First, a confession: I was almost rooting for Monster Trucks to be bearable. Why? Because Paramount Pictures, which is releasing the film, took a $115 million write-down against anticipated losses before it even opened. It's like having your parents write off your college tuition because they know you'll never amount to shit. Talk about lack of faith. So what a kick it would be if this family film actually turned out to be fun, right? Dreams can come true, kiddies. Just not this time.
Monster Trucks is a wreck, fueled by the crazy belief that noise and repetition can disguise the lack of credible writing, directing, acting and FX. It's worked before – look at the box-office gold raked in by Michael Bay's asinine, soul-sucking Transformers films. Sadly, this franchise attempt never gets out of first gear. Director Chris Wedge (Ice Age) isn't burdened by Bay's crass cynicism, and his premise isn't bad, exactly: Take those giant hunks of metal you see smashing everything in sight at truck rallies, replace their engines with actual monsters, and turn the whole damn thing into a 3D, live-action romp blended with computer animation.
You want story? How about following the adventures of Tripp Coley (Lucas Till), a North Dakota high school senior – even if Till looks a good 10 years older than any student you've ever seen – who builds his own monster truck out of spare parts. (Just like a team of screenwriters built this script.) For a trendy eco vibe, you add an oil-drilling site that somehow spawns a tentacle creature out of its ooze. Tripp calls the monster (actually, he's a cutie) Creech. And when Creech crawls inside the kid's old Dodge pickup, we're off and running. You wish.
There's a plot pileup involving Rob Lowe as the boss of Terravex, an oil and gas company that sees no problem with destroying underground lakes and caves to mine crude oil. Naturally, Tripp and Creech won't stand for it. You'll wait in vain for magic to happen, though the only magic here apparently involved producers abracadabra-ed such fine actors as Amy Ryan, Barry Pepper and Danny Glover to sign on for this swill.
And pity poor Till, the chiseled hunk who plays Havok in the X-Men films and stars in the TV reboot of MacGyver. As Tripp, he is reduced to desperate green-screening acting, trying to relate to digital creatures and artifacts that don't get added until later in post-production. I feel his pain – which is all any audience over the age of five will feel watching this.