Making the Grades
The conventional image of the little green alien is passé. Now they are blue. But don’t let the color change fool you into thinking Gary Supernova (voice by Rob Corddry) and his arrogant younger brother Scorch (voice by Brendan Fraser) offer anything different than the norm. Escape from Planet Earth is bedeviled with stereotypical characters: bad military personnel, bad government agents, bad Americans, bad human beings. According to the historical literature on planet Baab, earthlings are the only race that is devolving rather than evolving.
One has to wonder about that when the only good guys Gary meets on his mission to rescue his brother from the aforementioned bad military people are two 7-11 employees (voices by Steve Zahn, Chris Parnell). Their peace offering to Gary is a blue Slurpee. (And yes, aliens suffer from brain freeze as well.)
General Shanker (voice by William Shatner) certainly isn’t interested in fostering intergalactic relations. Instead he captures out-of-this-world visitors and mines them for their technological ideas. (Apparently Apple, Google and Facebook are all the brainchildren of extraterrestrials.) Shanker’s latest quest is to create the universe’s biggest weapon inaptly called a peace gun. And to do so, he is in cahoots with someone from Gary’s planet. Scorch unknowingly becomes the stool pigeon that transports the final element for the gun when he flies to Earth in response to a SOS call.
After Scorch is captured and incarcerated by Shanker, the faint-hearted Gary has to leave the safety of his desk at mission control in order to save face with his son Kip (voice by Jonathan Morgan Heit). Once on Earth, Gary discovers other aliens Shanker has imprisoned in an old warehouse in the Area 51 compound.
Expect the typical kind of cartoon violence, punching, threats, food fights, tranquilizer darts and frequent gun usage by a bunch of faceless brutes in yellow hazmat suits. And though the aliens believe they are higher up the evolution ladder, familial fights, nastiness on the job and competition between working women and stay at home moms happen on their planets too. (Maybe they are not as smart as they think.) These messages might be subtle but one has to wonder why storytellers can’t come up with a more creative plot that doesn’t rely on the same hackneyed characters.
With an all-star cast of voice talent and decent animation, Escape from Planet Earth could have been so much more. Fortunately this script focuses on positive family relations and parental role models, instead of the usual know-it-all offspring we see in earthling movies. While Kip steps up to help his papa in a pinch, Gary becomes his son’s hero in this adventure. Maybe aliens are more advanced after all!
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Escape From Planet Earth.
Since aliens aren’t the only ones to suffer from an ice cream headache, here are five steps to stop brain freeze.
What would be the best reaction to an alien visitor? How could you tell if they were coming in peace or not? Would you want to meet an alien?
How does General Shanker misrepresent himself on the Internet? Why is it important to be cautious about information you find on the web? How can you substantiate the truthfulness of information you find there?
What are the positive family interactions portrayed in this movie? How are you alike or different from your siblings? How can dads be heroes to their children? How does this movie pit working women against stay at home moms?