20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Cast: Brendan Fraser, Bridget Fonda, Chris Kattan
Extras: Commentary Track, Deleted Scenes, Animation Studies, Theatrical Trailer, TV Spots, Still Gallery
Brendan Fraser leads the cast of "Monkeybone" as Stu Miley (whose jacket reads "S. Miley". Get it?). Stu is a cartoonist who has achieved success with a comic-strip entitled "Monkeybone". The cartoon features a mischievous monkey, named Monkeybone, who is always getting the comic-strip version of Stu into trouble. (Basically, Monkeybone is Stu’s id.) As the film opens, Stu is embarking on a new business venture, as Monkeybone is being made into a television show for "The Comedy Channel". While Stu’s manager Herb (Dave Foley), is very excited about the financial prospect of the show, Stu just wants to propose to his girlfriend, Dr. Julie McElroy (Bridget Fonda). As Stu and Julie leave the party celebrating Stu’s success, they get in an auto accident, and Stu goes into a coma. This is where the movie gets weird.
That plot synopsis may seem to describe a great deal of the movie, but in actuality, that’s only about the first 45-minutes, and things just keep getting weirder from there. Allow me to defend "Monkeybone" by saying that it’s not the stinker that some have made it out to be. It’s simply an unusual film, which got dumped into the marketplace. Now, let me play devil’s advocate and say that I can’t imagine why any studio executive would allow $70 million to be spent on such an odd premise and be surprised that the film is unmarketable. "The Nightmare Before Christmas" director Henry Selick and "Batman" scribe Sam Hamm, have crafted a film that is like "Beetlejuice" on steroids. The movie is so full of bizarre images and disturbing creatures that the story seems to take a backseat to the weirdness. While many of these visuals are fascinating (the movie is loosely based on a graphic novel and maintains that comic-book look), they are overwhelming as well. Add to this the fact that "Monkeybone" feels incredibly disjointed. The film jumps back and forth between Down Town and the real world, and there are many times when you get the feeling that something is missing. (And with the <$commentary,audio commentary> and deleted scenes featured on this DVD, we do learn that a lot was missing.)
So, based on that, "Monkeybone" is an unwatchable mess, right? No, "Monkeybone" turns out to be quite watchable and enjoyable for one reason and one reason only — Brendan Fraser. The man who isn’t afraid to fight the undead in the "Mummy" films proves himself to be the bravest actor in Hollywood with "Monkeybone". Fraser is equally believable as the morose Stu who just wants to be alone with Julie and the desperate Stu, who will do anything to leave Down Town, and… another character who I don’t want to spoil for those who haven’t seen the film. The scene with Bridget Fonda in the bedroom should be enough to prove to anyone that Brendan Fraser isn’t afraid to make a fool of himself onscreen. Fraser’s charm carries the film, and he seems to be the only person who gets the material, as Fonda and Foley, drift in and out of the movie. Those who believe that Hollywood is afraid to try something different should see "Monkeybone". It’s different… very different.
This transfer continues to shine in the audio department as well. The viewer is given the choice of two main audio soundtracks, a <$DD,Dolby Digital> <$5.1,5.1 channel> track or a <$DTS,DTS> 5.1 track. Both sound equally good overall, with the DTS track offering a slightly broader soundfield and a bit more bass response. Both tracks give a nice dose of surround sound action, most noticeable in scenes such as Stu’s arrival in Down Town (Chapter 5) or the party (Chapter 19). Also of note on both tracks is the impressive dynamic range and the realistic speaker selection for certain sound effects. The dialogue is clear and audible and Anne Dudley’s Danny Elfman-like soundtrack sounds very good. Neither soundtrack offers any hiss and the volume is always stable.
To help clarify some plot-points in "Monkeybone", eleven extended or deleted scenes are included on the DVD. Many of these help to tie up the loose ends in the film and one must wonder why they were excised from a movie that only ran 93-minutes (not the 100-minutes which is listed on the DVD box.) Ten of these scenes have optional commentary by Selick, but he doesn’t have much to say here. The "alternate ending" advertised on the DVD packaging is simply a longer ending, in which Hypnos gets his comeuppance. The DVD also includes a section entitled "Monkeybone Secrets Revealed". Here, we are treated to seven scenes, which show how the film’s stop-motion animation and CGI effects were combined. Essentially these are unfinished scenes in which we can see the puppets against a green-screen or the unfinished elements of a CGI effect. Three of these scenes have optional commentary by Selick.
The "Monkeybone" DVD must get kudos for having one of the most exhaustive production art still galleries ever. Literally hundreds of photos are included here and they are broken up into 29 sub-headings, as most every character and location is given a study in production drawings and experimental art. For more basic features, we have the film’s theatrical trailer, which is presented full-frame, as well as three TV spots, all full-frame as well.