Monkeybone

| March 3, 2001

I’ve never been a big fan of Brendan Fraser, but I so thoroughly enjoyed Bedazzled (against all expectations, I might add) that I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt as I walked into Monkey Bone.
Consider the benefit of the doubt revoked until further notice, Cartoon-Boy.
Fraser plays Stu Miley (a name chosen for no other reason, it would seem, than to allow for a subtle sight gag involving the name-tag on his shirt – S.Miley), a print cartoonist who’s about to hit the big times with his creation, Monkey Bone. Monkey Bone (voiced by John Turturro) is Stu’s id-driven penis masquerading as a monkey (or so it would seem, given the simian’s one-track mind). As the film opens, an audience of network execs and merchandising types eagerly eat up the pilot episode of Stu and Monkey Bone’s foray into animation. Stu is palpably uncomfortable by the attention and commercialization of his brainchild, and makes it clear to his manager that all he wants to do is get home ASAP so that he can propose to his girlfriend, Julie (Bridget Fonda).
All those who assume Stu gets home and proposes without incident, please send me a five dollar bill in care of Film Monthly. I’ll make sure it gets a good home.
Stu and Julie have barely gotten into their car when a random piece of Monkey Bone merchandise inflates to levels far beyond what the car can handle, and causes a traffic accident that tosses Stu into a coma.
When Stu comes to, he’s in Downtown, a carnival/purgatory where coma victims await their final judgment. The lucky ones spend years in a bar, getting tended to by the painfully curvaceous Kitty (Rose McGowan – in a cat suit, no less. God is good.), before finally receiving their exit pass and getting launched back into the conscious world via a rocket chair and a portal shaped like Abraham Lincoln’s head (because…wait for it…he’s the “Great Emancipator”). The less fortunate souls are collected and escorted to Death (Whoopie Goldberg, for no other reason than that she’s Whoopie Goldberg, and that’s casting wildly against type). In Downtown, Stu encounters Monkey Bone, who’s as real as real can be – and annoying enough to prove it. Stu and Monkey Bone team up to swipe an exit pass from under the watchful eyes of Death-Whoopie, but when the time comes to cash it in, Monkey Bone betrays his creator and launches himself into the real world, where Stu’s evil sister (Megan Mullally, of Will and Grace) was two seconds away from pulling the plug.
The “new” Stu is nothing like his former self. He’s loud, obnoxious, makes monkey sounds, and has turned into a bend-over-and-grab-your-ankles merchandizing whore. His manager is ecstatic at Stu’s new pro-merchandise philosophy, and Julie is so glad to have him back that she overlooks his totally aberrant behavior.
Meanwhile, the real Stu is still trapped in Downtown. He manages to soften Death-Whoopie’s policy with a sob story about needing to tell Julie how much he loves her, so Death-Whoopie lets him borrow the corpse of a newly-dead gymnast (Chris Kattan of SNL, in the film’s best performance). Kattan was in the middle of having his organs harvested when Stu checks in, so you can be sure that all his scenes are chock-full of organs skittering hither and yon. Do Monkey Bone-Stu and dead-gymnast-Stu duke it out for possession of the body? You betcha.
When it’s all said and done, this movie wasn’t worth the price of admission. It wasn’t so bad as to warrant anger, but it was definitely disappointing. Characters said and did things because that’s what the movie called for. Instead of Monkey Bone peering into the lives of characters who already existed, their thoughts, actions, and words were utterly contrived. Why was Kattan’s character a gymnast? So that he could do some uneven parallel bar action at a crucial point in the film. Why was Julie a sleep therapist? So that she could try and jolt Stu out of his coma with a drug cocktail, a mixture on which she would place the blame for his un-Stu-like actions once Monkey Bone’s in the driver’s seat. Cameos by Stephen King, Harry “Ain’t It Cool” Knowles, and some descendant of Edgar Allen Poe’s weren’t enough to save this one. The same goes for the CGI eye-candy. Too bad, too, as it would have complemented a strong plot quite well.
Okay, so I lied. Hearing Rose McGowan purr was worth the price of admission. I suggest that you wait until Monkey Bone comes out on DVD to watch it, and then only if there’s a special “Rose McGowan purring” commentary track on it.

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