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Monster Trucks is celebration of STEAM in Trump era

IFE Film review logo bannerJerry Seinfeld once memorably opined that, when it comes to entertainment, there really is “no such thing as fun for the whole family”. But Mr. Seinfeld had clearly never imagined a movie as fun and hugely-entertaining as writer-director Chris Wedge’s (Ice Age, Epic) Monster Trucks. Yes, that Monster Trucks.

A big, warm-hearted film that celebrates such family-friendly values as love, loyalty and friendship, Trucks also offers up a surprisingly subversive subtext that extols the virtues of science, math, eco-friendly living and the importance of standing up for what’s right at any cost. And while that might sound like a #Resist recruitment video to some folks, the beauty of Trucks is that it wraps its biting indictment of Trump-era corporate greed, corruption, and anti-science rhetoric in such fun, mainstream Hollywood goofiness that even the most jaded, Flat Earth Society Creationist will find something to love about this fun, surprisingly deep film.

Set in North Dakota, Trucks opens with a bang when a massive fracking operation by oil company Terravex unearths three subterranean creatures and destroys the oil rig. Two of the mysterious creatures are captured straight away by Terravex CEO, Reece Tenneson (played to greedy-eyed perfection by Rob Lowe) and his chief geologist Dr. Jim Dowd (Reno 911!’s Thomas Lennon) but the third creature escapes into the night where he is quickly discovered by Lucas Till’s (X-Men: Apocalypse, Stoker) Tripp.

A loner looking to escape his troubled family life – most notably his mom’s annoying boyfriend, Rick (Barry Pepper) who is also the town sheriff – Tripp spends most of his time building a custom truck at the junk yard where he works nights. During one particularly productive night in the yard’s garage, Tripp encounters the wayward creature – who drinks oil and seems more at home hiding in the innards of Tripp’s truck than anywhere else – and quicker than you can say, E.T. and Elliot, the two are bonded for life. Naming his new friend Creech, Tripp vows to help the monster truck-loving creature find his way back to his family, even if that means going against Rick, Dowd, Tenneson and the powers that be at Terravex.

And though Trucks might not win any points for originality in the plot department, the film’s deft handling of such weighty topics as the protection of endangered species from rampant, unchecked corporate development of our land and waterways to the troubling power and political clout that big oil companies have in smaller communities around the world makes for some truly inspiring movie moments. Hell, Trucks even weighs in on the controversial subject of whether college is the right fit for every student – especially one as obviously gifted as the mechanically-inclined Tripp – and at the end of the day, how can you not love a movie that makes big oil the villain? So awesome!

Featuring stand-out supporting turns from Jane Levy (Shameless, Don’t Breathe) as Tripp’s brainy love interest, Meredith, Danny Glover as Tripp’s wheelchair-bound boss, Mr. Weathers, Holt McCallany (Sully) as Tenneson’s snarling henchman, Burke, and Oscar-nominee Amy Ryan (Bridge of Spies, Birdman) as Tripp’s mom, Cindy, Trucks also has a breezy, fast-paced screenplay by Jurassic World’s Derek Connolly. But, cheesy pre-release trailers – which made the film look like one long ad for Monster Trucks toys – aside, the real star here is Trucks’ empowering message about the importance of science, technology, engineering, art, and math in a country that is running perilously low on STEAM at the moment. If this is what liberal Hollywood bias looks like, then sign me up!

Now playing on select Delta, United and American Airlines flights worldwide, Monster Trucks is also available via streaming at Amazon Video, Google Play and iTunes.