NOW IN THEATERS AND VOD! Have you ever thought to yourself that you’d like to see a R-rated version of The Goonies, but with older teenage kids and Tom DeLonge from the band Blink-182’s sensibilities? Well, if that’s the case, first-time filmmaker Tom DeLonge and co-writer Ian Miller have got you covered with their new film Monsters of California. It’s got punk-rock, skateboarding, San Diego, aliens, and deep thoughts, all the things that fans of Blink-182 have come to know about Tom and his passions.
It’s great when a filmmaker can put their own unique stamp on a movie, and DeLonge has definitely done this here. Fans of punk rock will most likely notice an Easter egg or two, such as when the main character Dallas (Jack Samson) tells his mother Leah (Arianne Zucker) during an argument, “What are you trying to say, I’m crazy? When I went to your schools, I went to your churches.” It’s a line many punk rockers already have ingrained in their heads straight out of Suicidal Tendencies classic punk anthem, “Institution.”
The film follows Dallas and his buddies Toe (Jack Lancaster) and Riley (Jared Scott), along with eventual love interest and partner in crime Kelly (Gabrielle Haugh), as they go on a quest to figure out a mystery involving Dallas’ long-lost father, paranormal events and aliens. Standing in the way of their quest is Myers (Casper Van Dien), a mysterious former military co-worker of Dallas’ dad and family friend, who is keeping a close eye on Dallas and his strange activities.
“…figure out a mystery involving Dallas’ long-lost father, paranormal events, and aliens.”
Monsters of California also has a strong connection to Tom’s other prominent band, Angels & Airwaves, because bandmate Ilan Rubin did the music, and their musical style always had an otherworldly quality, which fits this movie perfectly.
I enjoyed seeing the raw acting style of the newcomers Samson, Lancaster, Scott and Haugh, and their chemistry together seemed natural. Casper Van Dien always brings a magnetic charm, even as a possible villain here. Veteran character actor Richard Kind, as the kids’ mentor, Dr. Walker, a resident alien expert, is quirky as a character who tries to ground theories that most people find absurd.
The first half of the movie felt fun and unpredictable, as an adventure film of this type should, but the last half lost some of that steam. The creatures and mysterious bits were cool but felt too few and far between. I know that it’s difficult to maintain those kinds of effects on a small budget, but I personally would have liked to have seen more. There’s a beautiful location scene in San Diego that’s a backdrop for the beginning of the romance between Dallas and Kelly. Give me more San Diego, punk rock, and everything Tom DeLonge. He’s got a unique style. It would have been nice to get even more of it on screen, along with the love story, which felt underdeveloped.
Overall, Monsters of California is a fine first film for Tom DeLonge, which could have been even better. “All the small things” add up, to quote a title from Blink-182. I’m sure that Tom did his best with the limited time and budget resources. Fans of DeLonge’s bands should definitely give this supernatural adventure flick a watch because the same Blink sensibilities may have them “feeling this.”
"…Fans of DeLonge's bands should definitely give this supernatural adventure flick a watch..."