Story

Planet 51 is an animated movie that opens with scenes of the idealistic suburban life led by green aliens on Planet 51. This is a world curiously similar to 1950s America in terms of styles and attitudes. Clothing, vehicles, household appliances and architecture all reflect the fashions of the mid-20th century, as does the aliens’ fear of outsiders.

One afternoon, Planet 51’s peaceful existence is interrupted by the arrival of human astronaut Captain Charles Baker (voice of Dwayne Johnson). He had believed that the planet was uninhabited. After their initial shock, the locals react with hostility, calling in military strongman General Grawl (Gary Oldman) and his taskforce to deal with the situation. Meanwhile, Captain Baker meets a conservative teenager, Lem (Justin Long), who eventually promises to help the astronaut return to his spaceship and escape.

Other characters are Lem’s younger brother Eckle (Freddie Benedict), Neera (Jessica Biel), whom Lem would like to date if he had the courage, guitar-playing protester Glar (Alan Marriot), and mad scientist Professor Kipple (John Cleese).

Themes

Fear of difference

Violence

This movie contains a lot of physical and verbal violence. For example:

  • A teenage alien says that he would like to cause another teen ‘some pain’.
  • An alien teacher orders one of her students to join the other zombies in the corner of the room.
  • An alien postal worker teases a dog, which is infuriated and plots revenge.
  • An alien soldier insults a teenager, then pulls his long hair.
  • Flying plates knock over alien soldiers.
  • Alien soldiers punch each other in the face.
  • An adult alien gets his fingers caught in a car and is dragged down the street.
  • The astronaut smashes two aliens’ heads together.
  • Several alien soldiers chase and fire weapons at the astronaut and the teen aliens assisting him.
  • Alien soldiers begin shooting each other. They are then electrocuted and left smouldering on the floor.
  • An entire army base is destroyed by explosives, apparently killing dozens of alien soldiers.
  • A mad scientist tries to carry out brain operations on the astronaut and any local traitors.

Content that may disturb children

Under 8

In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, this movie contains some scenes that could scare or disturb children under eight. For example:

  • A short scene shows a movie being played at a cinema. It involves a cartoon sequence depicting 1950s comic-book-style alien monsters and zombies attacking Planet 51 locals.
  • An alien mother threatens her young son by saying that if he doesn’t take his medicine, a ‘big, bad monster’ will get him. Immediately following her words, the alien child sees the astronaut shoot past the window. This scares the child so much that he drinks the whole bottle of medicine.
  • The astronaut throws a little alien dog out of the way.
  • A small, dog-like robot wees oil in fright after it is interrogated by army personnel.
  • Several teenage aliens are chased at high speed and shot at by the military.
  • The astronaut is strapped to a hospital gurney and approached by a mad alien scientist wielding a large, spinning circular. The scientist says he is going to cut out the astronaut’s brain.

From 8-13

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by some of the scenes mentioned above.

Over 13

Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this movie.

Sexual references

This movie contains some sexual references. For example:

  • Two teenage aliens are depicted going ‘parking’.
  • A teenage alien talks about ‘making out’.
  • The astronaut coaches a teenage alien about ‘making your move’ with girls and ‘showing no mercy’.
  • A teenage alien says that she is ‘not that kind of girl’.
  • An alien soldier wolf-whistles at a girlie pin-up picture in a magazine.
  • Alien soldiers exchange sexually suggestive expressions when their officer-in-command talks about an invasion of 50-foot women.
  • An entrant in a costume contest includes some suggestive thrusting during a dance routine.
  • Two separate scenes make homophobic references to homosexuality.
  • There are several references to anal probes and special butt plugs to prevent humanoid ‘aliens’ performing these exploratory procedures.

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

None of concern

Nudity and sexual activity

This movie contains some implied nudity or sexual activity. For example:

  • The astronaut is accidentally uncovered and stands naked in front of several aliens, who remark, ‘That’s a funny place for an antenna’.
  • Two teenage aliens share a long kiss.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie: Twix bars, Spam and an ipod-like music player.

Coarse language

This movie contains some mild coarse and threatening language.

Ideas to discuss with your children

Planet 51 appears to be aimed at children, but has an unusual combination of features. The movie contains several clever references to 1950s American pop culture and the political landscape of that era. In some ways, the plot could be seen as challenging idealised views about 1950s life, and asking questions about who the real aliens are, especially in the wake of 9/11. But these elements are not linked together in any coherent way. Several viewers might not even pick up the subtle references, which will be entirely lost on the targeted pre-teen audiences.

Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include accepting people who are different.