for Monster House
Voices of Steve Buscemi, Mitchel Musso
by Breanne Boland
July 27, 2006 Issue
You see a lot of hard
PG-13s, especially in recent years when theaters have sometimes
severely restricted admittance to R movies, but rarely do you
see a film you can describe as a hard PG. Monster House is one
of the few and the proud.
On the day before Halloween,
young, geeky DJ and his geekier friend Chowder finally confirm
that the house across the street is evil, and they decide to stop
it before it really hurts someone. Joining them is Jenny, an overachieving
class president who gets to do more than function as the token
girl. As they try to infiltrate the spiky, chompy boundaries of
the house, it consumes people and wayward toys, among other casualties.
However, the cranky, scary old man who owns the house and keeps
its secrets makes saving the neighborhood even more difficult
— as does the awkwardness of impending puberty.
There have been lots
of animated movies in recent years trying hard to bring parents
and other adults into the film as audience members, rather than
merely as chaperones for the toy-buying market. Pixar movies have
done it pretty well, blending high and low humor without the nudging,
winking obviousness that plague the Shrek movies. Monster House
is more like the former — there are jokes that kids just
won’t get, but rather than being an awkward shout-out at
the voting age set, they make sense in context. The main characters
are on the cusp of being adults themselves, and so their jokes
won’t always be within the grasp of a five year old.
And this is definitely
not a film for toddlers. There were kids at the showing I went
to, and they were mellow enough, but seriously — some of
this movie is scary. The design of the house brings together every
frightening, imagined detail of every rundown, abandoned house
that has ever haunted the minds of neighborhood kids. It’s
enormous, malevolent, and merciless, which makes for a great animated
movie villain. The design of the film is generally great, goofy
where necessary and the amalgam of every child’s nightmares
when called for. It’s interesting, considering that it shares
a production team with The Polar Express, pretty much the paradigm
of the limitations of art imitating life, with its spooky, slightly
off animated renditions of real people.
This is the perfect
film for smart kids who like their stories honestly scary, without
any of the saccharine or condescension that often accompanies
movies and books aimed at “tweens.” The young characters
have common sense, but aren’t perfect and noble. They do
dangerous things, but freak out over small tasks. They’re
normal, and they’re people, rather than just being our guides
through a tale of a big, freaky house. For visuals alone, the
film does quite a nice job, but the thing that makes it worthwhile
is the writing. Without it, we’d just get a nice CGI slideshow.
Instead, we get a solid story worthy of a well-done young adult
novel. Plus we get enormous, angry, homicidal houses threatening
the lives of children. Who could ask for anything more?
Bottom line: let this
House devour you.
from Breanne Boland
2 Finds Balance Between Smart and Gross Humor
Kevin O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Rosario
Dawson, Jason Mewes
Review by Chris Manson
July 27, 2006 Issue
Twelve years ago, I saw
the first Clerks movie at the long-gone—and much-missed—Cinco
Cinema with a whopping two other people. But our laughter was loud
enough that anyone standing outside the doors might have suspected
that theater was packed. In 2006, Clerks II draws a much larger
audience for opening night, mostly fans of writer-director Kevin
Smith’s “View Askew” universe who stick around
through the end credits to see if their names appear on a staggeringly
long list of Smith’s myspace.com friends.
films never achieved blockbuster status, even though most of them
have been worthwhile if only for the auteur’s careful blend
of the profane and profound. Among other moviemakers who made their
mark in the 1990s, Smith’s voice is one of the most distinct.
It also helps that most of his films are set in his homeland New
Jersey with many characters making repeat appearances. The new movie
is mostly an attempt to recapture the magic of the debut film. As
far as laughs go, Clerks II is a success.
Smith is good enough
to rehire still-unknowns Brian O’Halloran and Jeff Anderson
in the roles that made them nearly famous. O’Halloran’s
Dante Hicks is 33 and still working at the Qwik Stop convenience
store until he arrives one morning to find the place in flames.
“Forgot to turn off the coffee pot again?” he asks his
longtime sidekick Randal Graves, played by Anderson. Anderson looks
a little pudgier and a lot older which makes him even smarmier.
Flash forward to a year
later. Dante and Randal are employed at Mooby’s, a fast-food
joint Smith fans will remember from Dogma and Jay and Silent Bob
Strike Back. Dante is on the verge of breaking free from his slacker
chains. He is about to move to Florida with his ingratiating fiancÈe,
whose folks have promised the couple a house and a great new job
for Dante…running a car wash. Randal, meanwhile, continues
to annoy his coworkers and customers, offering a very funny comparison
of his beloved trilogy (Star Wars episodes IV through VI) and that
of his younger associates (Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings
here, too. Dante has a thing for his boss, played by Rosario Dawson.
Seems they got a little drunk one night and had sex on one of the
prep tables. Dante wants to talk about it, but the Dawson character
has a very pessimistic attitude toward romantic love. This presents
a problem for Dante, who starts having doubts about his soon-to-be
new life. In a wonderful sequence, completely free of irony, the
boss gives Dante dance lessons on the Mooby’s rooftop so he
won’t be embarrassed on his wedding day.
Most of the action takes
place during the course of a single tumultuous day. There is one
very funny scene involving Wanda Sykes and a particularly offensive
racial slur that suggests Smith’s debt to Spike Lee’s
Do the Right Thing. The most overt classic film tribute is an extended
musical montage of Dante and Randal at the go-cart track set to
B.J. Thomas’ Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head.
Of course, Clerks II
is loaded with the expected foul-mouthed hilarity. If you only know
ATM as a contraption that dispenses cash, this is not the movie
for you. And yet the dialogue that follows does not belittle the
film’s characters or insult the audience. Smith turns up again
as Silent Bob along with the newly clean and sober Jason Mewes as
his born-again dope-dealing pal Jay, but their appearances are kept
to a surprising minimum. Despite some concessions to fans who foolishly
rank the gross-out dud Mallrats among Smith’s good movies,
Clerks II is a flat-out funny piece of work and a worthy follow-up
to what is now widely considered one of the seminal moments of the
‘90s independent cinema boom.
After endless DVD reissues, an animated TV series, movie spin-offs,
comic books, and action figures…the sequel.