[box cover]

Monkeybone

If anyone would have liked Monkeybone, it would have been this reviewer, an admitted fan of both director Henry Selick (who oversaw the production of Tim Burton's A Nightmare Before Christmas) and Brendan Fraser (who's so gorgeous, sexy, and talented that he's watchable in anything). But as marvelous as Selick's fantastic creatures and animated effects in Monkeybone are, there's something lacking. And what's lacking can be summed up in two words: Tim Burton. Selick on his own, it would seem, has a terrible sense of humor. From the opening Monkeybone-cartoon-within-a-film "Show Me the Monkey" to the oh-so-zany finale with Fraser and co-star Chris Kattan careening over blue-screen backgrounds suspended from a giant monkey balloon, Monkeybone just isn't funny. None of it. Oh, you can certainly tell that it's supposed to be. It's trying really, really hard to be. But alas, it is not. Fraser plays Stu Miley, a mild-mannered cartoonist who's about to break into the big time with a TV show based on his comic strip "Monkeybone," which stars an out-of-control monkey (voiced by John Turturro) who's really just a stand-in for Miley's fractured Id. After a car accident puts Stu into a coma, he desperately tries to escape from Down Town, the land of nightmares where he's trapped in limbo. When his attempt to steal an exit pass from Death (Whoopi Goldberg) goes wackily awry, Monkeybone swipes Stu's human form, leaving him stuck in the netherworld — and giving Fraser, the actor, a chance to run around acting like a human 'toon. The concepts — a parallel world of nightmares, a Freudian cartoon monkey, etc. — are terrific. But Selick wastes it all on a flat script by Batman/Batman Returns/M.A.N.T.I.S. hack Sam Hamm, which offers nothing fresh or even remotely funny. Also wasted is the large cast of supporting actors, including Bridget Fonda, Dave Foley, Giancarlo Esposito, Bob Odenkirk, Megan Mulally, Rose McGowan and Lisa Zane, all of whom it's easy to feel embarrassed for. Fox's Monkeybone: Special Edition DVD features a good anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with audio in DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1, and Dolby 2.0 Surround. There's a whole lot of extras (or "Bone-us Features," as they're listed on the box), including a director's commentary, extended scenes and examples of animated scenes with optional commentary, still gallery, the theatrical trailer, and several TV spots. With an effects-intensive film like Monkeybone you'd figure that at least the behind-the-scenes stuff would be fun. Unfortunately, listening to director Selick is as exciting as hearing the grass grow. Keep-case.
—Dawn Taylor



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