Monster House (2006)

Old Man Nebbercracker is the cranky old man we all had somewhere in our neighborhoods growing up. You don’t knock on his door, you don’t step foot on his lawn, and if a toy happens to fly over his fence, kiss it goodbye. On the eve of Halloween, three neighborhood chums (DJ, Chowder and Jenny) begin to unravel the secrets of the Monster House. It’s not just Old Man Nebbercracker, the house itself is alive — and hungry!

Monster House is just plain fun. Apparently using the same motion capture techniques as Polar Express, the animation in Monster House is believable without trying to look realistic. The result is an animated film with a storybook look and a kid-friendly feel. But don’t let that fool you — by the third act, things get pretty out of control, and while older kids might enjoy the thrill ride, younger tots might get a bit scared by the house.

The film’s voice acting is top notch. DJ (Mitchel Musso, Aang from Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender, Chowder (Sam Lerner) and Jenny (Spencer Locke, Phil of the Future) all do great jobs as the film’s central characters. Bigger names were brought in for the surrounding characters: Steve Buscemi (Nebbercracker), Catherine O’Hara (Mom), Fred Willard (Dad), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Z, the babysitter), Jason Lee (Bones, her boyfriend), Nick Cannon (as Officer Lister), Jon “Napoleon Dynamite” Heder (as Reginald “Skull” Skulinski) and Kathleen Turner (as Constance) each deliver believable supporting roles that bring the story to life and give depth to the film.

There’s a love triangle, some humor, some frights, some adventure, and a classic battle between good and evil. More importantly, unlike several of the recent animated films I’ve sat through there aren’t a hundred pop culture references thrown in, dating the movie. Monster House is good, original family fun.

Expect a Halloween DVD release.

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