Monster Trucks: a “boy” and his monster truck

Thorin had a minor surgery this week. Ward and I thought a nice recovery would be for me to take Thorin and the dogs to a friend’s condo in Bar Harbor. I planned it so we would arrive just as a snow storm was starting! We would be snowed in! In rural-ish Maine! What fun! What could possibly go wrong?

Thorin stopped talking at 6:00pm. Completely non-verbal except for the hysterical screaming and crying that started at 1:00 in the morning. He was burning up. Crap! How to get a sick, hot and screaming boy to the car, clean it off and drive in snow on black ice? I didn’t do any of that. I called an ambulance.

He had strep throat.  Fortunately antibiotics turned a very-sick-boy into a not-as-sick-boy.

Ward joined us and then we caravan-ed home. Thorin was much better! So much better he had an endless list of demands this guilt-ridden-mother was only too happy to indulge. He wanted to watch Monster Trucks. I saw the  Tomatometer was 31% and Audience Score was 51%. I did not want to watch that.

Picture Thorin– laying back on a mound of pillows, pleading: “I’m a sick. You stay a here.”

It’s was impossible not to cave to the charming dialect of an elderly Italian immigrant.

First thoughts–

Rob Lowe is in the film– speaking in a Southern drawl! It was as distracting as Nicholas Cage in ‘Peggy Sue Got Married.’ Also Rob must have in his contract ‘aggressively tailored Oxford shirts only.’

The hero, Tripp, is a plucky, paternally-challenged, highly-motivated man-child. He’s played by Lucas Till. Till has the challenge of portraying an enthusiastic teen pushing 18 – played by an actor in his mid-twenties -which if misplayed could seem super creepy.

His mother is  played by the terrific Amy Ryan. She has maybe three minutes of screen time. Is she a producer? Her character dates a real priss– the town’s Sheriff played by Mr. Barry Pepper. He wipes the car door of his Sheriff’s car with a napkin after she touches it. That’s straight up weird though, right?

This film is super hokey, corn ball and slap sticky. It has TWEEN BOY written all over it. There are obvious nods to E.T. and all the other movies where good kids help a misunderstood creature against the adults who want to kill it. Thorin laughed, giggled and sighed through out.

What’s the amazing Danny Glover doing in this movie? To start he’s in a wheelchair. I do love him but what about an actor who is in a wheelchair?  Are these actors all producers?

Tripp’s potential love interest, Meredith, is played by Jane Levy who was a couple years older than Till at the time of the filming, playing an 18 year old. She got to be a producer. Bully for her!



Set up: A mysterious being will be displaced by oil drilling unless something happens!

Enter the film’s titular monster. He looks like a massive slug with octopus-like tentacles. He’s actually adorable. Think Flipper if you’re old enough.

He guzzles oil for sustenance. He and his species existence is threatened by tight-shirt wearing, drawling Rob Lowe who wants the oil they need to survive and doesn’t care who has to die to get it.

Thankfully — our monster crosses paths with Tripp. He is immediately taken with Creech — who he names after ‘creature.’ His relationship to Creech is protective, fatherly. Tripp’s biological father, played by Frank Whaley, has been a real disappointment. And now he’s stuck with an inferior substitute– Barry Pepper as Felix Unger. So Tripp will be the good father to Creech. He is so single-focused in his care-taking of his charge that he is completely unaware of the romantic feelings coming from Meredith. Later in the film she tells Tripp who is lamenting the loss of a father something like: “It made you who you are.” It’s then you realize she sounds like a 28-year-old high school guidance counselor with bad boundaries.

Okay, so everyone in this town has monster trucks except for poor Tripp. He has a shell of what could be a very sweet vintage monster truck save for the engine and all other mechanical parts. I won’t go into details but Creech stuffs his very supple body in the truck so that he is the full operating system of the fastest and most badass truck ever.

Brief aside: “Oh, monster in the truck! Monster truck!” I said excitedly to Thorin. He looked at me like I was uncool. I have experienced that feeling more than once in my lifetime so I get what it feels like. And I had even suspected Thorin might see me this way. But this look was blatant.

So Tripp and Creech are deliriously happy with each. In fact, during the musical interlude race scene– where Trip & Creech race Meredith and her horse it is clear the dreamy love song is about the boy and his monster truck. This– right here– is what I have discovered is safe terrain for Thorin. He is not ready, at least in movies or books, for the more serious aspects of romance. Ward and I suggested Karate Kid a few weeks ago. Thorin started karate.  He informed us 30 minutes in: “No, not for eleven year olds. Older kids.”

Back to the flick. Fathers are in rare quantity in this film. Meredith’s biggest role seems to be able to offer her off-screen father’s vacated premises– both of which are perfect for Tripp’s mission to succeed. A complete barn repair shop– how convenient! And a little cabin by a lake–  perfect for hiding out from the bad guys! Lazy writing or jokey?

We learn the cleaning Sheriff really loves Amy Ryan and that knuckle-headed Tripp. We see him fighting to protect Tripp against the head bad guy. It’s an almost nausea producing scene with both characters shouting in front of a high speed train. It was dizzying and I have no idea what they were yelling.

The kids get a hand from Thomas Lennon’s character– in a really good role for him. He also discover the creatures have hive mentality which means because of their super close vibes they can merely absorb learned abilities from each other. Sort of like the Trump Administration.

The movie ends in a predictable and uplifting way. Except maybe for Tripp and Meredith leaving town together at the end.

It’s a fun, easily digestible movie. But, I do have a  question. There is an almost stereotypical character. Sam, played by Tucker Albrizzi, is the red-haired, fat kid with the lisp. He along with Meredith saw the true wonder of Tripp even before all the hoopla. Tripp enlists Sam’s necessary aide. Meredith tells Tripp, “You’ll have to go to lunch with him.” Tripp good-naturedly agrees. Then it gets weird for a few minutes. They take turns looking at Sam like he’s their pet. Meredith points out Sam’s plumber’s crack to Tripp and they both smile adorably. Now I think they want to adopt him.

The terrain changes quickly during the last part of the movie from a scenic green rural community to seemingly cut off mountains. It was great to watch it safely curled up on the couch with Thorin and the dogs.

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