More often than not, when a movie is released in the 3D format, you'll read a review that says the additional dimension adds nothing to one's enjoyment. However, when it comes to 'Escape From Planet Earth,' the fun almost exclusively comes from seeing it in 3D. In fact, I'll go as far as to say not to even waste your time with it if you don't already have a 3D-TV.
Directed by first-timer Cal Brunker, 'Escape From Planet Earth' is another computer animated kids' film that seems to struggle constantly with whether it wants to be a 1950's B-movie spoof or a feel-good family movie. When it tries to be the former, it shows sparks of fun and originality. When it tries to be the latter, it's no better (and sometimes worse) than hundreds of other titles in its genre. Sadly, it does much more of the latter than the former.
As the movie opens, viewers are introduced to two blue-colored alien brothers – the older, brainier, and nerdier Gary Supernova (voiced by Rob Corddry) and the younger, stronger, and dimmer Scorch Supernova (voiced by Brendan Fraser). Although they're brothers, they're essentially the Woody and Buzz Lightyear of this movie. Scorch has just returned from rescuing some babies from a hostile planet, when it's learned that the next mission will be to the "dark planet," which turns out to be Earth. After a disagreement, however, Gary tells Scorch he's quitting, leaving Scorch to go to Earth by himself. He isn't there long before he's kidnapped by government agents – something that Gary and the residents of his planet are able to view back home on their version of the news.
Gary decides to go to Earth to try and rescue his brother, but he isn't there long before he's captured himself and put into one of the holding cells in Area 51. He learns of a plan by General William T. Shanker (no bonus points for guessing the voice actor here!) to use a weapon to destroy Gary's and other captured aliens' home worlds. The second half of the movie involves Gary and his new alien friends (voiced by Craig Robinson, George Lopez, and Jane Lynch) attempting to thwart the General's plans, rescue his brother, and – of course – escape from planet Earth.
While the plot is razor thin, some of the sight gags are going to be appealing for older viewers, and most involve Gary and Scorch's fish-out-of-water situation. There are a couple scenes at a 7-11 in the desert that provide a few laughs (including Gary getting his first taste of a Slurpee), as well as a series of Area 51 jokes that will bring a smile to the face of all the Fox Mulders in the audience.
But the real way to view 'Escape From Planet Earth' is in 3D, as the movie takes full advantage of the format by throwing some stunning visuals at viewers, even when the storyline is less than engaging. The movie has fun at both shooting things out at the audience while providing the kind of depth and clarity that 3D aficionados love. The 3D version is also presented in 1.85:1 (instead of the more opened-up 2:39:1 of the 2D version), so the filmmakers can make use of the black top and bottoms of the screen to enhance the 3D presentation. At times, snowflakes, explosions, lasers, and even parts of characters will overlap into the black portions of the image to give a little added fun to the 3D image. For those of you who remember the flying fish scene in the 3D version of Ang Lee's Life of Pi, that's the best way to describe how 'Escape From Planet Earth' has fun with its 3D presentation.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Escape From Planet Earth' warps onto Blu-ray in a four-disc combo pack, which houses the 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD, and digital copy on two separate inserted hubs, with discs on either side (so that the inside front and back covers of the case don't hold any discs). A slip cover is also included, as are a pair of inserts: one with the codes for both the digital copy and UltraViolet copy of the movie, and the other with four coupons for $2 off other titles (Spy Kids 4, Hoodwinked Too, 'Chuggington Safari Adventures,' and Touchback).
Each of the three movie discs (3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray, and DVD) are front-loaded with trailers for Hoodwinked Too and Spy Kids 4, although 3D viewers should note that the trailers appear in 2D-only on the 3D disc. All three versions of the menus feature a video montage from the movie with menu selections along the bottom of the screen. Also of note is the fact that the 3D version of the movie is presented at the 1.85:1 ratio (for reasons noted in the movie review above), while the 2D Blu-ray and DVD present the movie at the 2.39:1 ratio.
Although a separate DVD version of the movie is available, the only way you can get 'Escape From Planet Earth' on Blu-ray is via this combo pack – no standalone 2D Blu-ray (or standalone 3D for that matter) is available as of this writing.
For reasons given in my review above, the real incentive for getting this title is to view the movie in 3D, and Anchor Bay has given viewers a top-notch transfer, full of bright colors and sharp details. Granted, as is the case with all 3D viewing, the glasses are going to dim the picture a bit (one always has the option of boosting the brightness on their TV), but as 3D Blu-rays go, this is one of the best animated titles I own. If you're looking to show off the 3D capabilities of your television, this comes close to reference quality.
Equally impressive is the 2D version, even though I think all the fun of the film comes from watching it in 3D. Once again, a near reference quality transfer here, with no complaints and plenty of simply gorgeous animated shots. It's a shame the script didn't quite live up to the animation effort, because visually-speaking the movie is pretty stunning.
The audio is active and immersive, although not nearly to the degree that the action is on-screen. As one can imagine, the movie is packed with swooping spaceships, big fight sequences, and a lot of opportunities to have fun with the soundtrack. However, while all the speakers get plenty of activity, most of the directionality and rear speaker use is on the subdued side. Which is to say, it's present, but doesn't always provide the "oomph" you'd expect. Even with those minor complaints, the track is well-balanced (spoken dialogue, music, and background sounds are properly mixed) and there are no apparent defects (popping, hissing, or other issues).
Of note where the audio is concerned is that viewers will only get one soundtrack option per disc, with the 3D and 2D Blu-rays giving us an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, while the DVD sports a Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Subtitles are available in English SDH and Spanish, but only for the 2D versions of the movie.
This turns out to be one of those rare instances where I'm only recommending a movie if the home viewer is going to be able to view the 3D version of the film. While the picture quality of the 2D version is stunning, so many of the visuals take advantage of the 3D format that it actually serves as the source of one's primary enjoyment of the movie. Even with the 3D, I can't imagine anyone high school age or older wanting to view the film more than once. So this one gets a "Rent it" recommendation from me, with the caveat that the rental is for 3D-TV owners only.