Sunday, July 30, 2006

Three Dimensions are Better than One; “Monster House” is a Frightfully Good Time


My biggest concern going in to see Monster House was whether the 3D glasses would fit over my regular glasses. I didn’t seem to care that I felt like a cornball having fallen for the gimmicky cinema-going process of having images on the screen leap out at you. I was rest assured by the goofy trio of twenty something males who seemed like should have been going to see The Hills Have Eyes, not a PG-rated cartoon. I have to admit that this was my first venture into the cinematic 3D world. Of course I’ve been on the typical theme park rides and attractions that feature 3D. The Muppet show at MGM in Florida, the pirate adventure at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg. I’ve even had the pleasure of seeing a segment of The Birds in 3D back at Universal Studios Orlando, and they had the gall to tear it down. For shame! Of course REAL movies that featured 3D mostly came out when I was a wee boy. Jaws 3? Friday the 13th Part 3? Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare? All done cheesily, in the let’s-throw-stuff-at-the-camera style of 3D gimmickry. Now we have Monster House whose 3D process seems to help serve the story instead of just throwing crap in our face to wow us.

The film’s story is pretty simple. It’s based on that old, creepy house that every kid growing up had in his or her neighborhood. It’s the property in which if a ball or Frisbee ever went over the fence, it was bye bye toy. The mean old man or lady who owns the house was scary and whacked out. But what if the house itself was just as evil as the person living inside it? Young DJ and Chowder, young boys on the brink of adolescence (according to DJ’s dad anyways) are convinced the house across the street is real and it keeps eating things that go wondering into the yard. There’s a mystery behind the cranky (and by cranky I mean if I was 5 years old, I’d be having nightmares for weeks) old man who lives in the house and why the house is “alive.” The movie can actually be pretty intense for a PG rated movie and is certainly scarier than anything in The Amityville Horror. Think of this as a horror movie for preteens. Of course there is plenty to enjoy as adults.

The animation is just as gorgeous and luscious without the 3D process, but it’s definitely more fun in 3D (The film is only being shown in 3D in certain theaters, this isn’t an exclusively 3D film). And I have to give kudos to first time feature director Gil Kenan for not just throwing objects at the screen. The characters are funny and charming, the situation is spookily fun and the dialogue is fresh and witty. The character of DJ’s babysitter (voiced by Maggie Gyllenhal) is definitely one of the standouts. She runs with the character. Her interactions with her young charges are very entertaining.

If you’re an adult but a kid at heart, you’re most likely going to enjoy Monster House. It’s an entertaining romp and the beautiful 3D animation serves the story extremely well. Watching an entire feature length film in 3D wasn’t as hard on the eyes at it could have been. And with its amusing freshness you might even find your brain being stimulated as well. GRADE: B+

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