Original or inventive kids movies are few and far between these days. I’ll be the first to admit that children aren’t exactly the hardest audience in the world to please. Just watch an episode of The Wiggles or Power Rangers for proof positive on that. But that also doesn’t mean that kids can’t recognize something more creative and original that goes above and beyond the mindless junk they are generally spoon-fed. Every single critter-based CG flick may be raking in the bucks at the box office right now, but it’s few that rise to the level of a Finding Nemo, permanently finding their way into kids hearts to achieve “classic” status.
Monster House is one of these rare films, featuring such a wonderful combination of great story, gorgeous animation and true heart that it is destined to become a classic of the genre. It is admittedly scary in parts, so it might not be for the really young tykes. It’s respectful of kids’ intelligence, challenging them with thoughtful humor instead of the quick-fix brainless variety. On top of that, there are plenty of jokes aimed at the older crowds, such as a mention of Shrinky Dinks for all of us Gen Xers out there.
First time director Gil Kenan does a commendable job, not only crafting a funny and memorable story, but also taking the CG genre to another level. Man, it’s nice to see a CG film without talking animals for a change. If your kids are old enough (or even if, like me, you don’t even have kids), Monster House is a sweet-natured, smart film that respects its’ audience whilst simultaneously delivering a highly entertaining experience full of comedy, adventure and even a few nice jolts.
What’s On the Disc
This is a really nice package on DVD. This was a painstaking process to bring Monster House to the screen which involved some very complicated and often brand-new techniques.
Monster House brings the motion capture techniques executed in films such as The Polar Express to another level and the DVD fully explores all the work that went into the finished project.
Gil Kenan gives a commentary over the film offering insights into the work that went into each scene. His commentary is interspersed with sound bites from various cast and crew.
The coolest feature is entitled “Evolution of a Scene: Eliza Vs. Nebbercracker.” Here you are able to use the angle feature on your DVD player (a feature taken advantage of so rarely you’ll probably have to look for it) to view various angles and forms of the footage. You’ll see how the film plays out in original concept sketches, animatics and the final version.
Next is a series of seven short featurettes that take you through the making of the film and go behind the scenes. You’ll see some amusing footage of the young actors that portrayed DJ and Chowder goofing around on set. You’ll see the crazy amount of works (dots, dots, dots!) that go into preparing an actor for motion capture work. Other features discuss the transition from raw mo-cap footage to the final polished version you see on screen. All in all, these seven docs offer a fairly detailed lesson into the process.
“The Art of Monster House” is a series of still concept drawings from the film. These range from photos of the clay models used in production to elaborate concept paintings that could qualify to hang in a contemporary art museum.