A live-action kid-appeal feature – billed as Monster High: The Movie which serves as a soft reboot for the toy-related/mostly-cartoon franchise that’s been around since 2010. It’s also a high school musical, so it offers tunes not toons.
There’s a bit of the expected fuss about the character of Frankie Stein (Ceci Balagot) being presented as non-binary – though there’s actually another reason for the they/them pronouns since they’re made up of bits of other people (some famous). I guess having part of Alan Turing’s brain wouldn’t be heteronormative, though this isn’t really the venue to go into that much. Balagot (who gives the funniest, sweetest performance) plays Frankie not as non-binary but neurodivergent, though playing high school movie conventions with monsters doesn’t really make for any normal to diverge from. The resident mean girl is a mummy (Jy Prishkulnik) given to ‘cleopatronising’ other students. The viewpoint character is Clawdeen Wolf (Miia Harris), a new student at Monster High who is ashamed of her half-human status and seeking a potion left behind by expelled Mr Hyde that can turn her all-monster … a fairly thin plot hook, especially since by definition werewolves are generally half-human.
Previous iterations of the franchise have built up the monster parents as regular characters, but here we only get to meet a caped, accented Dracula (Steve Valentine), who communicates via a talking painting rather than the cute coffin-shaped phones all the kids use. His character beat is disapproving of the interest in witchcraft (a human pursuit) taken by his daughter Draculaura (Nayah Damasen) – a sub-plot that seems to be here so a) we can get some floating hocus pocus scenes and b) to set up a sequel going into the war between witches and vampires. With Kyle Selig and Marci T. House as the only staff worth mentioning – a horned teacher and a headless head (hah) – and Case Walker as vaguely-present love interest Deuce Gorgon (this is about girl-bonding rather than dating).
Also on the class register: Ghoulia (Lilah Fitzgerald), Lagoona Blue (Lina Lecompte – who delivers the film’s only scare, a flash of CGI maw), Abbey Bominable (Nasiv Sail) and Heath Burns (Justin Derickson). The peppy, unmemorable songs are performed with lively mass dancing and characters getting together in the middle of the screen to belt ‘em out. It has a candy-coloured-but-after-dark look and is smartly directed by Todd Holland.