screenplay by Dan Harmon & Rob Schrab and Pamela Pettler
directed by Gil Kenan
by Walter Chaw There's a lightness to the heroes of Monster House, as well as a certain callous insouciance in the way the film handles itself as a metaphor for puberty, but the effects for the titular monster and the care with which it sketches the human monster living inside it make the picture fascinating. When it's humming, above and below, the contraption identifies the malady of adolescence as loneliness, as becoming an outcast caste of one ("This is why we sit by ourselves at lunch"), if in mind only. It knows the sudden, emboldening rush of recognizing a girl's charms, and it sees in friendship the bonds and courage that time hasn't yet had the chance to disdain. None of this is surprising, particularly, especially since its executive producers are Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg--who, between them, have fashioned some of our finest monuments to the cult of childhood. But then Monster House throws a curveball and makes its bad guys...tragic. And not just tragic but unbearably tragic--tragic enough that they become ennobled through their tragedy; by the end of the film, with its surprising declaration of "freedom," what could have been a trite affirmation of the ironic swap of the fears of childhood for the anxieties of the teenage years is transformed into a more ecumenical discussion about how life is sacrifice and love is sometimes unrequited, and about loyalty to causes in which we believe and the people in whom we invest ourselves.