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Monster House

By Violet LeVoit | Posted 7/19/2006

Red alert, Gil Kenan, you’re plagiarizing your executive producer. That directorial decision to fade up on the lazy drift of an animated autumn leaf as it twirls through the crisp October air, only to tangle in the wheels of a preschooler’s tricycle? Forrest Gump called, he wants his feather back. Luckily, your boss Robert Zemeckis lets it slide, and rightly so, because when the little girl on the trike is startled by the mean old Mr. Nebbercracker (voiced by Steve Buscemi) bolting from his decrepit hulk of a haunted house, we feel her terror—and we understand why D.J. (Mitchel Musso), the pubescent kid across the street with the very Rear Window telescope, is twice as terrified when he spies Nebbercracker’s house sprouting hardwood dentata to gobble up every interloper treading on his lawn. Voyeurism, the devouring female, the crossroads of loss of innocence and maturation—this could have been a multileveled pleasure, The Iron Giant for the Freudian set. But the messy, crass, ill-concluded screenplay chickens out, instead slumping into a “crowd-pleaser” that’s too serial-killer dark—and raunchy—for kids, too babyish for teens, and too “why am I watching this?” for adults. Gil, Gil, Gil . . . you know why the kids in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial—made by your other executive producer Steven Spielberg, by the way—can call each other “penis breath” and no one cares? It’s because that movie is flawless. If you want to include a line like “You make me want to throw up in tin foil and eat it” in your family film, you have to earn the privilege.

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