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In Theaters


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Bob Hoose

Movie Review

Planet 51 is a distant world in a far away galaxy that’s filled with a bustling community of little green men. Cue the ominously eerie outer space music.

Or, don’t. ’Cause these little green men—and women and boys and girls—are a perfectly pleasant group of friends and family with four-fingered hands, mop-top heads and the cutest little antennas you’ve ever seen. They live in a world that’s much like our 1950s: comic books, rock ’n’ roll, barbecues with the neighbors and Saturday afternoon matinees.

Speaking of matinees, these folks are all eagerly looking forward to seeing Humaniacs III, the latest sci-fi flick about large alien invaders who plunder their world and kill all their puppies. These B-movie humanoid monsters are really scary. But teenager Lem doesn’t get all worked up over them anymore. Especially since he got his new job as the junior assistant to the assistant curator at the local astronomy museum and observatory.

Lem is determined to be a good example for all the kids who visit on field trips. And no matter how much his comic book-loving pal Skiff rants about brain-eating aliens, Lem knows the truth: In the whole vast 500 miles of known universe, there is no such thing as a space-traveling Humaniac.


Lem’s got a lot to learn about outer space, it seems. Because before he can say “close encounters of the Caucasian kind” three times fast, a human astronaut named Chuck lands in his backyard.

Now it’s up to Lem to somehow convince the planet that this visitor from the great beyond isn’t a terrible monster after all. (But keep your puppies tied up, just in case.)

Positive Elements

Lem is a good kid. He wants to be successful in his new job and maybe even work up enough courage to ask his pretty neighbor, Neera, out on a date. But things just never seem to work in his favor. When Chuck shows up, Lem ends up losing his job and offending Neera because he’s convinced that he needs to protect and defend their “guest.” In fact, as things get more complicated and the war-hungry General Grawl enters the fray, Lem has to put his very life on the line for the human spaceman.

Chuck returns the favor later on: The nutty Professor Kipple wants to remove Chuck’s and Lem’s brains for study and Chuck steps forward, getting him to let Lem go. Chuck tells Lem that the teen “has the right stuff” because he stood up in the face of opposition to do what he thought was right.

In the end, even Glar, a hippie-like pal of Neera’s, makes a sacrifice for Chuck’s sake, allowing soldiers to beat him up—to keep them from noticing Chuck’s rescuers.

Sexual Content

One voluptuously shaped green gal wiggles past an ogling policeman, then warns him to keep his mind on finding aliens.

After the alien landing is made public, Skiff approaches Lem with a cork to protect him against “alien probes.” Later, Chuck gives Lem lessons on how to approach a female. Skiff spots the two in a mock embrace and yells out, “The cork! Remember the cork.” There are references to “hotties” and “mating.”

Lem and Neera kiss. And in a movie clip from a previous Humaniacs movie a young couple kisses while parking in the moonlight. (A Humaniac suddenly attacks and the female parker yells out, “I knew this would happen if we made out!”) A guy soaks up magazine pictures of a Marilyn Monroe look-alike.

Chuck stands up from an operating table and his sheet falls away. We see his upper chest and his bare legs from the back. His new friends, though, get the full monty. One quips, “That’s a funny place for his antenna.”

Violent Content

There’s no blood—red or green—but there is lots of painful-looking slapstick. For instance, Chuck falls and lands crotch-first on a large globe, then crumples in agony to the ground. Soldiers discharge their laser weapons, passersby run screaming and a tank demolishes a car. A roomful of guards end up accidentally shooting and electrically shocking one another. (No one dies.)

Prof. Kibble repeatedly mentions wanting to remove and study Chuck’s brain and the brains of his “mind-controlled” victims. And we see two soldiers wheeled out of surgery with their brains in jars on a separate tray. The professor advances on a tied-down Chuck with a huge buzz saw-like blade. Later, the two brainless soldiers pick up the saw and drag Kibble away, saying, “You really must try it.”

During the film’s credits a cartoon snapshot shows a human baby “bursting” out of the chest of a little green man. During a Humaniacs clip, large humanoids shoot death rays from their single eyes and evaporate screaming innocents.

Crude or Profane Language

Euphemisms and stand-ins include “frickin’” and “gee.” Chuck steps on a rubber duckie and exclaims, “What the … duck?” An inappropriate joke tries to get away with comically stressing the beginning of As-tro-naut. Name-calling includes “moron” and “nutcase.”

Drug and Alcohol Content

Chuck tells Kibble, “You don’t want my brain. I spent four years at a party school—it’s mush!”

Other Negative Elements

Evidently potty humor isn’t just big here on earth. Planet 51 is rife with it. In fact, what passes for humor in this cartoon twist-’em-up is something akin to a paperback book of fart jokes that a sly-eyed teen might hide under his mattress to keep his mom from finding it. A couple of examples (among many): When dogs on Planet 51 urinate, they expel acid. Skiff talks of feeding his dog candy in an experimental effort to have him poop jelly beans. And an actor dressed as a toothbrush for a toothpaste commercial says, “What I really do best is a suppository.” A kid throws up at the mention of human aliens eating his brain.


You’ve heard of the mysterious military base somewhere out in Nevada called Area 51, right? You know, the place where the UFOs and aliens were all hidden away back in the 1950s? Well, this movie is about Planet 51, a world full of aliens that are all stuck in the ’50s. You see the joke there? Get it? Huh?

Good, because that slight giggle and one sight gag (that you’ve already seen if you’ve seen the movie’s trailer) are about as close to earnest chuckles as you get in this whole 90-minute pic. It’s not that the flipped-on-its-head idea of a world of peace-loving little green men confronted by a scary human from outer space isn’t potentially cute and high-flying. It is. But the creative team that executed said idea—three rookie directors and Shrek co-writer Joe Stillman—just never got the rocket ship off the ground. Or out of the toilet.

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Bob Hoose

After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.