[Screen It]


(2013) (voices of Rob Corddry, Brendan Fraser) (PG)

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Animated Sci-fi/Adventure/Comedy: A behind-the-scenes alien travels to Earth to rescue his daring astronaut brother who's been captured by a malevolent human.
On the planet Baab, Gary Supernova (voice of ROB CORDDRY) is the brain behind Mission Control at BASA, the Baabian Aeronautics and Space Administration run by Lena Thackleman (voice of JESSICA ALBA). Yet, he lives in the constant shadow of his younger but more robust and outgoing astronaut brother, Scorch (voice of BRENDAN FRASER). And that's because Scorch has become famous for his daring rescue missions that might drive Gary crazy for not paying attention to his instructions and warnings about potential dangers, but have scored him a huge legion of fans, including TV reporter Gabby Babelbrock (voice of SOFIA VERGARA).

Much to Gary's dismay, another fan is his young son, Kip (voice of JONATHAN MORGAN HEIT), who idolizes Scorch. Gary's former test pilot wife turned stay at home mom Kira (voice of SARAH JESSICA PARKER) doesn't think that's a big deal and hopes the brothers can one day get along. That doesn't seem likely now that Scorch has once again ignored Gary's warnings and flown off on a rescue mission to the "Dark Planet," a.k.a. Earth, with only his onboard ship's computer, Mr. James Bing (voice of JAMES CORDEN), accompanying him. While some local humans, Hammer (voice of STEVE ZAHN) and Hawk (voice of CHRIS PARNELL), are happy to see him, so is Agent Shanker (voice of WILLIAM SHATNER) who runs Area 51 for the U.S. military.

Having captured and enslaved aliens such as Doc (voice of CRAIG ROBINSON), IO (voice of JANE LYNCH) and Thurman (voice of GEORGE LOPEZ) over the decades to use their knowledge to create much of Earth's technology, Shanker has more nefarious plans. Unaware of them but realizing he needs to do something, Gary then sets out toward Earth on a rescue mission that will not only reveal those plans, but also what sort of blue-skinned alien Gary truly is.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
Our reviewing policy for films that aren't shown in advance to critics is that we'll only provide a few paragraphs about the film's artistic merits

Whenever a film isn't shown to reviewers before it opens, we critics assume it must be really bad since the studios routinely show us other films days or weeks before they open to the public that range from mediocre to downright awful. That said, it's extremely rare for an animated film aimed at kids and families to open "cold," but that was the case with "Escape From Planet Earth" and thus I went into my early morning screening expecting nothing but the worst.

But you know what? While it might not be original, certainly doesn't possess state of the art computer-generated graphics (although what's present is more than passable), and relies too much on the usual sort of low-brow material often designated and deployed to entertain young viewers, this was an okay flick. I don't know that I'd have any reason to sit through it again, but it clearly could (and should) have been shown to reviewers before it opened, especially with the current dearth of films aimed at the kid and family demographic.

Although it clearly never reaches the heights of what the best of Pixar, DreamWorks and other animation studios can deliver, it's passable entertainment that moves along at a brisk pace, features a well-known vocal cast (who all do decent work), and should entertain kids and not terribly bore their parents or older siblings if tasked to watch it with them. That said, there are some odd inclusions of material designed for adults, such as a scene lifted from the black & white and silent Oscar winning film "The Artist" as well as a nod toward the Beatles (but only three of them) as aliens, among other such material.

Nothing special but clearly not the train wreck implied by the studio's decision to keep this away from reviewers, "Escape From Planet Earth" never reaches the upper atmosphere of computer-animated films, but it's okay enough to warrant a 5 out of 10 rating.

Reviewed February 15, 2013 / Posted February 15, 2013

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