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 Zone (also known as Cranston Academy: Monster Zone) is an animated comedy-adventure in which a pair of young scientists opens up a portal to another dimension and unleashes an army of monsters on their school. There's violence throughout: The monsters throw characters around, tie up humans, and take them prisoner by leaving them hanging by their heads until they look like zombies. Some of the monsters could cause nightmares for younger/more sensitive viewers. You can also expect some bathroom humor -- including science projects centered on bodily fluids (poop, snot) and characters smearing plant pus on themselves to ward off bugs while in the monster dimension. The lead character, a science whiz named Danny (voiced by Jamie Bell), almost calls a monster a "piece of s--t" before he's cut off; "suck" is also used, and a character describes his favorite hot sauce as being hotter than "the fiery depths of hell." A trio of kids bullies Danny: They call him a "loser," punch him on top of his head, give him an atomic wedgie, and chase him until he has to hide out in the school restroom. Adults generally aren't much better: The teacher judging the science fair makes mean comments about all of the kids' projects except the one completed by her son (who's one of the kids bullying Danny). And when Danny leaves that school to attend an elite science academy in England, his professor is rude and disparaging of Danny and his efforts. There's some stereotyping. On the positive side, the movie shows how teamwork can be better than going it alone.
What's the story?
In MONSTER ZONE, Danny Dawkins (voiced by Jamie Bell) is a young science whiz who's having a tough time in his school. As a science whiz, he's the target of bullying, and the teacher in charge of the science fair -- the mother of one of the kids who bully him -- is bored by Danny's science project involving nanotechnology. Fortunately for Danny, he's rescued by Principal Evans, the principal of the elite Cranston Genius School in England. Learning of Danny's science aptitude, she offers him free tuition to attend Cranston, take advanced science classes, and be classmates with other science prodigies. This is all a dream come true for Danny, until he arrives and soon arouses the scorn and contempt of the pompous Professor Stern, and provokes the anger of Liz (Ruby Rose), his roommate who actually had wanted to be lab partners with Danny, but he refused, saying that he always goes it alone. Soon, Danny is in danger of failing Professor Stern's class and getting kicked out of Cranston, so with Liz's help, they try to fix the school's atomic particle generator, hoping that this will give Danny the high grades and respect he's trying to earn. While they do get the reactor started, they open up a portal to a land populated with an army of drooling and ugly monsters. They also inadvertently rescue the chivalrous Mothman, who was once a human assistant to Professor Stern but is now a light-loving moth fueled by hot sauce. As the monsters enter the portal and begin to terrorize Cranston, Danny, Liz, and Mothman must find a way to stop the monsters, save their school, and rescue the planet.
Is it any good?
This animated movie manages to be just OK. It's a 3D-animated feature centered on Danny, a young science prodigy given the chance to attend a prestigious science academy in England, and the monsters he unleashes with the help of his roommate Liz after they fix an atomic particle reactor and open up a portal through which the monsters can enter our world and wreak havoc. There's a reliance on gross-out humor involving bodily fluids, and in the cruelty of bullies, either as kids or as authority figures. The humor throughout isn't memorable, but it's mildly amusing at times.
The animation and voice-overs are also fine, if not special. There's a positive message involving teamwork that's likely to get lost in the images of tentacled monsters throwing characters around, or slimy monsters drooling from their razor-sharp fangs, or humans captured by plants until their eyes attain a tell-tale zombie glow. The story does remain consistent, though -- unlike in the countless Pixar rip-offs released worldwide in the CGI universe -- and it's easy enough to follow. But there's nothing particularly remarkable about Monster Zone. It's neither good nor bad, and most likely to inspire little more than a shrug.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in Monster Zone. While there was plenty of unrealistic animated violence involving the monsters, how was violence like bullying portrayed in the movie?
How were adults represented here? Why do so many animated movies have incompetent or mean grown-ups?
Does the movie's message about teamwork break through to viewers, or does it get lost in the silly story and violence?
Were there any stereotypes in the movie? If so, which ones? Why are stereotypes harmful?
- In theaters: June 26, 2020
- On DVD or streaming: February 9, 2021
- Cast: Jamie Bell, Ruby Rose
- Director: Leopoldo Aguilar
- Studio: Anima Estudios
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Run time: 80 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: Some action and rude material.
- Last updated: February 21, 2021
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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