Mom as monster: Reese's kids aren't over it

March 27, 2009|By Ellen McCarthy | Ellen McCarthy,The Washington Post

Reese Witherspoon's kids are at that age - the one where they discover a movie they like and proceed to watch it over and over and over again.

Her daughter, Ava, 9, and son, Deacon, 5, don't get bored of their favorites and don't find themselves satisfied with a third viewing. They just get excited to watch it again.

So it's no surprise that the Oscar winner, 33, is particularly concerned with the quality of children's entertainment, choosing to work back to back on animated feature films.

"Obviously having two young children, it's nice to be able to go to the movie theater and have a film there that's OK for kids, but it also has some adult humor in it that kids won't necessarily catch," she says from her Los Angeles home. "It's great to do those movies, because I have to watch a lot of them."

The first of those movies to be released is Monsters vs. Aliens. In it, Witherspoon lends her voice to a would-be bride who is struck by an asteroid with radioactive material that turns her into a 49-foot woman renamed "Ginormica" by her government captors.

The film is intended to evoke early sci-fi flicks of the 1950s and '60s.

"I thought it was really cool because I had always liked those movies," she recalls. "My dad and I always used to sit up late watching them."

Witherspoon signed on to that movie and soon agreed to The Bear and the Bow, a Pixar film set for a 2011 release in which she gives voice to a mythical Scottish princess. The actress says she was attracted not only to the content of the films, but to the endeavor itself.

"It's a very different process," Witherspoon recalls. "I got into a sound booth probably once every couple months for three or four hours." And though it takes less time, she adds, it requires much more imagination. "There is nothing visually in front of you to inform the scene. And you don't have a full script in front of you, so you don't even know what's going to happen next. They kind of talk you through everything, and then you just go in there and play around with it."

"It's really difficult; you don't have a lot of actors around you to bounce off of," says Conrad Vernon, the film's co-director. Witherspoon "was great at ad-libbing and coming up with different things, but when you're in that booth and you're doing something funny and you don't hear anything but silence, it can be daunting."

Vernon says she was right for the part because she "has this very, very adorable voice. And to put that voice into a 49-foot, 11-inch-tall giant was a great contrast and fun to do."

Witherspoon did have a couple of hours in the sound studio with Paul Rudd, who plays her narcissistic fiance. The two will be reunited for her next project, a comedy directed by James. L. Brooks.

She saw Monsters vs. Aliens recently in a theater full of kids wearing 3-D glasses, her two among them. "They loved it," she reports.

So in that regard, at least, it's a Mom-mission accomplished.

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