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While "Monkeybone" is a film that most people won't remember, the title may be somewhat familiar to some people. This movie was in and out of theaters so fast that if you blinked you missed it. Heck I missed it and I miss very few films. With a reported budget of 75 million and a box office gross of just over 5 million "Monkeybone" wasn't the smash Fox was looking for. However you now get a second chance to experience this dark comedic tale as 20th Century Fox releases the "Monkeybone Special Edition" DVD.

Monkeybone: Special Edition
Movie
"Monkeybone" is the story of cartoonist Stu Miley (Brendan Fraser) who has created a cheeky smart alec character named "Monkeybone" whose personality couldn't be farther from his own. Stu is reserved, guarded and a bit afraid of achieving success where as "Monkeybone" is zany and off the wall.  Stu's comic book has just been turned into an animated series with a 6 episode commitment. His friend Herb (Dave Foley) is trying to merchandise the heck out of "Monkeybone" but Stu doesn't want to exploit his character. Stu also has a girlfriend named Julie (Bridget Fonda) who works in a sleep disorder clinic where they met.  Stu has set up an elaborate way to propose to Julie but before they get home from a party to celebrate the TV Series launch Stu is the victim of a terrible accident. The accident leaves Stu in a coma and Stu suddenly finds himself in a dark hellish world called Down-Town.  In Down-Town Stu finds himself faced with a fully alive version of his character "Monkeybone" (voice of John Tuturro).

Stu finds out that he is about to be removed from life support so it's now clear that Stu stop this from happening so he can get back and be with Julie. The only problem is there are only two ways to get back.  You are either given a reprieve which comes in the form of a golden exit pass ticket or you die.  In true movie form just seconds before the life support is pulled he manages to make it back or does it. Instead of Stu making it back it seems that "Monkeybone" made it back instead. 

"Monkeybone" is not a great motion picture by any stretch but it does have it strong points. The visual effects are simply amazing and the story is anything but predictable. Sure you can predict the ending but the events that get you to the ending are anyone's best guess. All the technical aspects of this film are done extremely well but the story could have used a little more work. Once "Monkeybone" takes over Stu's body in the real world the story really falls apart and it's all bathroom humour. Not intelligent toilet humour like in "Scary Movie" but really dumb almost moronic humour. 

The performances are quite strong in the movie. Brendan Fraser who I personally hated in "The Mummy Returns" is in fine form here in the dual roles of Stu/Monkeybone. He's shy and reserved as Stu but when he's "Monkeybone" you better watch out.  Rose McGowan is given a bit role as Kitty a lovely pussy cat who helps Stu get out of Down-Town. I've always liked Rose McGowan since I saw her in "Scream" and wish she'd be given more roles in movies. Bridget Fonda's talent seems to be wasted here but she does give off a feeling of warmth as Julie.

Director Henry Selick hasn't been one of my favourites directors.  I never really understood or liked his earlier work "The Nightmare Before Christmas". It was just a tad dark for me at the time. Like that film "Monkeybone" is a dark somewhat disturbing tale that was rated PG-13 and marketed at kids when it's more an adult type film. It's not really a mainstream movie. The film is based on a graphic novel called "Dark Town" by Kaja Buckley which came out around the time I was into comics but never interested me.

"Monkeybone" isn't a terrible film it has a lot of flaws. It's also not a film with mainstream appeal written all over it.  If you like Selick's other work or dark tales then it maybe for you but it wasn't my cup of tea. 

Monkeybone: Special Edition
Video
It's getting harder and harder to come up with interesting ways of saying that the quality of DVD transfers are getting that much better. It seems that every time a studio releases a DVD it's better then their last and this one is no exception.

20th Century Fox has released some beautiful discs recently with "Cast Away" and "Dude, Where's My Car" and now they present "Monkeybone" in it's original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 which like almost all new Fox titles is enhanced for anamorphic displays. 

"Monkeybone" is a visual feast for the eyes containing some very interesting visual effects which translate excellent to this DVD release. Colors are vibrant during the downtown sequences and somewhat subdued in the real world. Sharpness is excellent although I did find the occasional scene early on in the picture to be a bit soft.  The darker scenes, and there were quite a few, did not seem too dark at all and everything seemed very natural.

As for flaws, I didn't really notice anything other then a few minor speckles of dust which must have been on the source print. The film is free of edge enhancement (a major plus) and the dreaded pixelation that was present on many of the earliest DVDs doesn't rear it's ugly head here.  

Overall aside from the tiny amount of softness present in some of the early scenes this is about as good as it gets. Before you know it I'm going to have to take out a magnifying glass to determine flaws in the transfer. Excellent work Fox.

Audio
In the later months of the year 2000, 20th Century Fox started reissuing dual DD/DTS versions of some of their earlier releases. Some of the initial wave of titles included "X-Files: Fight the Future", "The Siege", "Predator" and "Courage Under Fire". In addition to these reissues Fox has released a handful of day and date titles such as "Titan AE" and most recently "Cast Away" with dual format digital soundtracks. Now with the release of "Monkeybone" they add another dual format title to the list.

"Monkeybone" features plenty of audio options including Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 audio tracks. In addition to these there are 2.0 tracks in English and French for those without 5.1 capability.  

I wasn't totally sure what to expect from the audio of "Monkeybone" having totally skipped over it during it's rather short theatrical run. Though I had seen the trailer a couple times and from the looks of it the movie it appeared to be a dark fantasy world type of film that had the potential for an interesting audio experience.  While the film was a bit of a disappointment the audio offered something to distract me from the rather bleak story. The dark comic type world of Down-Town brought forth an opportunity for interesting usage of the surrounds and by god if the film didn't take advantage of it.  At times I was startled by voices and odd sounds surrounding me. Sure there were plenty of areas where the sound could have been more creative but from a movie that offered very little in terms of surprises the soundtrack was a major plus.

Audio quality was excellent, dialogue was loud and clear and never harsh sounding like on the recent Fox release "Dude, Where's My Car?", the Danny Elfman-esque score is presented nicely through out all 5 speakers. Bass levels are excellent and the disc does provide some nice rumbling on occasion. There is an interesting use of the surrounds for some dialogue that seemed to come from off in the distance. A nice effect as I looked over my shoulder to see if someone had somehow entered the room through the outside wall or if my neighbours were shouting at each other again. In a way I guess I'm lucky that my neighbours put up with the noise but then again they make their fair share of noise as well. 

An excellent mix but not as creative as it could be. Still it helped make the movie much more tolerable and that's never a bad thing.

Monkeybone: Special Edition
Extras
While not a box office hit by any means 20th Century Fox hopes that "Monkeybone" will find it's audience on video and DVD. While other studios may have simply tossed the film on a disc. Fox has once again proven that box office success does not dictate the extra features section of the DVD.

"Monkeybone" has a directors commentary from Henry Selick the man behind the stop motion animation films "A Nightmare Before Christmas" and James and the "Giant Peach".  Having not particularly liked his other films and having just sat through this one I wasn't really looking forward to the audio commentary on the disc. However, I was in for a shock as the commentary was actually quite good. Selick talked a lot about how the various visual effects were done and what it was liked working with some of the lesser known actors. While this is not a track I'm likely to visit again in the near future it was informative and didn't seem as big of a waste of 100 minutes as I thought it was going to be.

Continuing on we have a collection of 11 extended scenes, 10 of which feature optional commentary from the director. All of these scenes are basically extensions on scenes in the film and while some of them added some moderately funny bits I felt the film was running long as it was and it was clear something had to be cut out.  This is the second Fox disc in a row that features Extended scenes instead of deleted ones. While I enjoy the extended scenes, I'd prefer to see material that didn't end up in the film at all.

Also included is a set of 7 behind the scenes featurettes that take a look at the making of key sequences in the film. Generally these show how the animation was made to interact with the live action and these are pretty informative. For this film I was interested in how things were done as the film does contain some cool visual effects.  These also feature an optional audio commentary track.

Rounding out the disc is a still gallery, the films theatrical trailer and 3 TV Spots.

A pretty good set of extras for a film I didn't really care for. I've always said that added value features can make a mediocre film worth purchasing. I have to admit I've bought a couple discs of movies I didn't really like because of the features. 

Overall
Overall this is an excellent disc. Aside from the movie itself I can't find much to fault with the disc. Audio quality is excellent, video quality is amazing and it has a good set of extras to boot. If your a fan of stop motion animation then you might enjoy this film. A great disc for a not so great movie.


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