It would seem that 2006 has been a good year for animation. It looked like there was a new animated movie playing in our local cinema all the time, and many of the movies released throughout the year did great business. But when you look at the quality of the movies, 2006 has not been as stellar as some of the previous years. Pixar's movie was not as grand as expected, Disney released a very average third party movie and the other studios seemed to be stuck in 'cute animal'-territory. There was one exception however, a fun picture called Monster House, which was both a throwback to the great teen-movies of the eighties, and a model for other studios to follow.
DJ lives in your average neighbourhood, where the most exciting thing seems to be the annual Halloween party that is only a few days away. DJ has other things on his mind, however, since he has just caused his neighbour from across the street to drop dead (or at least he thinks so). This Mr. Nebbercracker is the prototype of a street bully. Every time a football ends up on his lawn, he grabs it, never to be seen again, and when a little girl accidentally bikes on his grass, Nebbercracker scared her half to death and takes her bike away from her. So DJ's friend Chowder is pretty happy with his friend's actions, but DJ himself is freaking out. He is certain that not only is Nebbercracker's house alive, it is intent on eating him as a revenge for killing it's master.
The friends decide to stakeout in DJ's room, to see whether or not the house really is alive. But when their suspicions are found to be true, it's impossible for them to convince anybody else of this. Leading to many "Of course this house is not aliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive's" and people ending up inside it's bowels. They find an ally in Jenny, a girl who just barely survives trying to sell girl scout cookies to the doomed address, and who is just as intent as the boys on finding out the truth behind this mystery.
When you have had to sit through a year full of animated movies that make you feel like you have had ten times the maximum amount of sugar in a day, Monster House comes as a very pleasant surprise. Instead of bringing you a gaggle of marketable sidekicks acting cute, the movie actually tells a story, and a fun one at that. Monster House feels like a cross between The Goonies and The Burbs, with a bit of Weird Science and Stakeout thrown in for good measure. It's a movie with a story that appealed to me immediately. It's, technically speaking, the first 3D-animated horror movie, although the shocks are not that big that kids won't be able to watch it. On the contrary, actually. I think kids will love this movie, as it shows you that more can be done with the genre than just making fun of fairytales or pairing up a couple of funny, bantering animals.
It's helped by the characters. DJ is your typical neighbourhood know-it-all, who is more often right than wrong, while his buddy Chowder brings back fond memories of Goonies-member Chunk. And then there is Jenny, a girl who does not want to be just the sidekick, and who likes to take things into her own hands. Besides that, the house is truly menacing, which will surely make you think twice before walking up that scary house you no doubt have in your street as well. Mr. Nebbercracker is pretty evil too, although the movie avoids cliches well enough to actually give him more character than just that of the usual bully. The interaction between the characters is well handled as well. There is, for instance, a small love triangle going on between the two boys and their female companion, and this is handled in a funny, sweet way, that won't get on your nerves and doesn't interfere with the main storyline too much.
Monster House is a refreshing change from the norm, and I highly recommend it. It would have been able to go up against many of the best animated movies released in previous years, and in a year that was filled with animated movies that were fun, but not much more, it easily takes the title of Best Animated Movie of the Year.