Brendan Fraser is mild-mannered cartoonist Stu Miley, who's finally made it with his comic book about an obnoxious monkey named Monkeybone. He's about to propose to his girlfriend Julie (Bridget Fonda). Things are going great - until he's rendered comatose by a freak car accident. While in a coma his mind floats off to a dreamlike netherworld called Downtown. Here Stu's worst nightmares come to life, including his own creation, Monkeybone (voiced by John Turturro), who hatches a scheme to take over Stu's earthly existence and reap the benefits of his success by waking him up and inhabiting his body. Left in limbo, Stu strikes a deal with Death (Whoopi Goldberg) to take over the decaying cadaver of a dead gymnast (Chris Kattan) so he can combat the profligate primate and get his body - and life - back.
This isn't the first time Brendan Fraser has acted with apes- remember "George of the Jungle"? Perhaps that movie's success convinced him simian schtick is a good thing, but with "Monkeybone" he's way short of the mark. It's not for lack of effort - he appears to be doing what he can with the slapstick material, but the lines fall flat. It's as if he knows he's making a crummy movie but he's going through the motions anyway. Bridget Fonda must've been hired for her name only - she's a good actress relegated to reciting lame lines and making anxious faces. Chris Kattan is funny for half a second as the gymnast corpse Stu occupies - trouble is, it's an hour-and-a-half movie.
One might have expected more from helmer Harry Selick, who gave us the amazing "The Nightmare Before Christmas" back in '93. Selick throws everything at the audience - stop-motion camerawork, live action mixed with animation, elaborate set design and special effects - so much it's too much. The whole production, although impressive in scale and effort, looks like a "Beetlejuice" rip-off but without that movie's magic; instead it comes off dark and squalid and downright depressing. The Monkeybone character is not much fun either - he's mean, gross and unappealing.
Don't waste your time with this monkey business.