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Monster House
Genre Animation
Year: 2006
 
Review:
Monster House is refreshing, entertaining and fun. Sure it’s a bunch of kids, and an old haunted home, but it’s the way that it’s done that works so well. The characters have a human quality in their animated world. As with most animated feature films these days, the audience appeal is wide and far-reaching. It’s not just for kids. In fact, there are some themes and moments that would warrant parental guidance.

What was so fascinating for me, was watching the making of Monster House. This is one of the first animated films that actually required a full on cast. With names like Steve Buscemi, Jon Heder, Kevin James, Jason Lee, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Kathleen Turner - you can’t go wrong. Not only did they provide the voice talent, but also the performance. Monster House is the second film to be released using REAL D’s 3D motion capture. The actors were dressed up into suits with balls to track motion and be recorded by the cameras. The movements were used to give the skeleton animated models a realness about them. It was quite funny watching the people acting with wire props and settings. The cameras needed to pick up the balls in every setting, so solid objects were not feasible. Everything was made of wire! Cars, water guns and seating.

The story follows D.J. (Mitchel Musso), a young wirey (haha) kid in the suburbs. The neighbouring house is owned by Nebbercracker, an old man that resembles a less evolved Gollum (Buscemi). He seems to be the neighbourhood crank and hermit and his scary house is avoided at all costs. Kids that even touch his lawn, have their toys confiscated and sometimes end up missing! What seems to be haunting this old home, and why is Nebbercracker so tenacious in protecting it? D.J. and his friend Chowder (Sam Lerner) decide to advance their sleuth skills, and monitor the house - until D.J. confronts and sends Nebbercracker away in an ambulance. The house no longer has a gatekeeper. But how long will D.J. and Chowder be able to hold their curiousity?

The animation is superb, crisp, defined and well-conceived. The camera shots were able to be adjusted using the latest technology, so that every angle was a possible perspective. Shakey camera hand-held looks, extreme creep zooms and whirlwind shots were all possible. The characters were real, and the writing reinforced an alternate reality similar to A Scanner Darkly. The performances were excellent given the limitations, working in suits and having balls scattered across your face to mimic facial expressions. It’s really easy to get lost in this suburban nightmare.

Spielberg and Zemeckis were Executive Producers in the film, and the production comes from Amblin, a Spielberg company. It really has a sense of Spielberg, and reminded me of the Goonies in many respects. However, the limitations and confines of reality were no problem. So what you have, is a Spielbergesque story played out by extraordinary characters. Director Gil Kenan captures the magic, the horror and the adventure these kids embark on and conveys it to the audience in some clever “impossible” shots and special effects.

There are plenty of laughs to keep the audience on the roller coaster of thrills. Some say it’s too chilling for kids, and not scary enough for adults. I found it to be a happy median between the two. Adults and kids will enjoy the fun-filled ride. I had plenty of questions relating to the plot at the end of the movie, but wait for the credits. Answers appear shortly after the credits start to roll.

Monster House is a fun time whether you’re young, old or somewhere in-between. It’s a little dark at times, but if you let your kids go trick-or-treating, you won’t have a problem.

The bottom line: Refreshing.

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