Director: Henry Selick
Cast: Brendan Fraser, Bridget Fonda, Rose McGowan, Whoopi Goldberg, Chriss Kattan, Dave Foley, Megan Mullally, Giancarlo Esposito, the voice of John Turturro
MPAA Rating: (for crude humor and some nudity)
Running Time: 1:27
Release Date: 2/23/01
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Review by Mark Dujsik
Monkeybone has two things going for it. First, it creates an interestingly imaginative world for one segment of the movie. Second, it has an irreverent sense of humor. However, neither of these is exploited effectively, and the movie turns out to be a completely forgettable and incompetent comedy. There are comedic elements here that, established properly, may have been funny. But Monkeybone takes an odd less is more approach when going over the top consistently could have served the material better. The result is an unfunny movie with small flashes of inspiration that really just turns into a big mess.
The small amount of plot concerns Stu Miley (Brendan Fraser), a comic strip artist. His major creation is Monkeybone, a loud and boisterous character whose routines are generic of cartoon characters. At the start of the movie, we see one of the cartoons. Itís mildly amusing, but it has a shameless appeal. Stu doesnít like the commercialized aspects of his recent deal to turn his comic strip into a TV series, and at a celebration for the deal, he is more concerned with his plans to propose to his girlfriend Julie (Bridget Fonda). After a freak accident with a giant, inflatable Monkeybone, Stu and Julie are involved in a car crash, and Stu is left in a coma.
In his coma, Stu is transported to Downtown, a world of nightmares where others in Stuís condition wait to either be brought back or die. The look of the world is imaginative. There are interesting characters here, and the use of claymation is effective in presenting them. The movie was directed by Henry Selick, and in these sequences and his previous work on The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach, he shows that he is a director capable of showing imaginative worlds. Of course, Monkeybone himself is here also. Stu eventually comes to realize that to get out, one needs an exit pass. Stu and Monkeybone go to Death (Whoopi Goldberg) to steal one, and soon Stu is ready to leave. But at the last minute, Monkeybone steals the pass from Stu and enters his body. The reasoning behind this is that in the real world, Monkeybone can create nightmares for the proprietor of Downtown. Exactly what he gets for creating nightmares is left unknown, but luckily Julie has developed a drug than actually causes nightmares.
The biggest problem with Monkeybone is that Stuís creation is not developed into a unique character. So when Stu actually turns into Monkeybone, we begin to realize that the only comedic traits he has to offer are that heís a monkey and heís loud and talks fast. This isnít enough to set up worthwhile comedic situations for Fraser, who does the best he can with these traits. Thereís an odd scene where Stu as Monkeybone tries to seduce Julie by swinging on posts of their bed, and another where he must steal the drug with a flirting orangutan distracting him. The other performances are about as good as can be expected with material like this. Fonda does what she can with the thankless role of Julie. Goldberg, though, offers nothing as Death; she seems to think that showing up to the set is funny enough.
The whole movie leads up to Stu being reincarnated as a recently deceased gymnast (Chris Kattan). As Stu enters the body, doctors are removing his organs, and suddenly the body sits up. The doctors are still grabbing, and thereís this moment of complete shock at what we are seeing. Of course, later the doctors start chasing him around, and it gets tedious again. But for one brief moment, you can see what should have been done with the movie.
Copyright © 2001 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.