Ah, January. A time of punishingly cold weather, doomed New Years resolutions and truly terrible movies Hollywood dumps on us, behaving a bit like a TV network burning off unwanted episodes of an already-canceled TV show. Last year, it was Bad Grandpa. The years before that brought Mortdecai and I, Frankenstein. This year, it’s Monster Trucks, a $125 million Paramount Pictures insta-failure which most people haven’t heard of, and those who have incorrectly assume it must be a Transformers/Lego Movie situation. After all, a movie called Monster Trucks must have some toy line behind it, right?
Actually, yes and no.
There is a Monster Trucks toy line from Tonka, and back when this film was first announced that’s what everyone assumed Paramount was adapting, clearly mindlessly mimicking the success of The Lego Movie. Alas, no. The film actually stems from an original idea someone at Paramount cooked up with the help of his then-4-year-old son. Incidentally, that “someone at Paramount,” Adam Goodman, no longer works at Paramount. Apparently, the work of screenwriters Derek Connolly, Matthew Robinson, Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger couldn’t overcome such an infantile beginning because wow is this movie ever bad unless you’re actually a little kid in which case it’s probably passable.
As io9’s Katharine Trendacosta put it in her estimation of the ideal situation for watching Monster Trucks, “If I had a bunch of friends, some alcohol, and the comfort of my own home to make fun of this movie, I could almost appreciate it. If I were a kid watching it at home after school, I could almost appreciate it. But dragging my ass to a theater, during winter, when there are so many better movies I could choose to see there? No.”
Otherwise, don’t waste your time with this. Really, life’s just too short, and the list of must-watch TV shows ever-growing.
See, the plot involves TV’s new MacGyver, Lucas Till, playing a truck-loving, small town teen (even though Till is noticeably not a teenager) who stumbles upon a curious, gelatinous monster he names Creech, short for “creature.” Turns out, Creech escaped from an evil oil company (led by Rob Lowe in what might be the world’s worst attempt at a Southern accent) which discovered it while drilling too deep into the Earth. With the help of his love interest played by Jane Levy (again, noticeably older than the high school senior she’s meant to be), Till mounts a rescue mission with Creech to free the other two creatures the oil company discovered and subsequently imprisoned for research purposes.
Oh, btw, for some reason the creatures can actually power cars, super convenient for Till since he’d yet to find an engine for the truck he was rebuilding. That’s how you get to “Monster Trucks” – the octopus-like creatures simply slide their way into and throughout the cars, supercharging them in the process and carrying any passenger/driver along for the ride.
No, not this (an actual octopus, er, septopus, driving a truck, somehow):
Whenever a film like Monster Trucks comes out it inevitably leads to much well-earned mockery as well as a fair degree of “See, this – this! – is what’s wrong with Hollywood right now!” speechifying. There’s also the inevitable business angle, such as how Paramount is expected to lose $115m on this, already setting the bar insanely high for the title of Biggest Bomb of 2017. It’s not like Paramount can really be that surprised. The film was shot in 2014, due out May 2015 and is only just now coming out. That’s not the kind of delay that happens to a movie the studio likes/believes in.
Lucas Till, whose failed movie star ambitions were memorably profiled by The New York Times in 2014 in a piece about the film industry’s increasingly disposable action heroes, will survive this. He tried the movie star thing, but outside of his role as Havoc in the X-Men prequel trilogy most of his movies went straight to VOD. Now, he has the lead role in a cheesy CBS procedural with name brand recognition. It’s not a mega-hit by CBS standards yet, but it at least got a full season. If he’s lucky he could end up getting multiple seasons out of this and live on that for years and years, as is every TV actor’s dream.
Jane Levy, the one-time breakout star of the dearly departed ABC series Suburgatory, is already familiar to and generally well-regarded by horror fans thanks to Evil Dead and Don’t Breathe. She deserves better than Monster Trucks, a film in which her paper thin character literally says things like, “As a young animal rights activist, I have to ask.” However, Levy’s also filmed at least three different movies since working on Monster Trucks, including Don’t Breathe, and is currently filming another, the zombie comedy Office Uprising. As Vulture recently argued, Jane Levy is more than due to have a breakout year. Thanks to Monster Trucks, though, that year just might not be 2017.
Rob Lowe…well, he’s not even in any of the trailers (none that I’ve seen at least). So, the world will probably go on not knowing of his involvement with this flaming dumpster fire of a movie.
Paramount, on the other hand, um, is it too late to sell a minority or even majority stake to that Chinese company that was sniffing around last year before Summer Redstone’s daughter chased them away? Because, damn, things were already bleak for the studio (like predicted to lose $500m between the start of 2016 and end of 2017 bleak), and now this happens.
The real winner in all of this is probably Netflix. Hollywood just gave all of us another reason to ignore movies this weekend, stay at home and binge Neil Patrick Harris’ promising new take on A Series of Unfortunate Events. Ironically, you know whi produced the series for Netlix? Paramount TV. Real good news, bad news weekend for Paramount right now.