Monster House (2006)

Rating: ***
Release Date: 7/21/06
Music: Douglas Pipes
Cast: Steve Buscemi, Spencer Locke, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jon Heder

A delightfully spooky kid's flick that unfortunately falls into that cinematic no-man's land of pre-teen entertainment. It's a lot of fun and the animation is beautiful, but it may be too intense for young kids and too juvenile for adults to enjoy. A young boy named DJ lives across the street from a spooky old house owned by the cranky old Mr. Nebbercracker (played to perfection by Steve Buscemi). Nebbercracker has a history of terrorizing kids and stealing their toys, but there's something more sinister at work and there's a touch of fear and madness in his eyes. It's the day before Halloween, and after being attacked by the possessed house, DJ and his best friend Chowder decide that they have to destroy the house before it eats all of the trick-or-treaters that come to visit. They receive additional aid in the form of a bright and sassy prep-school girl named Jenny, and together the three of them mount an attack against the creepy house (while also combatting puberty and emerging hormonal urges).

First and foremost, the scary visuals are utterly delightful, and Douglas Pipes' Danny Elfman inspired music score is gleefully wicked. The voice acting is superb and the animation is gorgeous. The character designs are more in a Pixar vein, but what they lack in detail they make up for in expressiveness. Unfortunately, the wisecracking dialog is mean-spirited and annoying, and none of the characters are particularly likable, with the sole exception of Jenny (Spencer Locke). All of the adults in the film are buffoons, which helps lend the film a better childhood perspective. The story starts out strong, but kind of loses its steam in the final reel, which devolves into a loud and hectic action set piece.