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Video Review: ‘A Monsterous Holiday’

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monsterousA monstrously mediocre holiday special, the 44-minute animated video A Monsterous Holiday didn’t have to be that way. The script deals with themes that may be obvious but are good for kids: accepting others though they may be different from you, taking credit for your own work, persistence and determination. The producers hired talented voice actors, including Brooke Shields, Kyle Chandler, and Jon Heder. But between the uninspired writing, the bad comic timing, and perhaps worst of all, the poorly designed animation, the most frightening thing about A Monsterous Holiday is how badly it misses its mark.

Andy (the voice of Drake Hill, of Nickelodeon’s Drake & Josh) is a young inventor who’s the son of a football coach (Kyle Chandler) who wishes his son were more of an athlete than a scientist. It’s a potentially heartbreaking setup, but little is done with it.  Andy can’t stop experimenting, but has a problem with chemical explosions. This recurring plot element poses one of the big problems with the movie’s animation. Masters of the form like Pixar show how much human expression and character a sensitive team of animators can get out of computer graphics. But the character design in A Monsterous Holiday runs from generic to lazy; I have the sneaking suspicion  that the anachronistically huge mustache given to Andy’s father was added so animators would have one less mouth to design and sync to dialogue. (I also suspect the actor’s’ awkward timing was due to difficulty syncing voices to animated lip motion.) These bland designs move awkwardly, beyond the natural awkwardness of a young person. Worst of all is the animators’ inability to convey the properties of liquid: it beads and defies gravity and looks and behaves nothing like real liquid. But Andy’s habit for explosions means there’s a LOT of liquid to animate in 44 minutes.

As Andy longs to impress his father, he befriends a young Frankenstein monster (the voice of Napoleon Dynamite’s Jon Heder) who, in a kind of pre-adolescent Madame Butterfly gambit, takes Andy’s place on the football team. This sounds better than it is. A Monsterous Holiday has its heart in the right place, but like it’s poor protagonist, doesn’t have the talent it needs to succeed.

A Monsterous Holiday is available on VOD & DVD.

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About Pat Padua

Pat Padua is a writer, photographer, native Washingtonian, and Oxford comma defender. The Washington Post called him "a talented, if quirky, photographer." Pat has also contributed to the All Music Guide, Cinescene, and DCist, where he is currently senior film critic.