Sky’s move into original film in the UK gets off to a bumpy start with animated feature Monster Family. While not quite as mouldy as its characters, it’s hardly fresh, either.
An adaptation of children’s book Happy Family, by German writer David Safier, it’s big on action and eye-catching mis-en-scene (which may be enough for younger audiences), but suffers from a half-baked plot that feels like it was cobbled together in a brainstorming session on The Apprentice.
The story revolves around Emma Wishbone (Emily Watson), an unhappy wife and mother, who becomes the object of Dracula’s (Jason Isaacs) affections when she mistakenly calls him at his isolated mountain lair. Lonely and lovelorn, he despatches the old crone Baba Yaga (Catherine Tate) to transform Emma into a vampire – biting her would corrupt the purity that he somewhat creepily finds attractive – in the hope of making her his wife.
Unfortunately Baba Yaga, who arrives on Halloween, accidentally transforms not only Emma but her entire fractious family into real versions of their spooky costumes. Sulky, boy-obsessed teenage daughter (Jessica Brown Findlay) becomes a mouldering mummy; bullied nerdy son (Isaac Rouse), a werewolf; and flatulent, overworked husband (Nick Frost), Frankenstein’s monster.
Thus begins a madcap adventure that takes in the London Eye, a desert trek, the space shuttle, and encounters with Imhotep and a group of models on a location shoot. The family bicker and bond their way through the hackneyed narrative, inevitably returning to their true selves with a greater appreciation of each other.
Visually, Monster Family is a colourful, occasionally spectacular treat. But its structure feels disjointed while the characters lack the depth, complexity and nuance which Pixar regularly brings to its creations.
The brief flashes of wit just aren’t worth the hassle and expense of parents making the trip to the multiplex and shelling out for popcorn. If the kids insist, you can always catch it on Sky Cinema, on which it’s released in tandem with the theatrical version.