A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Monster High: Welcome to Monster High was released in tandem with Mattel's 2016 "reboot" of the entire Monster High collection: dolls, toys, videos, and so on. New colors, face molds, graphics, and toned-down scares seem geared toward younger viewers. While the focus is still on "what it means to be different" and strong, female, (curvaceous) characters who are problem-solvers and loyal friends, there's less of the sophisticated or trendy humor that was typical of the franchise. Fashion and sexiness are de-emphasized, while wholesome relationships with parents and teachers are now a part of the movie's texture. This tale focuses on only five of the well-known "ghouls," and it remains to be seen whether or not some of the old favorites (Ghoulia, Deuce Gorgon, Toralei) will return in later adventures. This new "origin" story, which shows Draculaura and Frankie Stein recruiting students and Monster High's opening days, has mild cartoon action: falls, a few short, spooky sequences, and some battles with the chief villain, Moanica, and her army of comical zombies, using the fantastical weaponry of each of the characters. There are no real scares. Still, it's important that kids know the difference between real and pretend violence. Not all Monster High fans will appreciate the brand's transformation, but it may be a merchandising boom for Mattel and its licensees.
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What's the story?
Draculaura (voiced by Debi Derryberry) and her dad, Dracula (Michael Sorich), live in a castle far from any populated areas in MONSTER HIGH: WELCOME TO MONSTER HIGH. It seems they, along with all the rest of the monsters of the world, are hiding out, afraid to interact with regular humans (or "normies" as they're called by the monster community). Draculaura isn't satisfied. She'd love to be a part of the world, make friends with the normies, and go to school and be a regular kid. When she meets Frankie Stein (Cassandra Morris), she becomes even more motivated. What about a place for young people who are different, "monsters," like themselves? Convincing her dad to let her try, Draculaura and Frankie set out to recruit other teen ghouls and start Monster High in an abandoned building they can transform. They travel far and wide, meet Clawdeen (Celeste Henderson), Laguna (Larissa Gallagher), and Cleo deNile (Henderson, again). It works! They feel safe, are friends, and together can prepare to meet the outside world. In the blink of an eye, the school opens. It's as amazing as they thought it would be -- at least until Moanica, a zombie leader with an army of her brethren, tries to take control. This new opponent threatens to overcome our heroines' good intentions and destroy any chance of peacefully sharing the world with their fellow humans.
Is it any good?
The "ghouls" have a whole new look, a new backstory, and younger-kid-friendly personalities in this amiable but not-as-witty or spirited reboot of the teen doll franchise. Purposefully "less scary" and "more approachable," according to Mattel, Monster High: Welcome to Monster High retains the high-heeled, high-style, curvy look without emphasizing it. The humor seems intended for younger kids (i.e., not as many cultural references or "in" jokes); the leading characters appear to be more "tween" than teen. More non-humanized monsters (blobs, skeletons, and animal-like creatures) attend the school. Moanica is a traditional villain who has been set up to return to irritate the Monster High clan on a frequent basis. So, it's younger, less sexy, and less stylish, but the messages about inclusion and respect for differences are intact, with a special focus on a plan to peacefully win over the humans in the world around them. It's an enjoyable enough introduction to the new look and feel. However, it may be a "curse" for die-hard Monster High fans (especially teens), who'll wonder, "Why fix what isn't broken?"
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the changes made to the Monster High franchise in Monster High: Welcome to Monster High. What's different about the characters' looks? About the behavior? About the story? Did you feel that the important messages about inclusiveness and friendship were retained?
If you're an old fan, what do you like or not like about the transformations of the ghouls and their community? Which well-known characters, if any, did you miss, and why?
A whole new line of dolls and play sets is available since the ghouls have been "rebooted." How will your family handle the prospect of replacing or adding to your Monster High toys?
Given the new physical appearance of Monster High ghouls, draw and/or write about a monster creation of your own that would attend the school. What's special about her or him? How would that character look?
- On DVD or streaming: September 27, 2016
- Cast: Debi Derryberry, Cassandra Morris, Celeste Henderson
- Directors: Stephen Donnelly, Olly Reid
- Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Friendship, High School, Misfits and Underdogs, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Run time: 73 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: March 5, 2020
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