When “Monster Trucks” comes roaring into theaters in January, don’t expect the fat-wheeled, super-suspended machines usually seen shredding jumps in dirt-filled stadiums.
Trucks are a popular topic for films. (See our list below.) But in this offering from Paramount Pictures and Disruption Entertainment, which debuts Jan. 13, the trucks come equipped with actual monsters.
The gist: High school senior Tripp wants out of his small town, which is changing because of an influx of oil money. So, as antsy teenage boys do, he picks up a pet project — literally.
An accident at a nearby oil-drilling site lets loose a subterranean octopus-like creepy-crawly that scampers inside the monster truck Tripp is building from pieces of junked cars. The critter, which Tripp nicknames Creatch, learns to operate the vehicle from within.
Hijinks ensue — greedy villains and stunts galore included. There are also selfies, a pretty girl on a horse, a rooftop chase and at least one seat-belt joke.
The beastie eventually becomes the boy’s bestie as they develop a symbiotic relationship based on a mutual need for speed.
Tripp is played by Lucas Till, previously seen in several “X-Men” films as Havok, one of the supporting cast of mutants. He’s also enjoyed a reputation as a teen heartthrob courtesy of his work with Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift.
Rob Lowe and Danny Glover are also featured in the film.
“Monster Trucks” is directed by Chris Wedge of “Ice Age” fame.
From the looks of the trailer, this won’t be a major contender come Oscar season. Principal photography began in 2014, and the film’s release was delayed several years.
Only time will tell if this science fiction/action/comedy/coming-of-age tale will be a hit or a flop.
Until then, check out the other trucks that got the Hollywood treatment (“Transformers” doesn’t count). Notice that the 1970s were flush with major trucking movies.
- “They Drive by Night”: Humphrey Bogart and George Raft are down-on-their-luck independent truck drivers trying to outpace a loan shark and scorned murderess in this 1940 black-and-white film noir.
- “Duel”: A young Steven Spielberg directed this 1971 television thriller about a motorist in a red Plymouth Valiant who passes a filthy 1955 Peterbilt 281 tanker truck on a California desert road. The trucker — who remains mysteriously unseen — then spends the rest of the movie stalking, chasing and generally terrorizing the motorist. The film is often deemed the best TV movie of all time and referenced for its commentary on man’s struggle against mechanization.
- “White Line Fever”: This 1975 movie debuted at the height of the American trucking craze. Jan-Michael Vincent butts heads with a corrupt trucking company that is in league with an organized crime syndicate dealing in illegal goods.
- “Smokey and the Bandit”: Burt Reynolds is a trucker and Sally Field is the runaway bride he picks up in this 1977 comedy. Reynolds’ character, the “Bandit” of the title, takes an $80,000 bet that he can’t illegally deliver 400 cases of Coors from Texas to Atlanta in 28 hours. Fields’ jilted father-in-law-to-be, a sheriff, gives chase. Along the way, a hearse driver, a brothel owner and a drive-in waitress all intervene.
- “Breaker! Breaker!”: We never said the movies on this list were good. This 1977 Chuck Norris gem features the martial artist as a California trucker who goes “Walker, Texas Ranger” on the corrupt officers and officials who have trapped his brother. Norris, really owning a daring shag haircut, inspires a group of truckers to pull off an equally daring rescue by charging into town with their rigs in formation.
- “Convoy”: It’s not hard to see how this 1978 film was inspired by a country-western song. It’s set in the Arizona desert. The lead (played by Kris Kristofferson) is basically a cowboy with a C.B. who is nicknamed “Rubber Duck.” His buddies have monikers like “Pig Pen/Love Machine” and “Spider Mike.” There’s an evil sheriff (“Dirty Lyle”), a daring rescue and the mile-long trucker convoy that gives the film its name.
- “Black Dog”: Not the awesome Led Zeppelin song, but the 1998 action film starring Patrick Swayze. The actor, fresh from playing a drag queen in the comedy “To Wong Foo,” acts as a convict trucker trying to go straight. He agrees to haul some innocent toilets from Atlanta to New Jersey to prevent his house from being repossessed. Surprise! The toilet load includes illegal guns. The FBI gets involved and there’s a hostage situation, a shootout and a fiery meet-cute between a truck and a train.
- “Joy Ride”: In 2001, the same year that “The Fast and the Furious” debuted, Paul Walker also appeared in a horror thriller in which he gets on the wrong side of a psychotic trucker named Rusty Nail. Written and produced by J.J. Abrams, the film ultimately spawned two sequels
- “Mad Max: Fury Road”: Few trucking films rake in the critical acclaim like this 2015 movie did. With six Academy Awards, the newest entrant in the “Mad Max” canon once again features the nutty titular hero in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. But the real draw is Charlize Theron as feminist powerhouse Imperator Furiosa racing away from a crazed army in her armored semi “War Rig.” By the way, her truck is filled with supermodels. Case closed.