There's a phenomena in Hollywood called "Special Effect Masturbation Energy Nirvana," which essentially describes the point when special effects segue from "supporting element" to "center stage" in a film. At this point, it's common for filmmakers to simply bow down (or bend over) in deference to their importance and just let nature take its course. Several factors tend to precede such situations: One is that a "concept" is developed without a story and the story is written in as an afterthought. Another is that an outline is followed by a budget that's spent almost entirely on making the computers do nifty things. The movie then turns out to be 90% video game and 10% movie. The computers seize control. The director is at their mercy. The actors are at their mercy. The writers are at their mercy. This is clearly the case with "Monkeybone."
Though its imagery may at first glance seem unfamiliar, neither the story nor the ideas contained within the film are unique in any way. Brendan Fraser plays a cartoonist named Stu Miley who goes into a coma after a car accident and ends up in a place called "Downtown," which is a hip word for purgatory. There he meets his comic creation, a monkey named Monkeybone. Monkeybone tricks Stu and returns to the land of the living where he inhabits Stu's body, annoys Stu's girlfriend, Julie (Bridget Fonda), and attempts to capitalize on all the commercial possibilities of Monkeybone.
"Downtown" is basically a souped-up version of the Cantina from "Star Wars." The whole "man in purgatory" thing has been done to death. The whole "weird guy inhabiting a character's body" has been done to death. The whole "let's pretend we're not ruthless capitalists by criticizing capitalism" has been done to death. Finally, what's the deal with Bridget Fonda's hair in the film? It's like part of the movie was filmed in 1990 and another part in 1995.
And didn't Brendan Fraser play a monkey in a man's body, more or less, in "George of the Jungle"? The plot also has some ridiculous tangent about Monkeybone attempting to produce more nightmares on Earth to satisfy the craving of the residents of Downtown. All this apparently stems from Stu's creative and sexual impulses he repressed as a child. Monkeybone, like the name would suggest, is essentially Stu's talking penis. One gets the sense from "Monkeybone" that when filmmakers weren't busy working in more special effects, they ran out and read the Cliff Notes to Freud to round out the story elements.
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