Monster House (PG) <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

For those whose faith in digimation got rear-ended by Cars, this should provide an excellent restorative. Set in a pre-Hallowe'en suburban everystreet, it concerns the efforts of a trio of 12-year-olds to penetrate the mystery of the scary house across the road, where grouchy old Nebbercracker (voiced by Steve Buscemi) lives - and woe betide anyone who dares to step on his lawn.

Deploying motion-capture animation to startling effect, the director Gil Kenan and his team conjure a world that is at once stylised and eerily realistic: the characters' facial expressions are like a cross between Nick Park and Ron Mueck. Yet hats off, also, to a script that is witty without being smug, that offers a wry perspective on the confused longings of the tweenage friends, and mocks the complacent idiocy of two beat cops. This expertly wrought comedy could be just the thing to rescue "family entertainment" from its current state of disrepute.

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