Directed by: Gil Kenan
Starring: Mitchel Musso, Sam Lerner, Steve Buscemi, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Spencer Locke
Prepubescent neighborhood-watcher DJ (Mitchel Musso) is convinced that evil doings are occurring at the run-down old mansion across the street. Mean, snaggle-toothed Mr. Nebbercracker (Steve Buscemi) is always yelling at kids to stay off his lawn. If they defy him -- zap -- their errant kites, balls and tricycles get sucked into the mouth-door of the house or sink into the oozy grass. Nasty business.
DJ's tubby friend, Chowder, a scaredy-cat in a superhero cape, is counting the days till Halloween so he can restock his candy supply. Meanwhile, DJ's parents leave him in the deranged neglect of the babysitter, Zee (Maggie Gyllenhaal). In an odd and unpleasant note for a children's movie, Zee fights off couch advances from her boozy slacker boyfriend, Bones (Jason Lee), who walks drunkenly across the street and disappears.
The next day, heading for the nefarious house comes cute candy-seller Jenny (Spencer Locke). Urged on by hormonal inspiration, DJ and Chowder rescue her from a fate worse than death. Grateful, she helps the boys try to convince two brainless cops that the house is an omnivorous, shingled monster, but the officers get swallowed up anyway. The house, it turns out, has become a terrifying manifestation of Mr. Nebbercracker's vengeful, giantess spouse, who died during its construction -- a story that surely gives a whole new meaning to the term "housewife."
The kids realize they must kill the heart of evil in the house before it chews up the trick-or-treaters who'll be on the sidewalks that night. After they bravely enter the house, it goes monster-ballistic, tromping through the neighborhood on arm-legs, wreaking havoc everywhere and demanding ever more astonishing counterattacks from our terrified young heroes.
Monster's terrific animation style is distinct, cinematic and edgy. The characters are enjoyable and the dialogue is often witty. But the movie just falls apart about three-quarters of the way through, and the last parts, although full of breathless action, are pointless. Like King Kong, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest and War of the Worlds, it's just too much monster and not enough humanity. Young teens should like it, but it's probably too silly for older teens. Parents beware: Sensitive kids under 9 years of age may find the scary images too intense. Rated PG for scary images and sequences, thematic elements, some crude humor and brief language.
-- reviewed by Marcianne Miller