Better is a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king, who will no longer take advice.
Change “foolish king” to “babysitter,” and you have a good introduction to this delightful animated film, one that is definitely NOT for children under seven or eight years of age. Thus parents of very young children should screen Monster House first before allowing their children to see what is a skillful blend of Hitchcock and B-movie horror tales.
Mom (Catherine O’Hara) and Dad (Fred Willard), very much like the parents in such movies as Home Alone, are leaving their son DJ (Mitchel Musso) in care of babysitter Zee (Maggie Gyllenhaal) while they go away on a trip. Zee is an airhead of a teenager interested only in inviting over boyfriend Bones (Jason Lee), so she tells DJ to keep out of her way, follow his own routine, and then menacingly warns him of dire consequences if he tells on her. DJ’s best friend, the chubby Chowder (Sam Lerner), shows him his expensive new basketball. It rolls onto the lawn of the decrepit old house across from DJ’s home. The boys hesitate to venture onto the lawn. Earlier we see why, when a little tricycle-riding girl gets stuck in the lawn of the house and its nasty owner Mr. Nebbercracker (Steve Buscemi) rushes out and grabs the tricycle, the little girl fleeing in tears. Chowder’s attempt to retrieve the ball ends in failure, Nebbercracker again rushing out to confront the intruders. As he grabs and shakes DJ he has a heart attack and collapses. DJ feels guilty, of course, and Chowder still wants to get back his ball. However, when he tries, the house transforms itself into a monster, the boys barely escaping with their lives. Zee, of course, cannot be bothered by their silly, obviously made-up tale,
Enter Jenny (Spencer Locke), a budding capitalist towing a red wagon full of candy that she is selling door to door. When she starts up the sidewalk leading to Nebbercracker’s, the boys cry out to her, but she ignores them. However, when the door of the house opens like a giant mouth and the carpet runner issues forth to lap her up like a huge tongue, she flees in terror. The three call 911, but the dimwitted pair of cops who arrive do not believe the tall tale. Soon they themselves have been gobbled up by what the trio call the Monster House. The following adventure, including their bravely entering the house and a dual with Chowder operating a giant crane pitted against the now traveling Monster House, is exciting and suspenseful.
The animation is top notch, especially that of the villain, the ramshackle house morphing into the Monster, its floorboards becoming jagged teeth, and the lawn trees becoming its gigantic limbs providing its mobility. There are imparted some nice life lessons, the children learning why Nebbercracker has become so mean, and thus befriending him, and the class-conscious Jenny widening her circle of friendship. Even if you have no children as an excuse to scout out the film, this is worth a trip to the theater. If you do go, do not leave at the beginning of the credits, as so many people do, or you will miss several engaging scenes,