MONSTER HOUSE (Gil Kenan). 91 minutes. Opens Friday (July 21). For venues and times, see Movies, page 84. Rating: N Rating: N
Sluggish pacing, clunky animation, thin comedy and a disregard for narrative logic turn what could have been a good, spooky kids' movie into a slovenly, sub-Spielberg (he's an exec producer here) adventure that offers more disrespect for its young audience than entertainment. Kids' thrillers generally require that adults be absent , except as villains. This one spends almost an hour having them cope with grown-ups before sending the them alone into the dreaded house that eats toys and people.
The shrill comedy relies on a lot of running and yelling (a sure sign of imaginative failure) and character-inappropriate lines the writers give kids to appease the adult moviegoers tagging along.
The computer animation involves motion capture and live actors, with plenty of swooping, clever camera work. But the characters move ponderously, with neither cartoonish grace nor realism.
There's some decent voice work by Steve Buscemi as the mean homeowner, Catherine O'Hara in a tiny role as Mom and Maggie Gyllenhaal as a heavy-metal babysitter who disappears from the story on the flimsiest pretext. Mitchel Musso comes off well as the young hero, but Sam Lerner is irritating as the chubby sidekick.