Monster House (2006) (animation)

by | Dec 31, 2006 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Monster House (2006) (animation)

Vocal Talent: Steve Buscemi, Nick Cannon, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Kevin James, Jason Lee, Catherine O’Hara, Kathleen Turner, Fred Willard
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Studio:  Sony Pictures
Video:  2.40:1 anamorphic for 16:9 widescreen
Audio:  DD 5.1, French 5.1
Extras:  DVD-Rom links to Online Games, Icons, Screensavers, and Wallpaper; Previews (Open Season, Zoom, Spider-Man 3, RV, The Pink Panther, Are We There Yet?); Audio Commentary; Imaginary Heroes- Character Design (3 min); Beginner’s Luck- Casting (2 min); The Best of Friends- DJ, Chowder, & Jenny (3 min); Lots of Dots- Performance Capture (2 min); Black Box Theater- Motion Capture (4 min); Making It Real- Inside the Animation Process (6 min); Did You Hear That?- Sound Design (3 min); Evolution of a Scene: Eliza vs. Nebbercracker: Featurette (3 min); Performance Capture (3 min); Layout Stage (3 min); Animation (3 min); Final Film (3 min); Composite (3 min); The Art of Monster House- Stills: Conceptual Art; People; Places and Things
Length:  91 minutes
Rating:  *** (Conditional- Read Text)

These days there is more and more effort to utilize technology and take computer captures of real live-action movement and translate it to the screen. Another Robert Zemeckis film, The Polar Express, was one of these films and so is Monster House.  For anyone who is interested in the process, there are extensive sections of special features (albeit short) that detail the many elements that are used to create the film with this amazing technology.  The section entitled “Evolution of a Scene” is worth checking out.  Every section of a scene is covered from a variety of areas (see above), and then the viewer can watch the assembled version as well as the individual pieces side by side.  The slide section is full of film-related art pieces that stand out in their own right.

The story of the film starts off simply: It’s Halloween and across the street from DJ and his family is a grouchy, mean old man by the name of Nebbercracker…and an enchanted house.  The house has an affinity for stealing children’s toys, scaring little kids, and generally being menacing.  DJ and his best friend chowder lose track of a basketball and it bounces across the street and ends up on the lawn.  DJ posits that the old man might be asleep and tries to retrieve it only to be threatened by the house’s occupant.  The house isn’t too happy about the situation and DJ narrowly escapes.  The kids are convinced something really strange is going on there, and decide to investigate.  They come across a spry young girl named Jenny who thinks they’re out of their mind till she witnesses the strange behaviors the two have been talking about.  Adults are no help, so the kids concoct a plan to enter the house.  They realize the mistake of their actions, so luck and a little help from Nebbercracker are the only things keeping them alive.

When both my girlfriend and I sat down to watch this movie we were expecting it to be somewhat scary–after all, the movie is called Monster House.  But after a few minutes both of us realized it was much scarier and disturbing than we had imagined.  Nebbercracker is quite an intimidating character and when he’s threatening to kill a child it doesn’t sit too well with the viewer.  The fact that the house is quite sinister and swallows people whole does not help the situation either.  There is no doubt that kids will watch this movie and the audience rating (PG) should be more restrictive in my opinion.  As the movie progresses the violence gets worse and although it is not graphic, it carries just as much impact.  Near the end of the film it culminates in a veritable frenzy of fright.  The acting (a wonderful bunch of talent) and all the technical aspects (animation, etc.) are well done, but the story is the one questionable area for me.  I mentioned to a friend I had just watched the film and he told me he had viewed it with his younger child.  He told me his son had nightmares for a week and characterized the latter sequences as analogous to The Exorcist.  The apparent appeal for this film is wide, but I would recommend strong caution with younger children.

— Brian Bloom

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