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Click above to purchase "Monkeybone: Special Edition" at


Special Edition

review by Zach B.


Rated PG-13

Studio: Fox

Running Time: 93 minutes

Starring Brendan Fraser, Bridget Fonda, Chris Kattan, Dave Foley, Whoopi Goldberg and John Turturro as the voie of Monkeybone

Screenplay by Sam Hamm
Based on the graphic novel writen by Kaja Blackley

Directed by Henry Selick

Retail Price: $26.98

Features: Audio Commentary with Director Henry Selick, Eleven Extended Scenes with Optional Commentary by Selick, Still Gallery, Monkeybone Secrets Revealed, Three TV Spots, Theatrical Trailer

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English DTS 5.1, English Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Chapter Search (22 Chapters)

Released: July 10th, 2001

If there's any film that took a beating during the year 2001 besides "Town and Country", it's Fox's "Monkeybone". I do admit I had some interest to see the film originally, but my interest quickly demised after reading horrible reviews. The film also failed to crack the top ten at the box office opening weekend. With a pretty high budget and quite a few delays, I guess it did seem that "Monkeybone" was destined for nowhere. While that may be the case, Fox has provided a pretty outstanding special edition DVD. Now that I've finally seen the film, here's what I have to say...

Brendan Fraser is Stu Miley, a cartoonist who's popular comic strip "Monkeybone" is about to make a leap to the small screen with six episodes on the fictional Comedy Channel. As Stu resists the constant merchandising opportunities, he is unfortuantley put in a car crash in a screwball moment involving an inflatable piece of Monkeybone merchandise (though the trailer has him getting hit by a pole while in a phone booth - that's included in the extended scenes section on this DVD release). Stu lands in a coma and enters the weird, wacky and highly imaginative "DownTown" - a place filled to the brim with interesting places and a wide variety of screwball characters. It's not quite the after life, I guess sort of a "waiting world" where you need an "exit pass" to escape and go back to the real world. It's basically a world of nightmares. While down there, Stu meets his creation, the hyper and crude Monkeybone while down there. I hate to reveal more, but the trailer and TV spots do reveal what happens so why not... Basically an exit pass is stolen and Monkeybone stabs Stu in the back. Monkeybone escapes and enters Stu's body... just when they're about to pull the plug on him (thanks to his sister) much to his lovely girlfriend Julie's (Bridget Fonda) dismay. Monkeybone, of course, starts to create havoc... and it's up to Stu to stop him and gain his body back.

Again, the film tanked at the box office (and Fox recently revealed despite the film's performance it didn't hurt them too bad) and so many critics ripped it to shreds. As most of you know, The Nightmare Before Christmas is one of my favorite films of all time which Henry Selick, the director of "Monkeybone", happened to direct. I really did like "Monkeybone" and there's so much to enjoy within it that it does requite more than a single viewing to take in (and with DVD, you can pause frame by frame to marvel at the remarkable visuals). Not everybody is going to like a film like this, but I have a feeling it will become a cult classic over time.

I'll begin with the technical marvels of this production. As "The Nightmare Before Christmas" was inhabited with so many wonderful and well-designed monsters, "Monkeybone" is similar by that it also has so many creative inhabitants that exist within the world DownTown. While both films did have dark characters, I'd say the characters here are much darker as they are from nightmares and all sorts of different dreams. There's a lot of great monsters and characters with great makeup. Just as impressive are the dark and creepy sets that are seen in Downtown and dream sequences. There is a lot of incredible stuff to look at and some great set designs, it really blew my mind. All of these elements really, and I mean REALLY bring the movie to life and did remind me a lot of "The Nightmare Before Christmas" (which makes sense). Hopefully no one completley forgot about this movie and it'll get Oscar® nods with makeup, set design and art direction next year.

The effects in this movie are excellent. Selick, who again did "The Nightmare Before Christmas" which was all stop-motion animation (with hints of hand drawn stuff here and there within the painstaking process), brings back his talents here as "Monkeybone" and some other characters are stop-motion and blended in with the live action perfectly. There's some great models and characters as I mentioned, and some nice intergrated computer as well as animated effects. This brings the wonderful world of "Monkeybone" to life even further.

The performances are pitch perfect to say the least. Brendan Fraser once again brings his loveable, shy (but not so shy when Monkeybone enters his body) goofy charm to Stu. Ben Stiller was originally going to be in this role, but there were some script problems with him and he wanted to change the movie around (so I've heard). Either way, Fraser once again proves he's a great comic actor, especially when Monkeybone inhabits his body. Chris Kattan is in the movie at the climax and has a real knack for physical comedy, while John Turturro is pretty funny as Monkeybone. Bridget Fonda and Megan Mullaly also appear and are good in their roles, but Whoopi Goldberg as Death is pretty funny... Death in this movie is actually likeable.

However, "Monkeybone" is not perfect. I don't think it deserved to get as bashed as much as it did, but what I found disappointing was how parts were not expanded as much as I hoped. I felt there should have been more inital shock to Stu when he meets his creation for the first time, and there could have been more to the origins of DownTown. I would have also liked to seen more of DownTown, and more of Monkeybone as a monkey and not as Stu. There's a lot to the Monkeybone character which really should have been taken advantage of. The film also goes on and on, it doesn't stop and goes quite fast, which is either good or bad depending on your taste. For one thing, it never gets dull as the plot keeps advancing, but you do wish for further development of some of the characters. Despite this, the movie is still really enjoyable.

"Monkeybone" is based on a graphic novel called "Dark Town" which I never read. While I can't compare the two, Sam Hamm's screenplay is good and makes the film enjoyable while Selick once again proves his directing talents, he's really a key force in movies that require all sorts of wackiness and various animation. Selick really does an excellent job. It's also nicely edited so you won't get confused and enjoy the beauty of the sets. I also really liked the musical score, it blends in nicely with the film. While "Monkeybone" is sure to get a bad rap and be ignored on the video shelves by some, please don't. If you had ANY interest at all, even the tiniest to see this movie, go check it out. You won't be disappointed.


"Monkeybone" is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and the results are really outstanding. Fox once again delivers yet another near perfect picture. Except for grain here and there, "Monkeybone" looks outstanding. There is so much creativity within this movie as far as costumes, characters and sets go and they look brilliant here. The wide variety of colors are saturated nicely and hues are quite accurate. The black levels are strong and I didn't notice any shimmering. There's a really unique visual style to "Monkeybone" and it's represented nearly flawless here. An outstanding transfer to say the least.

Fox has given us dual English 5.1 tracks, and how sweet they are. "Monkeybone" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 and once again, I think DTS wins this round but barely. This is a pretty active movie and the surrounds here are quite plentiful. From the wonderful score to the climatic sequence, the world of DownTown sounds truly alive. From the various crashes and action that happens throughout the film, surrounds are deep and eloping. They give off a really cool effect that makes you feel like you're there. The Dolby Digital 5.1 really packs a punch and is great in it's own right, but I liked the DTS better because I felt it made better use of subtle surrounds. Dialogue was crisp and easy to hear as well. Either track will not disappoint. English Dolby Surround and French Dolby surround is also included, plus English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Despite the film's quick death, Fox has given a really nice amount of supplements for "Monkeybone". First off is a Audio Commentary With Director Henry Selick. I was quite eager to hear this and I really enjoy his commentary for the film. Selick is relaxed here and talks about "Dark Town" and how it differs from the movie. He gives really interesting and insightful comments as well as some fun jokes here and there. Selick recalls a lot of the names that helped make the production possible and has a lot of praises for his cast and crew. Selick also keeps talking constantly so things don't get boring. This is a great track with a lot of insightful information about the movie's production and how things were achieved, though some of his comments are obvious. If you liked the movie and were curious about some aspects and how they were achieved, listen to it.

Eleven Extended Scenes with Optional Commentary by Selick are also included. One of these scenes is actually an "alternate ending" which is really more like an extended one (and Selick's commentary for that one is simply "This is an alternate ending" - that's it). The scenes are "Show Me the Monkey", "Monkeybone Airbags", "Stu Arrives at DownTown", "Fee Fi Fo Fum", "Drinks For Everyone" (no optional commentary on that one), "Art vs. Doodle" (some great technical info on this commentary), "Hyp's Party/The Reaper's Victim", "Behind Death's Door", "Stubone Meets Kimmy", "Toy Gods" and of course, "The Other Ending". The scenes are in two channel sound and in rough, non-anamorphic widescreen. Selick's comments are short and don't always go as deep as I hoped for why they were cut down. Personally, I felt all these scenes were great and should not have been shortened. The "Show Me The Monkey" scenes adds a lot more to Stu's creation while "Stu Arrives at Down Town" shows more of the excellent characters and sets. A lot of these scenes really do expand on elements in the film. I'm glad they are on this disc... it would have been nice if Fox had some kind of extended branching version for these (and made them anamorphic and with 5.1)!

Monkeybone Secrets Revealed is a nifty seven part section where you can watch and learn how shots of the film were achieved. It uses rough footage and blue screen stuff to show you, and it's interesting. Selick even offers optional commentary on some of them. The scenes are "Monkeybone's Piano Dance", "Earl's Lunch", "Hyp's Party", "Hijacking the Reaper", "Escaping From Death's Office", "Monkeybone Snatches Stu's Exit Pass" and "Stu and Monkeybone return to DownTown" (no commentary on the last four). If you're a little curious how certain things were achieved, check these out.

The Monkeybone Gallery is quite loaded with a wonderful amount of stills. The directions are wrong, however, I had to press the enter key on my DVD player to advance through them and not the usual left and right keys. Strange. Still, you have sections devoted to the design of Monkeybone, Cartoons, Stu, Merchandise, various parts of DownTown, the Coma Bar, Hypnos and the Land of Death. Very nice.

Finally, rounding out the release is the Theatrical Trailer in full frame and two channel sound (haven't seen a widescreen trailer from Fox in awhile, I wonder what happened) and three TV Spots. These do spoil some of the movie.

Perhaps "Monkeybone" will have a better life on the video rack than in theaters, I can really see this movie becoming a cult favorite over time. Fox has given "Monkeybone" a truly excellent DVD release. If you liked the film, don't miss it. If you haven't seen it, go check it out... you'll really be surprised.

(4.5/5 - NOT included in final score)




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