Making the Grades
DJ (voice of Mitchel Musso), a self-appointed neighborhood spy, is sure there is something sinister about the shabby shanty across the street. He's always pinned the problem on the suspicious owner, Mr. Nebbercracker (Steve Buscemi). But the day the grumpy old man has a heart attack and is carried off in an ambulance DJ discovers the real truth -- it's the house that's the monster!
Rumors have long run rampant about the dilapidated residence. Added to that is DJ's reputation for an overactive imagination and the anticipation of celebrating Halloween in just 24 hours, and it's little wonder no one believes his far-fetched assertions. Among those he tries to convince are his preoccupied parents (Fred Willard and Catherine O'Hara), his neglectful babysitter (Maggie Gyllenhall) and two skeptical police officers (Kevin James and Nick Cannon).
Frustrated, the young teenager asks his best friend Chowder (Sam Lerner) for help proving his observations are correct. Unfortunately, the freckle-faced chum isn't anxious to get involved either. But both boys' attitudes change when they see a cute, redheaded candy peddler starting up the walkway of the haunted dwelling. Knowing the building will swallow Jenny (Spencer Locke) alive, the panicked pals suddenly have all the motivation they need to take on the shingle-clad tormentor.
Because Monster House is an animated film, many parents may mistakenly assume it is appropriate for all family members. Using high-tech motion-capture computer graphics (like those first seen in the 2004 Christmas feature The Polar Express), the life-like realism of the characters intensifies the impact of a tale already too frightening for little ones.
Full of jump scenes, perilous situations, verbal and physical threats, ghoulish gossip, as well as encounters with the dead and dying, this movie is instead geared to an audience roughly the same age as the protagonists. Feeling much the same as an amusement park spook-alley, the attraction tries to provide as much fear factor as its targeted 'tween crowd can handle.
While violence is the primary concern, there are a few other elements parents may find disquieting. In order to create a sense of the children being on their own, all of the adults in the movie are portrayed as unreliable. Zee the babysitter and her beer drinking boyfriend (Jason Lee) are perhaps the worst offenders, thanks to their self-absorbed and bullying tendencies. Consequently, DJ, Chowder and the precocious Jenny feel no obligation to respect authority figures and are even willing to violate the law. The film also includes potty humor, name-calling, terms of deity used as expletives some mild sexual innuendo and a reference to mercy killing.
Although the scriptwriters try to soften the depictions of the demonic domicile by giving the story some heart, the gap between the two plotlines is so wide that efforts to bridge the opposing emotions often times fall short. However, viewers less inclined to quibble may find this monster movie quite accommodating.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Monster House.
When all other adults fail them, whom do DJ and Chowder turn to as a source of wisdom? What attributes does this character have that make the boys believe he is so smart? How accurate is their assessment? What traits do you associate with intelligence?
What would you do if you got stuck with a babysitter like Zee? Who could you turn too? Why do you think DJ doesn’t look into any of these options?