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MONSTER HOUSE

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Review by
E.C.McMullen Jr.

Monster House poster
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MONSTER HOUSE - 2006
Amblin Entertainment / Sony Pictures
Ratings: USA: G

No matter how bad your neighborhood - and I grew up in some really lousy ones - there was always that one vile neighbor.

Every neighborhood had at least one, and when there were two, they'd fight with each other until the cops came to pull them apart.

So MONSTER HOUSE has a pretty universal - gah! I hate that word - a pretty earthian appeal (I don't know if "earthian" is a word, but I defend my right to coin!).

D.J. (Mitchell Musso) is a seemingly nice kid in a seemingly nice house sometime in the seemingly nice 1980s U.S. Everything seems normal in D.J.'s world, except that his neighbor across the street, Mr. Nebbercracker (Steve Buscemi: FINAL FANTASY, MONSTERS, INC., THE ISLAND), is a vicious monster of a neighbor, scaring the children, running out and yelling at them, and even going so far as to break their toys and steal them. Yes, Mr. Nebbercracker is not a nice man. But that's not the reason why D.J. has a telescope in his bedroom trained on the Nebbercracker house. D.J. believes that there is something not quite right with the house itself.

D.J. has been trying to convince his best friend, Chowder (Sam Lerner), that something is not right with the house. All Chowder can see is that something's not right with the child-unfriendly Mr. Nebbercracker.

D.J.'s parents leave for the weekend, putting Zee (Maggie Gyllenhaal: CECIL B. DEMENTED, DONNIE DARKO), a control freak goth babysitter in charge. Life is miserable and threatened by Zee, who manufactures a jaded attitude about life despite the fact that she's never lived one. But where Zee is a monster to D.J., she's a dull-witted self-absorbed one - even a 13 year old boy can figure her out. Mr. Nebbercracker, on the other hand, is a fascinating, mysterious monster, and so is his house.

When a conniving little Miss goody-two-shoes comes into D.J. life in the form of one Jenny (Spencer Locke), D.J. abruptly loses all interest in the house. Unfortunately, so does Chowder, who suddenly becomes his chief competitor for Jenny's attentions. The only thing that interests Jenny, however, is Mr. Nebbercracker and his house, which she nearly caught displaying some rather UNhouselike behavior. The boys are forced, in very comical situations to encourage her attention on Nebbercracker's house, in order to keep her around. At the same time, D.J. can't seem to get rid of Chowder, who won't leave.

Watching and waiting don't work, so the three decide to do a little reconnaissance. The down shot of which is another attack by Mr. Nebbercracker who psychotically tries to run the children off his property, "Why won't you kids stay away from my house?" But D.J. gets a sudden epiphany from Nebbercracker's insanity. The old man isn't trying to be mean to the children directly, he is trying to do everything he can to discourage the children from coming near his house. Nebbercracker's actions aren't an attack, but a warning! Like the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden however, the house, despite its seeming dangers, is a mystery that childish curiosity cannot resist. As soon as the children get the opportunity to get a closer look, they do, and Merry Mishaps occur.

The 3D computer animation used in MONSTER HOUSE seems about 2 years behind 1995's Toy Story, but that also appears to be the way first time Director, Gil Keenan wanted to go and it works fine here. Appears, being the key word: the overall look of MONSTER HOUSE is retro right down to the technology the characters have and DON'T have. Still, keen-eyed and knowledgeable fans of computer animation will see some advanced techniques at subtle play. The facial actions are also advanced and often elicited as much laughter as the script.

MONSTER HOUSE is a blast for kids and might even entertain their parents.

3 Shriek Girls

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This review copyright 2006 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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