MONKEYBONE directed by Henry Selick, written by Sam Hamm from the graphic novel Dark Town by Kaja Blackley, produced by Michael Barnathan, Chris Columbus and Mark Radcliffe, with Brendan Fraser, Bridget Fonda, Rose McGowan, Whoopi Goldberg and Chris Kattan. 95 minutes. A 20th Century Fox release. Opens Friday (February 23). For venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 69. Rating: NN
brendan fraser is a mighty
force. He has leading-man good looks and a completely uninhibited goofy streak, but even he may not be enough to make a hit out of a movie where his co-stars are Bridget Fonda and Rose McGowan. These aren't actors who know how to pick hits. Fonda's been in almost 40 films in the last 12 years, with about four actual hits in that group. Most of McGowan's 20 or so films have wound up going straight to home video.
In Monkeybone, Fraser plays a cartoonist who's about to have his most famous character, a hyperactive id monkey named Monkeybone, go national, only to be knocked into a coma that casts him into "downtown," a dream world fuelled by his nightmares.
Director Henry Selick was responsible for The Nightmare Before Christmas, though producer Tim Burton got the credit, and his touch is evident here, where roughly half the film is set in the dreamscape. But his real world isn't terribly interesting, and I think the two spheres should feed more strongly off each other.
Fraser's in touch with his manic side here, particularly when he's possessed by the spirit of his monkey, and he's matched by Chris Kattan in a brief but memorable turn as an ambulatory dead guy. Don't worry -- that makes sense when you see the film.
Unfortunately, Monkeybone isn't really funny enough or spooky enough to move it into the exalted territory of Beetlejuice or Nightmare Before Christmas. It's a February movie. That is, if it were as strong and clever as its trailer, they would have released it at a high-profile time of year.