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Richard Alan Greenberg
Fred Savage, Howie Mandel, Daniel Stern
Writing Credits:
Terry Rossio, Ted Elliott

A boy discovers an incredible and gruesome world of monsters under his bed.

Rated PG.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 101 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 9/15/2020

• Audio Commentary with Fansite Editor Jarret Gahan
• Isolated Score Selections/Audio Interview with Composer David Newman
• “Call Him Maurice” Featurette
• “Beneath the Bed” Featurette
• “Monsters Big & Small” Featurette
• Vintage Interviews
• Behind the Scenes Footage
• “Making Maurice” Featurette
• Vintage EPK & VHS Promo
• Trailer
• Still Gallery


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
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-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Little Monsters [Blu-Ray] (1989)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 5, 2020)

In 1989, a kid-friendly movie called Little Monsters hit screens. Born in 1986, Lady Gaga likely saw it through her childhood on cable, and she would later dub her diehard fans “Little Monsters”.

Coincidence? Almost certainly, but I needed some way to start this review.

When 12-year-old Brian Stevenson (Fred Savage) moves to a new town, he makes an unusual friend: Maurice (Howie Mandel), the monster that lives under his bed. Maurice introduces Brian to the wacky world of monsters, where he can indulge his every childhood desire.

However, matters take a turn when Brian’s younger brother Eric (Ben Savage) gets kidnapped by rival monsters. Brian and Maurice need to team up to save the younger boy.

On one hand, Monsters boasts Fred Savage, arguably the most accomplished young actor of the mid-late 1980s. With well-regarded efforts such as The Princess Bride and TV’s Wonder Years, he offered quality performances in good projects.

On the other hand, Monsters features Howie Mandel, arguably the most annoying comedian… ever. His manic, shrill stand-up shtick made him a relentless irritant.

In a battle between the sublime and the atrocious, who wins? Mandel, unfortunately, as his persistently grating performance ruins any potential we find here.

Granted, Maurice is supposed to be over the top, but that doesn’t excuse how intensely annoying Mandel becomes. He clearly rips off Michael Keaton’s performance in Beetlejuice, but because he lacks one-tenth of Keaton’s skill, he fails to find the comedy in the part.

Instead, Mandel just overacts relentlessly and seems more interested in the generation of potential catchphrases than anything else. Whatever potential Monsters boasts goes into the toilet due to Mandel’s terrible work.

Based on the movie’s trailer, one would expect nothing but hedonistic hijinks from Maurice and Brian, but instead, Monster attempts a more mature theme. Akin to 1986’s Labyrinth, we get a tale of a kid who wants to persist in an immature state but who gets forced to grow up via a fantasy adventure.

Both feature kidnapped younger brothers as well, but it’s really the underlying concepts of impending adulthood that link the two. Labyrinth failed to pull off those topics well, and Monsters does even worse, mainly because it can’t maintain a stable tone.

The film really battles with itself, as it can’t decide if it wants to be a wacky comedy for pre-teens or a more somber coming of age tale. In particular, we see the failing relationship of Brian’s parents (Daniel Stern and Margaret Whitton), a subplot that just doesn’t mesh with everything else.

Honestly, Monsters would probably work better if it left out the divorce elements. It’s enough to see Brian as the new kid in town who struggles to adjust, and the addition of the parental conflict serves no real purpose. Brian’s need to put aside childish whims and save his brother would be enough to force him to mature, so the issues with the parents feel contrived and gratuitous.

In addition, the film’s adult-oriented one-liners feel badly out of place in this “PG” film. Channeling his inner Beetlejuice again, Maurice makes masturbation jokes like “man’s best friend, his right hand” while a female monster ogles Brian and leers “nice ass”.

Even if some of the jokes go over the heads of the pre-teens in the audience, stuff like “nice ass” will register, and these choices seem inappropriate. Not that any of it feels grossly graphic, but these comments just seem like a strange match for this largely kid-friendly adventure.

The basic concept of Little Monsters seems valid, but the end result flops. With a terrible lead performance from Howie Mandel, bizarre dialogue and thematic choices, and a derivative sense that steals from many other movies, the movie squanders any potential it boasts.

Casting footnote: Stern narrated Wonder Years as an adult version of Fred Savage’s character. Was the casting of both here a coincidence? I doubt it.

Credits footnote: an auditory reminder of Maurice shows up toward the conclusion of the end text.

The Disc Grades: Picture C/ Audio C+/ Bonus B

Little Monsters appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Expect a dated and disappointing transfer.

The main issue stemmed from print flaws, as small specks became a persistent factor. While this never became a terrible issue, the defects caused moderate distractions.

Sharpness worked fine for the most part, as the movie usually looked reasonably accurate. Dim interiors could seem a bit fuzzy, but overall delineation seemed acceptable to good.

I saw no issues with jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge haloes remained absent. With a layer of grain, I didn’t suspect any overt use of digital noise reduction.

Colors favored a natural palette, albeit with stronger tints during the monster-oriented scenes, as those went with prominent overlays. Though the hues could feel a bit heavy in that typical 80s way, the tones usually seemed reasonably full.

Blacks were pretty deep and dense, while shadows seemed adequate. As noted, low-light shots could come across as a bit iffy, but they generally appeared acceptable. Ultimately, this became a watchable but inconsistent presentation.

Though superior, the movie’s DTS-HD MA 2.0 soundtrack failed to impress. Even when rated on a curve for a 31-year-old film, the mix seemed less than stellar.

The soundscape used the front channels in a decent manner, as music and effects spread across these speakers to a decent degree. Effects didn’t offer a lot of unique information, but they showed reasonable localization and created some useful movement and impact during the fantasy-oriented scenes.

Still, the movie never stood out as impressive in terms of the soundfield. The track tended to feel like “monaural plus” much of the time, so don’t expect a lot of involvement.

Audio quality seemed fine, though it showed its age. In particular, music lacked much heft, as the songs and score came across thin and tinny. Some of that stemmed from late 80s pop music trends, though, as that wasn’t an era that loved bass.

Speech seemed fairly natural, if also a bit treble-heavy, and the lines lacked edginess. Effects showed the same lack of real low-end, but they offered appropriate clarity and failed to suffer from notable distortion. This wound up as an adequate soundtrack for a movie from 1989.

A bunch of extras accompany the film, and we locate an audio commentary from CultOfMonster.com editor-in-chief Jarret Gahan. He offers a running, screen-specific look at a mix of notes about cast and crew as well as aspects of the production as well as thoughts about the genre and the movie’s impact/legacy.

On the positive side, Gahan shows a lot of energy and never lets up his fast-paced discussion, so he moves the conversation along well. He manages to touch on a fair amount of useful areas.

However, Gahan also devotes too much of the track to a discussion of his own youthful movie-going days, and he branches out to semi-related flicks too often, as he goes into the actors’ related filmographies more than I think necessary. Still, Gahan makes this a largely interesting commentary.

Another audio track, we find a mix of Isolated Score Selections & Audio Interview with Composer David Newman. For the latter, disc producer Michael Felsher chats with Newman as they discuss aspects of the film and his work on it as well as the flick’s legacy.

Newman’s part of the track covers the movie’s first 17 minutes. After that, we get the isolated score selections, presented via Dolby Digital stereo.

Newman’s comments prove reasonably informative, though I admit I don’t know why they didn’t simply produce a video interview instead of this audio-only format. Still, he offers good notes, and I very much appreciate that Felsher places the entire interview up front.

Many tracks that mix score and comments spread out the latter across the entirety of the film, a choice that can make them tedious for those of us who want the composer’s notes but don’t care about the isolated score. This presentation lets us check out the interview and then bail on the music if desired.

Note that the score doesn’t become “screen specific”, so we find cues that don’t accompany what we see. I don’t know if movie music fans view that as good or bad.

Video features follow, and Call Him Maurice brings an 18-minute, 39-second interview with actor Howie Mandel. He discusses his career and his work on the movie. Mandel gives us a few insights but he presents such an annoying personality that the piece becomes tough to take.

Beneath the Bed spans 13 minutes, 54 seconds with notes from producer Andrew Licht. He covers how he got into films and various choices made as part of the Monsters productions. Licht offers a mix of good notes.

With Monsters Big & Small, we get a 14-minute, 55-second chat with special makeup effects creator Robert Short. He looks at how he got involved in movie effects and specifics of his creations for Monsters. Expect a concise, enjoyable piece.

A compilation of Vintage Interviews takes up 29 minutes, two seconds. We hear from Short, director Richard Alan Greenberg, and actors Fred Savage and Ben Savage.

These circa 1989 conversations tell us about story and characters, cast and performances, various effects and a few other production specifics. Neither of the Savage boys offers any substance – not a surprise given their ages in 1989 – but Short and Greenberg manage some worthwhile comments.

Behind the Scenes Footage fills 11 minutes, 37 seconds with raw material from the set. We see a mix of elements from the production in this fun compilation.

Under Making Maurice. we find a 16-minute, 16-second piece of “vintage footage”. This lets us see the makeup process through which Mandel went. It offers a decent look at the work involved, but the fact we need to listen to Mandel ramble makes it tough to swallow.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we get a nine-minute, 19-second Vintage EPK & VHS Promo. It attempts to sell the videocassettes to video store retailers. It’s oddly entertaining.

Finally, we close the disc with a Still Gallery. A running montage, it shows 39 images that mix shots from the production and advertisements. It becomes a decent collection.

At its core, Little Monsters comes with decent potential as a mix of coming of age tale and fantasy. Unfortunately, the film suffers from far too many flaws, many of which stem from a genuinely appalling lead performance imposed on us by Howie Mandel. The Blu-ray brings adequate picture and audio as well as a good assortment of bonus features. People who watched Monsters on cable in their youth may still enjoy this muddled mess, but I can’t see much appeal beyond cheap nostalgia.

Viewer Film Ratings: 1 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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