Between Monkeybone and Bedazzled, Brendan Fraser has established himself as the millennium's new king of woefully misguided high-concept comedies, films that sound vaguely promising on paper but fall horrifically flat onscreen. Less a comedy than a mass of Freudian anxiety, surreal imagery, and elaborate production design looking for a reason to exist, Monkeybone casts Fraser as the popular creator of the title character, a brash cartoon monkey with designs on Fraser's body. Monkeybone gets his chance, conveniently enough, when his creator lapses into a coma following a car accident, sending Fraser to the nightmare world of Downtown. From there, Monkeybone switches from inert, production-design-dominated fantasy to spastic slapstick as Fraser hijacks the body of gymnast Chris Kattan in an attempt to win back both his body and girlfriend Bridget Fonda. Some nimble physical comedy from Kattan livens the proceedings, as does an amusing cameo from Mr. Show's Bob Odenkirk as an organ-hungry doctor, but the 10 minutes of solid comedy the two provide does little to redeem the 80 or so laugh-free minutes surrounding it. As the director of Tim Burton's A Nightmare Before Christmas, Henry Selick helped create a singular, macabre universe that's a masterpiece of production design and stop-motion animation. The world of Downtown, by comparison, feels like a loud, garish mish-mash of influences and styles that never quite gel, from Ralph Bakshi and Dali to The Twilight Zone, Kubrick, and the Krofft brothers. That lack of direction spills into other elements of the film, as well. A comedy with a profound identity crisis, Monkeybone can't decide whether it's a family-friendly adventure or a harrowing journey into the dark night of the soul, and, as a result, it fails as both. Tim Burton produced Selick's two other films (Nightmare and James And The Giant Peach), but Monkeybone looks and feels—as does the similarly misguided How The Grinch Stole Christmas—like the worst Tim Burton movie Burton never made.
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