While CG-animated features have become the norm here in the US,
ones of exceptional quality being released are not. The new Sony
feature comes from Robert Zemeckis’ ImageMovers
and Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment
DJ (Musso) is a young kid spying on the old miser,
Knebberkracker (Buscemi) who lives across the street,
and is always scaring people away from his creepy, dilapidated old
house. He steals the toys and tricycles that wander on the grass
and doesn’t give them back. But after an accident leading
to Knebbercracker’s apparent death, the house starts upholding
the keep-away policy with extreme prejudice, eating anything that
comes within its vicinity like Godzilla in Tokyo. DJ gets help from
his rotund buddy Chowder (Lerner) and a candy delivery
girl (Locke) to find the heart of the house and
Despite good animation and some decent voice acting, Monster
House still feels like a very average, phoned-in effort. The
story does little to inspire or draw you in. The main characters
themselves are pretty vanilla, besides being a little nerdy.
The bigger names, so to speak, play supporting roles, which again
don’t inspire, rather adhering to predictable types. The female
Gyllenhaal sibling portrays the bratty teenaged
sitter for DJ, and Jason Lee is her deadbeat boyfriend.
Napoleon Dynamite is an obsessed video gamer and pizza delivery
boy who the main kids go to for exposition. Kevin James
and Nick Cannon are dim-witted police officers,
predictably skeptical of the children.
The interesting material comes in over halfway through, when you
find out the origins of the house and why it is what it is. All
of which was surprisingly gruesome for an animated kids movie.
In the end, Monster House is decent, inoffensive, but
mostly average fare. As far as animated features go, I’m still
waiting for Seiji Mizushima’s Conqueror
Of Shambala, Studio Ghibli’s own personal version of
Earthsea, and Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex
– Solid State Society.
—Jeffrey “The Vile One” Harris