The original Cartoon Network cartoon Ben 10 ran from 2005-2008 and lasted four (too short) seasons, with Ben Tennyson, his cousin Gwen and his Grandpa Max having a road trip of discovery, connection, and lots of fun superpowers and adorable aliens. And the last episode involved Ben returning home and to school, the ending of that episode ending that chapter of the series and also had the school find out his secret identities and Gwen moving to his school in Belwood. Well, that ending was cancelled out because no one knows his superheroes. School's been a bust and he's not afraid to voice his displeasure at returning home from summer vacation. What's worse, something weird is up with his Omnitrix that prevents him from doing or turning in homework. But all that is put to the side when an evil Galvanic Mechamorph is after Ben and an old Petrosapien friend comes demanding his assistance.
I've been a fan of Ben 10 from the beginning, but when Yuri Lowenthal replaced Tara Strong as the voice of Ben and Lowenthal's Ben ended up with new aliens, a new setting and even a new Omnitrix, I didn't watch those series. It just didn't sit right with me, and I realize that's wimping out and I shouldn't do that if I'm a critic but I gueess that's how much I loved Ben mesing around with his aliens and I'd grown attached to all the characters as they were. So the fact that Ben 10: Destroy All Aliens brought back the entire original voice cast and characters with a new 3D take, I was all set to enjoy myself. And it's even...pretty good.
The best part is the familiar chemistry, especially between Ben and Gwen. Meagan Smith, the voice of Gwen, was replaced by Ashley Johnson in Ben 10: Alien Force and Smith hasn't done any acting work since, and yet their knackering and fighting that made the original a hit is back and on-screen. (And by the way, where is Meagan Smith? She's been completely off-radar for the last five years.) The film obviously didn't have a big budget so don't expect a wide-release animation level, but I found the original characters as lookalike as they could be when they were in 2D. But apart from the comedy, Ben 10 was a hit because of its clever thrills, so if you want that, that's what you'll get. Sadly, a few things cause some glaring unevenness.
The movie has two mysteries. The first one that comes up is so obvious, even a two-year-old could immediately get it, and this mystery lightly shows off throughout the story more than the latter. Thankfully, this second mystery has some surprises and might even warrant a second viewing to see if it was all actually plausible. Then two other problems arise. One is the glaring absence of some of the aliens. There's no XLR8, no Rip Jaws, no Cannonbolt or Wildvine. The direct-to-DVD live-action film Ben 10: Race Against Time (which sounds like a bad internet free game) only displayed four of the ten aliens, so it could be worse, but there's a sequence that displays all the aliens that are going to be in the movie in a kind of indirect way (minus Grey Matter), and we can tell of the absence immediately. The next is the fact Smith's Gwen has realized her full Arodyte powers. Sometimes she ends up too overpowering for my taste, taking Ben partly out of the full hero picture. It still makes for a hilarious and tense short called Road Trip Rumble but did the filmmakers really have to make it so Gwen could catch herself when Ben tried to catch her when she was falling? It would've made for a happy moment between the characters that were otherwise in combat the whole movie.
But anyway, the movie also has a terrific nostalgia vibe, because there are loads of Ben 10 fans who say they wished the original could've gone on longer, which I think is one of the main reasons why they rebooted the entire series last year. The fact that we're with these guys again, this time in 3D and still packing the zany fun makes it so I can give it a solid grade, and a positive one.