A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Monsters at Large is a live-action comedy about three kids who set out to rid their neighborhood of monsters, or at least the monsters that appear in the imaginations of younger children. Made on a shoestring budget, the cartoon action is meant to be more comic than scary. Expect taser action, falls, a haunted house, fireworks, a gizmo that directs punches at crotches, and a large, blue, fanged monster so primitive and benign that only the very youngest kids would find him frightening. There's some mild potty language and insults like "butt," "fart," "nut buster," and "bonehead," along with gas-inducing candy and giant monster poop. The movie is meant for kids who understand the difference between real versus imaginary jeopardy.
What's the story?
Alex Parker (Matthew Kosto) can't get any sleep in MONSTERS AT LARGE. His little brother, Gavin, is having nightmares about monsters and keeps Alex up every single night. It's affecting his school work so much that his science teacher (Stephen Tobolowsky) has sent him to detention. Lucky for Alex, he and two friends, Dylan (Auggie Pulliam) and Phoenix (Alicia C. Del Aguila), come up with the perfect solution. They'll become "Monster Busters," a team of "experts" who will rid the Parker house of Gavin's monsters. With some homemade, monster-busting gizmos, a few sound effects, and a black bag to carry the "captured" monster away, their plan works. In fact, it works so well that the Monster Busters are quite the success story. They're hired by neighborhood families to rid scary monsters from other little kids' rooms. What the Monster Busters didn't count on, however, was meeting up with a bright-blue creature with fangs and claws who just might be the real thing.
Is it any good?
The filmmakers do an OK job of selling the cut-rate effects and silly-looking monster in this tale, but the many slow, low-energy conversational scenes simply don't serve the story. As it stands, at 98 minutes, Monsters at Large is sluggish and comes alive only when some of the young actors, particularly Auggie Pulliam, hold center stage. It's nice to see a girl in the role of scientific "expert," and the kids give it their all, but they could have done with a little more guidance, some judicious editing, and a more professional production, none of which are dependent upon a hefty budget.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the comic violence in Monsters at Large. Comic or slapstick jeopardy is less frightening than serious action is for kids who understand real versus imaginary. But what about younger kids or extra-sensitive kids? Does comedy make it less frightening for them? Why or why not? How does your family determine when the kids are ready for movie violence of any kind?
In what ways was Alex a good big brother to Gavin? Was it simply because he got rid of Gavin's monsters? How did he treat Gavin generally? What qualities do you think are essential in good sibling relationship (e.g., patience, empathy)?
Be creative. Create a "monster" who might like to hide out in a bedroom closet. Is it funny or scary, or both? Draw or write about the monster. Give it a history; for example, where did it come from? Why is it in the closet?