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Monster House

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Gil Kenan
Produced by Robert Zemeckis (executive)
Steven Spielberg (executive)
Jack Rapke
Steve Starkey
Written by Dan Harmon
Rob Schrab
Pamela Pettler
Starring Mitchel Musso
Sam Lerner
Spencer Locke
Steve Buscemi
Nick Cannon
Maggie Gyllenhaal
Kevin James
Jason Lee
Catherine O'Hara
Kathleen Turner
Fred Willard
Music by Douglas Pipes
Cinematography Paul C. Babin
Editing by Fabienne Rawley
Studio Amblin Entertainment
ImageMovers
Relativity Media
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date(s) July 21, 2006 (2006-07-21)
Running time 91 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $75 million[1]
Gross revenue $140,175,006

Monster House is a 2006 American computer animated film, released on July 21, 2006 produced by ImageMovers and Amblin Entertainmet, and distributed by Columbia Pictures. Executive produced by Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg, this is the first time since Back to the Future Part III that both have been involved together. It is the very first time that Zemeckis and Spielberg both served as executive producers of a film together. The film's characters are animated primarily utilizing performance capture, making it the second film to use the technology so extensively, following producer Robert Zemeckis' The Polar Express.

Contents

Plot

DJ Walters (Mitchel Musso), the main protagonist, is a young preteen boy, who spends a lot of his free time spying on the house across the street and its owner, Mr. Nebbercracker (Steve Buscemi), a mean old man who terrorizes anyone who steps anywhere on his lawn or close to his house. DJ has seen and documented Nebbercracker taking toys from kids that have stepped in his grounds. DJ's parents, Mr. Walter (Fred Willard) and Mrs. Walter (Catherine O'Hara), dismiss his comments as "kid talk" and leave town for the weekend, during which he is to be cared by Elizabeth "Zee" (Maggie Gyllenhaal), DJ's evil babysitter.

When Charles "Chowder" (Sam Lerner), DJ's chubby best friend, loses his basketball on Nebbercracker's lawn, DJ ventures there to recover it, but Nebbercracker appears and grabs DJ, who then starts screaming. This causes him to collapse from a stroke, seemingly dead. While Nebbercracker is carried away by the paramedics, a gold key is dropped, which DJ scoops up.

That night, DJ gets a call from Nebbercracker's house (which was just eerie moaning from the other end). He calls Chowder and they agree to meet at a construction lot. There, they decide to investigate the house. When Chowder tries to ding-dong-ditch the house, it comes to life and attempts to eat him. They run back to DJ's house and spend the night watching across the street. Unknown to them, Zee's recently ex-boyfriend, Bones (Jason Lee), has already been "swallowed" by the house.

The kids watch horrified as the house swallows Officers Landers and Lester.

The next morning, a girl named Jennifer "Jenny" Bennett (Spencer Locke) is on the street selling Halloween chocolates. DJ and Chowder see her going to Nebbercracker's house, and they rush out to warn her, managing to catch her before she is eaten by the house. Jenny decides to call for the police, but when police officers Landers and Lester (Kevin James and Nick Cannon) arrive, they don't believe their story, as the house doesn't react to the kids' teasing while the cops are there.

The children then go to an arcade and ask advice from Reginald "Skull" Skulinski (Jon Heder). They learn that the house is a "domus mactibilis" (deadly home in Latin), which is created when a human soul merges with a man-made structure. They conclude that the house is Nebbercracker back from the dead and that the only way to "kill" the house is to destroy its heart. Though they have trouble figuring out what the heart is until DJ realizes that the chimney has been smoking (and apparently beating like a heart) ever since Mr. Nebbercracker died.

DJ, Chowder, and Jenny make a dummy, that they fill with cold medicine from Chowder's parent's drug store, intending to "drug" the house. As the house is about to eat the dummy, Officer Landers (Kevin James) and Officer Lester (Nick Cannon) arrive. Officer Landers decides to arrest the kids for stealing the cold medicine and places them in the car. The house then eats Officer Landers, Officer Lester, and the police car, while the kids survive by jumping out of the broken back window.

The kids explore the inside of the house. The kids then notice that the house has "fallen asleep". They see lights in a net in the shape of a uvula, and Chowder thinks that it is the heart. The kids explore the house and find several sticks of dynamite (indicating that Mr. Nebbercracker used to work in demolition), a pair of binoculars on an extending device (making DJ realize that Mr. Nebbercracker was watching him like he watched Mr. Nebbercracker), and a locked cage, which DJ opens with the key, that he took earlier. They find the body of Constance the Giantess (Kathleen Turner), Mr. Nebbercracker's wife, covered in cement. The house then realizes that the kids are inside and starts attacking them. DJ, Chowder, and Jenny are able to escape by pulling on its uvula, and forcing the house to "vomit" them outside.

As the kids return home, Mr. Nebbercracker arrives in an ambulance, with an arm in a sling, revealing that the house isn't possessed by his soul, but by the soul of Constance.

DJ confronts Mr. Nebbercracker, and Mr. Nebbercracker reveals his story. He met Constance, a obese women who was an unwilling member of a circus freak show, and fell in love with her at first sight. After helping her escape from the circus, Mr. Nebbercracker moved them away and started building the house, that Constance always wanted. However, children still taunted and threw things at Constance for her size. On one particular Halloween day, as children cruelly attacked her with eggs and tomatoes, Constance went after them, yet lost her footing, retaliating and as she fell from the edge of the house's foundation, she grabbed the lever of a cement mixer, which covered her in cement as quickly as she fell to her death. Mr. Nebbercracker ended up finishing the house despite Constance's death, yet found that her spirit had not left; the house possessed Constance's spirit. Mr. Nebbercracker has since gone to every possible measure to keep the people away from his house and Constance's wrath, resulting in his child-hating reputation. However, Mr. Nebbercracker felt that it was now time to destroy the house. The house overhears this, and is angered. It breaks free from its foundation (growing 4 tree parts as legs) to attack the group.

As the kids and Mr. Nebbercracker run away, they run into the construction lot. A chase ensues, during which Mr. Nebbercracker attempts to throw a stick of dynamite into the house, but fails. Jenny kisses DJ good luck; getting courage, DJ takes the dynamite and climbs to the top of a tower crane. He swings with the crane cable and throws the dynamite down the chimney, where it reaches the furnace and destroys the house completely. The kids see Mr. Nebbercracker dancing with the spirit of Constance as he lets go of her, and she fades away. DJ apologizes to Mr. Nebbercracker, and Mr. Nebbercracker thanks DJ for freeing him and Constance after 45 years of being "trapped".

The film ends with the kids returning to the hole, where the house was, and DJ, Chowder, and Jenny helping Mr. Nebbercracker return all of the toys. Jenny leaves to go home, but offers to hang out with DJ and Chowder again sometime while DJ and Chowder decide to go trick-or-treating after all.

During the credits, those who had been eaten from the house emerge, dazed and confused from the basement. Officer Landers and Officer Lester emerge from the basement and decide to go "inspect" children's candy, while Bones crawls out and gets dumped by Zee, who began dating Skull while he was eaten. The movie ends as a dog who was eaten during the opening scene emerges from the basement and pees on the last remaining sparks of the explosion of the house, putting it out.

Cast

  • DJ Walters: (Mitchel Musso) The main protagonist of the film. He is a preteen boy, who is known for spying on Nebbercracker through a telescope, so much that Chowder claims no one sits next to them at lunch. He is preteen yet sometimes acts, and is treated, like a younger boy and is often thought crazy as he is one of the few who knows the house is alive after he supposedly murders Nebbercracker. He slightly resembles director Gil Kenan in terms of dark, greasy black hair. He destroys the house in the end by throwing a stick of dynamite down the chimney.
  • Charles "Chowder": (Sam Lerner) DJ's chubby best friend. He has a habit of acting slightly strange and immature throughout the film and is somewhat of an idiot. He buys a new basketball at the beginning of the film and gets it back from Nebbercracker at the end. DJ is better than him at the sport. His father works at a pharmacy and his mother has a personal trainer whom she goes to the movies with the night. DJ and Chowder are first attacked by the house. He fights the house off in a backhoe and helps defeat it in the end.
  • Jennifer "Jenny" Bennett: (Spencer Locke) An intelligent girl who attends an all-girls school named Westbook Prep and is the only girl to know of the house's possessed nature after it tries to eat her. Both DJ and Chowder have crushes on her, but near the end of the film, it is revealed that Jenny prefers DJ. Jenny sells chocolate and obtains $20 from Zee during her first appearance to save DJ's house from being egged and to raise money to "secure a successful future". She helps DJ destroy the house by lighting the dynamite and kissing him on the lips, giving him the courage, that he needs to throw it down the house's chimney (as well as his first kiss).
  • Horace Nebbercracker: (Steve Buscemi) A mean old man and former 'demolition squad' expert who lives across the street from DJ. He is known for stealing anything that lands on his lawn e.g. Chowder's ball, Eliza's tricycle and Bones' kite, just to make sure that the house does not eat them. He is thought dead after interrogating DJ but he later shows up with just a broken arm. He ends up realizing that he needs to destroy the house and attempts to do so but fails and leaves the job to DJ, Chowder and Jenny. After the fight is over he dances with the now freed spirit of Constance, thanks the kids for setting him and Constance free and returns all of the stolen toys to their owners no longer needing to pretend to be an evil, child-hating old man. While DJ feels bad for Mr. Nebbercracker, and wonders what he will do next, Chowder says that he might go to the beach, get a tan, and "maybe meet a nice beach house". Mr. Nebbercracker's first name is revealed to be "Horace," according to the website, though this was not stated in the movie.
  • Elizabeth "Zee": (Maggie Gyllenhaal) DJ's evil babysitter, who appears to be a charming girl, who likes listening to songs by Olivia Newton-John, but is actually a punk, who wears black and is really into heavy metal music. At the beginning of the movie, Zee's boyfriend is Bones, but she later goes out with Skull (possibly to make Bones jealous). When Zee meets Jenny, it is revealed that she was kicked out from Westbook Prep school. For all of her tough acts, she has a moral conscience and actually worries about DJ at points in the movie. At the end of Zee's bit, she shouts, "Bones!".
  • DJ's Parents: (Catherine O'Hara and Fred Willard) DJ's parents are both apparently dentists. His mother mistreats him like a child and is scared when DJ's voice breaks for a moment, but his father is less concerned.
  • Bones: (Jason Lee) Zee's boyfriend at the beginning of the film whom she claims is in a band. He takes great pleasure in torturing DJ. Zee "adores" Bones, but after Bones pretends to eat her in baby ways, he is kicked out of the house. Bones lost his kite at 10 years old on Nebbercracker's lawn. When he sees his kite in Nebbercracker's doorway after Nebbercracker supposedly dies, he follows the kite only to be swallowed up by the house. He remains absent for the rest of the film until the end. Bones is glad to have his kite back and wants to hang out with Zee, however she has started hanging out with Skull, possibly to make Bones jealous.
  • Reginald "Skull" Skulinski: (Jon Heder) A videogame-crazed comic geek who is known for playing on an arcade game called "Thou Art Dead" for 4 days on one quarter, a gallon of chocolate milk and an adult diaper. He provides DJ, Chowder and Jenny with information on how a house can become possessed and how to destroy it (target the heart). He starts going out with Zee in a scene during the credits.
  • Officers Landers and Lester: (Kevin James and Nick Cannon) Landers is an experienced cop with an easygoing, joking manner, who thinks of the kids' case as just "a couple of tater-toters hopped up on too many Pixie Sticks", while Lester is a rookie on his first week. Lester is the first adult to consider the house as a serious threat, but he and Landers are later eaten by the house. A post-credit sequence shows that they emerged, shaken but unharmed, from the house-site after the film's climax, and decide to go "inspect" some candy (and eat some).
  • Constance the Giantess: (Kathleen Turner) The main antagonist of the film. She was an enormous woman who featured in a circus's freak show in the 1920s. Throughout her life, children ridiculed Constance because of her size, causing her to develop an intense hatred for children. Horace Nebbercracker met her at the circus and fell in love at first sight. He took her away from the circus and sometime later, married her. Horace promised to build her a house on an empty plot of land. One Halloween, while Horace worked on their new home, children from the neighborhood intent on playing a Halloween prank approach and pelt Constance with eggs and tomatoes. Constance grabs an axe and attacks the children. Horace tries to stop her which results in a squabble between Horace and Constance over the axe. Constance stumbles backwards, nearly falling into the house's basement. Trying to steady herself, Constance grabs the nearest thing she can reach, which happens to be the dump lever on a nearby cement mixer. Constance falls backward into the pit, and the cement mixer's payload empties onto her, crushing her death. Nebbercracker finishes building the house despite Constance's death. Once the house is complete, her spirit merges with the wood and brick, possessing it and terrorizing (or even eating) anyone that ventures near it. Once the house is destroyed, her spirit is released after 45 long years, and her spirit passes on into the afterlife.
  • Eliza: (Ryan Newman) A little girl, around 4 or 5, who rides her tricycle at the beginning of the film, singing. Her tricycle lands on Nebbercracker's lawn, so he scares her away and breaks her tricycle, causing her to run off in tears. She is later seen being reunited with her tricycle when the toys are returned to their owners. We later hear her singing during the last of the closing credits.

Production

Performance capture

The film's character animation is at least partially derived from a complex motion capture process dubbed performance capture. This process was pioneered by Robert Zemeckis on his film The Polar Express, also produced by Sony Pictures Imageworks.[2] To avoid criticism from audiences and avoid the same fate as Polar Express, the animation and facial looks have been "toned down" from ultra-photorealistic looks so the audience is not "creeped out"[citation needed] (See uncanny valley).

Mark Vulcano, a former animation director and supervisor at Big Idea Productions the company that produces VeggieTales was senior character animator for the film.

Music

The trailer prominently features the main theme to Beetlejuice, however, this film is not connected in any way with that film (other than Catherine O'Hara's appearances in both films). "Halloween" by Siouxsie and the Banshees plays over the credits. Velvet Revolver had announced that they were contributing a song entitled "The House is Alive" to the movie but is not included. The song was rumored to appear on their album Libertad, but it was not included. Fountains of Wayne wrote a song entitled "Monster House" for the movie which also was not used, but it may appear in their next album or the movie soundtrack album.

The score utilizes a large orchestra, as well as piano, percussions, electronic sampled sounds, and the electronic instrument known as the theremin. The score harkens back to "Old Hollywood" with its rich, dense orchestral score, and the theremin adds a touch of Hitchcock's "Spellbound."

The Japanese pop-rock band Ikimono Gakari sung the theme song "Seishun no Tobira" in the Japan version of the film.

Release

In a Columbia press release distributed the company's New York City headquarters, at an early-May 2006 screening of the film's first half, the voice cast was listed as including Steve Buscemi, Nick Cannon, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Kevin James, Jason Lee, Catherine O'Hara, Kathleen Turner, and Fred Willard.

Director Kenan won the UCLA Spotlight Award for his live-action/animated horror-fantasy short The Lark. On the basis of that film, he was signed by the Creative Artists Agency (CAA) upon graduation. Kenan also garnered a 2001/02 British Academy Fellowship and the 2001/02 Lew Wasserman Fellowship in Film Production. Following Monster House, Kenan began developing City of Ember, adapted by screenwriter Caroline Thompson from the Jeanne DuPrau book, for Walden Media and Playtone.

The film was released on DVD and Blu-Ray in North America on October 24, 2006, and in the UK on Monday, December 11, 2006.

Digital 3-D version

As with The Polar Express, a stereoscopic 3-D version of the film was created and had a limited special release in digital 3-D stereo along with the "flat" version. While The Polar Express was produced for the 3-D IMAX 70mm giant film format, Monster House was released in approximately 200 theaters equipped for new REAL D Cinema digital 3-D stereoscopic projection. The process was not based on film, but was purely digital. Since the original source material was "built" in virtual 3-D, it created a very rich stereoscopic environment. For the film's release, the studio nicknamed it Imageworks 3D.[3]

Monster House premiered in North America at the Seattle International Film Festival on June 15, 2006. Before the theatrical release, it could also be watched on Blu-Ray Disc on a running PlayStation 3 prototype at the E³ 2006.

Reception

The film grossed $73,661,010 domestically, and its worldwide gross is $140,175,006.[4]

The Rotten Tomatoes film-critics aggregate site gave the film 74% positive reviews.[5] Michael Medved called it "ingenious" and "slick, clever [and] funny" while also cautioning parents about letting small children see it due to its scary and intense nature, adding that a "PG-13 rating" would have been more appropriate than its "PG rating."[6] Dissenting critics included Frank Lovece of Film Journal International, who praised director Gil Kenan as "a talent to watch" but berated the "internal logic [that] keeps changing.... DJ's parents are away, and the house doesn't turn monstrous in front of his teenage babysitter, Zee. But it does turn monstrous in front of her boyfriend, Bones. It doesn't turn monstrous in front of the town's two cops until, in another scene, it does."[7]

Awards

Monster House was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature of 2006. However, it lost to Happy Feet, along with Cars. Humorously, during the Academy Awards ceremony, the three main characters, D.J., Chowder, and Jenny make a cameo appearance in the audience after their movie is mentioned for nomination. Most likely, the film crew of the movie superimposed the three characters into the live-action audience seating.

References to other movies

  • The opening sequence, to which a leaf is followed from a tree to the ground is similar to the opening sequence of Forrest Gump, where the camera follows a falling feather. Robert Zemeckis, who served as executive producer on this film directed Forrest Gump.
  • In another nod to Forrest Gump, Chowder repeats a line from the movie: "Jenny, I've always loved you", as the kids are being swallowed by the house.
  • The house dribbles Chowder's Wilson-brand basketball making a face on it, which is a reference to Wilson the Volleyball from the Zemeckis-directed movie Cast Away.

Video game

A tie-in Monster House video game was developed by A2M and published by THQ.

References

  1. ^ Box Office Mojo: Monster House (Retrieved on December 14, 2007)
  2. ^ "The Animation of Monster House". Lost in the Plot. http://www.lostintheplot.com/blog/?p=47. Retrieved 2007-06-05. 
  3. ^ For more info on the 3D technology used for Sony ImageWorks Monster House, visit: www.reald.com
  4. ^ Monster House at Box Office Mojo
  5. ^ Monster House at Rotten Tomatoes
  6. ^ Michael Medved: Movie Minute
  7. ^ Monster House
  • Columbia Pictures press release titled "Monster House: July 21, 2006" (offline)

External links








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