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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 Erik Childress

"Just Imagine How Good Zemeckis' Beowulf Is Going To Be"
4 stars

Monster House appears like it should be the perfect animated film to release during the Halloween season in which it takes place and yet comes along at just the right time in the middle of summer. Not because of the obvious box office implications or a quick turnaround for an October DVD release, but due to the quality drought which has been dehydrating the moviegoing experience this year – particularly in the animated realm. It’s unique visual approach may not dazzle viewers the way Pixar and even Dreamworks has of late, but it moves at a tight, brisk pace, has as many laughs as it does moments of intensity and ranks in a class of haunted house tales alongside the original Haunting and The Others. But, you know, for kids.

Something spooky is afoot at that house across the street. It’s been spooky for so long that none of the suburbanites seem to even notice anymore – or they’re just too scared to come out of their own homes. Little DJ (voiced by Mitchel Musso) has been keeping a running tab of the items that old man Nebbercracker takes from the children unfortunate enough to come in contact with his lawn. His mom and dad (Catherine O’Hara & Fred Willard) are hitting the road for a dental convention and are leaving their son alone with punk rocker-in-disguise babysitter, Elizabeth aka Zee (Maggie Gyllenhaal).

When best friend, Chowder (Sam Lerner), allows his basketball to venture over into the neighbor’s lawn, him and DJ get a first-hand encounter with the menacing curmudgeon getting him a little too worked up and watching him keel over. Believing himself to be a murderer is only part of the trauma DJ is about to experience, what with Nebbercracker’s house taking on a life of its own and the effects puberty is having on his relationship with Jenny, a spunky girl scout (Spencer Locke) who is nearly swallowed whole in grand fashion by the monstrous structure.

The puberty theme is a perfect way to usher in Monster House, the obvious transition from boy-to-(young) man where adventures and monsters replace the need for fluffy bunnies and talking cars. Kudos to the screenwriters (Dan Harmon, Rob Schrab & Pamela Pettler) for not treating it as just a throwaway character trait but bringing it back time and again to signify DJ’s confusion and willingness to impress even if he’s unsure of why he’s doing it. Chowder sums it up just right with, arguably, the film’s best line as our three heroes venture inside and piece together which objects make up the house’s primary orifice. I wouldn’t dream of spoiling it.

The photo-realistic stylings of the animation takes a little getting used to as its clearly not meant to be entirely spot-on (a la The Polar Express), but works just right in simulating the actions of the house. Gil Kenan, making his feature debut, brings a fresh approach to haunted domain cinema, forgoing the creaking noises and creepy crawlys of the interior and resorts to making it an all-encompassing force. Even the backstory, which offers an all-too quick explanation for the film’s primary relationship, doesn’t seem as ridiculous as all the satanic cult, creepy experiments and Indian burial grounds offered up as the enlightenment for the horrific ongoings of present-day proprietors. It’s actually just as subversive when you consider the major names attached to the project.

Billed as executive producers are Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis, both no stranger to animation or the ironic horror of the suburbs. Without further credit it’s unfair to definitively decipher whether their hands were in the dough or they merely provided the yeast. Either homage or self-mocking, Monster House begins with a Forrest Gump-ian trailing of a leaf and ends with a nod to 1941 that not even Ned Beatty would see coming. Add in the post-credits Spielbergian reassurance that some of the horrors weren’t quite as horrific as originally thought and the idea that Kathleen Turner has gone from being Jessica Rabbit to a monstrous house that eats children and you can sense just a part of the Monster House experience that keeps adding pleasures while you’re walking away from it. Add in fine supporting voicework from all the aforementioned actors as well as brief appearances from Jason Lee (doing his best Keanu Reeves) and Jon Heder (as the video game nut with all the answers) and you can certainly forgive Nick Cannon’s attempt to out Jar-Jar himself as an incompetent police officer.

This year has seen incredible disappointment from the animation front. Other than Dreamworks’ Over The Hedge - Hoodwinked, Curious George, DOOGAL, Ice Age 2, The Wild and the mega-disappointment Cars have suggested that the race for CGI domination has been polluted with the chase for the almighty dollar. Of course, that’s always been the pursuit but there was a time when there were only two or three animated releases a year and each one was a fresh breath of air and a reminder that time and effort will always trump a chase for a tentpole date. At least seven more animated features are hitting theaters this year (including The Ant Bully & Barnyard over the next two weeks and a 3-D version of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas) and Monster House is the first true animated release this year that deserves mention of the Oscar category that would have it.

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originally posted: 07/21/06 14:15:42
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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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