Monster House
Starring:
Steve Buscemi, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jon Heder, Kevin James, Jason Lee
Directed By:
Gil Kenan
Grade
B

If 2006 has taught us anything, it's that digital animation is here to stay. Everyone and their proverbial brothers are taking their shot at pumping out a digitally animated flick. Fortunately, though, Monster House is one of the few movies not featuring animals or ants.

Monster House begins with DJ, in his own prepubescent stalker way, observing the crotchety old neighbor, Mr. Nebbercracker. The scrawny old man tend to chase off anyone who comes on his lawn. When DJ's good friend, the goofy Chowder, comes over and loses his new basketball in the forbidden lawn, DJ comes into conflict with Nebbercracker, which eventually brings the ambulance around to cart off the deceased old man.

Quickly, the two boys discover that the house is haunted and assume that it's the spirit of the Mr. Nebbercracker, who continues his cranky war against anyone who goes onto his lawn. When prep-school Jenny tries to sell candy to the haunted house, the two boys save her. The three kids, who have all the parental supervision a punk rocker older sister can provide while she's looking for her missing boyfriend, plot to put the house to sleep and enter it in hopes of defeating the house before it devours the upcoming Halloween Trick-or-Treaters.

The animation of the movie is finely done on many points, but still suffers from the one thing that has plagued digital animation to this point: making humans look real. While the motion captured body movements and a lot of the facial animations look excellent and really sell the characters well, the plastic look and feel of their hair and clothing makes you feel as though you may just be watching animated action figures. This is not all bad as the style of the movie does work nicely without being overly stylistic. Textures on the house and lawn look spectacular and a lot of the inanimate objects are lifelike.

Whoever thought this would be a great kids movie was dead wrong. It's dark in its telling, not unlike something from Tim Burton or Roald Dahl. While you could take your children, be sure that they don't mind some scary images, unless you want to spend some time deprogramming them from potential nightmares.

Overall, the story isn't overly unique. It feels as though I read something like this many times over when I was younger. That's not really a bad thing, but don't expect some overly unique story experience. Also, I have to wonder why this came out in July rather than around Halloween as it seems perfect for that time of year. Still, if you love digital animation and know your kids can handle a fright or two, be sure to check it out as it stands well in a field that's starting to get a little too crowded.

- - Vane

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