People really do have mixed thoughts when it comes to motion capture animation. Some love it for its innovation, others don't like it because of how uncanny it can look. I'm one that likes it personally, but I can understand where others are coming from when they say don't exactly like it. Like "The Polar Express" around the Christmas season, one animated movie I grew watching around Halloween season was "Monster House", a film directed by Gil Kenan and executive produced by Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg. I did like it as a kid for how spooky it was, but then I stopped watching the movie after a while. I then decided not long ago to rewatch the movie to see if it held up and to my surprise, it did. The film's frightening imagery still works to this day, but it's really the humor that seals the deal. I had no idea how funny this film was as a kid and I really was laughing hard at this movie years later.
In a normal neighborhood a day before Halloween, twelve-year-old DJ (Mitchel Musso) has recently been spying on his neighbor across the street, Horace Nebbercracker (Steve Buscemi), a grumpy old man who wants people away from his house and takes any item that lands on his yard. After trying to grab a basketball belonging to his best friend Chowder (Sam Lerner) off his yard, DJ is then caught by the neighbor who then seems to have a heart attack right in front of him. Nebbercracker is then taken away by an ambulance, but the situation isn't over for DJ yet. He then receives mysterious phone calls from the house and when he and Chowder investigate, the house itself comes alive and tries to attack them. The next morning the two save a girl named Jenny (Spencer Locke) from being eaten, but when they try to tell an adult, in this case, DJ's babysitter Zee (Maggie Gyllenhaal), she doesn't believe it. Realizing the house will attack any children that come up to it, the three prepare to destroy the spirit of the house before kids in the neighborhood go out to trick or treat.
As I said, I was really surprised at how funny and well written this movie is. The kids in this movie are actually written like actual twelve-year-olds and not like children acting like adults. I think personally children are some of the hardest characters to write for in films, but the writers really managed to pull it off. There really were also a lot of genuinely hilarious moments that came from this film when it usually didn't involve the actual house. I think a funny scene came where DJ and Chowder are at a construction lot and where the former is trying to tell the latter about the house, Chowder cares more about how the constitution workers left the keys in the equipment. Sometimes that joke doesn't work, but here it actually surprisingly does. Now, let's talk about the motion capture animation. For what it is, it's still really good. The film definitely looks a lot different from Polar Express and I think most people won't be turned by its look. The character designs sometimes do look a little plastic-like at times, but I think the scenery still looks great. It really has aged well. The characters are easily my favorite part of the movie. As I mentioned, the three kids are very well written and how they interact with the adults is pretty funny. I really surprisingly thought Zee was kind of funny too. Being a poor babysitter, you'd think her character would slip into cliché territory, but none of the characters do. I think they are all well written and funny. As far as flaws go with this movie, the cinematography is very odd. The camera moments are very jerky, sometimes to fast to comprehend, and does way too much quick zoom-ins that it kind of gave me a headache. It's probably the biggest thing that should've been improved more.
I still think "Monster House" works over twelve years later. The story is funny and well written, the animation looks nice despite its odd cinematography, and the character are all really funny and work off each other great. I think this is a fun animated movie to watch around the Halloween season. If you haven't seen it, I'd say it's worth a watch. You might have fun with it.