Monster House
directed by Gil Kenan
(Sony, 2006)

No matter where you grew up, there was almost surely a nearby house that gave you the spooks. Maybe it was an abandoned, rotting hulk of a haunted house, or maybe it was the inhospitable dwelling of a scary old man you suspected of doing very bad things behind his dark walls.

Both scenarios apply to Monster House. Dare to even step foot on the lawn, and mean old Mr. Nebbercracker (Steve Buscemi) comes out of the front door like a banshee, yelling for you to go away if you don't want to be eaten. It's easy to see why DJ (Mitchel Musso) and his friend Chowder (Sam Lerner) are so scared of the place. From his window across the road, DJ has seen things no adult would ever believe. When Chowder's brand new basketball rolls into the yard, though, DJ bravely sets out to claim it before the house does. That leads to a confrontation with Nebbercracker, who keels over while shaking DJ around like a rag doll. That is when things really get bad. Nebbercracker may be gone, but the house is alive -- and it's Halloween.

Clearly, there's no way DJ and Chowder are going near the spooky old house again. Then they spy a cute girl strolling toward its door, oblivious to the danger she's in. Eager to impress Jenny (Spencer Locke), they decide that they have to do something before the house feasts on all of that night's trick-or-treaters. Adults, such as DJ's babysitter and the local police, are no help at all. The kids are going to have to do this on their own. After seeking the sage advice of the local video game wizard, they devise a plan to stop the house by destroying its heart (and they have a good idea of just what and where that is). Naturally, the plan goes awry, trapping the kids within the very mouth of the monster. There, they learn the secret of the killer domicile (which they never saw coming), but will they live to tell anyone about it? More importantly, will they be able to save Halloween for all the local children by ridding the neighborhood of this deadly menace?

When you talk about this movie, you have to start with the animation. It is truly something to behold; you might even be creeped out by how incredibly real everything and everyone looks -- especially in terms of the facial expressions that communicate the characters' emotions (fright) incredibly well. The house itself is a model of anthropomorphic CGI, particularly when it really comes to life and goes on the attack.

This is a PG movie, but young children might get the heebie-jeebies from some of the house's more frightful manifestations. For the most part, though, Monster House is rollicking good fun, especially when subtlety is thrown out the window and the story becomes far too outrageous for even a wee little tyke to take seriously.

Here's the bottom line: children should get a real kick out of this film. Any possible frights should quickly be forgotten thanks to all of the humor built into the story. I think most adults will enjoy the film, as well. Monster House is certainly no Shrek, but it should prove pretty entertaining to one and all.

review by
Daniel Jolley

24 April 2010

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