Retro Review: Monkeybone

Written: February 24, 2001

“Monkeybone” made me cry, cringe, laugh and scream. The reason I was swept up with so much emotion was because it was just that bad.

This could be Brendan Fraser’s worst movie ever. (Or at least tied with Dudley Doright)

“Monkeybone” stars Fraser as a cartoonist who is sent into a coma after a freak accident occurs with his car.

While in the coma, Fraser is sent to the world of “Downtown” where he meets his own cartoon creation, Monkeybone (voiced by John Turturro).

Depressed and desperate to return to his fiancé (Bridget Fonda), Fraser teams up with his creation to enter the “Land of Death” to retrieve Fraser’s only salvation, a golden ticket that will send him back to the real world.

Some of the citizens of Downtown include Whoopi Goldberg as Death, Rose McGowan as a very cute cat girl, and Giancarlo Esposito as the God of Dreams, Hypnos.

I have really admired the work of director Henry Selick, who delighted audiences with the animated classic “Nightmare Before Christmas”. As a protégé of director Tim Burton, Selick was also very successful with his second feature “James and the Giant Peach” which garnered a lot of critical acclaim.

His work in stop-motion animation has been incredible and really made me look forward to “Monkeybone”.

The saddest thing is that Selick’s latest film attempts to blend animation and live people. It is one of the worst of that genre. So many movies these days have no real soul and I think that is a common problem with huge special effect extravaganzas. “Monkeybone” is no exception.

One may remember the early 90’s film “Cool World” where cult animator Ralph Bakshi tried to blend Brad Pitt and Gabriel Byrne into his twisted world of animation. “Cool World” developed a cult following like previous Bakshi projects but was never accepted in theatres. I think the same fate has gripped Selick in trying to bring Fraser and actress Rose MacGowan into this animated world.

I really loved the first 20 minutes where we are introduced to “Downtown” and its very twisted look. I also liked Rose McGowan as Miss Kitty. McGowan was definitely a bright spot in a dark world. But when Fraser’s depressed sister (played by Megan Mullally) enters the picture, the film enters a tailspin that it never recovers from. It’s amazing how much actual talent is wasted here.

Monkeybone has some great visuals but it just isn’t funny, and it doesn’t work. That is the real shame.

(1 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

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