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Monster Family

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Monster Family
Monster Family.jpg
You'd be better off sticking with the Hotel Transylvania trilogy.
Genre: Animation
Family
Comedy
Directed By: Holger Tappe
Produced By: Holger Tappe
Based On: Happy Family by David Safier
Starring: Emily Watson
Nick Frost
Jessica Brown Findlay
Celia Imrie
Catherine Tate
Jason Isaacs
Photography: Color
Distributed By: Warner Bros. (Germany)
Altitude Film Distribution (United Kingdom)
Release Date: 24 August 2017 (Germany)
2 March 2018 (United Kingdom)
Runtime: 96 minutes
Country: United Kingdom
Germany
Language: English
Budget: $30 million
Box Office: $26.4 million
Sequel: Monster Family 2


Monster Family (also known as Happy Family) is a 2017 British-German computer-animated horror comedy film directed and produced by Holger Tappe and co-written by David Safier. It is based on David Safier's children's book Happy Family. The film stars Emily Watson, Nick Frost, Jessica Brown Findlay, Celia Imrie, Catherine Tate, and Jason Isaacs.

A sequel, Monster Family 2, was released in 2021.

Plot

The film begins in Transylvania, where Count Dracula laments about his loneliness with his three bat servants. He receives a phone call from Emma Wishbone, who has mistakenly called him instead of a monster costume store. She talks to him briefly before accidentally dropping her cell phone down a storm drain. Emma is depressed as family tensions build up - her own bookstore is in dire financial straits, her son Max is a victim of bullying due to his awkward and stereotypical mannerisms, her daughter Fay is a narcissistic teenager, and her husband Frank is overworked and sleep-deprived, neglecting her. Dracula decides to make Emma his new bride, and persuades Baba Yaga to curse her and turn her into a real vampire so she will stay with him.

Her new-age friend Cheyenne gives Emma some tickets to a costume party, and Emma makes costumes for Emma's family: She as a vampire, Frank as Frankenstein's monster, Fay as a mummy, and Max as a werewolf. Due to a mix-up at the party, they are thrown out by security, causing Emma to have a breakdown. Baba Yaga takes advantage of the situation and curses her, but as her entire family were unhappy, they are all cursed and transform into the monsters they dressed up as.

Emma chases Baba Yaga who escapes, but not before they learn that her amulet needs to be recharged at the London Eye which happens to have been built on a site of ancient power. Meanwhile Max scares his bully, enjoying his transformation and Fay is rejected by her school crush. Frank has lost his intelligence, but still shows love for Emma.

At the airport Fay hypnotizes a check-in clerk to allow them to fly, but during the flight Emma is overwhelmed by vampiric bloodlust, and only a timely intervention from Dracula halts this and he absconds with the confused and blood-hungry Emma aboard his personal jet leaving her family on the passenger plane.

Dracula tries to persuade Emma to stay with him, and although tempted she decides to be loyal to her family - causing Dracula to eject her from his plane where she lands next to the London Eye just as her family arrive. Meanwhile Dracula decides that if he cannot have Emma, nobody can, and instructs his hunchback servant Renfield to prepare a snowflake machine to destroy the world in retaliation.

Baba Yaga charges her amulet but is accosted by the Wishbones, however she sends them to Egypt. Cheyenne tries to help, but after rescuing Baba Yaga from falling to her death the two become friends. Baba Yaga explains that Dracula intended for her to curse only Emma, but the entire family's unhappiness caused them all to change - only the entire family being happy will break the curse.

In Egypt the family has another argument culminating in them all walking off in different directions: Fay meets Imhotep who believes her to be beautiful, and wants to take over the world with her help. Max finds a hotel where all the guests are scared of him, and Frank rescues a group of supermodels who take him back to their hotel - the same one Max is at.

Emma is once again consumed by bloodlust, and once again rescued by Dracula. Despite being tempted by him again she still misses her family, who appears in the castle after a repentant Baba Yaga transports them there. Renfield explains Dracula's plan to shoot a giant snowball into the Sun, killing all life apart from vampires who do not need the sun to survive. While Dracula is in his Lazarus pool which ensures his youth, the family plans to add holy water to it, killing him, but he overpowers them. Realizing they need to work together and are happy to be together the curse is broken and they all turn back to human form. With the help of Renfield and the servant bats they trap Dracula between beams of sunlight and freeze him with his snowflake weapon.

The Wishbones return home and their circumstances change. Frank stands up for himself at work after putting a photo of their family adventure and the frozen Dracula on his desk, Max's bully has realised the error of his ways and befriends him, and Fay meets a nerd in a knight's costume at a costume party that Emma throws at home. Baba Yaga, Renfield, and the three bats crash the party. The family takes another photo together, showing their happiness.

Why It Should Never Have Gone On Vacation

  1. The animation, while not as bad as some other films such as Norm of the North or Arctic Dogs, is still mediocre and even downright ugly at times. Whilst every aspect of the characters is done in excruciating detail, it doesn't save the animation from looking unlovely and even gross at times (Which isn't helped by some scenes being entirely dedicated to gross-out humor).
  2. The characters are awful, and the main characters themselves are little more than cliched and ridiculously overdone and unpleasant family stereotypes. Also, the other characters in the film aren't much better.
    • Fay, arguably the worst character (which is really saying a lot given the competition), is a stereotypical bratty, self-absorbed teenage girl who's always insulting her family and only thinks about getting the popular guy. There's even a scene where she, for no reason, starts hitting and kicking her little brother. To the point of throwing him down the stairs.
    • Frank is the general workaholic, sleepy husband who spends so much time at his job, he can't spend time with his family. And to add insult to injury, his defining trait is flatulence.
    • Max, while he isn't mean or selfish, is little more than the stereotypical nerd who lacks self-confidence and is bullied because of it.
    • Emma is the overworked wife desperately trying to keep her disaster of a family together. While she isn't exactly "unlikable" (for the majority of the film anyway), there is one scene where she ends up getting into a fight with her daughter and ends up driving her away, and when Max leaves as well, she drives Frank away for no apparent reason.
    • And Dracula himself, the reason he's hunting down Emma and trying to seduce her? She accidentally called him while trying to call the costume store, ended up saying "I want your teeth", and then, he just automatically falls for her. Plus, why does Dracula even have a cellphone?
    • Most of the supporting/minor characters, in general, are nasty and just randomly start acting hostile towards one another for no reason. And in the rare cases where they're not, they're extremely forgettable and are still walking clichés. There's the bully (Max's bully), the teenage crush (Fay's crush), the sidekick who serves as the foil to the protagonist (Cheyenne), the pointless comic reliefs (Dracula's bats, who also double as rip-offs of the minions from Despicable Me), and the list goes on. And the family themselves doesn't go through any believable or complex character development and simply forgive each other immediately in the end and get themselves turned back to normal in the process.
  3. Both the English dub and the original German version are absolutely terrible, as both of them suffer from poor voice acting and terrible dialogue. With Baba Yaga is easily the worst offender of them all when it comes to the former. As her voice in both versions is downright insufferable. The lip syncing is also awful, as it barely ever matches up with what the characters themselves are saying, in both versions. As sometimes, the characters mouths are shown to be closed when they're talking or their mouths don't stop moving even when they've stopped talking. And the dialogue is more often than not cringeworthy and laughable, and often tries so hard to be funny that it comes of as the exact opposite.
  4. The film has a lot of gross-out elements, such as when a bird goes to the toilet in Emma's coffee cup, which the audience gets a nice close-up of. And not long after, she steps in a fecal matter bucket and it splatters everywhere inside her bookstore, and then there's the aforementioned fact that most of the time Frank's on-screen, he happens to be passing gas. And it doesn't even stop there! As later, Baba Yaga burps in Emma's face and one of Dracula's bats sneezes onto another, and not to forget, there is a scene where one of Dracula’s bats eats its own earwax with a violin bow, which is plain disgusting and cringeworthy.
  5. The editing is intriguingly choppy and terrible.
  6. This movie shows an Airbus A380, which is a double-decker airplane and largest aircraft in the world, but the inside of it doesn’t even look like an A380.
  7. While the movie tries to be funny and charming family film, it's attempts at being so almost always come off as cringe, unpleasant, mean-spirited, or gross instead. For example, we have a scene where it appears that Emma's co-worker, Cheyenne, has hung herself, a scene where Cheyenne puts her bare foot on Emma's face (which happens to have occurred not long after the previous one), a scene where the family gets mad at their mom for trying to bring them all together for a fun outing, they end up embarrassing themselves by pretending to be the band their mistaken for at said outing, and many more scenes.
    • Speaking of the scene with them pretending to be the band when arriving at the costume party, the fact that they act like they have to pretend to be the band makes no sense, as they could've easily explained to the people there they there was a misunderstanding and that they actually aren't the band. And then the people in the audience for the concert get mad at the family and throw them out, even though it was partially they're own fault as well, given how they somehow weren't able to recognize these people as not being the members of the band that they came to watch perform.
  8. The bully in the movie’s name is Bull, which is literally just taking out the "y" in "Bully".
  9. Any attempts at humor are cringeworthy (as previously mentioned in WIS#7), overused and unlike other movies, actually affect the plot. And not in a positive way either, as they almost always end up slowing down the plot or introducing nonsensical plot points rather than even trying to make the film better.
    • Speaking of which, its humor doesn't make any sense sometimes. Like when Max mentions he coughed up a hairball, even though he's, you know, a werewolf.
  10. The message at the end to trust who you are and not care what others say feels like it was just randomly thrown in for the sake of having a lesson. It doesn't help that it's already been in so many movies and pieces of media in general that by now it just feels generic (despite the lesson itself still being an important one to teach kids).
  11. Despite the film being made in Germany, it tries too hard to appeal to German audiences because of the American-like setting.
  12. The film has it's many dumb moments, like when Baba Yaga is conjuring her magic on the family and rather than running away to safety they instead stay in the exact spot where the threat is. Or Dracula's plan to turn Earth into the next ice age is completely ludicrous. If his plan did succeeded how would it be possible for him and the other vampires drink human blood if it's all liquid solid. Or even why Dracula owns a jet when he can just fly to his castle in his monstrous bat form.
  13. The two parents appear to be ok with cheating on each other. We get not only one but three scenes with Dracula wooing Emma, through dances, walks on the moon, and a lot of cuddling and touching each other on the faces. Plus Frank, as Frankenstein's Monster feels no issues with allowing model girls cuddle with him, until an older version of them tries.
  14. It's incredibly mean spirited towards Emma, accusing her of being nasty when she just wanted to hang out with her family, rather than Fay who abuses and hits her brother and keeps insulting her parents.
  15. The scene when Max, in werewolf form, getting scooped up in his mother’s arms licking her like a dog would lick an owner which could've been a cheap cute laugh. But the manner that the boy licks his mom doesn’t resemble a dog’s behavior as much as a human licking someone over and over and over until it’s uncomfortable to watch.

Redeeming Qualities

  1. Whilst unappealing, the animation is pretty well detailed, especially when it comes to the character animation.
  2. Despite the message being somewhat generic and just being thrown in to give the movie a nice message for the kids, it's still an important one.
  3. The idea of a family being turned into monsters and having to find a witch to turn back to normal is an interesting concept for a film, despite being executed terribly.
  4. Some character designs are decent, particularly Max in his monster form.

Reception

Monster Family was both a critical and financial failure: it was unanimously panned by critics, who criticized its voice acting, writing and humor. It was also a box office bomb, only grossing $26.4 million against a $30 million budget On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 10% based on 21 reviews, and an average rating of 2.3/5. The critical consensus reads: "Monster Family promises a family-friendly animated monster mash, but succeeds only in delivering a viewing experience so lackluster that parents may find it genuinely frightening." On IMDb, the film has an average approval rating of 4.8 stars from more than 4,100 reviews.

Box office

The film was a box office bomb. It grossed $127,259 in the US, £443,269 in the UK, $4,692,430 in Germany and $21,178,934 in other countries for a worldwide total of $26,441,982 against it's $30 million dollar budget.

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