Somewhere in the world, there’s a parent who’s had to sit through Hotel Transylvania just one too many times. Fortunately, help is at hand, because thanks to Mexican production company Ánima Studios, that parent can now sit through cheap Hotel Transylvania knock-off Monster Island one too many times.
Well, that’s not quite fair. The animation might be right at the economy end of the scale, doing the rather anonymous cast very few favours as they struggle with some equally anonymous characters, and the underlying plot – about self-acceptance and opening your eyes towards understanding a bigger world – might be straight out of Pre-teen Storyline Central. But Aguilar’s film has at least a modicum of visual panache, and moves quickly enough not to overstay its welcome. That poor parent could probably do a lot worse.
Lucas (Vasquez) is a young lad with blue hair and pointy teeth and ears, whose school life consists mainly of being on the wrong end of pranks and bullying. He’s on the same medication as his dad Nicolas (Jackson, video game voice artist and alumnus of the Scream films, and probably the most charismatic thing here), which appears to be for an asthmatic condition but the want of which, one night when Lucas sneaks off to a Halloween party, has a rather more traumatic effect. We’re in Orange Monster concealment territory, and after Nicolas finds his son and transmogrifies him back into a regular human, Lucas discovers that he comes from a family of monsters lately of Monster Island, where the poor lad’s real mother’s death resulted in Nicolas abandoning his natural home for somewhere less filled with unhappy memories.
Cue Lucas running away from his non-natural home in an attempt to discover the truth about his family, and in doing so, himself.
Monster Island flits from one cliché to the next, barely pausing for breath and without attempting to distinguish or disguise a single one. Neither does it bother drawing any tension out of its formulaic situations, with almost all of its predicaments overcome almost before they’ve had time to even register; Lucas’ hunt for his grandmother Carlotta (Leigh) lasts all of maybe two minutes, for example, before the pair are happily reunited, the young girl that Lucas initially irritates is very quickly going all gooey-eyed to the strains of Omi’s Cheerleader.
None of which is really an issue if you’re simply looking for a substitute Hotel Transylvania, it goes without saying. The kids won’t know they’re being short-changed in the story department, and the production design does include some interesting and sympathetic choices that just about make up for the oddly over-garishness on display elsewhere.
A moderate success for those with low quality standards.
Special Feature: Trailer
MONSTER ISLAND / CERT: PG / DIRECTOR: LEOPOLDO AGUILAR / SCREENPLAY: BILLY FROLICK, ALICIA NÚÑEZ PUERTO / STARRING: PHILLIP VASQUEZ, FIONA HARDINGHAM, ROGER L. JACKSON, KATIE LEIGH, JOHNNY ROSE / RELEASE DATE: 16TH OCTOBER