You can almost see the stuffing popping out of Monkeybone, so haphazardly is this weird, antic, admirably eccentric comedy stitched together. You can count the flyaway threads where a surfeit of ideas has burst through the containing story, and poke a finger through the holes in pacing that are the by-product of an unstable mix of high-flying artistic vision and high-flying budget. There’s unwieldy mess — but there’s also unruly brilliance to this dark and funny story about the havoc that ensues when a man’s uncensored Freudian id is allowed the run of the place.
Try explaining that notion to a baffled kid twitching through this experimental cult movie masquerading as a PG-13 studio production.
Brendan Fraser plays Stu Miley, who, with the support of his doctor girlfriend, Julie (Bridget Fonda, randomly cast), has established a successful career by channeling his wild nightmares and urges — what Stu calls his ”figment” — into a cartoon character he names Monkeybone. But just when the perpetually randy, disruptive animated simian is about to be launched as a TV series, and on the night Stu plans to propose to Julie, a freak car accident puts the cartoonist in a coma. And as Stu travels through an after-hours purgatory (called Downtown) toward Death — played by Whoopi Goldberg in a major hat — the spankable monkey escapes from figmenthood.
Monkeybone is based on the graphic novel Dark Town by writer Kaja Blackley and illustrator Vanessa Chong; the screenplay is by Sam Hamm (Batman). But its haunting, surrealist look and feel are most identifiably the work of Henry Selick, director of The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach, who specializes in unnerving vanishing points and stop-motion animation.
The movie’s comic limberness, meanwhile, is most identifiably the work of Fraser, that wonderful, underexploited talent, who, having previously demonstrated his big swingin’ chimp in George of the Jungle (and his chops for elegant drama in Gods and Monsters), at one point becomes Monkeybone himself, inhabiting Stu’s body and shocking decorous Julie. (Primate sexual courtship, it turns out, is far funnier than has been reported on Nature.) Even when Monkeybone jabbers and trips (the movie’s howling gaiety is furthered by un-shy costars including Dave Foley, Megan Mullally, and Chris Kattan as the morgue’s funniest decomposing corpse), Fraser walks upright, lithe and blithe, an actor in touch with his inner ape. B+
Monkeybone STARRING Brendan Fraser Bridget Fonda 20TH CENTURY FOX RATED PG-13 87 MINUTES