Move over Pixar. The best animated movie of 2006 is Monster House, a fun, smart and "unique" family horror movie that feels a lot like The Burbs.
Monster House is about three 12- or 13-year old friends who begin to believe that the house across the street is in fact a living, breathing monster. After the house's owner, the crabby Mr. Nebbercracker (Steve Buscemi), dies on his front lawn, the house becomes unleashed, and the three friends decide it is up to them to stop it. After all, the house has already eaten their babysitter's boyfriend, two bumbling cops and a dog, and it's Halloween, which mean that there will plenty of kids out there for the picking.
The movie works on so many levels, it really isn't necessary to go into detail on any one subject. I rarely watch animated movies nowadays, other than Pixar films (unfortunately I suffered through Cars), but Monster House really engaged me in a way that hasn't been done since The Incredibles. The movie is well written and really feels like an animated version of The Burbs, the Tom Hanks-starring horror-comedy about a man who suspects his creepy neighbors are serial killers. This one of course has more of a supernatural slant, but everything else is much the same: the variety of characters are all goofy in their own ways, the writing is down to earth and extremely comical, and the house is spooky. Props go to the writers for making an intelligent family film that adults and kids can enjoy together; there are plenty of jokes that little kids won't understand (like when the kids notice the house has a uvula, one of the boys remarks that the house must be a girl), but kids will still find the adventure story entertaining.
On top of the writing, it's nice to see a movie that doesn't star a bunch of talking animals. CGI movies have taken to the animal genre, but it's really getting old (like how talking cars were old even before Cars came to theaters).
As for the special effects, they are quite impressive. The animation style is a bit different from other animated films, but the graphics are really good. Instead of trying to impress us with the most realistic special effects, Monster House tries to be a cartoon with CGI-quality graphics. That being said, the movie still pays a lot of attention to detail. Adding to the visuals is the direction by first-time director Gil Kenan, which really makes Monster House a force to be reckoned with. Kenan is extremely dynamic with his use of the "camera", and treats the movie as if it is a live-action picture. The result is a very fluid and intriguing presentation that enhances the story.
Monster House is an extremely fun and entertaining horror-comedy that can be enjoyed by audiences of all ages. A combination of great direction and witty writing make this animated film one of the best, if not the best, CGI films of the last couple of years.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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