Monster Trucks
⋆⋆½ out of four stars
Rated: PG for some violence and creatures that may be a little scary for toddlers.

 

What would happen, this family-oriented adventure wonders, if cute, otherworldly creatures operated oversized vehicles? The idea is unabashedly silly, yet the movie is more involving than it sounds. Characters and conflicts are sharply defined, and director Chris Wedge (“Ice Age”) handles the action with clarity.

Lucas Till plays Tripp, a sullen high school student who dreams of escaping the North Dakota hamlet where he lives. Tripp has a part-time job in a junkyard, where, during an evening shift, he makes a startling discovery: a giant, oil-guzzling monster with tentacles is hiding there, scrounging through scrapped vehicles for any drop of oil it can find. The monster was once living deep beneath Earth’s surface until a greedy oil executive (Rob Lowe) destroyed its underground habitat.

Tripp nicknames the monster Creech (short for Creature), becoming buddies with it. Creech is smart and has big, dopey eyes and a friendly disposition. When the monster takes refuge inside the metal body of the vintage pickup truck Tripp is restoring, the boy sees an opportunity. He rigs the truck so that Creech can serve as its de facto engine.

In addition to Lowe, the movie features many familiar actors in supporting roles. Danny Glover, Amy Ryan, Barry Pepper and Thomas Lennon all make appearances, dialing down their screen personas so that younger audiences can focus on the plot.

Because the oil company wants to destroy the monsters — the presence of a new species would mean they must halt drilling operations — the film turns into a contest of wills between Tripp and the evil corporation.

The movie’s message is far from deep. The good guys don’t experience major life lessons, and the comeuppance meted out to the bad guys is only perfunctory. But the conflict is simple enough so that kids can recognize what’s at stake.
Alan Zilberman, Washington Post

The Bye Bye Man
⋆½ out of four stars
Rated: PG-13 for terror, violence, bloody images, sexuality, partial nudity, some coarse language and teen drinking.

 

The newest movie villain to haunt our nightmares is a pasty demonic spirit who looks like Voldemort and dresses like the Grim Reaper. Stalking his victims, he jumps out of closets and photobombs their pictures, making them see things that aren’t real, until they go mad with homicidal rage.

His name? The Bye Bye Man.

The derivative work doesn’t deliver scares so much as a few starts, all while ripping off such genre classics as “Candyman” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”

The luckless victim at the center of the story is Elliot (Douglas Smith), a college kid who just moved into a creepy off-campus rental with his best bud John (Lucien Laviscount) and girlfriend Sasha (Cressida Bonas).

Elliot makes the mistake of looking in the bedside table of this fully furnished haunted house. Obsessively scrawled inside the drawer is the mantra of the movie: “Don’t think it. Don’t say it.” “It” is revealed when Elliot pulls back the drawer lining to see the comically non-terrifying name. “The Bye Bye Man,” he says, out of idle curiosity, not realizing that he has sealed his fate.

Anyone who says the name gets a visit, and the more friends and acquaintances a person tells, the more people the spirit haunts. Elliot and his friends start having weird visions and hearing chilling noises.

Even a conscious effort to suspend disbelief is undone by the hammy dialogue and stilted delivery, especially from Bonas, who struggles with an American accent. Her inexperience is balanced by a cameo from veteran Faye Dunaway, who seems to be the only one in on the joke.
Stephanie Merry, Washington Post