First, let's look at the movie with all of the hype: "Slumdog Millionaire." There is no way in the world that I would deny that this is a good movie. The visuals alone are stunning. I have to admit that there were moments where I had to kind of let my mind wander away and remove myself from it so that I didn't get depressed by what I was seeing. But the story is amazingly crafted as it jumps back and forth in time telling us the unbelievable story of our main character. There was never a moment where you lost the track of the story - which is something not every movie with this kind of set-up can say.
I started watching "Slumdog" with my laptop in front of me, but found myself putting it away so that I could better focus on the texture and style of the film. It's subtle at times, brazen at times, and full of flavor at every turn. Basically, this movie is the cinematic equivalent of a great curry.
On the other hand, last Monday I went to see the animated feature "Monsters vs. Aliens" at the theater. Apparently, because it is available in three formats (3-D, 2-D and IMAX), it actually captured all three of the top spots for movies over its opening weekend. But I didn't know any more about it than the fact that Reese Witherspoon voiced the main character.
Basically, the plot involves Susan (Witherspoon) being hit by a meteor on her wedding day and growing to 47 feet tall. She is taken into custody by the government and meets four other monsters (including Bob - basically a one-eyed mass of blue Jell-o - and Link - who looks a lot like the Creature from the Black Lagoon) who have been held since the 1950s. They are brought out of their "home" to battle an alien force which wants to take over the world after the President and his war cabinet can't stop the bad guys. Along the way "Monsters" treats us to pop culture references as wide ranging as "Dr. Strangelove," music from "Close Encounter of the Third Kind" and "Beverly Hills Cop," and even a two-word allusion to "MacGuyver" (which I think I may have been the only person in the theater to laugh at).
And now, as I come to the summary, let's also circle back to the intitial topic of this post: hype.
"Slumdog Millionaire" - Plus side: Great movie. Very moving. Very exciting (even though you sort of know the outcome by now). Minus side: I would have liked it better if I hadn't sat through all of the past months' worth of hype. I wanted it to be... well... more. So... Worth seeing (and the Oscar for best movie)? Sure. Worth all the hype (and the Oscar for best song)? Not so sure. Overall: B+
"Monsters vs. Aliens" - Plus side: Hilarious, if you're in the mood for it. Silly. A little touching, even. And does NOT fall into the "we're going to dumb this down for the kids with lots of bodily functions jokes" trap. Minus side: The animation of people (as opposed to Monsters or Aliens) is a little odd. So... Go see it - before you get bombarded by too much hype - so you can get a few cheap laughs? Yes (you'll never look at Jell-o the same way again). Overall (because I simply wasn't expecting it): A