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Click above to purchase "Monkeybone: Special Edition" at
review by Zach B.
Running Time: 93 minutes
Starring Brendan Fraser, Bridget Fonda, Chris Kattan,
Dave Foley, Whoopi Goldberg and John Turturro as the voie of
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,
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
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,
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
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
"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
"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
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
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
NOT an average)