This review originally appeared on the now-defunct site FamilyWonder.com, which showcased children's entertainment for parents and caregivers.
Title: MONSTER MASH
Running Time: 1 hour 1 minute
When the Gould Guild threatens to expel Frankenstein, Dracula, and Wolfman because they can't scare anyone anymore, the trio must prove that they can terrorize a typical family. Now that they've been colorized, Frank, Drac and Wolf spend more time partying and appearing on "Stupid Monster Tricks" than striking fear in the hearts of men. Although the monsters are happy, the Gould Guild is horrified to learn that Dracula now wears dentures and babies love Frankenstein. Sentenced to work children's birthday parties for eternity, the trio is given one last chance: they must prove that they can still scare a typical family.
Inside their haunted castle, the Tinklemeisters prove resistant to fright. Oh, it's easy enough for the monsters to make doggie hairdresser Dad scream by reminding him of the horror movies of his youth, but the kids aren't impressed by Frankenstein's scars or Dracula's teeth. If the crew can't find a way to scare enfant terrible Spike, then a talking doll, an alien, and a guy with a hockey mask will take over their castle.
Best For Ages:
2-5 - Though young children may be frightened by the monsters' appearances, most will appreciate this warm-hearted tale.
6-8 - The ideal age for this Halloween musical.
9-12 - Older kids will appreciate the horror movie references, but the cartoon gets a little silly.
Educational Value: The concluding video runs through a history of classic horror movies, while the cartoon makes reference to many cultural icons from such films.
Entertainment Value: Four catchy songs including the hit "Monster Mash" enhance this comedy, which pokes fun at the commercial exploitation of Halloween and slasher film conventions.
Violence: Monsters attack one another with claws and equipment, but since most of them are already dead, nobody gets hurt. Spike sends a wolf-man chasing a ball out the window, and smacks a vampire with a paddle.
Frightening Situations: The film is narrated by a skeletal dog and features many characters with scars, scary teeth, glowing eyes, and traditional Halloween fright masks. A family is trapped in a haunted castle. A child separated from his parents screams when he sees a vampire.
Questionable Behavior: Brothers torture monsters. Dracula smashes a VCR. Spike plays with electricity. Mom behaves stereotypically, spending most of her time in the haunted castle trying to clean it.
MONSTER MASH has witty dialogue and clever music going for it, though the cartoon plot runs thinner than Dracula's diluted geriatric blood. The grotesque features of the monsters will probably scare off very young viewers, which is too bad because the story would be most appropriate for little kids. References to old horror movies and some witty postmodern dialogue may make this cartoon palatable to pre-teens.
The Tinklemeisters, selected as a "typical" family, consist of overweight parents (Dad's obsessed with work, Mom's a homemaker) and two misfit kids -- one with long hair and a bad attitude, the other an idiot savant who was hit by lightning and now invents things nobody understands. By the end of the film, silent Spike can talk and the whole family has helped to mend Drac's teeth and restore Wolf's hairdo. Better still, an angry mob from town have been converted to potential customers at the amusement park the family plans to open in the haunted castle.
It's refreshing to see a Halloween movie expose the commercial conventions of the holiday. At one point Wolf complains that contemporary monsters have all been created by toy companies rather than archetypes of the universal unconscious; at another juncture, Dracula suggests there aren't any real movies about vampires because vampires don't show up on film, making "Kodak moments" impossible. Sadly, witty moments like these will likely be lost on the young viewers who will most enjoy the silly scares offered by the monsters, and learn there really isn't anything to be afraid of.
The last ten minutes of MONSTER MASH are the funniest. First viewers are treated to country- and Beastie Boys-style performances of the famous song, then a video featuring the original Bobby Pickett recording with classic clips from old Universal horror movies. Kids who enjoy Warner Bros. or Hanna-Barbera cartoons will probably like MONSTER MASH. For more dangerous monsters, try GOOSEBUMPS: THE WEREWOLF OF FEVER SWAMP. For more sophisticated Halloween comedy, check out THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS.
Children's Television Reviews