By Ed Sum
Fans of Brendan Fraser’s work will most likely find enjoyment with Escape from Planet Earth. He is the perfect fit to voice Scorch Supernova, a not-so bright hero from the planet Baab. This astronaut thinks might makes right when defending his world from mysterious forces from beyond his solar system. Most of the vocal talent like Jessica Alba, George Lopez and Ricky Gervais fit in rather well to the character archetypes they are portraying in this film but this talent does not help save it from certain production problems. There is no clear target audience for Rainmaker Entertainment’s first foray into feature film development.
This studio, once known as Mainframe Entertainment, needs to stick to either nerd specific products or go the way of Nelvana if they are to stand out. From the 70’s to mid 90’s, this other Canadian animation studio provided a wide range of products, including the cult favourite film Rock & Rule, highly praised Beetlejuice the Animated Series, much enjoyed Adventures of Tin-Tin and uniquely styled Dog City—with the latter three being accessible to anyone of all ages to watch. But ultimately, Nelvana focused on providing children’s entertainment products.
In Rainmaker’s evolution, they have provided some nerdy fan favorites like Reboot, Beastmasters: Transformers, and MTV’s Spiderman. For some people, they might have been thought of as just an effects house who did all the work in all three iterations of Stargate, the TV franchise, but this company has done more. They produced all the Barbie movies for young girls to enjoy. For TRON fans, their Zixx TV series was welcomed.
Producing for a smaller demographic is perfect, and that’s where Escape from Planet Earth belongs. As a straight-to-video release, this film may have fared better without being compared to heavyweight products being pumped out by Blue Sky Studios, Dreamworks or PIXAR. This film felt like it was more in league with 20th Century Fox Animation’s products. By presentation alone, Rio makes for the perfect comparison. Both films excel in its color cinematography and the Blu-ray release makes the CGI stand out more than the story it tries to tell. The video extras are fairly good—especially for viewers interested in the CG animation process—and the music videos are entertaining enough for younger minds to consume.
But for anyone else watching this movie, the product is more of a mixed bag. Not every adult will like this film and some children will eat up the visual eye candy like a 7-11 Slurpee. Some viewers may well have to wonder if this company paid a hefty penny for this particular product placement. It was so blatant that even the thought alone is a brain-freeze.
Even more difficult to swallow are the little side-references to modern SF culture, like nods to William Shatner or James Cameron. Sometimes a proper self-referential element can work wonders for comedy, but at other times, it’s unnecessary and unneeded. And that includes this movie’s narrative. The concept is all too familiar. The tale itself borrows elements from Planet 51. And instead of uniting all of Earth’s heroes, the aliens have to get together like a Band of Brothers. But there is no war here. Well, they are trying not to start one, but when considering that a zealous human from Earth’s military army, General Shanker (William Shatner), is out to make one, that can lead to trouble. And that includes two integrated plot elements competing for attention. In between all this screen-time, Scorch and his little brother Gary (Rob Corddry) are hardly able to make amends. Both of them have been jealous of the other because of their status in life. This story does not put enough emphasis into this part of the plot.
Had this film have been more diligent with its message of mending fences then this movie might have fared better. Instead, this movie is generally one of putting too much writing into too little of a space, an 82 minute film sans credits. Its simplistic enough to say siblings should get along, but not everyone will necessarily hear it.
3 out of 5