Brendan Fraser is at his best when he plays an idiot (see “Encino Man,” “George of the Jungle”). In his latest film, “Monkeybone,” he screams and bellows, hops on counters and stamps his feet, yet does he tickle our funny I”ll spare you the bad wordplay.
Directed by Henry Selick (“The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “James and the Giant Peach”) and written by Sam Hamm (“Batman”), “Monkeybone” is a comedy that draws much influence from “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” and the Jim Henson-inspired puppetry of fantasy flicks from the “80s. On the eve of his break onto television with his cartoon “Monkeybone,” animator Stu Miley (Fraser) gets involved in a car crash with his girlfriend Julie (Bridget Fonda) and falls into a coma.
Be fore-warned, this is no ordinary coma as this is no ordinary film. Miley rides the roller coaster ride from hell into this awesome, dynamic set piece known as Downtown, otherwise know as the inner consciousness. Quickly, Miley sees all of his thoughts and artistic visions come to life, from a three-headed devil to a giant-eyed Cyclops, an oversized pig or a sexy, sultry Kitty (Rose McGowan). Selick employs puppetry, costuming, computer and stop-motion animation to what should be a dazzling effect. And at first, it is. But quickly, all the costumes and oddball, quirky images just melt into what they really are: set dressing. Selick fails to compose the world that is Downtown we never get the sense that there is just more around the bend.
“Monkeybone” doesn”t allow itself time to grow in this world, as the film (and Miley) are so concerned with getting out. Miley just wants to see Julie one last time, so he can propose to her and tell her that he loves her. When he comes face to face with his animation character Monkeybone, a wise-cracking, annoying primate voiced by John Turturro, the two team up and steal an exit pass from Death (oh God, look it”s Whoopi Goldberg).
Sure enough, the simian takes the pass, enters into Miley”s body in the real world and starts a whole lot of monkey trouble. Will Miley get out in time to stop Monkeybone? Will he marry his one true love? Will Brendan Fraser have a cameo as Ape Guard Number Two in “Planet of the Apes”?
“Monkeybone” is all over the map in terms of humor and story, at times, it wants to be a slapstick children”s comedy at times, it aims for more sexually toned humor. “Monkeybone” shows signs its been edited several times over as it lacks consistency in its pacing and tone. It”s a kids” film, it”s an adult comedy, it”s fantasy, it”s a fart joke, it”s a whole barrel of monkeys.