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Film / Monkeybone

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"We welcome you to Down Town and while you're in your coma,
This cheap and cheerful clown town will be your home sweet home-a!"

Monkeybone is a 2001 film directed by Henry Selick, loosely adapted from the graphic novel Dark Town by Kaja Blackley.

Stu Miley (Brendan Fraser) is a cartoonist, whose life is looking up. He's recently sold the cartoon "Monkeybone" to the network, and he's about to propose to the girl he loves. And then, he went into a coma. He wakes up in Down Town, a whimsical dreamlike place between life and death, where nightmares are big business. And guess who's waiting for him? Monkeybone, his Figment. He's stuck in Down Town, waiting, until Death gives him a ticket out. However, he finds out the plug's about to be pulled on him, so the pair sets out to steal an Exit Pass. However, once they've snatched it from Death, Monkeybone reveals himself as fed up with being just a figment, and, with help of Hypnos, God of Sleep, uses the pass to become Stu in the real world. Hypnos plans to use Stu's body to distribute nightmare juice — a chemical that causes nightmares in people and animals. Hilarity Ensues as Death sends Stu to stop Monkeybone, in the body of a deceased Olympian.

Not to be confused with Monkey Ball.

This movie provides examples of:

  • Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole:
    • A Deleted Scene gives an origin for Stu's "Get back in the pack!" demand of Monkeybone, as his cartoon self demands it of him. The same sequence introduces Monkeybone having his thumb in his butt, which becomes a plot element in the second half of the film.
    • A different Deleted Scene explains why the Reaper robe Stu and Monkeybone use to infiltrate Death's abode has a green stain on it.
  • Adventures in Comaland: The Movie.
  • Amazing Technicolour Population: The Figments and other inhabitants of Down Town.
  • Antagonist Title: The title character is part of the Big Bad Duumvirate alongside Hypnos.
  • Badass Normal: The doctors who refuse to let the zombie organ donor escape with their organs.
  • Balloonacy: In the climax Monkeybone!Stu and Stu!Organ Donor fight while being carried away by a large Monkeybone balloon.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Hypnos and Monkeybone. Bordering on Big Bad Ensemble, as while they're working together, they have separate motives (Hypnos wants to spread nightmares, Monkeybone wants to be free).
  • Black Comedy: Used at points throughout.
  • Bowdlerized: Which kneecapped a couple of visual gags and some of the character development.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: In a Deleted Scene, Monkeybone!Stu hits on Kimmy. It ends with Kimmy walking out, Squicked, and Monkeybone!Stu clutching his crotch in pain. invoked
  • The Cameo: Whoopi Goldberg as Death.
  • Catchphrase / Phrase Catcher: "Back in the pack!"
  • Celestial Bureaucracy: While Down Town has the aesthetics of an Amusement Park of Doom, the Land of Death resembles an office building from which Death keeps the Reapers and afterlife workings under control.
  • Classical Mythology: Death and Hypnos.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The nightmares are presented in black and white.
  • Earth-Shattering Poster
  • Expy: Monkeybone is inspired by Ren & Stimpy.
  • Fish out of Water: Monkeybone in Stu's body.
  • Fauns and Satyrs: Hypnos appears as a satyr.
  • Fourth Wall Shut-In Story: Stuart "Stu" Miley is a disillusioned cartoonist whose comic character, a rascal monkey named Monkeybone, is getting a cartoon show. One night, Stu crashes his car after accidentally activating an inflatable Monkeybone raft, causing him to fall into a coma. His spirit ends up in Down Town, a surreal, limbo-like carnival landscape populated by human beings, strange figures, mythical creatures and figments of people's imaginations where nightmares are entertainment.
  • Furry Reminder: Late in the film, audiences are reminded that, yes, cats eat rodents. In a grisly fashion from what was initially a Cute Monster Girl.
  • Gainax Ending: The theatrical ending has a still-infected Herb coming out a fountain, telling everyone to take off their clothes and revealing to be a group of monkeys. What?
  • Grand Theft Me:
  • Grievous Harm with a Body: Stu as the Olympian throws internal organs at Stu!Monkeybone. His own.
  • Grim Reaper: Separate from Death herself, who is played by Whoopi Goldberg.
  • Groin Attack: What does a dog's nightmare involve? Being fixed — with massive garden shears. By giant redneck cats.
  • Humongous Mecha: Death uses one towards the end to stop Monkeybone and Stu's fall and to put the former back into the latter's head.
  • I Call Him "Mr. Happy": Young Stu's nickname for his hard-on is Monkeybone. He then names his monkey character Monkeybone too, who later literally becomes him.
  • Karma Houdini: In the finished film, Hypnos doesn't seem to get any comeuppance for being essentially the main Big Bad who wants Monkeybone to spread more nightmares among the living for the amusement of his guests, other than Stu telling Death that he knows she's mad at her brother. A Deleted Scene would've shown her taking care of Hypnos for the trouble he caused.
  • Large Ham: John Turturro and Brendan Fraser as Monkeybone.
  • Little Bit Beastly: Miss Kitty, the waitress of Down Town's bar, is a Cat Girl. She has some feline traits and mannerisms but looks mostly human, and there's a cute moment where she gives Stu supplies for his jailbreak that turn out be some cans of tuna and a bottle of cream. We last see her minutes later, covering his escape by killing the rat guard and eating him.
  • Love Is a Drug: The most depressing cover of the song ever.
  • Made of Iron: When Death sends Stu back into his body, he awakens in the ambulance and simply gets up and reunites with Julie, his body having seemingly resisted the massive fall from the sky without a single broken bone or ill-effects.
  • Male Gaze: Monkeybone ogling and later diving into Miss Kitty's cleavage, the later of which we see from his POV. Justified in that he's supposed to represent Stu's sex drive.
  • Maniac Monkeys: Monkeybone fits this role down to a T.
  • Marshmallow Heaven: Monkeybone sure enjoys diving into cleavage.
  • The Merch: In-Universe. Stu despises it. Monkeybone!Stu loves it.
  • Mind Screw: The diving into his first drawing, among other things.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Miss Kitty. At least until she chews a rat to death.
  • Naked People Are Funny: Herb (played by David Foley) rips off his clothes after sniffing the Oneirix. The last line of the film:
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailer shows an entirely different accident that lands Stu in a coma, where he is shown being crushed by a pipe in a phone booth, as opposed to simply crashing his car (the original plan was for Stu to have been unhurt by the crash, but then the structure he ran into would come loose and land on him while he was calling for help).
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The cop shooting the Monkeybone balloon causing Stu and Monkeybone's deaths when they hit the ground. To his defense, realistically that bullet hole would've made the balloon leak helium and go down slowly, but the in-universe Real Life seems to follow Rule of Funny Toon Physics instead resulting in the punctured balloon wildly jetting in all directions before plummeting.
  • Nightmare Sequence: Many, in Down Town people's nightmares are shown on TV and are considered entertainment. Furthermore the Oneirix, which is literal Nightmare Fuel, is part of the plot.
  • Not So Above It All: In the animated short in the film's opening, Stanley's elementary school teacher Miss Hudlapp is a stern and no-nonsense woman who doesn't take kindly to disruptions in class. However when Monkeybone appears, grooves with her and then tops it all off by planting a big wet kiss on her lips, she doesn't mind one bit. In fact, she responds to his kiss!
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Stu borrows an ex-gymnast's body, played by Chris Kattan. He wakes up while the body is being dissected for its organs and runs off with the doctors in pursuit. Also, despite it having a broken neck, he can still get along with fine and even do gymnastics.
  • Pajama-Clad Hero: When Stu and Monkeybone are invited over to Hypnos' pajama party, they're given B&W triangle-patterned pajamas that blend with the op-art interior of Hypnos' hideaway.
  • Pet Positive Identification: Stu is resurrected as the corpse of an athlete organ donor and returns to his home. His dog comes to him while waggling his tail as if he recognizes his master.
  • Punny Name: S. Miley.
  • Possessing a Dead Body: Death allows Stu (who's comatose) to possess a recently deceased body in order to pass on a final message to his girlfriend. She naturally doesn't believe in who he claims to be until he manages to produce a Trust Password.
  • Rage Against the Author: Monkeybone himself dislikes Stu, and steals his body. A number of historical figures suffered a similar fate.
  • Roger Rabbit Effect: With stop motion. It's considered the best thing about the movie.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Stu is wearing a Nightmare Before Christmas wrist watch.
    • Monkeybone makes some pop culture references about Tonto, Robin, Chewbacca and Xena.
    • According to this movie, Stephen King got his body stolen and possessed by Cujo and Edgar Allan Poe by a raven.
    • Death explains that she wants Stu to go back to the living world because she likes his cartoon, saying that she will "take the South Park guys instead".
  • Show Within a Show: The cartoon "Monkeybone" which Stu makes.
  • Squirrels in My Pants: The title character dives into Miss Kitty's cleavage, causing her to briefly squirm around before he escapes from the back of it.
  • Surreal Horror: There are some moments of this, especially when someone is affected by the Oneirix and during Stu's Nightmare Sequence where he is transformed into a carrot and is being operated on.
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted, as sleep therapy helps Stu to become a successful artist.
  • Toilet Humour: The Monkeybone dolls that Stu tries to sell have Monkeybone farting out yellow smoke which Monkeybone quickly switches with the purple nightmare juice Oneirix.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: The organ harvesters don't care that a corpse is walking and talking. They just want the organs, dammit. They belong to them.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Well, the rat got eaten by Miss Kitty, but what happened to her after that is never mentioned in the theatrical cut. In the alternate ending, Miss Kitty is shown at Hypnos' hideout showing Death where Hypnos is, so Death could punish him for causing so much trouble.