I rarely go to see animated movies that don't have the name "Pixar" attached to them.
Disney and DreamWorks try their best — and even produce some great movies like "Shrek" — but it's generally like watching Durham Bulls minor league baseball when you're used to the Boston Red Sox: You know there's better stuff out there.
But "Monsters vs. Aliens," DreamWorks' newest pic that opens Friday, looks like it could break that trend. Sort of.
Let me start by saying most non-Pixar animation has lost its backbone. In the heyday of Disney, animated movies — despite being made for children — addressed serious issues and boasted serious bad guys: The Lion King (Scar), Aladdin (Jafar) and The Beauty and the Beast not only scared the willies out of kids, but also made genuine efforts to weave love, loss, death, danger, outcasts and prejudice into their films so adults could appreciate them too.
Somewhere along the line, however, mainstream animation lost that edge. Disney made movies like "Home on the Range" and " "Bolt," and DreamWorks made pics like "Bee Movie" which don't even have villains.
The only buttons these movies push are the sweet and saccharine, opting for soft chuckles and small smiles instead of big laughs and true emotion.
"Monsters vs. Aliens" probably won't be as good as Pixar's "Walle-E" or "The Incredbiles," — which also deal with the end of Earth — but at least it'll have something to look at other than cute animals.
The movie is about Susan Murphy, who is unwittingly clobbered by a meteor full of space gunk on her wedding day and mysteriously grows to 49-feet-11-inches tall. The military quickly captures Susan and whisks her away to a secret government prison. There, she is renamed Ginormica and placed under arrest with with a group of other "monsters" like the brilliant but insect-headed Dr. Cockroach, Ph.D (Hugh Laurie from "House") and the gelatinous and indestructible B.O.B. (Seth Rogen). But when a mysterious alien robot lands on Earth and begins attacking mankind, suddenly the President (Stephen Colbert) needs these "useless" monsters to save the world.
Is it scary? I don't know. The trailer makes it look like "Monsters vs. Aliens" doesn't take its plot too seriously and shies away from anything but humor.
But just the fact that it contains plot points about jailing outcasts, secret prisons and the end of the world shows me that DreamWorks is moving in the right direction.
So while "Monsters vs. Aliens" might not be great in itself, it may mean better animated movies are coming in the near future. Unless of course, alien robots destroy us first.