Random pop culture at work in 'Monsters vs. Aliens'

'Monsters vs. Aliens' in 3-D

Rated PG

Grade: B-

Now showing

DreamWorks Animation

is back in action. This time, in 3-D and with a bunch of usual suspect monsters and aliens.

In the monster lineup: a 350-foot "Mothra"-modeled, wordless bug called Insectosaurus; the Fly-esque Dr. Cockroach, Ph.D. (Hugh Laurie); the half-fish, half-ape Missing Link (Will Arnett); the girl-next-door morphed into a 49-foot, 11-inch tall superhero Ginormica (Reese Witherspoon); and a blue, brainless Jell-O-lover named B.O.B (Seth Rogan) who is sort of a cross between the Scarecrow in "The Wizard of Oz" and The Blob.

Over on the alien side, there's the crabby authoritarian Gallaxhar (Rainn Wilson) and his onslaught of clones.

The mutants and their respective sides go head to head in a power battle and the good guys -- the monsters, of course -- learn a few lessons about independence, self-respect and love along the way.

Touching, yes. Entertaining? At times.

The 3-D animation is oh-and-ah worthy. And you can't help but giggle at the President (Stephen Colbert) busting out into an "Axel F" keyboard solo right before he confronts the head-honcho alien. It's a zany ride through pop tunes, pop culture and pop-goes-the-weasel one-liners.

But the "insert pop reference here" jig is up too soon. The innocent film-goer is onto the writers' ploy after the first 20 minutes and then it becomes a game of counting the minutes between hearing Journey's

"Who's Crying Now"

and watching a smarty-pants cockroach cut the computer rug in a game of

Dance Dance Revolution

.

We get it, DreamWorks. You're trying -- again -- to appeal to the cartoon-loving young ones, the teenage crowd that learned of Journey by watching

"The Hills"

and the folks who grew up in the 1980s. Nice E.T. plug, by the way.

Don't worry. If your generation wasn't mentioned here, you'll find your reference point somewhere in the 94 minutes. And if all else fails, just delight in the laughter coming from the row of kids in front of you. They're indiscriminate enjoyment of the film -- along with those cool 3-D effects and the murder's row of actors -- will put a smile on your face.

   
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