Monster High Clawesome Double Feature:
As the father of an 8-year-old girl, I've seen the monsters at Monster High peering over my shoulder for some time now. There they are, just a few aisles down from My Little Pony, across the way from Barbie, sneering at the endlessly rotating cycle of Justin Bieber/Zac Effron/One Direction merch. While I hate the way toys are marketed to girls and boys, I am mesmerized by sparkling things, and also: daughter. So when the Monster High Blu-ray appeared at DVD Talk headquarters, just waiting for one of us suckers to snatch it up, I snatched. And, considering the DVD Talk review staff consists solely of men between the ages of 25 and 50, this is the best you're going to get, dear reader.
Escape From Skull Shores
This double feature consists of two movies, clocking in at 45 and 40 minutes respectively, so don't get your knickers in a twist, it's really just the length of one movie. It's also fundamentally all over the place, as the first feature consists of 3D CGI-style animation, while the second (Fright On) is composed of typical TV-style Flash Animation.
Skull Shores finds the Monster High Gang enjoying some Spring Break fun on a spooky island replete with living tiki statues serving drinks, and an exceedingly cruel entertainment director who only wants to put on some good nightclub-type entertainment while shaming and enslaving those who are 'different.' It's a tough proposition when your audience consists of vampires, werewolves, mummies, zombies and frankensteins. OK, so that last one is actually a character named Frankie Stein, who falls for a hirsute loner who's loathe to get close to anybody. That makes him prime fodder for the creepy entertainment director, who works really hard to make anyone who's different feel like shit. Here's hoping all the kids from Monster High figure out how to make everyone happy!
Fright On! presents typical TV show Flash Animation to tell another story about belonging or something, as some weird Van Helsing type decides it's best to merge Monster High with all the other monster high schools in the area. The immediate fall-out results in feuding between the newly integrated members of Vampire High and Werewolf High, who, as we all know, hate each other. You see, the kids of Monster High are all about love and acceptance, while Van Whatsis just wants everyone to fight and feud and stuff. Here's hoping all the kids from Monster High figure out how to make everyone happy!
The trouble with these two 'features' is two-fold. (It's actually more than two-fold, but - no disrespect, the Monster High franchise doesn't really merit more than two real problems.) Firstly, these bits o' entertainment move so lightning fast that they seem designed to elicit ADD in their viewers. Upon presenting Monster High to my 8-year-old girl, I mentioned that I thought things moved a little fast, and she whole-heartedly agreed. Not a plot point is brought up, not an idea presented, not a joke told, that isn't whisked away in a fraction of a second, in favor of the next thing. The fact that the next thing, like every other thing, isn't particularly interesting or innovative, is of no consequence. The directors and editors of Monster High wouldn't know a beat if it beat them over the head. So if you want a nanosecond for something to sink in, look elsewhere. (I'll note with some dismay that the girl was ultimately undeterred by this, asking to watch again, and hoping to watch it with her visiting cousin as well. Ahh, youth.)
The worst part, however, is the fact that Monster High is subtly disingenuous. Disingenuous as all get-out. The students of Monster High are all about individuality. For every challenge they face, their retort is, "let your freak flag fly!" "Be who you are!" they shout. They're really concerned that no-one feel put-upon, left out, or otherwise disrespected for being different. Problem is, they all look like top models. (This is especially true in the Skull Island story, for what it's worth.) Each character is slim, and sexy, with high cheekbones and full, pouty lips. In their CGI incarnations, the look is quite disturbing, like some form of college-prep porn by way of American Apparel and Abercrombie and Fitch. So yeah, let your freak flag fly, as long as you're super-model spectacular. More disturbing, all of the girl monsters are hyper conscious of their clothes, makeup, and overall appearance. It's kind of a joke. And as far as being different and accepted, don't mention that to the zombie girl character, who ends up being the lickspittle and brunt of numerous jokes from her more glamorous friends.
So yes, girls of Monster High, be different! Be yourself! Let your freak flag fly! Just be sure you're beautiful, thin, dress to be sexy, and never mind if you need to make fun of your gimpy zombie friend. Skip It.
This set comes with both Blu-ray (BD 50) and DVD (Dual Layer) discs. Both are in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The Blu-ray is of course in 1080P High definition. As a cartoon presentation, it looks pretty much pristine. Colors are bold and hyper-saturated. The image is wildly crisp and clear, and there are no real problems to complain about. Give your set a work out, and knock yourself out at the same time.
The Blu disc comes with English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 in English, and DTS Digital Surround Sound in French and Spanish. DVD sports Dolby Digital 5.1 in English, French or Spanish for Skull, while Fright On! has Dolby Digital 5.1 in English, and Dolby Digital 2.0 in French and Spanish. All audio tracks are robust, relatively lively, and mixed perfectly. These aren't masterworks of audio processing, but they are way beyond sufficient, and pretty darn nice, for what they are.
English SDH, French and Spanish Subtitles are available for both. Lots of Trailers are there to enjoy. Digital HD Ultraviolet Download Codes are available, including codes for iTunes. No other extras are included, except, I guess, the option of going out and buying some Monster High toys and makeup or something.
The Blu-ray looks great. The stories move way too fast, and despite touting 'monsters' who respect 'individuality', these two short features - no more than 90 minutes combined - are pretty much about extremely attractive, well adjusted teens who want to look sexy for each other. There is so much more for your teens and preteens to enjoy. Buy 'em a book or something. Skip It.
- Kurt Dahlke
~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com