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A child meets the monster that lives under his bed. He even becomes one of his best friends. Soon the child discovers a whole new world of fun and games under his bed where pulling pranks on kids and other monsters is the main attraction. Written by
Steve Richer <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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A childhood favorite of mine, "Little Monsters" doesn't hold up upon repeated viewings due to a loose plot and cruel nature...
The 1989 Fred Savage and Howie Mandel vehicle, "Little Monsters", is a children's/kid's film. While it was a childhood favorite of mine, I recently had a chance to re-watch it, and I have to say, it just doesn't hold up. It suffers from a loose plotting and a disturbingly cruel nature, and I'm shocked my parents actually let me watch it.
Savage stars as Brian Stevenson, a young boy who has just moved to a new neighborhood, and is feeling sad because he lost all of his friends. When strange pranks appear, set up all over his house during the night, he is blamed by his parents for setting them up, even though he denies it. In addition, his younger brother claims to have seen a monster that comes out from under his bed at night. Soon, Brian encounters the monster- Maurice (Mandel), a playful and nutty humanoid with bright blue skin, who introduces him to the world of monsters underneath his bed- a massive land with all sorts of creatures who do nothing but play pranks, scare kids and play video games.
However, over time, Brian realizes that the pranks and fun have consequences, and he and Maurice are forced to help his brother Eric, whom is subsequently kidnapped by "Boy", the evil leader of the monsters.
To give credit where it is due, the film has a strong atmosphere. Although it's meant to be fun, the introduction to the film and the third act are meant to be creepy and unsettling for the audiences, and I will say, this film is oozing with atmosphere and the general creeps. It is well paced and well-shot, and it is very eerie for children. Particularly some of the earlier jumps and some of the monsters.
In addition, the script (by future "Pirates of the Caribbean" scribes Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio) is quite imaginative, although it has been long-rumored that many scenes were cut and re-written, and that the final product differs greatly from the first draft.
Finally, the music is incredible. It's very haunting and has an air of sorrow, mixed with hints of joy. It gives a good tone and emulates the up's and down's of the story magnificently.
However, there are two huge, looming problems with the film.
First, despite the imagination, the film isn't well-written. Characters are established well, but are not necessarily likable. And the plot is just a mess. In fact, the "plot" doesn't really exist until the last half-hour. Up until then, it's more of a series of skits and pranks. The villain ("Boy") and his motivations are not made clear, and the climax, without spoiling anything, is a non-sensical, sloppy mess. It brings the film down a few points, and takes away from the scenes that do indeed work.
Secondly, this is a very dark, cruel film. Many scenes involve pranks played by the monsters, which become increasingly dark and morally questionable. Scenes involving tricking young children into drinking urine, scaring infants, tampering with food, destroying property, etc. break past the border of bad taste. And there is a great deal of violence in the film, including characters being kidnapped, burned, beaten up, and even a creepy scene where a monster is decapitated and has its head replaced with a pumpkin. It's very dark, and it's inappropriate for children under 12, I'd say. (Which is the target market, as kids who are any older are probably not going to like it) And the bigger problem is that there are no real consequences for the cruelty and violence, making the theme of responsibility very hollow and hypocritical.
This film is a mess. It deserves about a 3 out of 10, but my nostalgia for it, and the sleepless nights of creeps it gave me has elevated it to about a 5 out of 10. I'd say it's decent for older children, but parents should plan on watching it with their kids, and making sure the theme of responsibility was clear to them.
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