal General Grawl (Gary Oldman) is out to capture Chuck, whilst the obsessive and strange Professor Kipple (John Cleese) wants to take Chuck's brain out to study it.

The movie is full of visual references to other alien films such as E.T., Star Wars, Alien and Close Encounters. These little tributes liven the film up for an older generation of viewers, but there's plenty to keep everyone else interested as well. Joe Stillman's script is funny and charming, with lots of slapstick and humour from moments of social awkwardness. Planet 51 has a definite look of 1950s small-town America, with an abundance of white picket fences, bowling alleys and barbecues. It perfectly captures the era's cosiness, mixed with a distrust of anything that shakes up the status quo, as well as the close-mindedness of that environment. They believe the universe is 500 miles long, for instance, and that's what Lem is supposed to tell visitors to the planetarium, even when he learns it's not true.

This film is far too child-friendly to be at all dark, but at the same time it makes its points clear about having an open mind and not fearing people just because they're different. I enjoyed this movie because it's light, funny and well-scripted. The story is accessible without getting too cute, and it has something to appeal to viewers of all ages.

26th January 2011

Film Details

Year: 2009

Categories: Films

  Kids     Science fiction

Classification: U

If you like this, try:

Shrek The Third cover    

Shrek The Third by Chris Miller
The grumpy green ogre faces his biggest challenge yet: fatherhood.

Shrek Forever After cover    

Shrek Forever After by Mike Mitchell
Shrek decides his perfect family life is too much for him, so he makes a bargain to allow him to go back to being a big, bad ogre.

4 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson