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‘Monster Trucks’ has no emotional gear

SFGate Thursday, 12 January 2017
“Monster Trucks” starts out with a relatively adult, science fiction premise: that our current obsession with fracking could threaten underground, intelligent creatures unknown to us. [...] this is a live action feature, and “Monster Trucks” unwittingly makes yet another compelling case that laborious special effects offer no substitute for the emotional heft that a project like this needs. The story centers on Tripp (Lucas Till), a high school student who appears to be the oldest high school student in his purported North Dakota hometown, where mountains are tall and numerous and where you can escape to stunning tree-filled slopes. [...] the restless Tripp finds solace working on pickups at the junkyard, but he gets a jolt when a creature — a cross between Jabba the Hutt and Jaws, only more cuddly — shows up at the workplace, having escaped the evil capitalists at the fracking plant. Director Chris Wedge imbues these beginning scenes with a nice level of suspense, reminiscent of the early moments of “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” the movie that “Monster Trucks” wants to emulate. Fortunately, Wedge knows how to pace things — and can stage a solid chase scene — so “Monster Trucks” feels less like an ordeal than a well-intentioned misfire made by intelligent people.
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