(director: Gil Kenan; screenwriters: Dan Harmon/Rob Schrab/Pamela Pettler/based on a story by Mr. Harmon and Mr. Schrab; cinematographer: Xavier Perez Grobet; editor: Adam P. Scott/Fabienne Rawley; music: Douglas Pipes; with the voices of: Steve Buscemi (Nebbercracker), Nick Cannon (Lister), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Elizabeth/Zee), Jon Heder (Skull/The Pizza Chef), Kevin James (Landers), Jason Lee (Bones), Sam Lerner (Chowder), Spencer Locke (Jenny), Mitchel Musso (DJ), Catherine O’Hara (Mom), Kathleen Turner (Constance), Fred Willard (Dad); Runtime: 87; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Steve Starkey/Jack Rapke; Columbia; 2006)
“It’s too dark for the kiddies, while not having enough of an adult flavor to reach an older audience.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis are the executive producers who backed this digitally computer-inspired animation film and hired Gil Kenan right of UCLA to make his directorial debut. It’s an animated Haunted House horrorfest set during Halloween and targeted for the kiddies. Though it’s too dark for the kiddies, while not having enough of an adult flavor to reach an older audience.
A creepy old man named Nebbercracker (voice of Steve Buscemi) lives in a frightening old house, which seems to literally consume toys that wind up on its lawn. DJ Harvard (voice of Mitchel Musso), a 12-year-old, lives directly across the street from this strange house. When DJ’s parents go out-of-town for a dentist conference, they hire Elizabeth (Maggie Gyllenhaal) as a babysitter, who wants to be called Zee. The acid-tongue babe invites over her raunchy boyfriend, Bones (Jason Lee). D.J. has no luck in getting through to Zee that he killed his oddball neighbor Mr. Nebbercracker when trying to retrieve a ball that landed on his lawn, as Mr. Nebbercracker thereby had a heart attack. Bones’s reaction is one of delight that the kid killed such a neighborhood grouch.
D.J.’s best pal, the chubby Chowder (Sam Lerner), witnessed the heart attack, and maintains it wasn’t his friend’s fault since it was an accident. But soon DJ is scared crazy by a phone call from Mr. Nebbercracker’s empty house and then he and Chowder see the house start trying to eat puppies and the schoolgirl hottie Jenny (voice of Spencer Locke) with its front-carpet tongue and jagged plywood teeth. The boys save Jenny, but no adult in their surburban town believes the kiddies and only think of it as a Halloween trick. This leaves it up to the kiddies to act on their own to rid the man-eating house of its strange powers before it feasts on the onslaught of expected trick-or-treaters.
I had no problem with the detailed and innovative animated images and the film’s ability to elicit scares, but I had a problem with this being a kiddie film as its cuteness wears thin while the fright scenes are intense and stretch a long way.
REVIEWED ON 1/4/2008 GRADE: C+