Escape from Planet Earth

If I didn’t know better, I’d think that movie executives have forgotten that kids like going to the movies. It’s been fully three months since an honest-to-goodness kiddie flick hit theaters– so long that the movie (Wreck-It Ralph) is now just two weeks from its arrival on DVD. (For the record, November’s Rise of the Guardians and December’s Parental Guidance both skewed toward older kids.)

So here comes Escape from Planet Earth, the first feature film from Rainmaker Entertainment (known primarily as the production company behind all the Barbie DVD movies).

It’s certainly not going to be on anyone’s short list for next year’s Best Animated Feature Oscar, but it will, I’m sure, do quite well when it comes out on DVD toward the beginning of summer; there’s plenty here for kids to love. Parents, just go along for the ride.

The action centers around Scorch Supernova (Brendan Fraser), a jock-ish, barrel-chested hero on his home planet of Baab. He’s a brawny astronaut who is always rocketing off to some part of the universe to save the day; his puny, intellectual brother Gary (Rob Corddry) runs Mission Control and is always in big bro’s shadow.

When an SOS arrives one day from Earth, Scorch jumps at the chance to once again be a hero. But when he’s captured shortly after landing, it falls on Gary to step up and orchestrate the rescue. Turns out, the SOS was a trap set by a U.S. General (William Shatner), who is capturing aliens from all corners of space as part of a nefarious plan.

From there, the plot progresses pretty much how you would expect. Sure there are little subplots about a traitorous member of the Baabian race, and, yes, we even have the obligatory spaceship chase sequence that swoops though canyons (in 3D!), but by and large Escape from Planet Earth just plods along on its gentle, merry way.

This is Cal Brunker’s debut in the director’s chair after spending years in the Art Department for movies like Ice Age: Continental Drift and Despicable Me. While there’s nothing criminally negligent about what he puts forward here, you can’t shake the feeling that he played it safe on his first time out. The same goes for his co-screenwriter (and fellow freshman) Bob Barlen.

Escape from Planet Earth looks like it could be the sequel to Planet 51— the animation is fairly average. Nothing as breath-taking as Pixar or as whimsical as recent entries like Megamind or The Lorax. In fact, there’s not much here that makes it particularly memorable in any way.

…other than the fact that kids will love it, and it’s been a long couple of months since they could head to the movies for a few hours of mindless, harmless fun.

2.5/5 stars