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Overall Rating

Awesome: 37.5%
Worth A Look40.38%
Average: 13.46%
Pretty Bad: 4.81%
Total Crap: 3.85%

10 reviews, 44 user ratings

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Monster House
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by Jason Whyte

"Don't mess with the Nebbercracker."
5 stars

I have been even harder on major release films for the year of 2006; one look at my recent “Top 10 of the Year So Far” article lists nary a major release film on its list. Films like “Superman Returns” and “V for Vendetta” are about the closest I have come to strong recommendation, as mostly everything else has ranged from “Pretty good” to “downright abysmal”.

I say this because “Monster House”, a big summer picture, surprised me. It is a film that Columbia Pictures is promoting towards the younger-set yet I feel this is a film for older kids, as well as anyone with a strong and open imagination. The film’s colourful characters, solid animation, great voice work and style reminded me of the earlier works of Tim Burton and Joe Dante where style as well as substance mixed well together. It’s something that should be on regular rotation on the ailing “Spike and Mike’s Sick and Twisted” festival (if they allowed features, that is).

The film’s great opening shot sets the tone of the film, with a leaf blowing in the wind as it follows a young girl as she (happily if poorly) sings her way along the street. She falls off her bike right infront of the spooky house of the film’s title and is immediately met by the house’s owner, Mr. Nebbercracker, whose scary presence is matched by his missing teeth. We then cut to D.J., the young boy across the street who has been watching the house for a while now with his best friend Chowder. He questions why the house is the way it is, why Mr. Nebbercracker is so protective of it, and shortly, with new friend Jenny (who is first seen selling girl-guide cookies), get to visit that house once and for all.

Don’t ask why the evil house has been condemned by the police, or how adults or babysitters don’t ask about the “Beware” and “Keep away” signs. One of the wise elements of the film is how we see directly from the point of view of the children, and it’s a time-old tradition that these same adults, babysitters and police never believe the children. We don’t want them to get in the way of the kids discovering what makes this house the way it is.

I also admired how the film, in its own world, really makes sense. I liked how the kids quickly improvised their plans as the story moved along, how a character who leaves the story early on isn’t really dead, and the explanation of Mr. Nebbercracker’s past, for once, not a cheat. It’s a welcome relief, also, to see kids act the way they do in adolescence, especially in how D.J. and Chowder act around Jenny to get her attention.

And that house! I loved every nook and cranny of its existence, from its second floor windows that signify its eyes, its welcoming mat that is really its tongue, its wood railings can turn into teeth and how its throat was a wide, glowing abyss of terror. And it has a mind, too; I liked how it quickly realized when a police car was coming and snapped back into shape. It can get away with itself pretty easily.

“Monster House” has been animated in the same motion control format as “The Polar Express” (2004), a great film that was marred somewhat by the odd look of its human characters. Part of the problem, I felt, was the way that director Robert Zemeckis seemed to want the characters to look too photo-realistic, which I don’t agree with because animation is a whole different beast and should be respected as such. Animation should look animated. Here, director Gil Kenan uses the motion control format but the end result is something that looks animated, with the facial features and body language looking more off-kilter as it should.

I loved “Monster House”, but should kids see the film? I would say that the younger kids should stay away and see something a movie like the recent “Cars” or even “The Ant Bully”. Older kids, however, should fall in love with its wild imagination, and adults can appreciate it without their kids in tow. Now that “Monster House” has been released, I am sure that this will be a strong contender for the Best Animated Film come next year’s Oscars, although that would nearly require people to steer away from “Dead Man’s Chest” for a little while. It’s worth it, if you ask me.

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originally posted: 08/01/06 03:16:57
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Seattle Film Festival For more in the 2006 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

8/13/10 karamashi One of the best CGI films on the decade. 5 stars
10/25/09 Barbara25 Catch them before they fall: Identification and assessment to prevent reading failure in yo 2 stars
10/25/09 His_wife72 Upon clicking the web address, the recipient is connected to a website containing active co 3 stars
10/24/09 Mr.Carrot80 Someone makes a widget, someone buys that widget at a lower price than they in turn sell i 4 stars
10/24/09 Arnold95   There is accumulating evidence that smaller depositories treat their customers in a less 5 stars
10/24/09 Bob49 Principals paint a vibrant picture of community engagement: local community-based organizat 2 stars
10/24/09 Loy39 If they cannot withstand the scrutiny by having the light of day shine on their dubious act 2 stars
10/24/09 JXL18 What's Going On has been reissued on casette tape and compact disc as well. , 3 stars
10/23/09 Kelvin53 As today's compromised sites are injected with malicious scripts, it will be a challenge to 5 stars
10/23/09 BadGirl81 So how do you do this when your writing job keeps you tied to your desk? , 5 stars
7/28/09 Dr.Lao Could have been great if they didn't strain so hard to be funny 3 stars
8/15/08 Shaun Wallner Great Kids Film! 5 stars
2/09/08 Samantha P i thought this movie was too scary to be a kids movie, i'm 19 and i jumped a few times! 4 stars
10/14/07 Private Terrific production design. CGI horror for teens up though borderline offensive sidekick. 5 stars
6/28/07 Carol Baker good animation but I've seen better 3 stars
6/10/07 Danielle Ophelia Not a total loss...vaguely disappointing, but not devastating. 3 stars
5/28/07 fools♫gold Whenonesees trustedshelter turningonthe public. Alongversion ofa smart episode of "Courage" 5 stars
5/24/07 Tracey Chambers not a kids movie, and too boring for adults. 1 stars
3/21/07 David Pollastrini great animation 4 stars
1/29/07 Jim Funny, dark, but doesn't anyone else live on this street? See also Thief of Always ... 4 stars
1/11/07 Tracey Chambers not fun at all. boring and well, just plain stupid. 1 stars
11/10/06 Charles Tatum Creepy, fun stuff 4 stars
11/09/06 Seanboy Pure fun. Great use of Jason Lee, Heder. 4 stars
10/31/06 May Q. Horney FATAL HAL meets SHALLOW ATTRACTION. 1 stars
10/15/06 William Goss Effortless entertainment, more so for big kids than young ones. 4 stars
10/10/06 Zack Morris Great movie, Brings back memories of the Goonies, Monter Squad, Lost boys 5 stars
9/22/06 Lisa Craven Great kids movie, my 6 year old loved it and was not at all scared. 4 stars
9/19/06 Joyster kind of boring 3 stars
8/24/06 Jordan Green it was crazy and wicked,it ruled. 5 stars
8/24/06 Chad Thomas Good movie! The kids are nearly as dead looking as in Polar Express! 4 stars
8/18/06 Tiffany not for little kids 4 stars
8/16/06 Littlepurch Great. Well-cast actors, a lot of humour, and it was nice that it tried to be scary. 4 stars
8/06/06 Erik Van Sant Forget 'Cars'. This is the animated pic of the year. Reminded me of childhood movie-going. 5 stars
8/02/06 chris dawson Typical Spielberg/Zemekis fluff--quickly forgotten. 3 stars
8/02/06 Mase Easily the best flick of the summer, for smart kids and adults. Will pass the test of time. 5 stars
8/01/06 Dena A great idea that fell flat. I was bored within the first 2 minutes. 2 stars
7/29/06 Troy M. Grzych Pure fun and excitement. Outstanding use of Film! 5 stars
7/29/06 Ole Man Bourbon Cute and fun, seems too scary for kids, drags a little, black character is a stereotype. 4 stars
7/29/06 KingNeutron Decent FX, just-average plot; some scary moments. 3 stars
7/26/06 Quigley I thought it was really cool. Chowder was a riot. Thank you, Spielberg and Zemeckis 5 stars
7/22/06 spoiledmeat this decades goonies perhaps? 5 stars
7/22/06 David Hollingsworth This is the best family film of 2006. 5 stars
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  21-Jul-2006 (PG)
  DVD: 24-Oct-2006



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