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Lackluster 'Monster Family' is no graveyard smash

Lackluster 'Monster Family' is no graveyard smash
A scene from the animated movie "Monster Family." (Viva Pictures)

The colorful animated comedy "Monster Family" relies so heavily on pratfalls, slapstick and other bits of rude or raucous action that it undercuts whatever good intentions its workable story may have had. The result: an anything-goes hodgepodge in need of a smarter, tighter narrative and more deftly conceived and rendered characters.

Emma (voiced by Emily Watson) is a struggling New York bookseller with a workaholic, emotionally vacant husband, Frank (Nick Frost); a brainy young son, Max (Ethan Rouse); and a hostile teen daughter, Fay (Jessica Brown Findlay). No one gets along, and Emma's on her last nerve.

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But when the foursome dresses up for an ill-fated Halloween party, they're cursed by a witch (Catherine Tate) — at the behest of a lonely Dracula (Jason Isaacs) — and transformed into a vampire (Emma), Frankenstein's monster (Frank), a mummy (Fay) and a werewolf (Max). This is not a good thing.

The family ends up magically transported across the globe in a chaotic, rules-out-the-window effort to return to their former selves, ultimately facing off against Dracula. Lessons are learned, if not sufficiently earned.

The voice work is adequate even if the notable cast is playing a largely charmless, under-inspired bunch. Holger Tappe, directing from a script by David Safier and Catharina Junk (based on a book by Safier), takes the noisy-is-better approach. It's not.

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‘Monster Family’

Rating: PG, for some rude humor and thematic elements.

Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Fine Arts, Beverly Hills, Feb. 9 only; also on DIRECTV, iTunes

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