Monster House
Review By: Joe

I had no interest in seeing Monster House. I actually didn't really know anything about it. The first time I became aware of it (sort of) was at E3 2006!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! where I played the tie-in video game. I didn't even know it was a movie video game and it had something to do with shooting inanimate objects with water. I did not understand, nor did I enjoy myself.

Anyway, a chum informed me only a week before the film's release that it was something I'd likely be interested in. He had two key points to back this up:

     A. It's one of the first CGI animated films to star human characters, as opposed to lame      anthropomorphic animals.

     B. It's written by Dan Harmon and Rob Schrab.

Now, as far as the first point is concerned, yes, there have been some CG people in films, but they are largely auxilliary characters, like the mom and kid in Toy Story and the movies in which humans were the main characters have by and large been resounding failures. There's that Final Fantasy trollop (which is really in a different category, geeky animated sci-fi drama, anyway) and then there was The Polar Express, which I understand, in its attempts to be realistic and have a 3D animated counterpart of Tom Hanks, came out, instead, freakish. Also, the movie apparently blows.


FRIGHT!!!!

As Monster House is a Dreamworks production, the same technology for The Polar Stinkfest is used here. The cool part about this technology is that the actors were all motion captured, meaning that you can actually kind of judge the characters on their acting, rather than just their voice acting. The characters, however, are done in a specific, unrealistic style so while you are not actually watching the people themselves, you are listening to their voices and seeing their mannerisms. Fascinating!!!!!!!!

This is not too far off from A Scanner Darkly, which is animated but was filmed more or less like a normal movie. In fact, I'd say it's more difficult because the actors in that movie got to work on sets in costume. The Monster House people (a number of whom were honest to Jesus children) had to do all their acting in front of green screens with lots of little velcro balls attached to them. Good job, everybody!!! Yay!!! Anyway, overall, the look of the characters is a bit strange at first, but certainly interesting and the motion capture adds a nice level of awesomeness.

As for point B, for those of you who are not aware, Dan Harmon and Rob Schrab are the creators of the rather fabulous Channel101.com, a website that, according to Mr. Harmon, will be at the forefront of television's (at least in its current form) demise. Harmon and Schrab also wrote the not-picked-up pilot for the Ben Stiller-directed, Jack Black-starring Heat Vision and Jack. Plus, Dan Harmon is responsible for the brilliance that is Laser Fart and the uber-brilliance that is The Most Extraordinary Space Investigations. Needless to say, I am a fan and I was psyched to see a kids' movie from two guys who wrote a show pilot that contains such witty lines as, "All monkeysluts shall be absorbed."

Now, what I did not know until after the film is that Dan Harmon and Rob Schrab sold the script and got twenty-five thousand bucks for it about ten years ago and had nothing whatsoever to do with its production or subsequent rewriting (which was done by some woman who, from the looks of her IMDB thingy, is brought on to mess with every slightly askew children's film).


Interesting...

On the bright side, the director of this film is some dude fresh out of film school who basically made a short film, won an award for it, and was immediately snatched up by Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg (who are good people to have on your side in the moviemaking business, even if they mostly churn out shlock) to make a feature. They let him sift through scripts until he found one he liked and, clearly, gave him a decent bit of creative freedom, because a good amount of this film's style and humor are obviously Harmon-Schrab derived.

This isn't a great movie. Its biggest problem is its pacing. There's lots of quick, interesting portions and stuff jumping out and you (apparently it can be seen in 3D in some places, which sounds superkeen), but it then often falls back to dialogue and exposition. You see, the plot is about a house that is alive and eats people (the door being the mouth), so a lot of time is spent divulging exactly how it is that the house works (it sometimes sucks things through the lawn and sometimes doesn't, which is one thing that is oddly never explained) and, also, how the kids are going to go about stopping the house.

The action is very disjointed. The house does something crazy and then settles down so the characters can talk. A good indication of just how much you're set up only to be kind of let down is that when the kids finally (finally) get inside the joint, they're only there maybe ten minutes, before they are shot back out. The video game, incidentally, seems to take place mostly inside the house, so maybe it will be much more supercool than I originally had thought.

The reason to see this movie is that it's still not really like any kids film out there. It's basically a scary movie for children, which is not something you usually see nowadays. It's also got quite a bit of adult humor, which is totally fine because the kids aren't going to get it anyway (when one character asks the other if his parents are home he responds, "My dad's at work and my mom's at the movies with her personal trainer."). If your kid has got the cajones for this movie (the most extreme scene probably being an old man having a heart attack and falling over on top of a child), I suggest you take them to this (yeah, like any parents visit this site, or take my advice on what movies to bring their children to, for that matter). It will put hair on their chests! Or, if you have a daughter, hair on their

I actually didn't hear any kids crying, although some got a little freaked and sat on their parents' laps and so forth, so maybe this movie worked fine for them. The biggest issue with it is, again, the pacing. It's funny and it's got an awesome style, but it's very jumpy in the way it unfolds. Plus, you can definitely tell there was some rewriting at the very end, in which (SPOILERING!!!!) nearly all the characters who apparently died come back for no good reason(SPOILERING OVER!!!!).

Being that I know no women, I managed to coax two of my male friends into seeing this movie opening night. We were pretty much the only people there who weren't parents with kids. One of my friends made some joke that involved him putting his arm around me and I whispered to him that he was not helping anything, because the implication was already that we were a group of homosexual pedophiles. My other friend did not hear this but, completely out of coincidence, made a comment in a flamboyant voice that, as the theater was a bit ghetto, I never took him to nice places (WE AREN'T A GAY THREESOME, OK, IT WAS JUST A COINCIDENCE, OKAY?). We proceeded to make numerous jokes about homosexuality and/or pedophilia, trying to keep it down as there was a family in the row immediately in front of us.

The best joke came in the form of me stating, "They're asking for it. Look at the way they dress in those.......sneakers."

To which my friend responded, "Those LA Gear lights are calling to me."

GO MONSTER HOUSE GO!!!!!


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