Like most of DreamWorks’ animated features, the premise for the “Monsters vs. Aliens” pic surpassed the execution. Boiled down to a half-hour, however, the concept works just fine, with plenty of action, a terrific look and the most meager possible plot. While hardly destined to make anyone forget Linus and the Great Pumpkin, it makes for a nifty Halloween special NBC will air twice — back to back — and which, based on ABC’s performance in 2007 with “Shrek the Halls,” could provide a welcome treat to a network that could certainly use one.
Beginning with a toilet joke — a spaceship essentially empties its lavatories on a pumpkin patch near poor, picked-upon Modesto, Calif., mutating the crop into anthropomorphic little gremlins — the spec reintroduces Ginormica (voiced by Reese Witherspoon), the Missing Link (Will Arnett), Dr. Cockroach (Hugh Laurie) and B.O.B. (Seth Rogen), who are quickly dispatched to neutralize the threat.
Halloween, of course, allows most of the group to roam about freely, and Dr. Cockroach to lament about a lost lollipop. Eventually, the candy-munching pumpkins assemble for a pitched battle, though despite the occasional glimpses of pumpkin guts, it’s fine for the kids — though writer Adam F. Goldberg and director Peter Ramsey do indulge in some older-skewing references, from using a favorite “Scarface” quote (“Say hello to my little friend.”) to dressing Ginormica’s parents (Julie White, Jeffrey Tambor) as Frankenstein and his bride.
The animation is first rate, and the specials serve an obvious purpose for DreamWorks, helping keep these franchises alive in the minds of kids and their toy-buying parents between movies. There’s also something to be said for replenishing a pool of holiday specials that frankly hasn’t been improved on much since the Grinch, Charlie Brown and Rudolph.
Granted, small fry have plenty of alternatives these days, but the adult-demo-obsessed networks have let children lose the broadcast habit at their peril.
So cue the evil laugh, and unleash the mutant pumpkins.