Escape From Planet Earth's weakest link is its story

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Featuring the voices of Rob Corddry, Brendan Fraser, and Sarah Jessica Parker. Rated G. Now playing

There’s so much technical cleverness put into Escape From Planet Earth that it seems unkind to point out that the movie is not very good. Sadly, the story—courtesy first-time feature director Cal Brunker and three other writers—is the weak link of this colourful new 3-D cartoon.

Primarily finished at Vancouver’s Rainmaker studios, the film initially takes place on a brightly designed planet Baab, with elements drawn from 1950s pop culture and 1970s video games. And it’s hard to imagine better voices for nerdy scientist Gary Supernova and his musclebound action-hero brother Scorch than Rob Corddry and Brendan Fraser, respectively.

The simplistically Freudian tale centres on their sibling rivalry, as Gary—who runs his planet’s version of NASA and invented most of its intergalactic gewgaws—struggles for respect from his putative boss (Jessica Alba, in femme fatale mode) and his son (Jonathan Morgan Heit), who prefers the act-first, think-rarely Scorch.

When the strangely underpopulated Mission Control (security consists of two guys, but Ricky Gervais gets some good lines as a snidely omniscient computer) receives an SOS from outer space, Scorch takes off without a rescue plan, creating a crisis for the process-oriented Gary. It also gives the movie its biggest laugh, through black-and-white propaganda footage explaining the devolutionary nature of the dumb-as-mud target planet, which happens to be Earth. The footage appears accurate after Scorch, followed by Gary and his always supportive wife (Sarah Jessica Parker), hit Roswell, New Mexico, and encounter an evil military man (voiced brilliantly by William Shatner) bent on capturing aliens and exploiting their superior, if sometimes sticky, intelligence.

This stuff is okay, if overly familiar. More annoying is the film’s unimaginative projection of American sex-role stereotypes onto faraway planets. The kiddies may not notice now, but problems could surface later, resulting in years of 3-D therapy.

Watch the trailer for Escape From Planet Earth.
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