A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that while Monster Family professes to emphasize the value of family above all else, this messy animated feature often makes no real sense. Cartoon violence and the general threat of world annihilation by a sulky and lovelorn Dracula drive the action. So does his seeming longing for romance and lust for an annoying mortal. This makes it difficult to tell what age audience the filmmakers are aiming for. This may be because the book it was based on, Happy Family by David Safier, has erotic scenes that had to be cut to conform to PG rating requirements. A character frequently passes gas, seen as a green mist that clears the room upon arrival. Language includes "hell." Bullies dunk a smart kid in the toilet at school. His older sister constantly hits and kicks him. Vampires view humans as blood dispensers. Bikini-clad models inexplicably fawn over a creature who looks like Frankenstein's monster. One woman starts massaging his green bare back suggestively. A pharaoh threatens to force a girl to be his for eternity. Dracula dances a suggestive tango with an unwilling partner.
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- Kids say
What's the story?
In MONSTER FAMILY, a love-deprived Dracula (Jason Isaacs) becomes obsessed with Emma (Emily Watson), mother of two and wife to a workaholic office nerd (Nick Frost). Sucking her blood will sap her of the soul he claims to adore, so Dracula offers the backwards-talking witch he's imprisoned (Catherine Tate) her freedom if she can turn Emma into a vampire, which will help him woo her. Apparently, this will only work if she's unhappy. Fortunately, family life has sapped all the joy out of Emma. The witch transforms Emma into a vampire, but also her son Max (Ethan Rouse) into a werewolf, her daughter Fay (Jessica Brown Findlay) into a mummy, and her husband into an unintelligible Frankenstein monster. Dracula kidnaps Emma but she insists on going back to the family she claims to love. Dracula vows that if he can't have love, no one else will, and he plots to cool the sun and freeze the earth into an uninhabitable glacier where only vampires can exist. As Emma and the family press the witch to turn them back into their old selves, the witch explains to someone else that they themselves are capable of turning themselves back into normal humans, but only, as the witch suggests, "when happy they are." Differences fade as family members realize they do love each other.
Is it any good?
Like many animated movies for kids, this one creates a universe with fantasy rules, but so many of the stated rules are later contradicted here that a confusing and irritating mess results. The action seems to be set in New York. So why do all the Wishbones speak with British accents? Suddenly the action is clearly in London. Huh? "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent." Huh? Emma seems like a loving if frustrated and overworked mom who wishes her husband wouldn't stay so late at work and that her teenage daughter was less critical. But later in the film, when the plot hangs on the family being seriously unhappy, suddenly Emma starts barking at everyone, blaming, issuing absurd and militant ultimatums and, finally, just sending everyone away. Huh? An ancient spirit tells Fay she is beautiful, and when she refuses to go off and rule the world with him, he tells her that, in fact, she's ugly. Which is it? Dracula is supposed to have no power when he is recharging in his bath, yet he manages to shoot a pill through gallons of water straight into the mouth of a woman trying to destroy him before she can accomplish her mission. So is he powerless in the bath, or not?
In this extremely annoying vein, the family finally comes together in a fest of love, and that moment is memorialized in a photograph that later sits on Dad's desk. Since everyone present was in the photograph, the question is: Who took it? By Monster Family's end, no one will care.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the intended audience for Monster Family. Do Dracula's wants and needs seem a little too adult for a children's film?
Discuss the contradictory messages in the movie. If love is the magic that conquers all, why doesn't Dracula's love get him what he so desperately wants?
Talk about monster movies. Why are movies about characters like Dracula so popular? How does this movie compare to other monster stories you've seen?
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