Desperate for her family to spend time together, and tired of them being unappreciative of what they have, Emma (Emily Watson), the matriarch of the Wishbone family, organises for her husband Frank (Nick Frost), daughter Fay (Downton Abbey’s Jessica Brown Findlay), and son Max (Ethan Rouse) to accompany her to a costume party. On the way home, they argue and a witch called Baba Yaga (Catherine Tate) casts a spell on them so they transform into what they’re dressed up as – Emma becomes a vampire, Frank becomes Frankenstein’s monster, Fay turns into a mummy and Max turns into a werewolf. Meanwhile, Count Dracula (Jason Isaacs), who has fallen in love with Emma, is determined to take the mother away from her unhappy family.
Family movies oriented around monsters and Halloween-type themes are nothing new. In the past, the bigger successes have included Monster House, Paranorman, The Nightmare before Christmas and, of course, Monsters Inc. More mixed results can be found in Monsters vs Aliens, Frankenweenie, and Hotel Transylvania. In general, the body of films is starting to get dull and in Monster Family, there isn’t really anything different or interesting going on that would encourage you to seek it out.
On the bright side, Dracula is brought to life splendidly by the vocals of the ever villainous Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter, Peter Pan, The Death of Stalin). The modern décor of the Prince of Darkness’ house and fancy technological gadgets, which include a jet plane, provide an intriguing present-day interpretation of the much adapted character. His trio of bat associates are very cute and very funny, the best animated bats in fact since Bartok in Anastasia (with another brilliant voice behind him in Hank Azaria). The little guys recall the charming animal supports of Disney rather than the annoying secondary characters of those dreaded Minions.
On the other hand, when it comes to the Wishbone family members (and family friend Cheyenne [Celia Imrie], an elderly hippy), nobody is all that likeable, funny or interesting. Fay is a typical teenager, spoilt and obsessed with appearances, while Frank is a narcoleptic workaholic with flatulence issues (so kids who like fart jokes should be happy). Mothers should be happy that the film’s final message is to appreciate your mammy but fathers come off looking oafish. Families might enjoy the uninspired stereotypes, recognising themselves among the characters, but when the story graduates into a ludicrous plot where the villain is trying to freeze the sun so as to bring about a new ice age (yes, really), you’ll find yourself rolling your eyes and just waiting for it to be over.