Movie Reviews: Monkey Bone




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     20th Century Fox (1 hr. 42 min.)
     A cartoonist enters an incredible fantasy world in his mind after he slips into a coma.
     Brendan Fraser, Bridget Fonda, Whoopi Goldberg, Giancarlo Esposito, Rose McGowan, Dave Foley, Chris Kattan and John Turturro Screenplay by Sam Hamm; Directed by Henry Selick
     PG: 13
Bottom Line:


Dunkor Imani

   Okay all you moms listen up on this one. "Monkey Bone" isn’t wholly a children’s flick. So don’t bust up into the nearest theater with the babies expecting to see a Disney thang. It’s not about some cute little monkey, saying cute, little things that make you go ‘awww.’
   What’s it about is a Matt Groening ("Simpsons" creator)-meets Robert Smigel ("Ambiguous Gay Duo" creator of SNL’s infamous cartoon twosome)-comic book artist named Stu Miley (Brendan Fraser, "The Mummy, "George of The Jungle"), who draws and writes "America’s most disturbed comic strip," which happens to star a character called Monkey Bone.
   And Monkey Bone (slang for penis) with his well-hung libido is everything his creator isn’t: cootchie-obsessed, foul-mouthed, insulting and basically, just mean. The result is a Miley comic strip that derives pleasure from sexual displays of boners, men pulling down their pants and women pulling up their skirts.
   Of course, since this here is America and there’s no sanctity of the hymen, Stu becomes a star feted with the usual barrage of media worship and product endorsements including toys and brand imaging commercials.
   There’s one problem. Stu has a love/hate relationship with all the public adoration. Julie (Bridget Fonda), his girlfriend believes he deserves as many props as possible. After all, he’s tortured himself with endless nightmares that had him drawing dismemberment cartoons until he meets Julie who helps him see into his inner Monkey Bone.
   No wonder Stu is grateful and in love. So he decides it’s time to pop the question of marriage to Julie.
   But on the night he’s set to ask her to marry him, he’s involved in a car accident, lapsing into a coma. While his family and friends keep a daily vigil, Stu’s subconscious mind has him descending into an imprisoned, weird, nether world of sorts called Downtown (think "Cool World" or "Beetlejuice"), where all coma victims go until they’re released via death or regaining of consciousness. And as you can further expect, the inhabitants of this world look weird and act even weirder like the God of Sleep (Spike Lee’s main man Giancarlo Esposito from "School Daze"), playing a sheep-looking playboy or Whoopi Goldberg playing Death who accepts new recruits-cum-soul catchers only after reviewing their resume. There are also famous people hanging around in Downtown: Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe, Jack The Ripper, Lizzie Borden and Attila The Hun which allows for tongue-in-cheek jokes. When Stu asks Poe who’s his best friend, he answers "a raven." Ha-ha. Stu also discovers he’s well-known in Downtown because the gang has been watching his nightmare for years on a special television.
   The big problem for Stu in Downtown turns out to the trash-talking Monkey Bone who is no longer a figment of his imagination but has become real. The two discover that if they swipe a reprieve-for-life-card from Death’s camp, Stu can regain consciousness in his
  earthly body, cheating Death in a sense. Instead Monkey Bone pulls a Judas, takes the card for himself and escapes into the real world—to inhabit Stu’s body!
   If you’ve seen "Cool World," then you know "Monkey Bone," is the cooler world "Cool World" could have been. It’s irreverent with plenty of swipes at pop culture. Witness when Death admits that she really wants to kill the creators of South Park; or the desperation of those in the medical field who collect donated organs (like the ones they want to get from Stu who makes it back to earth into the dead body of a gymnast played by Chris Kattan from "Saturday Night Live"); or the portrayal of management-types bent on endless promotional tie-ins. Probably, the most macabre madness in this film is Stu’s sister (Megan Mullaly) who keeps insisting that the doctors pull the plug. All the while she’s SO jovial about it. These are nice pointed bits. Okay, maybe there could be something said about a black man being the God of Sleep (is that lazy?) or the black skin of Whoopi representing Death (ahem). Maybe, that’s just more irreverence, right? (A check with Rev. Al Sharpton can clear that up).
   Still, Henry Selick who also directed the cult fave "Nightmare Before Christmas" and "James and the Giant Peach," and Sam Hamm ("Batman" and "Batman Returns") have scored the best wacky, adult-oriented and appreciated, animated hit of 2001.



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