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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 brianorndorf

"Some of the best CG animation yet"
4 stars

Even if it can’t fill a measly 80 minutes, “Monster House” is enough of a feast for the eyes to recommend it. Gorgeous with detail and character expression, “House” uses its macabre plotline to dish out stellar animation. It’s runs out of steam fairly quickly, but the film looks so good, you might not even notice.

Left home with a babysitter (voiced by Maggie Gyllenhaal) for a long weekend, DJ (Mitchel Musso) is troubled over the menacing house across the street, and the cranky old owner (Steve Buscemi) who is insistent that no child dare step on the lawn. When the neighbor suffers a heart attack and is taken away, DJ, his rotund friend Chowder (Sam Lerner), and door-to-door candy salesgirl Jenny (Spencer Locke) decide to investigate when evidence that the house is haunted begins to mount in increasingly ghoulish ways.

Furthering the work in the milieu of “motion capture” animation, “Monster House” is a step backward in scope from the pioneering visual stardust sprinkled in the 2004 holiday hit, “The Polar Express,” but a strong leap ahead in overall realism. This is a much more contained family film, taking place in one little neighborhood and focusing on a smaller number of characters.

Executive produced by Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg, “House” feels ripped from primo 1980’s cinematic real estate, when both talents were wonderfully reckless preparing entertainment for pre-teens (“Gremlins,” “Goonies,” “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”). “House” isn’t a violent motion picture, but instead the atmosphere set by director Gil Kenan comes off as a “Goosebumps” knock off, lightly covering some scary terrain with a good sense of humor. Kids have always loved to be given a scare or two, and “House” delivers on that promise repeatedly with its cast of threatening neighbors and the mysterious titular dwelling.

”House” is not a nightmarish film, but in today’s “keep ‘em happy and upbeat” kid film marketplace, it distinguishes itself as entertainment with a willingness to spill into macabre territory without losing its prepubescent sense of carefree, AM radio adventure and imagination.

A direct opposite of the pillowy snowscapes and Christmas porn sights of “Polar Express,” “House” impresses wildly with its crystal clear animation. The motion capture process uses live actors to animate over, emphasizing the movement and articulation of the characters. It’s an impressive end result, with gorgeous detail given to the faces and gestures of the cast, bridging that gap between cartoon and natural movement. Plus, “House” corrects the “dead eyes” problem that plagued “Polar” for many audience members.

Even clocking in under 80 minutes, “Monster” has a difficult time expanding on the idea of a house that eats people. There’s far too much padding in the screenplay, which takes a luxurious amount of screentime to get moving before the kids even go near the house. Kenan’s great with scenes probing DJ and Chowder’s childlike attention to detail, but while slow churning the suspense, the pace wanders away from the film.

The finale attempts to liven up the movie with some detailed Spielbergian action involving the house and a nearby construction site, but it comes as shock to the system when the rest of the picture is so dormant and deliberately extended.

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originally posted: 07/21/06 15:13:51
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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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