The last time we saw Rob Corddry do mayhem-from-the-skies material, he was playing a family man encouraging the kids to party 1999-style in “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.” Perfect — just the subversiveness you’d hope for from the “Childrens Hospital” series creator-star and former “Daily Show” correspondent. You spot his name in the advertising for the indie animated feature “Escape From Planet Earth,” and you instantly look forward to seeing what he’ll do with space stuff when it’s for a PG, Pixar-loving crowd.
Colorful as the 3-D aliens-among-us comedy is to look at, though, Corddry is handed a role that’s beige as can be, and so are his castmates. If “Escape” figures prominently into your February staycation plans, you won’t feel like you’ve thrown your money away, but the kids won’t still be buzzing about it when they get back to school, either.
Corddry plays extraterrestrial tech nerd Gary Supernova, a safety-minded worrier who mans the mission control board for the spacefaring exploits of his hotshot brother, Buzz Light—um, Scorch (Brendan Fraser). When Scorch recklessly blasts off to answer a distress call emanating from Earth, Gary frets, of course — as the control center computer (Ricky Gervais) points out, they’re talking about an evolution-challenged world notorious for swallowing up first-contact visitors. (A zippy history-of-Earth montage tosses together live-action images of Castro and ZZ Top to show just how nutso — and bearded — we are. It’s one of a few fresh, sly bits that you’ll wish turned up more often.)
Sure enough, Scorch is captured and locked away in a government facility we’re pretty sure we just saw in “Monsters vs. Aliens,” with a menagerie of other creatures (Craig Robinson, Jane Lynch, etc.). It’s clear the filmmakers are trying — they splice a lobster, a triceratops, and a Cyclops for Lynch’s character, and they recruit William Shatner to voice the megalomaniacal army general in charge — but these and other bids for something inspired just don’t click.
Meanwhile, when it comes to the main action — desk jockey Gary heading out into the field to save his brother — the story is content to competently follow the expected script. Which is fine, but also a waste of Corddry’s knack for the unexpected.
Tom Russo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.