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Two dimensions sap 'Monsters' power

'See it in 3-D!"

That's the consensus I hear from people who've witnessed "Monsters vs. Aliens," the latest computer-animated bag of crazy from the DreamWorks camp. I had a chance to see it in 3-D, but the theater (which shall go unnamed) in which I saw it screwed up the projection.

The first five minutes had audience members constantly raising their 3-D glasses, trying to figure out if it if was the picture that was blurry, or if their glasses were broken. After 10 minutes, the movie was put on pause as they tried to fix the problem in the booth, which they never did. When they offered the audience the chance to stick around for another showing in another auditorium, those who stayed were treated to theater employees announcing that all the 3-D equipment was broken.

Wow, some theaters really aren't ready for this 21st-century digital projection.

Even when you watch it in 2-D (which I did for this review), it's obvious from the first few seconds that "Monsters" is a movie best viewed in 3-D. I mean, is there any other way to watch a movie about a bunch of out-of-control mutants brought out by the government to stop an alien invasion? Quite frankly, if you don't watch something like that in 3-D, you're wasting your money.

It all begins with Susan, a blushing bride from Modesto, Calif., getting nearly flattened by a meteor. It turns out this meteor contains a substance that makes Susan (voiced by Reese Witherspoon) grow into a five-story giant, which obviously halts her wedding plans.

She gets whisked away to an ultrasecret government facility that houses several other freaks of nature: a mad-scientist cockroach (Hugh Laurie), a fish-ape hybrid (Will Arnett), a brainless, one-eyed blob of something (Seth Rogen) and a 350-foot insect transformed by nuclear radiation. Originally imprisoned by a gruff, jetpack-wearing general (a hammy Kiefer Sutherland), they all are released when a power-mad alien (Rainn Wilson) mounts an attack on Earth, and they are the only hope the planet has for survival -- that is, if these clumsy freaks don't accidentally destroy the planet first.

When you watch in 2-D, the movie's gonzo nonsensicality may be more of a distraction than an asset. Directors Rob Letterman ("Shark Tale") and Conrad Vernon ("Shrek 2") worked with a gaggle of writers, from such shows as "The Simpsons" and "King of the Hill," to stretch the movie's comic and visual elasticity. (It even has Stephen Colbert continuing his Bush-ribbing as a dim-witted, gung-ho POTUS.) And they stretch it to vexingly ridiculous extremes. You may ask yourself more than once how much more ludicrous can this movie get.

I will say "Monsters" is less snarky and more durable than other DreamWorks Animation productions. (I'm not including last summer's "Kung Fu Panda," which was so good, it even surprised many of my "Shrek"-hating colleagues.) It may even stick in the minds of kids long after it's over. (Have you heard any youngsters begging to see the "Madasgascar" movies again? I think not.) With its in-your-face animation, mile-a-minute sight gags and hit-or-miss one-liners, "Monsters vs. Aliens" practically aims to be the anarchic, gag-filled, madhouse farce Tim Burton's "Mars Attacks" was supposed to be, with a bit of "Fantastic Four"-style action thrown in.

But you should really do yourself a favor and watch in 3-D, where all this nuttiness seems justified.

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