Animator Stu Miley (Brendan Fraser) has a unique car accident that sends him into a coma. He finds himself in a strange limbo world where his cartoon character Monkeybone (voiced by John Turturro) is actually real. Stu tries to get back to the land of the living by stealing an "exit" ticket from Death (Whoopi Goldberg), but doesn't realise he has competition...
Every so often Hollywood throws up a real oddity. Monkeybone, a comedy fantasy for aggrieved animators everywhere, was adapted by Sam Hamm from Kaja Blackley's comic book. Director Henry Selick was probably best known for his collaboration with Tim Burton on The Nightmare Before Christmas, and it's true to say that this film is similar in mood to Burton's Beetlejuice.
Monkeybone could be said to be suffering from a barrage of wild ideas, because not all of them really work. The limbo world is created with a mixture of animation, puppets, lavish sets and extravagant makeup and costumes, where the nightmare-obsessed inhabitants spend their time trying to fend off boredom. There's no denying the imagination that has gone into these sequences, but it's all too self-involved to connect with you, the viewer.
It's very critical of merchandisers, who are trying to make a fortune out of Stu's cartoons. Their piece de resistance is a farting Monkeybone doll that the possessed Fraser (managing to pull off a potentially humiliating performance) fills with poisonous "nightmare gas"; you get the impression the filmmakers are more on the side of the anarchic fantasy characters than the money grabbing businessmen. Selick and co. are apparently pissed off at the relentless exploitation of their creations. I never saw any Monkeybone merchandise in the real world, but maybe all that signifies is the movie didn't do very well financially.
Anyway, this amiable nonsense is probably most likely to be enjoyed by adults who watch Saturday morning cartoons rather than children - Monkeybone himself resembles a darker, libidinous version of Roger Rabbit. Its uncertain tone apart, it has a few good laughs, some inspired elements (like the reanimated corpse of the gymnast being chased by the surgeons), Rose McGowan dressed as a pussycat and Stephen King as a fictional character. Call it an interesting failure. Music by Anne Dudley.