MONSTER TRUCKS is monster fun if you’re under 16 and need to escape life’s hardships
Monster Trucks feels like the first of an oncoming avalanche of teen escapism films making a comeback. We’ve have Divergent and The Hunger Games and they’ve been dystopian and dark. Now we have regular teen movies, where the guy just wants to live life but is trapped by Life until something amazing happens.
In a mythical place called North Dakota, where people live on tracts of land out in the middle of nowhere and moms date County sheriffs with a hard-on for making life difficult, Tripp (Lucas Till, X-Men: First Class (2011)) is a loner with a dream. He wants to shake off the dust of his sleep town and do more than work in the local oil fields. Immediate life plans change when he discovers a large creature living in the local junkyard where he works, drinking oil and making lots of noise. Nicknamed “Creech” because Tripp doesn’t have time for clever names, it moves into the hull of a truck and its special noodly appendages help with locomotion. Tripp leverages the brain of local smarty girl, Meredith (Jane Levy, Don’t Breathe (2016)) for the use of her barn and so he can further outfit his truck to make a more comfortable home for Creech. Despite only having it a day knowing the basics of his new friend, Tripp intends on keeping it for as long-term as he can think.
Meanwhile in the oil fields, Bad Guy and Town Employer, Reece Tenneson (Rob Lowe, CBS’s Code Black) and his toady Dowd (Thomas Lennon, CBS’s The Odd Couple) realize their latest dig has displaced some of the local fauna and they need to get rid of the evidence so they can continue to dig. Renneson calls in Worse Guys who will do What Is Necessary so Tenneson can continue to make the town lots of money. He owns them so he has absolute power, right? Can salvage yard worker, Tripp, defeat Big Oil and save Creech?
You can figure out what happens next, and that’s good because the movie has zero intention of explaining anything. Like The Bye Bye Man (2016), this movie is clearly aimed at a young teen audience, specifically boys who dream of fixing up that junker and running away to find themselves. The women, Meredith and Tripp’s mom, Cindy (Amy Ryan, Central Intelligence (2016)), exist solely as background to Tripp’s angsty existence. They provide the basics Tripp needs – knowledge, support, shelter – but it’s all noise. If you’re an adult, Monster Trucks is really about how Tripp isn’t the kind of deep-thinking individual who will make it far in the world he wants to join. He’s angry, impulsive and hard-headed – which makes him cool if you’re 15 years old and still being dropped off at the mall by your mom. He has a girl who likes him, issues with his dad and lots of issues with his mom’s boyfriend. He also has no concrete plans for after high school except driving around, and seeing things. What kid can’t relate to that? What parent doesn’t see their very nightmares realized?
Adults however, might have an issue with the super broad message about selfish Big Oil and their profits at any cost portrayal. They might have an issue with a creature that has lived underground for centuries miles under the earth yet understands Tripp perfectly – movie logic. An adult might find themselves wondering how the scene changes and switchbacks link together in a cohesive order. This movie doesn’t make a lot of logical sense and asking questions like, yes you’ve escaped them for now, but where you plan on “hiding out” when you’ve never been anywhere else are pointless.
It’s a Nickelodeon property, so there’s nothing deeper than a puddle of oil to keep the movie’s action light. There are a few extreme moments of adventure and excitement, but ultimately it’s all about cheering the people on screen and Good overcoming Evil.
I did like it, but I made it a point to not think about any of what was happening for too long. The target audience certainly won’t dissect this movie afterwards over chili cheese fries and cherry Cokes in the mall food court, so I won’t bother. Call this a matinee and if your kids want to take in a double future and don’t mind a few scares, plan it around viewings of The Bye Bye Man (2016) (that review can be found here) and they can keep themselves occupied for a few hours with mindless fun.
Monster Trucks is rated PG for trucks driving really fast, trucks outrunning trains, Dowd vomiting all over himself, and the callous behavior of the elite rich and out environment.