A few weeks ago we bought Monsters vs. Aliens on DVD. We hadn't seen it yet, but the trailers looked hilarious. Fortunately, the movie was not only as funny as the trailers made it out to be, but it was even more clever than I could have hoped.
What really made the movie for me was the number of homages to various sci-fi movies and cliches that they fit into it. And these homages weren't just limited to better known movies like Independence Day (which was mostly spoofed by perfectly recreating the force-field effect from that movie) or Close Encounters of the Third Kind (the famous five-note tune from that movie shows up). The movie also extensively spoofs classic sci-fi films that only nerds such as myself recognize. For example, in one scene a character grows to gigantic proportions and is subdued by the military, which injects her with a giant syringe of anesthesia. Before she passes out, she pulls out the syringe and throws it to the ground where it lands immediately at the feet of one of the soldiers. This is an homage to the Amazing Collosal Man , in which the titular collosal man is also hit with a giant syringe. He also pulls it out and throws it to the ground, except the syringe impales a soldier rather than landing at his feet.
The monsters themselves are homages to classic '50s and '60s monsters: Bob (obviously "the Blob" ), Dr. Cockroach ("The Fly" ), The Missing Link (a more talkative version of "The Creature from the Black Lagoon" ), Insectosaurus ("Mothra" ), and Ginormica ("the Amazing Collosal Man" /"the 50 Foot Woman" ). In at least one case, if you know the gimmick of the monster that's being spoofed (that is "Insectosaurs" as a "Mothra" analog) you can actually guess the nature of a certain surprise twist at the end of the movie. I thought the cleverest gag was the spoof of the old injured-ankle cliche, but with the male/female role reversed. I'm going to guess that about 5% or less of the movie's viewers got the joke.
Rarely am I pleasantly surprised by a movie; usually the best I can hope for is that my expectations are met. However, I enjoyed Monsters vs. Aliens much more than I expected I would. The best part is that the writers put in plenty of good stuff to entertain those who wouldn't recognize the movie references that I mentioned above. My kids, who aren't exactly classic sci-fi connoisseurs, loved the movie and have already watched it several times.