[Moving picture of popcorn]

Laramie Movie Scope:
Monster House

A Halloween tale of curse busters

[Strip of film rule]
by Robert Roten, Film Critic
[Strip of film rule]

July 29, 2006 -- “Monster House” is a better-than-average animated film about a haunted house and three pint-sized ghostbusters who save the day when grownups prove themselves unable to handle the situation. This is one of those digital animation films with a three-dimensional look to it. At times, the artwork is stunning, at other times, barely adequate. The film's animation uses a motion-capture process that is similar to that used in “The Polar Express.” The most beautiful scene comes early in the film when the camera follows a wind-borne autumn leaf. The sequence is reminiscent of the flying feather in “Forrest Gump.” That film was directed by Robert Zemeckis, who is an executive producer of this film. Later in the film, the images become sinister as the house begins to display a very menacing appearance.

The hero is a teenaged boy, D.J., who lives across the street from the meanest man in the neighborhood, Mr. Nebbercracker (voice by Steve Buscemi). After an unfortunate encounter with D.J., Mr. Nebbercracker is taken away and his house becomes haunted. People and animals who get too close are snatched away into the gloomy depths of the sinister house. D.J., along with friends Chowder and Jenny, try to warn the adults about the possessed house to no avail. Two police officers, Landers and Lister (voices by Kevin James and Nick Cannon respectively) are captured by the house, as is a dog, a little girl, and a strange musician named Bones (voice by Jason Lee of the “My Name is Earl” TV show).

Unsure how to deal with this menace, the three youngsters approach a local expert in the occult, a video-game obsessed, pizza-delivering slacker named Reginald “Skull” Skulinski (voice by Jon Heder). Following Skulinski's advice, the three enter the evil house and prepare to do battle with it. They hope to find the heart of the house and destroy it, thereby removing its power. Their journey into this heart of darkness causes them to grow up a bit and to gain a new perspective on events.

The basic story is very similar to a recent Japanese animated film called “Howl's Moving Castle” in which a cursed house has a similar kind of heart powered by a demon. Order can only be restored if the curse is lifted by an act of healing and kindness. “Monster House” has a similar message about courage, love, kindness and healing. It is also a kind of coming-of-age story about three adolescents nearing the age when they will leave childhood behind. These three children are wise enough to know that they shouldn't be too anxious to say goodbye to childhood. This is a lesson that children should heed. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

[Strip of film rule]
Copyright © 2006 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
[Strip of film rule]
Back to the Laramie Movie Scope index.
[Rule made of Seventh Seal sillouettes]

Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)