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Awesome: 37.5%
Worth A Look40.38%
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Pretty Crappy: 4.81%
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10 reviews, 44 user ratings

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Monster House
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by David Cornelius

"Get off my lawn!"
5 stars

“Monster House” is one of those rare, wonderful moviegoing surprises. It is a cartoon that treats its younger viewers with intelligence and respect. It invites its older viewers to thrill along without straining to deliver jokes “just for the parents.” It perfectly captures in every frame the spirit of Halloween - the magic and fears of youth, and the absolute joy in a good scare. This is the best Halloween movie since “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” and the sharpest one that completely grasps the kids’ eye view of the holiday since “The Halloween Tree.” Prepare yourself for a truly magical experience.

The Monster House of the title is the home of Old Man Nebbercracker (voiced by Steve Buscemi), a crank so mean he’ll steal a girl’s tricycle right out from under her if she dares step foot on his lawn. But it’s more than just that one house with the jerky owner; it’s also that one house in the neighborhood that scared the jeebers out of you. The house is dark, dingy, and… something worse.

When DJ (Mitchel Musso) is left with a loser babysitter (Maggie Gyllenhaal) the day before Halloween, it’s just another night in the life of a preteen old enough to take care of himself but not old enough for the parents to leave him on his own. He knows something’s up with Nebbercracker - his hobby is spying on the old fart - and the trouble begins when he’s stuck rescuing a basketball that’s rolled onto Nebbercracker’s forbidden yard. Things only get worse from there, most troubling of all being the fact that the house is very much alive indeed. With the help of best pal Chowder (Sam Lerner) and new friend Jenny (Spencer Locke), it’s up to DJ to put an end to the Monster House’s reign of terror.

The film, directed by first-timer Gil Kenan and written by Dan Harmon, Rob Schrab, and Pamela Pettler, is unafraid to present its younger viewers with some particularly grown-up ideas - death is faced with a gentle but honest touch throughout - and it’s refreshing to see a movie made by people who understand that kids know a lot more about life than us adults think they do. It also understands that kids can handle horror stories, and so it’s unafraid to deliver some genuine frights. (Of course, these are kid-friendly frights, nothing troubling in the least, so concerned parents need not worry.) The filmmakers have found a comfortable level at which to talk to kids with this story. They seem to be telling them, “We know you like spooky stories, and we know you can handle it, so why not just have fun with all of this?”

The filmmakers also get a solid feel for the way kids truly behave in real life. Aside from being superbly designed pieces of animation that look and feel like real kids, they’re also created on the screenplay level to be completely natural. It’s strange, but a cartoon boy in a silly kids’ monster movie feels more authentic a character than many of Hollywood’s live action creations.

These are kids in that critical year of their lives where they have one last go at trick-or-treating before they’re too old for such things. “Monster House” finds the perfect balance, showing us characters that are too old to be children, too young to be teenagers. Their experiences, then, bring us back to an innocent time in all our lives, and the movie asks us to celebrate along on this one final Halloween adventure.

And an adventure it is. The film builds the scares slowly and steadily, until it at long last allows the trio to actually go inside the house, delivering top notch haunted house chills every step of the way. And then the story hits a breaking point, and it explodes with action that’s scary, funny, and exhilarating all at once. There are even welcome moments of legitimate sweetness here, too. Kenan and his crew have designed a carnival spook house thrill ride to match the best.

The important question, you grown-ups have been itching to ask, can now be answered: yes, “Monster House” is indeed on par with Pixar, that untouchable touchstone of CGI animation. Kenan has delivered one of the best cartoons in recent memory, one that’s accessible to all ages, one that delivers on every promised thrill and chill. This is dynamite filmmaking. I, for one, have discovered a new Halloween tradition.

A final note: “Monster House” is being shown in theaters in both a traditional format and a digital 3-D format. Either version is outstanding, to be sure, but if you have the chance, make an effort to see it in 3-D. Gone is the clunkiness of red and blue glasses, replaced by a new technology from a company called Real D; it’s very similar to the IMAX 3-D format and has its roots in the more effective “Polaroid” style (clear glasses, the way it should be!). The effect is jaw-dropping - even the wisps of smoke take on three dimensions. As a lifelong fan of 3-D who’s both enjoyed and suffered through the ups and downs of the technology, I have to admit that this is the finest of all 3-D formats yet, and it complements this excellent film with the greatest of ease.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=14660&reviewer=392
originally posted: 07/27/06 20:07:29
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Seattle Film Festival For more in the 2006 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

8/12/10 karamashi One of the best CGI films on the decade. 5 stars
10/25/09 Barbara25 Catch them before they fall: Identification and assessment to prevent reading failure in yo 2 stars
10/24/09 His_wife72 Upon clicking the web address, the recipient is connected to a website containing active co 3 stars
10/24/09 Mr.Carrot80 Someone makes a widget, someone buys that widget at a lower price than they in turn sell i 4 stars
10/23/09 Arnold95   There is accumulating evidence that smaller depositories treat their customers in a less 5 stars
10/23/09 Bob49 Principals paint a vibrant picture of community engagement: local community-based organizat 2 stars
10/23/09 Loy39 If they cannot withstand the scrutiny by having the light of day shine on their dubious act 2 stars
10/23/09 JXL18 What's Going On has been reissued on casette tape and compact disc as well. , 3 stars
10/22/09 Kelvin53 As today's compromised sites are injected with malicious scripts, it will be a challenge to 5 stars
10/22/09 BadGirl81 So how do you do this when your writing job keeps you tied to your desk? , 5 stars
7/27/09 Dr.Lao Could have been great if they didn't strain so hard to be funny 3 stars
8/14/08 Shaun Wallner Great Kids Film! 5 stars
2/09/08 Samantha P i thought this movie was too scary to be a kids movie, i'm 19 and i jumped a few times! 4 stars
10/13/07 Private Terrific production design. CGI horror for teens up though borderline offensive sidekick. 5 stars
6/27/07 Carol Baker good animation but I've seen better 3 stars
6/09/07 Danielle Ophelia Not a total loss...vaguely disappointing, but not devastating. 3 stars
5/28/07 fools♫gold Whenonesees trustedshelter turningonthe public. Alongversion ofa smart episode of "Courage" 5 stars
5/24/07 Tracey Chambers not a kids movie, and too boring for adults. 1 stars
3/20/07 David Pollastrini great animation 4 stars
1/28/07 Jim Funny, dark, but doesn't anyone else live on this street? See also Thief of Always ... 4 stars
1/10/07 Tracey Chambers not fun at all. boring and well, just plain stupid. 1 stars
11/09/06 Charles Tatum Creepy, fun stuff 4 stars
11/08/06 Seanboy Pure fun. Great use of Jason Lee, Heder. 4 stars
10/31/06 May Q. Horney FATAL HAL meets SHALLOW ATTRACTION. 1 stars
10/15/06 William Goss Effortless entertainment, more so for big kids than young ones. 4 stars
10/09/06 Zack Morris Great movie, Brings back memories of the Goonies, Monter Squad, Lost boys 5 stars
9/21/06 Lisa Craven Great kids movie, my 6 year old loved it and was not at all scared. 4 stars
9/18/06 Joyster kind of boring 3 stars
8/24/06 Jordan Green it was crazy and wicked,it ruled. 5 stars
8/23/06 Chad Thomas Good movie! The kids are nearly as dead looking as in Polar Express! 4 stars
8/17/06 Tiffany not for little kids 4 stars
8/16/06 Littlepurch Great. Well-cast actors, a lot of humour, and it was nice that it tried to be scary. 4 stars
8/06/06 Erik Van Sant Forget 'Cars'. This is the animated pic of the year. Reminded me of childhood movie-going. 5 stars
8/02/06 chris dawson Typical Spielberg/Zemekis fluff--quickly forgotten. 3 stars
8/01/06 Mase Easily the best flick of the summer, for smart kids and adults. Will pass the test of time. 5 stars
8/01/06 Dena A great idea that fell flat. I was bored within the first 2 minutes. 2 stars
7/29/06 Troy M. Grzych Pure fun and excitement. Outstanding use of Film! 5 stars
7/29/06 Ole Man Bourbon Cute and fun, seems too scary for kids, drags a little, black character is a stereotype. 4 stars
7/28/06 KingNeutron Decent FX, just-average plot; some scary moments. 3 stars
7/25/06 Quigley I thought it was really cool. Chowder was a riot. Thank you, Spielberg and Zemeckis 5 stars
7/22/06 spoiledmeat this decades goonies perhaps? 5 stars
7/21/06 David Hollingsworth This is the best family film of 2006. 5 stars
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  21-Jul-2006 (PG)
  DVD: 24-Oct-2006



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