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Monsters vs. Aliens: It Ain't No Kung Fu Panda

The monsters, adorable as they are, have the same DNA as the ones in Monsters, Inc., one of the more feeble Pixar offerings. The blue blob known as B.O.B, for instance (he was born in a food laboratory where someone crossed a tomato with a ranch-flavored dessert topping), is voiced by Seth Rogen, who seems to be seamlessly taking over roles that John Goodman would once have done. He's an indestructible one-eyed lump whose response to all danger is a slacker laugh. Hugh Laurie has a lot of fun playing the scientist/cockroach monster, a sort of scheming Moe to Rogen's Curly, while Stephen Colbert gets laughs as the cowardly president whose war room is equipped with two giant red buttons: one is for launching all-out nuclear war; the other dispenses a latte. Will Arnett voices the semi-evolved ape-fish known as the Missing Link.

Reese Witherspoon's character should have been called the Weakest Link. As the 50-foot bride (Ginormica) who learns that her ambitious weatherman husband isn't interested in a strong, powerful wife, Witherspoon provides a voice that is totally colorless and almost humorless. Her character, meanwhile, is ginormously banal. "I'm not gonna shortchange myself ever again," she declares, in what is supposed to be the movie's big moral/applause line. But the reference is as old as Dr. Strangelove, and the whole movie stops dead (no jokes, no laser guns) to deliver this earnest little lump of obviousness. It's been, what, 30, 40 years since animated movies showed female characters acting as though they were supposed to subordinate themselves to their guy? The little girls in the audience will be mystified at the idea that they're not in charge of their own fates. Even their mothers have never been taught that they were in any way secondary. Sci-fi shouldn't get mixed up with ancient history.

Monsters vs. Aliens

Directed by Rob Letterman, Conrad Vernon

Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Rainn Wilson, Hugh Laurie, Seth Rogen, Will Arnett, Kiefer Sutherland, Paul Rudd

3 stars/ 4

94 minutes/Rated PG