It’s Halloween Eve in suburbia and while most of the neighborhood kids are gearing up for a candy extravaganza two young‘uns--DJ (voiced by Mitchell Musso) and Chowder (voiced by Sam Lerner)--are fretting and dreading. They’re convinced that the decrepit house across the street is in fact a monster house inhabited by an old hermit named Nebbercracker (voiced by Steve Buscemi) that will lure kids in on Halloween night. But just as DJ’s parents who naturally don’t believe him to begin with leave for a vacation DJ inadvertently sends Nebbercracker to his death--or so he fears. Now DJ believes Nebbercracker’s monster house will seek revenge on him specifically and to make matters worse his negligent babysitter (voiced by Maggie Gyllenhaal) won’t hear of his yapping. After DJ and Chowder are forced to take action they along with a girl peddling candy (voiced by Spencer Locke) discover how the monster came to be and just how unforgiving she is. When it comes to animation acting the main goal is to make audiences forget that the actors are giving their performances in a studio possibly dressed in their PJs and sans makeup. That goal’s usually achieved but Monster House takes a gamble in supposing that child actors comprising the lead characters will be able to wrap their still-expanding brains around the concept. Somehow Lerner and Musso grasp this despite sounding like they haven’t even been in this world very long! The two are surrounded by a fail-proof supporting cast: it takes a while to recognize Buscemi’s voice as Nebbercracker but once it hits it fits and Gyllenhaal as the babysitter is great if unpredictable casting. Quasi-cameos from Jason Lee as Gyllenhaal’s punk boyfriend Jon Heder as a video-game god and Kevin James and Nick Cannon as slow-moving and -thinking cops garner the most laughs. Not only does it help a film’s box office performance to have Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis onboard as executive producers it helps a film’s director--in this case a rookie director named Gil Kenan. (Zemeckis directed ‘04’s somewhat similar-looking The Polar Express.) While the animation doesn’t quite stand up to say Pixar’s earth-shattering visuals Kenan makes up for it with a fun-filled story (from scripters Dan Harmon Rob Schrab and Pamela Pettler) and an overall lively involved effort--and it’s not like the movie doesn’t still look gorgeous. Besides sometimes it’s refreshing to not be so entranced by the CGI that you lose sight of the actual movie at hand. Kenan’s film is one of the scarier animated movies in a while but that still doesn’t exclude many age groups. What the first-time director thrives on is stopping just shy of true horror moments at which point he reverts to feel-good mode without ever being sappy.
For bringing in 35 million viewers for its season finale and being television's most popular show, Friends and NBC claimed the prize of top network for the 2001-02 television season. CBS finished a solid second, with its show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, the second most-watched show on the air, while ABC and Fox followed in third and fourth place, respectively.
Jerry Lewis returned home Tuesday after staying overnight at a hospital, where doctors made a routine check on a device that Lewis had surgically implanted April 8. The device, called Synergy Neurostimulation System, has helped eased chronic back pain Lewis has been suffering from years of pratfalls. He told the Las Vegas Sun that it has left him pain free for the first time in 30 years.
Actress Jenny McCarthy gave birth to a boy, Evan Joseph Asher, on Saturday. The baby weighed 7 pounds, 13 ounces and is the first child for McCarthy and her husband, director John Asher.
Wasting no time since announcing his departure from Saturday Night Live, funny guy Will Ferrell is set to star in a new film, Action Newsman. He'll play an egotistic local news anchorman threatened by an ambitious female newscaster who, unlike his character, has mastered journalism.
Annette Bening will star in a remake of the Disney film Freaky Friday. The story is about how a mother and her rebellious tomboy daughter, secretly wishing for each other's lives, switch bodies for a day. The original 1976 film starred Barbara Harris as the mother and a young Jodie Foster as the daughter.
In the Biz
Yet another thing the strange Michael Jackson is obsessed with: Sky News reported the Gloved One announced in Cannes that he'll be producing and starring in the film Wolfed, playing a werewolf. He's been fascinated with werewolves since seeing John Landis' 1981 film An American Werewolf in London and got to play one when Landis directed Jackson's music video to the hit song "Thriller."
Director Woody Allen filed a lawsuit last May against his former producer Jean Doumanian, claiming she cheated him out of $14 million in profits, and now Doumanian's lawyer says Allen has overstated what he is owed. According to The Associated Press, Doumanian's lawyer, Lee A. Armstrong, claimed he received a document from Allen's lawyer asking for only $2 million. Allen's camp denies the mix-up, saying Armstrong's "characterization of the document was completely false and uninformed."
Sony Pictures has picked up the rights to yet another Marvel comic-book hero: Ghost Rider. This superhero, named Johnny Blaze, makes a pact with the devil to save someone he loves, but the deal goes awry (as deals with the devil tend to do). Blaze, now embodied with superhuman powers, transforms into a ghost rider to try to reclaim his life, love and soul.
Quickly becoming a powerhouse producer in Hollywood, the multitalented Ice Cube has signed up to produce the comedy feature Race under his CubeVision banner. The film is a fish-out-of-water story about a black cab driver who gets involved in a stock-car race. Ice Cube will not be starring in this particular venture.
Looks like the rash of TV nostalgia shows will finally be tapering off after the May sweeps. According to AP, several TV executives have admitted that they may have overdone it with the clip-filled specials on such shows as The Cosby Show, M.A.S.H., The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Laverne and Shirley. Think so?
Pop-punk band Blink-182 will be making a guest appearance on the 300th episode of The Simpsons this fall. The show has Bart moving out of the Simpson house and into his own apartment, where the band and pro skater Tony Hawk are his neighbors. The episode will air next season.
You can't kill the Dead, man. That's right, the surviving members of The Grateful Dead will be jamming for the first time since lead singer Jerry Garcia died in 1995 of a heart attack, according to the AP. They will perform a two-day concert in East Troy, Wis., Aug. 3-4.
Variety reports producer Jerry Bruckheimer (Black Hawk Down) will be receiving the Albert R. Broccoli Award of Excellence at this year's Cinema Expo in June. Past recipients included producers Saul Zaentz, Brian Grazer and Claude Berri.