At 100 minutes, Kids vs Monsters doesn't live up to its title, becoming instead tedious, poorly written, unamusing, and not fetching at all. And you know a movie's bad when I use a word like "fetching" in a review.
I keep wondering where the 7 plus millions of dollars spent on this (according to IMDb) went. Not even the feckless, irksome cartoon backstories interrupting the less than lively live action (see my comment on "fetching" as it also applies to "feckless") show the expenditure. The two principal sets used--one a monster realm throne room where the rich parents watch their kids being attacked by each monster in turn, and the second, Ms. Gallagher's Reform School, where the kids hang around insulting each other while waiting for each monster to attack them, in turn--show little effort toward original art direction or intentions for originality.
It's ho-hum from start to finish in spite of having talents like Lance Henriksen, Malcolm McDowell, Richard Moll, and Armand Assante. With the dialog they're given, I'm surprised they didn't roll their eyes more often when delivering each line. The lackluster script ignores the essential character evolution necessary to make this work, and the monsters are laughable in all the wrong ways. Endless talking by McDowell, monotonously delivered, is energy-draining to see and listen to.
Director Sultan Saeed Al Darmaki and scripter Sarah Daly should have realized they had some monstrous-sized shoes to fill after Monster Squad, Little Monsters, and any number of animated monster movies with kids that have set a baseline for expectations. None of which are met.
The kids include the obnoxious fatty, Bobby (Jesse Camacho), the spoiled beauty queen, Candy (Francesca Eastwood), the depressed goth girl, Molly (Sidney Endicott), the do-good kid, David (Bridger Zadina), the social media girl, Daisy (Anna Akana), and the pugilist, Oliver (Daniel David Stewart). Each of them has disappointed their parents so much, their parents go to Boss Monster (McDowell) to complain and sign a contract with a strong death clause. Boss Monster, who doesn't look like a monster at all, is in charge of all the other monsters that look like monsters in the Monster Realm. We know it's the Monster Realm because McDowell eats up a lot of screen time telling the parents they're in the monster realm. And, of course, we have to listen too.
Henriksen is one of the minions of Boss Monster and assists with more pointless and spiritless dialog in-between McDowell's laborious descriptions of each monster as he introduces them to square off against the kids. One by one. This movie's title is wrong: it isn't kids versus monsters, it's a monster versus a kid. Way too late into the movie do we get any sense of team coordination with the kids actually banding together to fight and protect each other. But that doesn't last long at all and the singular kid versus monster modus operandi resumes. If you're expecting a Monster Squad team up, forget it. This movie doesn't have the nards to make it happen here.
Each prelude to an encounter includes watching a lengthy cartoon backstory for each monster as McDowell explains its life story before we finally cut back to the reform school for live action, or any action at this point. Before that return, however, the parents are also given way too much time to complain and chitchat. And this happens for every encounter. EVERY FREAKING ENCOUNTER.
The monsters are as creatively inspired as the kids. I'm being sarcastic. Among them are Mr. Beet (yes, he's a big beet-headed monster played by Michael Bailey Smith), who punches Oliver to the moon, a Cthulhuish witch who puts the hex on them, for a spell, and a lumberjack Big Foot with a French accent who likes sweets to death. One actually humorous scene has Big Foot in the bathroom as he's interrupted dropping a log. Enjoy it while it lasts.
In-between the flat back and forth from reform school to monster realm throne room, the fussy Butler (Richard Moll), acts all Lurch-like to provide comedy relief in a comedy.
It doesn't help. After 45 minutes, you'll agree with the person who says "I want more action!"
A courtesy stream-screener was provided for this review.