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.
The legendary late show producer Fred De Cordova, who produced The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson for 22 years, died Saturday of natural causes at the Motion Picture and Television Fund Hospital in Woodland Hills. He was 90.
He started his career as a director in the 1940s, directing B-movies including Here Come the Nelsons, with Ozzie, Harriet and sons, and Bedtime for Bonzo, with Ronald Reagan. But during the television boom in the '50s and '60s, he began directing and producing television programs, including My Three Sons and variety shows with Jack Benny, George Gobel, Burns and Allen, and the Smothers Brothers.
Mr. De Cordova began producing The Tonight Show in 1970, eight years after Carson became the show's star, and became executive producer in 1984. The always-present Mr. De Cordova proved to be the perfect orchestrator for Carson and his crew, able to make split decisions to keep the show moving.
In Mr. De Cordova's words, "I can't think of anything else that would be interesting and as much fun as this. It's the best job in television."
He was a stage fixture, stationed next to a video monitor just off stage, and was often seen on camera, answering Carson's questions or serving as a butt of a joke. Rip Torn's character Artie parodied Mr. De Cordova on the HBO hit show The Larry Sanders Show. When Carson retired in 1992, Mr. De Cordova remained as an executive consultant for Jay Leno.
Mr. De Cordova is survived by his wife, Jane.