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TELEVISION REVIEW

'Monsters vs. Aliens: Mutant Pumpkins From Outer Space' on NBC

The film hit invades the small screen with its charm mainly intact, and with a Halloween theme to boot.

October 28, 2009|ROBERT LLOYD | TELEVISION CRITIC

If you owned a successful movie called "Monsters vs. Aliens" and all the characters contained therein, you would be some kind of fool to let Halloween go by unexploited. Your stockholders would be right to rise up and smother you in goo, in a playful yet serious way.

That is not how they roll here in Hollywood, where every hit becomes a brand. And so we have "Monsters vs. Aliens: Mutant Pumpkins From Outer Space," a DreamWorks production that premieres tonight on NBC. It is naturally something less -- less spectacular, less subtle -- than the movie that preceded it, which, after all, cost more than $165 million and a reported 45.6-million computing hours to produce, almost twice as many hours as I spend each week on Facebook. (And was co-scripted by Maya Forbes, a "Larry Sanders Show" veteran.) But though "Mutant Pumpkins" has been made by different hands than the original, it is built on its very solid frame and features its very solid cast, along with (I would imagine) the computer codes that make the characters go. It is much more treat than trick.

Having saved the world from alien enslavement in their feature debut, our formerly imprisoned heroes now operate as a sort of Monsters: Impossible team. Hugh Laurie voices Dr. Cockroach; Will Arnett is the Missing Link (between fish and ape); Seth Rogen plays B.O.B., the blobby blue brainless laboratory spawn of a tomato and a chemically altered dessert topping; and Reese Witherspoon voices 50-foot Susan, also known as Ginormica, who is only recently a monster and still has family back in Modesto. (There is also Insectosaurus, the world's cutest extremely gigantic furry bug-thing.) That they are all twists on the movie monsters of the 1950s and '60s only matters for as long as it takes you to realize it.

As the short story opens, on Halloween, the monsters are discussing holiday plans and costumes. (Will B.O.B. or Insectosaurus get to be Fat Elvis?) But aliens have been sighted once more over Modesto -- indeed, they have vented their lavatory onto a pumpkin patch (the tone does rise after that) -- with pretty much the results you'd expect. And off the monsters go to investigate, joining neighborhood trick-or-treaters -- in disguise, as it were, as themselves. But the night will reveal a force more powerful than either monsters or mutants: Its name, of course, is candy.

As in the movie, B.O.B. steals the show. He is less expensively translucent than he was there, but still endearingly squishy and clueless. After staring blankly for a while at an old woman standing in a doorway with a bowl of candy, he leans forward and whispers, with just a hint of apprehension, "What is happening right now?" The intervening stardom notwithstanding, this may be Rogen's best role since "Freaks and Geeks." It fits him like a gelatinous blue Seth Rogen-shaped glove.

The program ends with the longest credit roll I have ever seen on a television show.

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robert.lloyd@latimes.com

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'Monsters vs. Aliens: Mutant Pumpkins From Outer Space'

Where: NBC

When: 8 and 8:30 tonight

Rating: TV-PG-V (may be unsuitable for young children with an advisory for violence)

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