Monster Trucks Blu-ray Review

The Fast and the Monstrous

It’s cliché to state Monster Trucks is derivative. The film, pitched as a small town American adventure with the literal interpretation of “monster” trucks, clearly had few aspirations to be anything else.

Necessarily juvenile and in a constant narrative sprint, Monster Trucks won’t slow down (therein sits an unspoken, groan-worthy engine/truck pun). The film is imbued with a cartoon madness, outdated and trying to bide its time with a nostalgic kick. A lot of ‘80s kids movies blend in, certainly not far from E.T., minus the emotional gravitas or subtly.

The cheap shots begin to roll out immediately, with an eye rolling contemporary oil tycoon as the villain, putting financial gain over human life. It’s too unbelievable in this context to pull on environmentalist heart strings. A slam on heartless capitalists comes buried by the animated quality of Monster Trucks. So too is character definition, placing star Lucas Till in a hero’s role while romantic interest Jane Levy makes sure to stay behind his protective stance. Levy’s intellect, as established by her place as a biology tutor, goes nowhere – she gawks and gets excited, never once used for her brains, an ultimately throwaway attribute.

Till though, he’s a super mechanic, interacting with a multitude of bit characters used for plot convenience. Kids won’t care anyway. There’s an underground creature living in a truck, retconning any number of the post-E.T. deluge of kids finding weird aliens and befriending them movies.

… vehicles teeter on a mountainside while the audience waits for a baritone announcer to announce the next Truck Month

No one learns anything of consequence by the end of Monster Trucks. The finale blitzes through the cinematic equivalent of a Dodge truck commercial; vehicles teeter on a mountainside while the audience waits for a baritone announcer to announce the next Truck Month. He doesn’t, and instead the conflict reaches a predictable crescendo of light violence, soft danger, and fast resolution. There’s little reason to care. Till’s journey doesn’t lead anywhere and Levy exists to imbue the feature with a spritz of (wasted) feminine energy.

As 100 minutes of careless junk food, Monster Trucks works. Probably time to expect better for kids though, something with an ounce of emotional challenge somewhere. Once it’s going and the creatures guffaw as they inexplicably understand the human world as if puppies, an artificial smile may form. The material is that safe and familiar, even if the target audience will never know how much so.

Video

This is a noisy disc. Low light noise, chroma noise, artifacing-like noise; it’s constant in any of those forms. Paramount’s encode, best as one can tell, seems fine. As a rather high dollar production, Monster Trucks doesn’t look the part. Monster Trucks underwent no apparent clean-up in post.

One look at lackluster black levels (which seem untouched from the raw footage) and the mystery of prevalent noise may have an answer. Shadows never reach true black and key nightime scenes (and there are many) recede into an ugly gray. Lacking visual energy and depth, Monster Trucks is an outsider in a kids genre notable for reaching at extremes.

Resolution extracts firm detail on occasion. Light aliasing isn’t worth worrying about. Establishing shots show off the Canadian locations filling in for American landscapes. Close-ups produce reasonable definition, especially on the creature itself. Wet, lightly textured skin is a breeding ground for fine detail.

Audio

Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 offerings start rough. An oil rig explosion produces muddy, hardly discernible bass. Luckily, the spraying water from the failed pump falls all over the soundfield, making up for the loss of low-end support.

Later though, Monster Trucks lives up to its name. Engines roar (literally in the case of the critter-powered vehicles) with heavy LFE support. By the finale, as trucks smash into another and flip around, impact is felt.

Superlative tracking becomes the highlight, spreading the monster’s movement around and panning vehicles in every direction. Effects from rain or other ambient event evenly coat the mix. Fun track once past the opening action.

Extras

Like the film’s story itself, many of the bonus features fall into a generic pattern. Who’s Driving the Monster Trucks? spends seven minutes with the lead actors, speaking on their roles. For creature fans, The Monster in the Truck details his effects. Creating the Monster Trucks peeks in on the physical build. A gag reel has some laughs while six deleted scenes offer little value.

At the best, Monster Trucks’ Blu-ray scores with the production diaries, short at 10-minutes but in terms of seeing behind-the-scenes, these ranks as the most consistent.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

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