More rudimentary technical limitations are what hurt the otherwise enjoyable Monster House. The motion isn’t smooth, which is readily apparent in an early scene with a boy dribbling a basketball — the ball doesn’t bounce convincingly, and the boy’s muscles don’t seem to be making the ball bounce. The animation is also poor at capturing surfaces. There’s little visual difference between the characters’ skin, the metal in cars and bicycles, and the wood in the titular house. You can’t help feeling the teams at Pixar or even DreamWorks would have done right by these things.
That’s too bad, because this movie boasts not only sharp writing but also a story idea that’s unusually dark and twisted for a kids’ film. A 12-year-old boy named DJ (voiced by Mitchel Musso), whose parents have left him in a babysitter’s care for the weekend of Halloween, goes after a basketball that has landed in the yard of the mean old man who lives across the street (voiced by Steve Buscemi). A genuinely frightening scene ensues, when the old man comes out in a towering rage and manhandles DJ before suffering a fatal heart attack. Even more disturbing stuff is yet to come, as DJ and his chubby best friend Chowder (voiced by Sam Lerner) conclude that the old man’s house is alive and busy eating yard signs, stray dogs, and anything or anyone else that sets foot on the property, now that its owner is dead. They have an unexpected ally in Jenny (voiced by Spencer Locke), a slightly older girl who almost gets swallowed up while selling school candy.