A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this TV movie is based on a product line of toys and books, and the animated characters star in multiple webisodes. Despite their monstrous heritage, there's little that's scary about these characters. The main girls actually embody admirable traits like self-confidence, loyalty, and the strength to resist peer pressure, although at times these seem to contradict their impossibly long and lean bodies, tiny waists, doe eyes, and balance-defying high heels. One teen in particular is exceedingly image-conscious and uses her friends' affection to her own gain for most of the story, but even she makes amends in the end. The movie's themes of tolerance, respect, and diversity are what will stick with kids, even if the visual images are a little misleading for girls in the audience.
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- Kids say
What's the story?
MONSTER HIGH: FRIGHT ON is a movie based on the characters from a successful line of toys, books, and a series of webisodes. Set in a unique school populated by the kids of notorious monsters like Frankenstein, the Abominable Snowman, and Dracula, the story picks up with the influx of heated rivals from neighboring schools, the vampires and the werewolves. Monster High's immersion policy is a tough sell on its polarized newcomers, and their mutual animosity eats away at the diverse student body's sense of unity. With the disappearance of their beloved headmistress and the overbearing presence of suspect Van Hellscream (voiced by Cam Clarke), it's up to best friends Frankie (Kate Higgins), Draculaura, Clawdeen, Cleo, and Lagoona to unravel the mystery and get students to see past their differences to save their school.
Is it any good?
At first glance, it's tempting to dismiss this movie as a Bratz-caliber B-lister based on the characters' resemblance to that first round of image-crazed girls. But you only need to scratch the surface to reveal a surprising amount of heart. They're not perfect, they can be petty, and they succumb to bickering with friends and siblings, but given enough time, they recognize when they're being manipulated by outside influences and have the strength to stand up against social pressure. Even the haughtiest among them makes amends for her mistakes and learns to appreciate the loyalty of each and every friend. Grade-schoolers will appreciate the movie's clever references to monster lore -- including Medusa's son, who wears sunglasses to keep from turning his classmates to stone, and Draculaura's vegan lifestyle that curbs bloodlust -- more than they will the positive messages, but it's a sure bet that they'll recognize them anyway.
It's unfortunate that these socially responsible themes are packaged in such questionable physical images, especially considering that the movie's bound to attract a host of girls too young to engage in the "older" monster dramas like Twilight. These impressionable viewers will get a skewed sense of beauty from the twiggy, coifed, high-heeled, made-up high-schoolers and their devilishly handsome and exceedingly mature male counterparts. The fact that it's a cartoon (especially one about monsters) makes it a little easier to pass it off as fantasy, but you've got to wonder what the designers have against realistic waistlines and proportional facial features. They're not as off-kilter as the Bratz girls because they've got more to offer than just their looks, but the subliminal messages are there nonetheless.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about peer pressure. What examples of peer pressure did you see in Monster High: Fright On? Do you agree with how the characters handled it? Why is it difficult to stand up against a crowd? Have you ever had to do it?
Kids: Are you familiar with the Monster High characters? If so, where have you seen them? Does watching this movie make you more inclined to want to read the books or check out the website? How does the media act as an advertisement for the products that are related to characters like these?
What does "diversity" mean? Why is it important to respect differences among people? Are there any instances in which it's OK to segregate groups of people? If so, when? How can diversity strengthen a group?
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