Monster House (PG)
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I definitely think this should've been PG-13.
It starts with a leaf falling from a tree. And an adorable little girl, riding her tricycle, whose adorableness soon gets grating enough that you're happy when things get scary....
But really, the movie is about a 12-year-old boy named DJ, whose parents go away for a couple days, for some reason. They leave him with a babysitter named Elizabeth (who has just started calling herself "Zee"). She acts sweet for the benefit of the parents (theoretically; we never actually see her and them together), but she's actually pretty horrible. And she has her jerk boyfriend, Bones, over to the house, which is against the rules. And they're both mean to DJ. But whatever, they're not that important. The important thing is that the old guy who lives across the street, Mr. Nebbercracker, is very mean. To everyone. He's kind of a stereotypical scary old guy, who the local kids all fear. Though since we know going into the movie it's going to turn out his house is a monster, I couldn't help but assume he was playing a role to frighten kids away specifically to protect them. And of course, it turns out I was right. Though I should also say that the day after DJ's parents leave town happens to be Halloween, and it will later turn out there's a specific reason that's the one night of the year it's important to keep kids away from the house. Which is kind of a cliché, but I guess it makes as much sense as anything can make, in a movie like this.
Anyway, DJ's best friend is this other kid called "Chowder," who at one point loses his new basketball on Nebbercracker's lawn. And of course that means they should just consider the ball lost, but Chowder convinces DJ to try to get it back. And of course Nebbercracker comes out and does his whole scary thing... and then the situation gets way scarier, when he has a heart attack and apparently dies. (I'm not clear on why they didn't get the ball back then, but they didn't.) The paramedics show up and take him away, just before Zee first shows up. And later... DJ has reason to believe he's being haunted by Nebbercracker, who has apparently possessed the house. He has Chowder help him investigate, though of course Chowder doesn't believe there's anything weird going on... until the house tries to eat him. So they keep watch all night.
The next day, a girl named Jenny shows up, trying to sell chocolate for her prep school. The house tries to eat her, but DJ and Chowder rescue her. So she gets involved in all the weirdness. Meanwhile, DJ and Chowder both have instant crushes on her. She calls the police, but... they're no help. After seeking advice from a video game addict (and obvious geek) who is supposedly an expert in such matters, they decide to try to destroy the house's "heart," which is its furnace. This, of course, does not prove to be easy.
I don't want to reveal any more about the plot. But I think it was a fairly clever and amusing movie, as well as being very dark. The kind of thing I didn't have trouble allowing myself to find scary, and which young children might have no choice but to find scary. When we eventually learn the reason behind everything that's going on... eh, I think it's fairly typical of horror movies (not that I know much about the genre), but also kind of... ridiculous, as well as sort of offensive, maybe. I dunno, it's just weird. But you can't really expect movies like this to make sense. Still, it does have a vague sort of sweetness and sadness to it, I guess. And a happy ending. And... the animation ain't exactly Pixar-quality, but it's pretty decent. The story sometimes felt sub-par, and other times felt awesome. There were little details I liked, nice touches. I liked the characters well enough. The musical score was decent, and I might someday consider getting the soundtrack. I definitely think I want to get the "Juju" album by Siouxsie and the Banshees, which includes the song "Halloween," which played during the closing credits, but isn't on the soundtrack. Oh yes, I also wanted to say that the executive producers are Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis... which is pretty damn cool, but the movie kind of has a Tim Burton/Henry Selick feel to it (though they're not involved). And the screenplay was co-written by Dan Harmon, who created the TV show Community. Which is very different from this, but still... not that very different. Anyway, I feel like I should be saying more stuff. I dunno. It's just a pretty cool movie, okay?
...And the closing credits end with the tune the adorable little girl was singing at the start of the movie. Which is fun.