Little Monsters (1989)

25 Apr

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Smith’s Verdict: *

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

What a mean-spirited movie this is! For a supposed “family movie” that markets it as a fantasy for children who like to pull pranks on their grade-school enemies, “Little Monsters” takes this fantasy the wrong way. I think kids may be frightened by most of the images and situations depicted in the film.

Fred Savage, of TV’s “The Wonder Years” fame, plays Brian, the eleven-year-old protagonist in “Little Monsters.” He’s unhappy because he and his family—his bickering parents (Daniel Stern and Margaret Whitton) and younger brother Eric (Ben Savage, Fred’s real-life brother)—have moved to a new town and house. He’s the target of the pudgy school bully and to make matters worse, he’s blamed for pranks set around the house, which he didn’t set up in the first place. Eric believes that a monster that scared him the other night is responsible and pays Brian to spend a night in his room.

It turns out that Brian’s kid brother is right and something is going bump in the night. So he sets a trap for the monster, a fast-talking, blue-skinned, horned loudmouth named Maurice, played by Howie Mandel. Maurice sees something good in Brian and introduces him to the monster world.

Well, it turns out there’s a parallel dimension under beds in which the monsters are kids who were trapped there. Now, they have their own fun, eating junk food, playing video games, breaking lamps with bats and baseballs, and pulling pranks on innocent children. Maurice seduces Brian into this world, which is referred to as “every kid’s fantasy.” But I can tell you that even the unruliest of children would be turned off by this world. The people in this world are monsters, all right. But they’re mainly disfigured children who run amok. I guess the filmmakers were trying to create a subtext that kids act like monsters, like in “Pinocchio,” when kids act like jackasses and become them. But this is just painful to watch. On a productive note, the monster world isn’t impressive. It’s badly lit (because the monsters turn to clothes when exposed to light), has cheesy digital effects whizzing by every few seconds for no good purpose, and on top of that, the whole world is made entirely of boxes.

About the pranks—this is horrific to watch. Brian and Maurice pull cruel pranks on innocent little children for only the reason of fun. And then the filmmakers have the nerve to show the kids’ parents yelling at them—I was cringing all through that sequence. Then, there’s the scene in which Brian and Maurice stop by Brian’s bully’s house. They drink his apple juice…and then Maurice pisses in it! Then guess what happens…

Then there’s the character of Snik, the villain of the movie. He is repulsive, nasty—a nightmare fodder for children. And he’s not a kid—he’s played by Rick Ducommun. He’s here to set up the climax in which Brian must choose between this world and his world.

One positive thing I can say about this movie is that Howie Mandel makes a convincing monster. But that’s very faint praise indeed.

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One Response to “Little Monsters (1989)”

  1. jennypugh May 3, 2013 at 10:14 pm #

    I had this on VHS video when I was young and remember really loving it. From reading your review I’m not sure I’d feel the same now, so it’s a shame that the film only got 1 star. Whenever I see Howie Mandel on America’s Got Talent, I always think of him as Maurice! 🙂

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