July 27, 2006

Movie Review: Monster House

"If Stephen King made an animated horror movie this would be it."

That is the best description of this movie I have seen, and I wish I had thought it myself, but I cannot lay claim. I saw this in a thread over at the Home Theater Forum, and, more specifically, a post by John Graz. It was during a discussion of the ads for Monster House being misleading, and the movie being inappropriate for young children and should have been rated PG-13. I agree that this may be a bit much for the youngest of children, but I don't believe that it should have been any more than the PG that it got. But that is a discussion for another time.

Monster House succeeds in tapping into your childhood fears. It really is like a nightmare that is being experienced in your waking life, you can't wake up, you can't escape, and it is coming for you. Everyone has that childhood memory of that one house that no one would go near. The reasons are varied, but they all come back to one thing, fear of the unknown. The house is rundown, or seemingly deserted, or is inhabited by grumpy old people. Whatever the reason, you would always peddle a little harder when you passed it, or your step would quicken, and you would always make sure that your ball would never land in the yard, for fear that you would never see it again. This movie takes those fears and puts them up on the big screen.

This is not your typical animated comedy, for that matter, it isn't a comedy at all. Despite the much needed comedic touches, this is a horror film. It is aimed at the younger audience, perhaps 10 and up, but there is a lot here that will regress the adults in attendance back to those days gone by in what may be a cathartic experience.

The central characters is DJ (voice of Mitchel Musso) and his friend Chowder (voice of Sam Lerner). It is the eve of Halloween and DJ is on the verge of puberty and starting to feel a little too grown up to go trick or treating, Chowder, on the other hand, is one of those kids who won't grow up and loves his candy. Later, they are joined by Jenny (voice of Spencer Locke), a prep school girl who thinks she is above the boys antics, until the house reveals its true intentions.

DJ is convinced that there is something evil going on in the rundown house across the street. The neighborhood kids all have a story about losing a toy to the crotchety old Mr. Nebbercracker (voice of Steve Buscemi) who lives in the house. He seems to be lying in wait, poised to pounce as soon as a child's plaything makes contact with his lawn.

A fateful encounter between DJ, Chowder, and the old man awakens the evil inside the house. DJ finds himself being haunted by the house, so he recruits Chowder, and, inadvertantly, Jenny to investigate the house and stop it before anything worse happens. As is want to happen in this type of nightmarish story, the adults don't believe the kids, and the kids have to pull together the courage to overcome their fears in their battle against the living nightmare.

I don't really want to give too much away, as this is a movie that works best as all is revealed slowly. The pieces all come together to reveal an undercoat of heart. I know it sounds cliche to refer to a film's heart, but it exists here, a current of sweetness making its way through the scares.

The animation is very good, in particular, the designwork that brings the house to life. The background animation is gorgeous, and the way the camera weaves through it is like a rollercoaster taking you for a ride. I believe there are plans for a 3D release, and much of the work here seems to be geared to that potentiality.

The voice cast works very well, for the most part. I really enjoyed Steve Buscemi as Nebbercracker, and the duo of Kevin James and Nick Cannon as the local police. The trio of kids are very effective. The only voice problem I had was Jon Heder as "Skull," it took me right out of the movie as I kept thinking "Hey, that's Napoleon Dynamite!" Fortunately, he only has a small role.

Bottomline. It may be too intense for younger children, but this is a very good time for most at the movies. It successfully brings to life a unifying childhood fear that everyone can identify with. Monster House is a nice alternative to the comedy that usually dominates the animated feature.

Highly Recommended.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting


Post a Comment