The Monster That Got Away
Monster House, that is. Brought to us by big-name executive producers like Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis, Monster House is the latest computer animated “family” film to hit the big screen.
Monster House is a rather odd conglomeration, sitting uneasily on its foundation within the film’s universe as well as in its categorization as a film for kids.
A house possessed is not a friendly house, especially when there are three meddling kids. There’s also the old geezer (voiced by Steve Buscemi, the lead actor in the credits) who lives there, seemingly crotchety at best, menacing at worst. Not surprisingly, two of the kids are boys (and set up as the protagonists, with the girl joining them), one is something of a goofball, and all three are white. The one black character in the film, a sheriff’s deputy, veered too close for comfort, in my opinion, to the stereotypical “black buffoon sidekick.”
In this film, the animators chose to create stylized human characters that clearly do not look or move like real people. Because of the continuing difficulties of creating realistic human bodies and movements, it’s not surprising to see stylization like this.
There were occasions where it was interesting to see, like noting a little girl’s “plastic” hair as she rode her tricycle in front of the monster house to open the film. However, as the various characters quickly entered the film, I found the awkward movements and looks of the characters to be distracting. And I discovered I was not alone in this reaction.
Another reaction of mine that was not unique deals with the high level of violence and scary images. I couldn’t help hypothesizing that if the film had been exactly the same except it had been a live action film with actual actors, it would have been rated PG-13 instead of PG.
My son is seven and there were a number of sequences that he found scary, having to sit in my lap. Monster House is more appropriate for older kids despite its PG rating. However, there were certainly things about the film that my son liked. For instance, he liked how the film ended, when old man Nebbercracker was giving away the hundreds of absconded toys and played a joke on the kids by momentarily adopting his old persona.
One discontinuity that we noticed was the dog. Perhaps the filmmakers intended it as a joke, but a neighbor dog appeared to change sexes during the course of the film. Early on, this dog pees on the Monster House’s front lawn with a squat. Obviously a girl. Then, at the end of the film, this same dog pees on a jack-o-lantern with a lift of its leg, boy style. Hmm.
There are sequences in the film that draw you into the mystery, give you a scare, and/or make for exciting action. It is interesting to watch the different “expressions” on the house, and it does come as a surprise late in the film when the house becomes even more animated. But I’m not so sure these outweigh the other stuff.
I would have expected Monster House to come out in the fall with its Halloween theme. So I assume they are thinking ahead to the release of the DVD instead.
Monster House opens in theaters Friday, July 21, 2006.
More articles by Madelyn Ritrosky