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"Monster House"

Directed by Gil Kenan.
Written by Dan Harmon, Rob Schrab and Pamela Pettler.
Starring Mitchel Musso, Sam Lerner, Spencer Locke and Steve Buscemi.

Release Year:  2006
Review Date:  7/18/06


Speaking of fast and furious, the freebies are coming at a record pace right now, and a free showing of "Monster House" tonight was perfect because I wanted to see this movie, but I didn't actually want to pay for it.

I'm glad I didn't, but my thinking is that the kids will enjoy what has to be one of the scarier "kids" movies in a while.  "Monster House" is exactly what you think it is, especially if you have seen the trailer:  DJ (voiced by Mitchel Musso) is a kid on the brink of puberty; for the last few months, he has been spying on the house across the street, most notably the crotchety old guy that lives there, Mr. Nebbercracker (Steve Buscemi).  When DJ's best friend Chowder (Sam Lerner) comes by one day to play basketball, a loose ball ends up on Nebbercracker's lawn...EXACTLY the thing that old guy hates about kids, their bad habit of leaving crap on his lawn.  While yelling at DJ and Chowder, Nebbercracker suffers a heart attack...and soon thereafter, his empty house adapts the strange habit of eating people that approach the front door.  When a girl selling candy drops by one day (Spencer Locke) and is almost devoured by the house, DJ, Chowder and the almost-eaten girl begin to work out a plan that will allow them to take care of this crazy house for good.

There's no question that the strength of "Monster House" is the house itself, at least initially; it's a funny idea that a house would start eating people and no one would notice, even if it does enjoy attempting to eat little kids, local cops and unruly boyfriends.  The house seemed like it was scary to the kids in my audience; the scarier part about the script is the strange number of gross-out jokes included, which seemed high for a PG-rated Spielberg-produced cartoon.  The voice work by the three child stars is okay; what should have been a highlight was the large number of cameos by name actors, like Kathleen Turner, Nick Cannon, Kevin James and Fred Willard...even "Napoleon Dynamite" star Jon Heder does a quick bit part, which is probably the best of these bits, but in general these bits don't entertain as much as I thought they might.

The animation didn't do much to turn me on; it was so-so.  The soundtrack also underwhelmed me; as an aesthetic work, "Monster House" was very average, especially in a world where you either have the cool rotoscope work in "A Scanner Darkly" or the stunning computer animation of "Cars" to compete against.  The motion-capture techniques in "Monster House" felt a tiny bit dated to me.  Add to this a score that felt like it was ripped from co-producer Robert Zemeckis' other films and you get an original storyline that feels familiar because of everything else that's going on.

Now, that being said, I think that kids will like "Monster House" because they will get into the main trio of characters and especially the banter provided by Chowder in moments of peril.  The Jenny and DJ characters are just not very interesting, but they are in enough danger that little Bobby and Sally (i.e., your kids!) will be happy to be along for the ride.  The kids seemed to get enough of the gross-out jokes and the occasional dead body to be happy...but, the parents didn't appear to be as thrilled about the movie as a whole.

Eh.  Not great, but so far the 'toons haven't grabbed me in 2006.

Rating:  Rental


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09