Out of This World
"Planet 51" is not by any stretch of the imagination the best looking animation, it may actually not work that well for young children but for movie fans it is spectacular. Or should I say that for this movie fan who to be honest is not overly bothered by animations it is spectacular because it is simple, just an animated version of 1950s sci-fi with the whole thing switched around so the human is the alien. It is why I say it might not be great for young children because beyond the usual slapstick many of the jokes work on having some movie knowledge.
The best way to describe "Planet 51" is to say that it is "The Day the Earth Stood Still", the 1950s version but switched around and animated. So we are taken to an alien version of Earth which looks like 1950s America but with little green men and their families which is thrown in to a panic when an American astronaut Captain Charles T. Baker lands and the military think he is hostile. There is paranoia brought amongst the alien population thanks to alien cinema and Baker is befriended by Lem who helps him try to return to Earth.
This is why in many ways "Planet 51" works best for an older audience who will recognize the sources which have inspired it. The whole look of this alien 1950s not only has a nostalgic aspect but also a slight futuristic aspect like those classic cartoons such as The Jetsons. Then there are the clever in-jokes such as an alien dog having head which looks like that of the "Alien". And I could go on because "Planet 51" is full of these fun touches which make it amusing for movie fans.
That isn't to say there isn't anything for young children, it has some wonderful visual gags and plenty of slapstick. It also has some sci-fi satire which works at a younger level such as when Baker wonders whether Lem is like some 1000 year old Yoda. But these jokes play second fiddle to the humour which for me works best for adult movie fans. And the best thing is that the team behind "Planet 51" knows what the joke is, they know it is the animated satire of sci-fi but switched around and never try to over complicate things.
What this all boils down to is that technically "Planet 51" is an okay animation for children but a terrific one for movie fans who will love all the film references which litter it.