A Monster Calls Thoughts
A Monster Calls was doing very well in festivals but unfortunately for the movie itself, it hasn’t fared too well at box office even with its positive reviews. I happened to find a showing and managed to check out it but I can’t help but feel disappointed & underwhelmed. The film is very well made but the script is weak & manipulative.
On the outskirt, A Monster Calls is well crafted and on a technical level, an achievement. The CGI looked terrific, it has some nice cinematography, the watercolored animated sequences were terrific and the supporting cast was good. Good direction always helps on an entertainment level.
I personally thought the lead child, Lewis MacDougall was terrible (also he looks like Sam Raimi which is creepy). Sure he’s good at crying and yelling but he literally did that the entire movie. Not to mention he had no chemistry with any one in the movie. It makes it harder to empathize with his journey. It’s unfair to hate on a child actor as they have yet to accumulate the years of experience & knowledge to be a good actor but the audition process could have been more thorough. As Stranger Things proved, there are some really immensely talented child actors out there.
It doesn’t help that script is weak. By no means is it a wretched script close to the levels of the worst movies of the year. It doesn’t strike the right chords and is cliche. The whole monster concept is cool but it’s nothing more than a plot device & gimmick. We already know the monster is a metaphor for grieving and that leaves no room for surprise or analysis. It’s already given. As terrific as Liam Neeson was, the monster had no personality. Some may argue that was the point but I’m not buying it. If it wasn’t for Neeson’s superb voice, I’d probably have tuned out of those scenes as well.
Now if you take out the entire monster aspect of the story and the astonishing watermark animation, you have a by the numbers cancer drama. It’s a sensitive subject and I know it’s going to resonate with a lot of viewers but there are tons of better movies that deal with similar topics. The movie does nothing new to differentiate itself. It tries hard to toy with your emotions. The kid’s bullies are so exaggerated, they’re like the Mexican cartel and I didn’t think it added anything to narrative besides making you feel worse for the kid. Plus the kid has a dad who’s cool but is somehow hardcore broke in LA and cannot afford to have another mouth to feed. It seemed a bit too absurd and another reason for us to sympathize for Connor.
The first half of the movie is very interesting but once the flaws start becoming noticeable, the movie slugs real fast. The third story the Monster tells seems rushed & tacked on and the last half hour drags heavily. We already know how everything is going to play out so it’s frustrating. Then it starts to get preachy and I understand the film is trying to teach us a lesson but again, this is all familiar territory. For a movie that is supposed to appeal to families, it’s quite dull. It’s depressing for the sake of depressing and there were opportunities to inject the movie with humor but it felt like something from DC’s Snyderverse. Thankfully it’s not as atrocious as those movies.
A Monster Calls isn’t an awful film but it certainly isn’t a great one. It succumbs to cliches of typical cancer dramas and doesn’t bring anything new to the genre. It does boast a terrific supporting cast. Special shout out to Toby Kebell because he’s awesome and Sigourney Weaver’s in and out British accent. Lewis McDougall isn’t good enough on his own to carry the movie. Even though my experience with A Monster Calls wasn’t a positive one, it’s really well directed. Cancer is a tough topic to deal with and I know the film makers were coming with good intentions and I know the film has touched the hearts of many who have lost a loved one to cancer. I’m glad that the film can help those grieving with their pain and that is the point of the movies. It might not entertain everyone but at least it managed to bring smiles to some.