"Knight Thoughts" -- exclusive web content
An uninspired story lies just beneath the surface of this terrific looking Nightmare on Elm
for the tween set and the result is neato looking but Booooooooooooooo-ring!
Great looking, less filling:
Monster House
7-21-06 "Knight Thoughts" web exclusive
By Richard Knight, Jr.
A lot of hard work has gone into Monster House, the second feature (after The Polar Express) that utilizes a new animation
technique called Performance Capture.  This technique combines human actors with their animated counterparts.  A very creepy,
Invasion of the Body Snatchers sounding process but also one with tantalizing prospects.  The producers of Monster House have elected
to go with a cast of unknowns thus avoiding the queasy uneasiness of staring at different mutations of Tom Hanks which marred
Polar Express
.  Unencumbered with having to satisfy an audience with reassembling a star, the wondrous effects of Performance
Capture are brought to the fore.  Here, as in
Corpse Bride, all the hard work of those unsung animators comes to life.  Monster House
is spectacularly eerie and beautiful.  But alas, just like
Corpse Bride, all this craft is for naught.  One dazzling visual sequence after
another can't hide the fact that this is a very thin story propelled by stale dialogue.  All this beauty built upon such a beastly, insipid
script finally topples whatever charm the story promised at its inception.

At least the producers didn't force any of those dreadful Danny Elfman songs into the proceedings.  Small favors.

The sliver of the story is thus: three pubescents, DJ, a cute but geeky loner and his friend, the corpulent prankster (called Chowder,
a benign version of Chunk from
Goonies 20 years later), and Jenny, the perky perfect blonde object of their affections, investigate a
haunted house that's been swallowing up unsuspecting passersby (the object of their curiosity stands out in the surrounding suburbia
the way the castle stood out in
Edward Scissorhands).  This, after the house's nasty resident, Mr. Nebbercracker (voiced by Steve
Buscemi), a cousin to Boo Radley's father, has been carted off to the hospital after suffering a heart attack.  With the house now
seemingly empty, the trio, in true Three Investigators fashion (anyone else remember them?) decide to once and for all solve the
mystery of the monstrous 1313 Mockingbird Lane look-alike.

In their quest, they are aided and/or diverted by a host of characters voiced by Kathleen Turner, Jon Heder, Kevin James, etc.  The
result is simply too terrifying for toddlers, not scary enough for tweens and altogether too smug and knowing for adults.  The crass
by the numbers cardboard script announces itself from the get go.  There's none of the tongue in cheek pleasures that were jam
packed into
The Incredibles, for example, none of the intense creativity of Howl's Moving Castle, the chills of the little appreciated live
Lady in White, or even the forced "hipness" of Goonies.  DJ's goth babysitter and stoner boyfriend aren't funny in their
inattentiveness and crudeness -- they're just...inattentive and crude.

This is an odd audience to go after -- the inbetweens -- and the filmmakers are to be applauded for giving this often forgotten
demographic something to see.  But why now?  Why not at least release the picture in the fall to help movie goers get in the mood?  
Why Halloween in July?

Monster House leaves one feeling the same as one does after touring one of those much hyped haunted house attractions -- slightly
let down but hopeful.  Perhaps another viewing will provide a different after affect.  One can hope -- especially if one loves haunted
houses and ghost stories.