I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. Paula O'Keefe, on the IMDB had a great point, that it's a quest-type fairy tale and I think she's onto something there. Fairy tale or not, at least the characters are as smart as they can be. It's the kind of movie a kid *should* see after they've got a handle on horror fiction or the Brothers Grimm.
The movie would have been fun even without the witty references to current events. Those are bonuses--"easter eggs"--if you recognize them, like when the cellar people are glued to CNN's night bombing of Baghdad footage (from 1990). While Fool scrambles about the basement, the TV is turned away, but the cellar people turn it back later.
There's social horror too. Mama and Papa are slumlords, yet live in self-imposed squalor. They don't even recycle their plunder into the economy, in the usual form of fancy cars, arbitrary landscaping, political contributions and payoffs to city inspectors. I guess that would be economic horror for Young Republicans. (The vault full of 1920s-era $20 gold pieces, maybe the most beautiful coin the US Mint ever produced, supports the fairy tale theory.)
Check out the Pulp Fiction Gimp reference. Craven looked 2 years into the future and stole the idea from Tarantino. He also looked into the past and patterned Mama after Faye Dunaway in "Mommy Dearest" (and maybe a bit of the real Joan Crawford, from "Straitjacket" and "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?"). Maybe there's also a nod to Andy Warhol's "Flesh for Frankenstein."
I love this movie.