Directed by Holger Tappe,
Starring Emily Watson, Jason Isaacs, Nick Frost, Jessica Brown Findlay, Celia Imrie, Catherine Tate
The Wishbone Family are far from the happiness that mother Emma wishes they had. Emma is stressed trying to keep them together, husband Frank is so snowed under in work that when he gets home he just wants to sleep, daughter Fay is struggling being the teenage girl who wants to be an adult, while Max the youngest member of the family is getting bullied in school for being the smartest boy in the class. When Dracula takes a liking to Emma he has a witch turn her into a Vampire, and the rest of the family get hit by the spell. Frank turns into the Monster from Mary Shelley’s book, Fay becomes the Mummy, and Max, well he’s the werewolf.
I’m always a little bit weary of animations from studios outside the ones you’d expect to throw out a few films a year. You know the main ones, and not to say they haven’t released a few howlers over the years, but they usually have a better batting average than smaller companies. But being a fan of the classic Universal Monsters, Monster Family looked, on the surface to be an enjoyable romp for all ages. I have to admit that it pretty much is just that. I can take my seven year old Nephew to see it and he’s going to love it, but I have to qualify that if his parents are reading this review it does not constitute an invitation, I’ve been caught out on that point before.
The animation in the film is the biggest selling point for me. Reminding me of one of the most underrated Christmas movies, Arthur Christmas, the character designs, both pre and post transformations, are cute and along the lines of Disney’s Inside Out. I really enjoyed Dracula as the villain, as it’s a way to introduce younger, or more sensitive, children to the character without the pure evil that most films portray him as. Dracula is a lonely soul with only three bats, who remind you of The Minions, and Renfield his faithful servant.
The voice cast is where the problem lays with me. There are one or two other points that irked me along the way, but the voice cast is the biggest problem that I have. First of all the cast all do a great job, but they are miscast here. The family is meant to be from New York and all have strong British accents, which throws you out of the setting straight away. I can buy that the family came over from Britain, but it’s never mentioned that they did, and the children would have developed a slight American twang to their diction, surely? The voice cast includes good actors who I like – Emily Watson, Jason Isaacs, Nick Frost, and Catherine Tate, so in any other setting they’d be all perfect, but they are clearly not a New York family.
Then you remember that this film isn’t targeted for a middle-aged Monster lover like me, it’s for the kids that people like me know and love and want to share our obsession with. We want to bring our nieces and nephews into the world of horror movie characters, and it’s not like thirty odd years ago where my Dad just sat me down and made me watch the shock horrors of the 1970s and 80s.
This is one for the younger viewers, the under twelves in the family, and the fans of the Universal Monsters who want to introduce the characters gently into their minds (and perhaps for fans of the Munsters too, who are obviously a bit of an influence here). Good animation and some great set pieces that will keep the kids entertained for ninety minutes; you could do far worse with the younglings on a cold afternoon at the cinema.