Monster House (2006)

Director: Gil Kenan

Starring: voices of Mitchel Musso, Sam Lerner, Spencer Locke, Steve Buscemi

“Are you guys mentally challenged? Because if you are, I’m certified to teach you baseball.” (Jenny, Monster House)

DJ and Chowder have the feeling that not all is right with the creepy house across the road. After its owner, the evil Mr Nebbercracker (Buscemi), has a heart attack and is sent to hospital the house appears to take on a life of its own, terrorising the local residents. But surely there has to be a more logical explanation for this… after all, houses don’t just come to life and eat people, do they? You bet your balls they do.

"You're right, he does look a little bit like a chubby Jamie Oliver"

After witnessing the creepy chateau coming alive and saving a girl called Jenny from its evil clutches DJ, Chowder and their new lady chum decide to work together to put an end to the evil house so the rest of the street will be safe.

Despite being a movie aimed at children, Monster House feels a lot like The Goonies and The Monster Squad in that it appeals to adults too because the children in it are so believable. There’s no “gee whiz mom” lines or “mwa wa waaa” musical stings throughout, this is a film that feels surprisingly realistic despite its use of stylised CGI animation. 

The scene in which Chowder tries to trick the house with a fake kid is hilarious

A large part of this is down to the cast. The three leads, who were essentially unknowns before taking on this role, have a real chemistry that shines through even with a layer of computer animation in the way. As for the supporting cast, there’s a large list of well-known names in there including Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jon Heder, Jason Lee, Kevin James, Kathleen Turner and Fred Willard, the majority of whom have unique voices that lend themselves perfectly to this sort of movie.

Well, if there was any doubt it was a monster house that clears things up

The dialogue is by far Monster House’s strong point. The script is so perfectly handled you’d swear the writers had just held a dictaphone under a group of kids and written down everything they said. They argue, they wind each other up, they try to hide their inadequacies or family problems, and they pretend to be cooler and more grown-up than they actually are, often failing miserably (one particular adults-only line has them finding the house’s uvula, causing Chowder to sagely note “oh, so it’s a girl house”).

They tried to hide upstairs but it was too late - Gary Glitter was at the front door

The strength of the dialogue ultimately means that the final act, which is pretty much all action, does suffer and things start to feel more like your standard kid’s cartoon movie, albeit one that still looks great. Mr Nebbercracker’s revelatory speech in which he explains the house’s secret goes some way to make up for it, offering a twisted and surprisingly dark tale that is likely to take audiences young and old aback.

When I reviewed The Monster Squad I trumpeted the old fogey’s lament that “they don’t make them like this anymore”. While I stubbornly maintain this is still the case, Monster House is the closest I’ve seen a film return to those glory days in a while. It’s a kids’ adventure that doesn’t patronise its audience and in doing so makes it perfectly acceptable for a solely adult audience as well as the younger one it’s aimed at. The third act’s a little weak, but check it out anyway.

You can get Monster House on DVD here and Blu-ray here. If you’re a Fancy McFancypants, you can also get the 3D Blu-ray here but you’ll need a 3D TV and a 3D Blu-ray player. You poser.

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