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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Movie #13: Monster House (2006)

"Chowder, your ball just landed on Nebbercracker's lawn. It doesn't exist anymore."

For a PG-rated animated film, this one is pretty intense. Keep the little ones away from this one. Tweens and teenagers will love it, though.


  • Rating: PG "for scary images and sequences, thematic elements, some crude humor and brief language"

  • Minimum Recommended Age: 9.3 (Common Sense Media: "Iffy for ages 10-11", Movie Mom: 4th-6th Grades, Kids Pick Flicks: Ages 7+, Parents Television Council: 10 and Older, Kaboose: too scary for kids younger than 10)

  • Quality Rating: 73.8% (Parent Previews Overall Grade: B-, Common Sense Media: 4 stars, Movie Mom: B+, Kids Pick Flicks Grade: B, Rotten Tomatoes rating: 6.8)

  • Number of Lists Recommend: 6

  • Sex/Violence/Profanity: 3.6.1 (Kids-In-Mind)

    Language includes "I suck", "Kiss my hairy butt", "She grabbed my butt"

    IMDB: Eight uses of Oh, my God. Two uses of crap. One use of hell and piss. Other uses of words like "Shut Up", or "Idiot!", or "You Suck!".

  • Main Child Character Age: Tween

  • Running Time: 91 minutes

  • What does it have to do with Halloween? It takes place the day before and on the day of Halloween


Although no adults will believe them, three children realize a neighbor's house is really a monster. They must find a way to stop the house and save the neighborhood.

Watch Out For

Common Sense Media:
Parents need to know this is a pretty scary movie, and the last 20 minutes, in particular, take a turn for the dark. With windows like eyes and a flying carpet that unfurls tongue-like out the front door to scoop up trespassers, the house is a wonderfully alive structure. But it's creepy. You don't want your kids waking up in the middle of the night freaked out that their house is going to eat them. Most of the PG content comes from the scariness; there are very few crude jokes or language issues. The kids are in constant peril, and they're not exactly role models. They break and enter, steal cough medicine, operate heavy machinery, and use sticks of dynamite. Likewise, the adults in this movie are creepy –- not just Old Man Nebbercracker, but also the uninterested babysitter, detached parents, and clueless cops.

Parents Television Council:
This movie is full of thrills and adventure, as well as a fair amount of dark, scary material. There is a particularly disturbing scene when the kids go to the house's basement and find out why it is possessed and violent. One particularly sad and violent death occurs in the movie, with the skeletal remains shown long after the fact. Other scenes imply death, as well. When the house comes to life, it is quite menacing and has many terrifying ways of capturing victims.

Parents might also be concerned with some other content in the movie. There are scenes of disrespect and disregard for authority. DJ's parents are out of town over night and his sitter (Maggie Gyllenhaal) repeatedly calls him a loser, doesn't pay attention to him, steals money his parents left for emergencies, has a boyfriend over who drinks beer, and breaks a vase and tells DJ she plans to blame it on him. There are toilet and gross-out jokes, too. DJ and Chowder urinate in soda bottles while hiding out in DJ's room and discuss it on two occasions. One character tells the kids, "You make me want to throw up in tin foil and eat it." There are also a couple of visual gags that involve a dog urinating and a comment about a video game champion using adult diapers. Language is not severe in this movie; the word "crap" was used once. There isn't much sexual innuendo, but both DJ and Chowder develop crushes on Jenny and DJ kisses her. At the end, she hugs both boys goodbye and after she leaves Chowder says, "She grabbed my butt."

Movie Mom:
Parents should know that this movie is intense, especially in its 3-D format, and may be overwhelming for young kids or those who are easily scared. Even though most of the frightening stuff is in the "boo!" or fun-scary category, it still may be overpowering for some audience members, even though by the end of the story almost everyone comes out of it as well as possible. There are some graphic images and some jump-out-at-you shocks. A character steals medication to sedate the monster. The resolution of the mystery may be reassuring to many in the audience but may be disturbing to others.

While too scary for kids younger than 10, older grade-schoolers will love this movie because it shows kids acting like real kids – getting into trouble, starting to think about girls, obsessing over a "haunted" house. They'll also love the house itself, a wonderfully alive structure that could have fallen out of the head of Tim Burton. But make no mistake -- this IS a scary movie. The kids are in constant peril and the house itself is terrifying. Most of the PG content comes from the scariness; there are very few crude jokes or language issues. Also, the kids aren't exactly role models – they break and enter, steal cough medicine, operate heavy machinery, and use sticks of dynamite. Likewise, the adults in this movie are creepy – not just Old Man Nebbercracker, but also the disinterested babysitter, detached parents, and clueless cops.

Parent Previews:
Full of jump scenes, perilous situations, verbal and physical threats, ghoulish gossip, as well as encounters with the dead and dying, this movie is instead geared to an audience roughly the same age as the protagonists. Feeling much the same as an amusement park spook-alley, the attraction tries to provide as much fear factor as its targeted 'tween crowd can handle.

While violence is the primary concern, there are a few other elements parents may find disquieting. In order to create a sense of the children being on their own, all of the adults in the movie are portrayed as unreliable. Zee the babysitter and her beer drinking boyfriend (Jason Lee) are perhaps the worst offenders, thanks to their self-absorbed and bullying tendencies. Consequently, DJ, Chowder and the precocious Jenny feel no obligation to respect authority figures and are even willing to violate the law. The film also includes potty humor, name-calling, terms of deity used as expletives some mild sexual innuendo and a reference to mercy killing.

Plugged In:
Monster House is more trick than treat. At first glance the impressive computer animation and involvement of Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis would seem promising. But don't be fooled; it's not E.T. or The Polar Express. Despite the clownishness of several characters, this nasty little nightmare-inducer maintains a dark, occult edge and follows the typical horror-movie template. Think Stephen King, not Steven Spielberg.

Each time the titular two-story serial killer claims another victim, I heard unprepared little ones in the audience whimper louder or wail to the point of distraction. (We're forced to wait until the final credits to find out that no one actually died.) This may not be a Tim Burton film, but Monster House reeks of his gothic cynicism, especially a series of sober flashbacks about a woman's eerie demise that are played out in ashen tones.

Screen It!:

Talk About It

Common Sense Media:
* Families can talk about what the kids could have done differently.
* When the adults in their lives brush off their concerns about the house, is it okay for them to figure out a solution on their own that puts them in danger?
* And where WERE the adults anyway? What should THEY have done differently to help the kids through this situation?

Movie Mom:
Families who see this movie should talk about how bullying and teasing can have profoundly damaging consequences. They should also talk about things that they once found scary and then discovered not to be so scary after all.

Parent Previews:
When all other adults fail them, whom do DJ and Chowder turn to as a source of wisdom? What attributes does this character have that make the boys believe he is so smart? How accurate is their assessment? What traits do you associate with intelligence?

What would you do if you got stuck with a babysitter like Zee? Who could you turn too? Why do you think DJ doesn’t look into any of these options?

Death of a loved one, "freak shows," scary houses, judging people by their appearance, extreme obesity, shoplifting, authority, fathers expressing their love to their sons.

Of Note

  • Ranks #10 in AMC TV's Best Haunted House Movies list
  • Monster House was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature of 2006. However, it lost to Happy Feet, along with Cars. During the Academy Awards ceremony, the three main characters, D.J., Chowder, and Jenny made a cameo appearance in the audience after their movie was mentioned for nomination.

Also See

The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, Poltergeist (for older kids), Ghostbusters, Beetlejuice, Scooby-Doo


Monster House airs October 23rd at 8pm EST on Cartoon Network

Watch It


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