Thursday, March 26, 2009

Reese chats up her ‘Monsters’-ous gig

Check the busy resume of Reese Witherspoon and you’ll find something conspicuously absent: voice acting. OK, there were a couple of quick visits to Fox Network cartoon faves “The Simpsons” and “King of the Hill,” but, as she told correspondent Stan Urankar, “that was just for fun. You know, quick little things, in and out.”
So, if the numbers at the online Internet Movie Data Base site are correct, “Monsters vs. Aliens,” opening Friday nationwide, is the 30th big-screen feature for the just-turned-33 Louisiana native, yet it’s the first in which you’ll hear her but not see her.
Why? “I’ve been offered a lot of animated scripts,” Witherspoon admits, “but it seemed they were all very secondary parts, like the girl friend waiting for the hero or the damsel in distress. I just thought that if I wanted to commit to a character like that, I wanted her to have a little more weight, more substance.”
Enter one Jeffrey Katzenberg with a pitch from his DreamWorks Animation for its first venture with the InTru 3D process. The “Monsters” role for Witherspoon: Susan Murphy, a sweet but subservient bride-to-almost-be who is buzzed by a fiery meteor only moments before her nuptials. Next thing you know, she’s growing by leaps and bounds into Ginormica, a 50-foot woman, give or take, whom the government insists on locking up for her own good.
The fact that Susan/Ginormica bands with four other misfit super-creatures to battle an “Aliens” invasion is ultimately what appealed to Witherspoon. “I loved Wonder Woman, and Lynda Carter playing her on TV, when I was growing up,” she says. “I had the whole outfit: the tiara, the bracelets, the suit, the lasso. I know I wore it a bunch of times for Halloween.”
Yet, the status of super “heroine,” if you will, is lost on this generation. “I asked my son (Deacon, 5) about super heroes and he rattled them off: Batman, Spider-Man, Superman, on and on. But when I asked my daughter (Ava Elizabeth, 9), she said, ‘I really don’t know if I have a favorite superhero, Mom.’ Maybe this will change that.”
Her investment in Ginormica already has raised Witherspoon a few notches with her kids. “They think I am such a nerd in everything I do, but now that I’m a superhero, they think I’m kind of cool.”
There’s one other bonus: that tres slinky super-suit into which Ginormica is all but form-fitted. “The first time I saw her,” Witherspoon gushes, “my eyes opened wide and I thought, ‘Wow-w-w-w! I am hot!’ No cellulite, no exercise — hey, you’ve gotta love that. Then, I went to a screening with my girlfriend, and she turned and said, ‘Honey, you are so hot!’ I had to tell her, ‘Sweetie, it’s not me!’ ”
Witherspoon can rest only briefly on her super laurels. She’s committed to projects with a pair of high-profile writer/directors, Cameron Crowe and James L. Brooks, both romantic comedies at Columbia Pictures. The untitled project from Crowe (“Almost Famous”) has Ben Stiller signed to co-star but is on hold.
More awaited is the film from the Oscar-winning Brooks, whose streak of brilliance — “Terms of Endearment,” “Broadcast News,” “As Good As It Gets” — was dealt a severe jolt by the Adam Sandler bomb, “Spanglish.” The typically Brooks-ian love triangle, according to published reports, plunks Witherspoon between white-collar executive Paul Rudd and big-league baseball pitcher Owen Wilson.
Witherspoon is mum on just about all aspects of the film (reportedly titled “How Do You Know?” and projected for summer 2010 release) except that her character is a “professional softball player.”
(Read more on "Monsters vs. Aliens," including Stan's review, at Sun News, where you can also see my review of "The Great Buck Howard.")

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