Thursday, 15 October 2020

A Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting (Movie Review)

Netflix continues to dole out some kid-friendly Halloween entertainment with today's release of A Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting. Not to be confused with that other Monster Hunter movie currently slated for a late December release, this one comes off the heels of both Vampires vs. The Bronx, which I liked, and Hubie Halloween, which I didn't care for. It sits somewhere in-between both movies, while taking heavy inspiration from a certain Wizarding World that must not be named.

Based on a children's book series of the same name, the film follows the misadventures of a babysitter named Kelly Ferguson (Tamara Smart). She is stuck babysitting a kid named Jacob (Ian Ho) on Halloween night, when he gets kidnapped by the Boogeyman (Tom Felton). She soon discovers that an underworld full of monsters exists, after she is saved from the Boogeyman's minions by a fellow babysitter named Liz (Oona Laurence), a member of an ancient order of monster hunters. 

She also learns that the Boogeyman is out to create an army of nightmarish monsters, and that he plans on doing so by harvesting the many nighttime fears of Jacob, who has something called The Gift of Dreams. And in order to save him before the Boogeyman gets his way, Kelly must take a crash course through the pages of the eponymous Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting, a book that chronicles hundreds of years worth of knowledge from monster-hunting babysitters like Cleopatra and Merlin.

From the very first frames of A Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting, you can sense the heavy Harry Potter influence. This includes everything from the font used for its title cards, to the score that plays in the background. The fact that Draco Malfoy himself (Tom Felton) stars in the movie only goes further to strengthen that connection. Most of the above is being carried over from its literary origins of course, but thankfully, the filmmakers didn't waste much time before the movie tries to forge its own identity.

While I've heard about the books, I never read any, so I can't speak to how faithfully they have been adapted. What I can comment on is how well this particular story translates onto the big screen. Or in this case, into a smaller-scale Netflix production. And the story is about as by-the-numbers as these kid movies can get, which is not necessarily a bad thing. The film does a decent enough job with its world-building, and its acting ensemble does what it can to sell most of it.

It's biggest shortcoming is in the effects department. Some of the monster effects were so cartoony that a part of me wonders why they simply hadn't opted to make this a CGI movie instead. Probably because those are generally more expensive to make, but I feel the story loses some of its charm as a result of taking the live-action route. The low-grade special effects that were used did have its own made-for-TV appeal I guess, so it at least has that going for it.

A Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting is another fun adventure story from Netflix that is sure to appeal to kids this Halloween. Adults should be able to glean some enjoyment out of the movie as well, provided they can overlook the cartoony monsters and buy into the kid-friendly antics on display.

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