Starring: Brendan Fraser and Bridget Fonda
20th Century Fox
RRP: 9.99
Certificate: 12
Available now

When a car crash sends repressed cartoonist Stu Miley into a coma, he finds himself in Downtown, the land of nightmares. He is not pleased when he runs into one of Downtown's denizens - his mischievous animated creation, Monkeybone. Stu is even less pleased when Monkeybone takes possession of his body and wreaks havoc in the real world...

Combining live action and stop-motion animation, Monkeybone could be described as Roger Rabbit meets Beetlejuice. The bizarre characters who inhabit Downtown also bring to mind The Nightmare Before Christmas. These Tim Burton connections are scarcely surprising, since this movie is written by Sam (Batman) Hamm and directed by Henry Selick, the man behind The Nightmare Before Christmas (which, contrary to a common misconception, was produced - but not directed - by Tim Burton).

There are some seriously disturbed images in this film, which depicts an appropriately nightmarish realm within the limits of the 12 certificate. Some of the material, however, including the gruesome fate of a deceased but reanimated organ donor's kidney, actually seems a little too distasteful for the 12 rating, but then I'm not a member of the BBFC, so what do I know? It's also a pity that we don't spend as much time in the intriguing and amusing Downtown during the second half of the movie.

Curiously, when you consider the believable reactions he provided when performing alongside CGI monsters in the two recent Mummy movies, Brendan Fraser is not terribly good at reacting to the stop-motion Monkeybone (voiced by John Turturro). However, Fraser does turn in an enjoyable dual role as both the normal Stu and the Monkeybone-possessed version.

Taking a leaf from the book of the DVD medium, the film is followed by several deleted or extended scenes, which do make certain aspects of the plot somewhat clearer. We discover, for example, the origin of Stu's "back in the pack" catch phrase, and also learn just how the grim reaper ends up with a juice stain on his uniform. And, yes, for those of you who recall the movie's trailer (sadly not included on this tape), it is a falling drainpipe that ultimately results in Stu's coma. There is also copious comparison footage showing the various elements that comprise the movie's impressive special effects.

Monkeybone is certainly inventive and zany, but not quite as funny as it thinks it is.

Richard McGinlay

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