Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Random 90's Animation - "Monkeybone" (2001)

Note: I received and watched this movie way out of order too.  In fact, it wound up being the last movie I watched for this marathon.  Who would have ever expected "We're Back" and "Monkeybone" to be so popular?

Okay, technically, "Monkeybone" (alternately "MonkeyBone", but we're not going to be doing that) is a film from early 2001, but I felt it would be silly not to acknowledge it in a marathon of bizarre animated films from random studios.  And anyway, my OCD is sated a little: I think I've now seen all of Henry Selick's features

"MonkeyBone" is the story of a comicbook artist with some issues who has created a bizarre world full of strange creatures including a main character who is basically an unrepressed Id.  Due to complicated circumstances, the artist ends up traveling to the world of his comics which looks like nothing so much as what the director of the movie must have going on in his subconscious at all hours of the day.  There, the artist is haunted by his creations, including the main character, who turns out to be rather unappealing in person and longs to be real and to make out with a human.  Somehow that character turns into a human, and escapes into our world, much to the distress and inconvenience of their creator.  Before the character can cause utter chaos in our world, the comic artist fights to stop that character.  The movie basically just ends when the director seemingly ran out of ideas, but at least the comic character has been thwarted.

For some reason, this story felt a little bit familiar to me...

The good news is that "Monkeybone" is not nearly as obnoxious as "Cool World".  (Then again, few movies are.)  What "Monkeybone" is is basically just what I said: what I'd imagine Henry Selick sees when he closes his eyes.

Therefore, at the very least, "Monkeybone" is worth a look because it does not resemble anything else you have ever seen.  Love it or hate it, it's a singular creative vision that just gets more and more off the wall as the movie goes on.  It has more in common with "Being John Malkovich", say, or "Southland Tales" than it does with most other live-action/animation combos.  And if you are familiar with Henry Selick only thanks to "The Nightmare Before Christmas", man, you don't know how crazy his diamond can shine.

I said in an earlier review that Selick is the kind of director who does what he wants and if other people like it, well, good for them for being able to keep up.  "Monkeybone" is apparently based upon a graphic novel, but it appears as though that source material (which, to be fair, I have never encountered, so I don't even know) was merely used as a stepping-off point so Selick's imagination could fly free.  We get to see every kind of animation technique there is and there are several characters who are brought to life using two or three techniques at once.  The characters themselves are often rather grotesque, and a few climbed right out of the Uncanny Valley.  Only a small handful of characters are anywhere near intentionally cute.  There are some impressively random cameos; the live actors in general are a little iffy, and it's genuinely frightening when they get partially-animated.  The live-action sequences are rather cloying and feel like a different movie entirely, but things pick up once a zombie gymnast played by Chris Kattan shows up.

And we all know what movies with zombie gymnasts played by Chris Kattan are like, don't we?

"Monkeybone" is weird as hell, but it is definitely worth a look simply because it's weird as hell.  Look, most of the films we've seen during this marathon look like they were inspired by powerful hallucinogens; this movie is (at least in part) about a powerful hallucinogen.

Next up, our final Random 90's Animated Film might just make you sick.


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