Monster House ***
As opposed to the some of the recent cinematic animated fare, "Monster House" is not a retrend of something that Disney or Pixar did five or six years before. Instead, it is an original, fun, and visually appealing one, and one that hasn't been done yet. It also brings scares back to the basics: a return to the classic haunted house story.
In D.J's neighborhood, there is an old house where a grumpy old man by the name of Nebbercracker lives. Whenever kids go onto his lawn, Nebbercrackers gets mad, and his basement is told to be full of all the toys that the kids lost on the lawn. Legend has it that Nebbercracker was married, but he killed his wife and ate her. Anyway, D.J's parents are going out of town for a few days, and in their place is the babysitter, Zee. She, of course like all babysitters, wants to have little or nothing to do with the child that they are hired to be watching. The trouble all begins when D.J's best friend, Chowder, looses his ball on Nebbercrackers lawn. D.J goes to rescue it, until Nebbercracker comes out, but dies in the middle of his rant about trespassers. However, the spirit of Nebbercracker doesn't seem to want to rest, and the house begins to do creepy things, like use it's rug as a tougue to stick out of the door and eat people, and the shingles so resemble eyes. Of course, as it must be in these types of films, nobody over the age of twelve seems to believe them. No parents, no babysitter, and no cops will be of help here. So, with the help of the pretty neighborhood girl, Jenny, the three have to figure out what is going on with the house, before Halloween, when countless numbers of little children will be ringing on the doorbell of the old house, and who knows what could happen to them.
The animation is somewhat like the type seen in "The Polar Express," only not as shocking. The people look real, and at some times, especially when they were standing real far away, I was certain that someone forgot to animate, and I was looking at a real person. At the same time with the regular 2-D release, Columbia is offering a special 3-D version at select theatres, and I am really wondering how it looks. As I watched, I could see exactly what scenes would appear in 3-D. All in all, "Monster House" is the best family film out there that could be enjoyed by both the youngins and the adults. It's clever, smart, visually arresting, and very exciting. It probably wouldn't suit any children under the age of ten, because that house was pretty creepy, especially towards the end. I heard that Kathleen Turner, who does the "motion capturing" for the house, has videos of her literally thrashing about, acting out the movements of the hosue to be animated. I would like to see those tapes, and they could be a fun extra on the DVD. There's a nice handful of celebrity voice cameos, and those are always kind of fun to identify, especially since this is one of the rare animated films of late that doesn't have to list the names of all their voice actors as a way to draw the crowds.
I also have to give credit to director Gil Kenen. He used alot of artistic shots that I really liked. Take the opening shot, of a leaf falling off a branch, and then blowing with the wind along a little girl on her bike. We follow the leaf, not the girl, and when the girl falls off her bike, we only hear it, as the leaf keeps going on, and we don't see it until the leaf is blown back a bit. That was eerie in itself, as we had to leave it to the imagination as to the fate of the girl, just for a delayed couple of seconds.
I do have to question the release time for it. Sure, it's the summer time, and children are out of school and able to see movies whenever they want, but this really is a Halloween picture, and it might have been better if it was released then. A fun Halloween movie is needed after the cruddy horror movies the studios release at that time. But, oh well, it'll just have to remain a summer blockbuster.