Friday, July 21, 2006

Monster House

Director: Gil Kenan

Yes, it's another computer animated entry for the crowded 2006, which still has a few more up its sleeve before it's over. But nothing with Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg behind it is just another ho-hum day at the movies. Zemeckis, who plunged into the animation biz with 2004's The Polar Express, finally made a digitally animated movie that didn't make me yearn for Pixar's touch. Though newcomer Kenan got a big break in directing this, Spielberg and especially Zemeckis's touch can be seen throughout--it's "Tales From the Crypt" for kids.

Well, not totally for kids. Monster House, especially in early scenes, could very well make a sensitive young one cry. It's pretty dadgum intense. There's even a masturbation joke that will, obviously, sail 5 billion feet over any normal kid's head in that first twenty minutes or so. I thought this movie might actually get downright dirty considering I knew of the joke from the trailer concerning the "uvula" and that making the monster house a "girl house." But, it restrains itself for the most part, and the scary stuff starts being a little more light-hearted (maybe the Spielberg influence).

Anyway, the plot is this: DJ (Mitchel Musso) lives across the street from a scary house, inhabited by a mean old Boo Radley named Nebbercracker (Steve Buscemi). DJ's parents (once again, Christopher Guest-land couple Fred Willard and Catherine O'Hara) have gone on a trip and have left DJ a babysitter, Zee (Maggie Gyllenhaal). Friend Chowder (Sam Lerner) comes over to hang out, and before you know it--basketball on the scary house lawn and that frightful attempt to retrieve it, of course symbolizing the steps a young boy must take to become a man. An incident occurs, Nebbercracker is whisked away, presumably dead--but his spirit lives inside the house...or does it? Soon, a girl named Jenny (Spencer Locke) gets into the mix, the kind of girl who normally wouldn't socialize with unpopular kids like these but is compelled after seeing the house in action. The three join together to try to find the house's heart and put an end to its reign of terror.

What Kenan, et al, get very right are the performances of the human characters, a big issue in digital animation that has gotten better and better in the last couple of years. It's a fast-moving picture with some laughs and scares--it's very much a throwback, a classic tale that is just fun all the way. I wonder, though, if they gambled in losing some of their audience with the early tone, which features some pretty scary imagery--the movie, I feel, works better for the parents and older children. But maybe in this day and age, I'm kidding myself. Kind of like Friday the 13th, Part I. Pretty tame by today's standards.


At 7/26/2006 05:44:00 PM, Blogger Reel Fanatic said...

I didn't notice any kiddies crying in the rather crowded theater I saw this one in, but I too was a little surprised by how dark it was at times .. as a grown folk, however, I just had a blast


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