A movie title is supposed to give insight into the cinematic offering an audience is about to view. It is not supposed to be the main gag in an awe-inspiringly unfunny feature. Herein lies the problem with MONKEYBONE, a hybrid of live action and animation from NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS director Henry Selick.
For those who may have been fooled, MONKEYBONE has nothing to do with Tim Burton, although it has the visual hallmarks of the great producer. Unfortunately Selick flies solo on this project, and crashes with this ambitious so-called comedy.
Monkeybone is the creation of cartoonist Stu Smiley (Fraser) who, after selling his animated friend to a national network, is on the verge of fame and fortune. Before he is able to enjoy any of these riches, or propose to his wonderfully devoted girlfriend Julie (Fonda), he meets with an unpleasant accident and falls into a coma. Here he is faced by nightmares and his cartoon creation, Monkeybone (voiced by Turturro). Forced to find his way back home and reunite with his love, Stu must face many obstacles, including Death (Goldberg) and the small problem of Monkeybone having taken over his body back on earth.
The story, based on the graphic novel Dark Town, isnít really a story but an assortment of disjointed scenes with little regard for an overall plot. The comedy is rarely more than misplaced one-liners sprinkled with low-brow incidents such as Herb (Foley) streaking through a fundraising banquet. The comedy in this movie doesnít even elicit smiles, let alone laughs, and the ďromanticĒ relationship between Stu and his Julie is cheesy to the point of annoyance. Brendan Fraser seems to be prepping for a straight-to-video career with this effort, following on the heels of the masterpieces DUDLEY DO-RIGHT and GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE.
One sits squirming in sheer embarrassment for all those involved in this production. The comedic talent on display is misused in grotesque fashion. From David Foley to Chris Kattan to Bob Odenkirk, all are given bit parts which provide little room to exercise their vast talents. We are left to sit through base physical comedy, including a game of catch with a cadaverís vital organs.
Special effects are the only bright spot for this film; there is an astounding use of animation. The sets provide a wonderfully creative realm for Stuís mind and his nightmares are a playground for the obvious artistic talent involved with this production. This does little to help the movie.
The idea of an animated manifestation of a cartoonistís penis into a monkey-shaped alter ego may have seemed like a sure-fire hit, but it provided little entertainment after the title and opening sequence. For those who actually considered seeing this movie for David Foley, Chris Kattan, Bob Odenkirk, or Megan Mullally, save yourself the seven bucks and watch them exercising real comedic muscle on the small screen.