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Monster House

Studios love to release horror films such as

Saw

around Halloween in the hopes that audiences are in the mood for a good scare. But usually these horror films are geared to adult audiences and have an R rating. So

Monster House

, with it's Halloween setting and PG rating, seems like the perfect film to release at Halloween so that kids have their own scary movie to see. But here we are in the middle of summer with Steven Spielberg's Amblin' Entertainment releasing it in the wake of

The Pirates of the Caribbean's

juggernaut.

The story involves a young boy who has been spying on the house across the street. It has a perfectly manicured lawn and an ominous 'Keep Out' sign posted to ward off children. The house itself is rundown and sticks out in sharp contrast to all the other neat and tidy suburban homes on the block. But DJ (Mitchel Musso) suspects that there's something up over at the house. Old man Nebbercracker (Steve Buscemi) terrorizes the kids on the block and will confiscate any toy that so much as touches his property. And the house is just plain creepy. So after his friend Chowder (Sam Lerner) loses a basketball to Nebbercracker, the boys decide to do a little investigating. What they discover is that the house is a creature that wants to consume anyone that sets foot on the property. The boys are joined in their adventure by Jenny (Spencer Locke), a young girl trying to sell candy to adults who are ill prepared for Halloween. When she goes to Nebbercracker's house, she's almost devoured. The kids try to get adults'the babysitter, a nerdy computer game geek, a couple of cops'to believe their story but when they fail to convince them, they decide that they will have to deal with the house themselves.

Monster House boasts three writers'Dan Harmon, Rob Schrab and Pamela Pettler'and serves up a potentially fun premise. The idea that a house could be alive, could have a personality and could actually move is something that kids could find fun and scary. Plus, animation allows the filmmakers a wonderful opportunity to make the house do anything they want and look any way they want. Unfortunately, this premise goes nowhere in the hands of the writing team and director Gil Kenan. The house has a creepy-cool look but nothing else in the film works. The human characters all look like bad bobble head dolls whose enormous heads always seem about to snap off from their scrawny necks. The animation style for the humans becomes a distraction as you wait for them to tip over. The voice casting proves a distraction too as actors like Jason Lee, Steve Buscemi, Maggie Gyllenhaal are so typecast that you keep thinking of them and how they look rather than believing them as the characters that they are voicing.

Monster House (rated PG) is yet another Hollywood animated film that boasts state of the art technology but little inspiration, wit or storytelling skills. I think I need to go and watch some anime to remind myself of the potential animated films can exploit. Monster House , on the other hand, just reveals the limitations of animation when it is merely looked upon as a medium for children's entertainment rather than a wildly imaginative style of filmmaking.

Companion viewing: The Haunting (1963), The Amityville Horror (1979), Beetlejuice. Spirited Away -----

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