Starring Mitchell Musso, Sam Lerner, Spencer Locke, Steve Buscemi, Jon Heder, Jason Lee, and Maggie Gyllenhaal
Directed by Gil Kenan
There are no talking animals in Monster House, and that alone is something special. It seems like every few months we’re subjected to the latest piece of tactless, kid-pandering, Pixar-wannabe crap excreted from Hollywood’s anus. This is the rare case of a diamond in the rough crafted by talented filmmakers who are in it for the love of the game.
Recalling the glory days of Joe Dante, Monster House follows DJ, your average boy-next-door who just happens to live across the street from a creepy house owned by resident psycho Old Man Nebbercracker (Steve Buscemi). While his parents are out of town, DJ accidentally kills the old coot, and the abode takes on a life of its own, feasting on anything that steps foot on the property. To make matters worse, it’s Halloween, and the house stands poised to eat all the neighborhood’s trick-or-treaters. Naturally, it’s up to DJ and his schoolyard chums to stop it.
The characters are pretty typical for an animated film: The kids are a collection of stereotypes (we have the curious hero, his fat doofus friend, and the brainy love interest) while the adults are predictably stupid, yet they somehow come off as well drawn and believable. Our kid heroes don’t say or do anything overly witty, they’re not wise beyond their years, and their gags never seem forced. As for the house, it’s a beautifully twisted character unto itself. The shingles, windows, and surrounding foliage take on a demonic life of their own and bring forth some inspired havoc. In fact, the Monster House is such a convincing threat, it may be a bit too intense for the youngens.
The motion-capture animation in itself isn’t all that impressive; it’s more in the way it’s handled by director Gil Kenan. The first-time filmmaker has gone on record as being a huge genre fan, and it’s clear he wasn’t blowing smoke up our chimney. Kenan directs with a wicked eye, and his brand of humor speaks more to movie geeks than little children.
The 3-D work in Monster House, however, is larger than life! After seeing this visual feast on the big screen, there’s little doubt that this is the future of cinema. Right from the opening shot, the movie theater is swallowed up, and you feel like you’re transported directly into the action. Most importantly, it enhances the film without feeling gimmicky. This may be the first time where you don’t see a character wave an object out to the audience like a dumbass.
Sure, the very notion of family-friendly computer animation has made us all jaded, and this is an easy film to dismiss outright. Thankfully, Monster House is the Real McCoy – a clever combo of wit and eye candy that will entertain all ages. Give it a chance. It’ll surprise you.
4 out of 5
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