Klaus

A long time ago, director Sergio Pablos set up an animation studio in Spain, in his homeland. He had worked for Disney in the 90’s, on such films like Hercules and Tarzan as an animator. He believed in 2D animation still, and didn’t want to make CGI movies, so he decided to focus his studio on just that. 2D, hand drawn, animation, but with upgrades from the technical side to make other parts easier.

And from his mad, Amish brained body came the movie Klaus.

They wanted dynamic backgrounds and characters, and not just one or the other. They wanted to capture the magic of animation again and really pour their heart and soul into the picture.

And hey, if you want to capture magic, why not start with a little bit of Santa action?

letter
Pictured: A little bit of Santa action.

Jesper (Jason Schwartzman) is a piece of work, I tell you what. He has lived a privileged life, his father in charge of the post offices around the world, and he hasn’t had to do much. So when he is put into the postman program for training, he doesn’t take it seriously and he slacks off. Despite this, his father still decides to send him to Smeerensburg, a tiny island far, far North, away from everything.

Jesper’s goal is handle at least 6,000 letters within a year, in the city or our of the city, and get the post office up and running. It sounds bad, but it is actually worse than he imagined. In this city, very few people are out and about. In fact, they are a town known for holding grudges and fighting.

There are two ruling families, the Ellingboes and the Krums, who have been fighting for decades, and won’t be nice at all. This means they don’t go to school. They don’t do nice things. They don’t frolic down the streets. And they definitely have no need to send any letters.

Well, thanks to circumstances, a child’s picture makes its way to Jesper and the lone woodsman in his cabin (J.K. Simmons), who decides that the picture needs a gift. So he demands that Jesper deliver the child a toy that he has created.

This spreads throughout the village kids, and they also want to make letters for toys. This is a good idea, thinks Jesper, this will get him back home to his luxury.

Also featuring the voices of Rashida Jones, Joan Cusack, Will Sasso, and Norm MacDonald.

panic
Pictured: Not home in his luxury. 

Klaus blew me away on so many levels.

The first, worthy of talking about, is the animation style. It was a breath of fresh air! Much like how Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse changed the animation game last year, from American movie releases, Klaus is doing the same thing. The traditional 2D animation is so gosh darn full of visual pleasure that every frame feels more than a painting. The backgrounds, the characters, the details, everything is so full.

The story, a re-imagining of the story of Santa, is also a lot more unique. It isn’t a guy just trying to bring toys to kids who banned fun, or whatever those older stop motion cartoons said. It is creative, so despite hearing about Santa all my life, it was refreshing to see a new take on it. A legit, new take.

The voice acting was really well, although Schwartzman sounded liked David Spade at parts of the film (probably just because of MacDonald’s voice to get me in that 90’s SNL mood).

This film had a lot of darker moments early on, and so the transition from dark to gushy Christmas spirit was a nice and welcome one, instead of starting high and Christmas and leaving us sick of it. This feels like a new holiday classic to me. Something that can pair nicely with A Nightmare Before Christmas.

The only way it could be better is if it was a musical as well. Or maybe not. I’ll take it the way it is.

4 out of 4.

Aladdin

Out of all of the Disney remakes this year, I think Aladdin got the worst rap before it came out. Specifically, no rap at all. Didn’t Will Smith used to make a song before starring in movies? I want the 90’s back. (The 90’s that gave us the Aladdin original).

The people did not like Smith as the Genie. But he had the impossible task of doing what Robin Williams did, in live action with graphics, and not just voice acting. And Williams was crazy good at what he needed to do.

I think a lot of hate came from people who knew nothing of the Broadway version of Aladdin that already existed, where the Genie was typically played by a black man and done in a way like Smith is likely to do.

And hate by people who don’t know about Broadway is hate we can ignore.

genie
This is Smith, ignoring the haters.

Prince Ali, mighty as he, and technically not real. Because that’s not how this story starts.

Instead, we have a street rat named Aladdin (Mena Massoud) with his monkey, Abu. They steal, they give to the poor, and they live lavishly in the city in secret. Well, not rich, but the sites are sweet.

One day, he meets a princess in disguise, Jasmine (Naomi Scott) and they hit it off. He doesn’t know she is a princess though, and it is a surprise to him when he finds that out in the palace! Well, this also gets him arrested, led by the royal vizier, Jafar (Marwan Kenzari), who really just wants to use him to steal a magical lamp from a fucking tiger head sand cave. Whoa.

Anyways, lot of crazy stuff started happening. A genie in a lamp (Will Smith), wishes, and trying to pretend to be a prince to get with a pretty and smart lady. Oh yeah, magic, and lies, and singing.

Also starring Nasim Pedrad, Billy Magnussen, Numan Acar, and Navid Negahban.

jasmine
This whole knew world has a lot of beards!

With remakes, we are allowed to compare to the originals. This has all of the songs from the original, plus about 2 more given specifically to Jasmine. This film does a great job of expanding Jasmine. In the cartoon, Jasmine feels trapped and then uses her body to help defeat Jafar as a distraction. In this film, she is seen as smarter, wanting to get out, but also doing a lot more shit on her own. She tries to take the lamp, causes more distractions, and just makes sure everyone knows she is here to kick ass. Jasmine is much improved in this version.

Another plus is the Genie. He isn’t improved, but he is different and still fun. The references are nice, the jokes and callbacks work, and he is a fresh face in this film.

Unfortunately, the rest of our leads aren’t as great. Massoud never seems to capture the thrills of the cartoon or whimsy, although I did laugh at his jam jokes. Jafar is so much worse than the cartoon. He barely feels conniving and never that threatening. Iago is completely pointless in this one. The Sultan is really just a body.

The city and palace are full of color, but also seem to feel like cheap imitations. They feel and act like a movie study, and don’t reach any level of realism I’d expect with those Disney budgets. It looks like something they could have made for a TV movie.

Overall, it could have been a lot better. It didn’t have to feel rushed or so fake. It could have made the male leads like, better or at least as good as the cartoon. But the improvements to Jasmine and extra songs are worth admission alone and the best Disney remake of the year.

2 out of 4.

Mary Poppins Returns

54 years has to be some sort of record when it comes to having a sequel for your movie. I am talking about movies that have never been rebooted, or turned into an animated series, or given sequels decades ago but here is another one to ignore the rest, or a prequel in a different format. And you know, a sequel, done by the same company who has always owned those rights.

When they first announced Mary Poppins Returns, with the main leads, I was actually excited. Blunt killed it in Into The Woods, and her look could clearly pull off the same character. And of course Miranda is amazing in everything and could handle the goofy singing and dancing sidekick.

But I did quickly forget about it, and haven’t really cared about it coming out since the announcement. The idea seems swell, but maybe the real world is too annoying and dark for me to really escape for two hours and watch British kids learn to use their imagination or whatever.

KIDADUlts
And British adults learn their imagination never really left.

Many years ago, Mary Poppins magically appeared and fixed a family, then flew off, never to be seen again.

Until now. Decades later. Same neighborhood, house, and…family? Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw) and his sister, Jane (Emily Mortimer) are now older. Ben is living in the same house, with his three kids (Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh, Joel Dawson) and Jane has her own flat, but she is around frequently to help out. Michael was married, but she died, and this has put a big strain on their house. Finances are bad for that reason, but also because the whole neighborhood is in a financial crisis, of which it is hard to even find work.

So things are kind of shitty, and you know what, the bank is going to reposess their home probably. That means bye bye childhood, hello sadness and stress. They need help. And the kids aren’t being kids, they are just acting like tiny adults. Boo!

We need Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) to return! And with the help of her new compadre, a fast talking lamp lighter Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda), they will get the damn job done.

Also starring Julie Walters, Meryl Streep, Colin Firth, Jeremy Swift, Noma Dumezweni, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Dick Van Dyke, Angela Lansbury, Jim Norton, and David Warner.

JUMP
Jumping into the pits of hell is a unique twist in this film.

Mary Poppins Returns is an unrelentingly optimistic look at life, sorrow, and pulling yourself up by the goddamn bootstraps to make yourself smile.

Something sad? Fuck your sadness, let’s get happy!

This movie felt a bit weirder, as there is a notable “villain” character, while the problems of the first film seemed to just deal more with priorities and not being family enough. This is a fine family in terms of love, just they have lost their way, and also, someone is out to get them. I don’t think it needed to be so mean spirited for a Poppins movie.

For the songs, there is only one song I really loved, which was A Cover Is Not The Book. And it is definitely a song I like more with the video, and not just the song. Most of the other ones just feel adequate, or extra. A fair number of reprises for the songs is a good use of their time at least. I absolutely hated the Streep song and the whole scene. It was a one off just to get her in there and act silly, and clearly it is a reference to the first film, but also, it did nothing for me.

This film relies heavily on nostalgia to sell. We have various versions/scenes that are clearly just throwbacks to the first film, to have similar antics, and that is more lazy than exciting. Because of better special effects, everything is a lot more polished, and thus feels a bit more fake when it comes to the more spectacular dance scenes. When we have the lamp lighter army doing their song and dance (because the last film did it with chimney sweeps), it just felt too cut heavy and small, like you could see the size of the set and didn’t pull me in.

It should be noted, that Blunt and Miranda still knocked it out of the park, and they are reason enough to see it. This is the film you want if you just need to smile and have a pick me up in these times of misery. It isn’t the best film, it won’t probably change any lives, but it can be a good escape, despite its issues.

3 out of 4.

Peter Rabbit

Ah, Peter Rabbit, a classic story turned into a movie about a rabbit and real people. CGI and humans. And bunnies.

The last time we had a CGI/live action film involving bunnies and real people was Hop, 7 years ago, and it was a goddamn disaster. It was racist and classist, with a terrible story. It was an attempt to teach that some discrimination is okay. I have no idea how the whole thing got green lit.

Is 7 years enough time to try again? Probably not. Because the one thing I heard about this film before seeing it was the huge controversy over a scene where the bunnies attack a man through his allergies. Trying to kill him by making light of a dangerous scenario, in an amusing way.

A good set up to go into a movie that already has a legacy of shit to pile its way through.

Bunny Pals
Stand back Cookie-Monster, get ready for a new healthier form of gluttony.

Old Mr. McGregor (Sam Neill) is a mean old man, who chases the bunnies out of his garden. He wants to grow his crops, they want to eat his crops. He has an artist neighbor, Bea (Rose Byrne), likes the rabbits and they trust her, so she likes to protect them.

Either way, when Peter Rabbit (James Corden) is doing his thing, taking that food, McGregor has a heart attack and dies. Damn.

Now the rabbits own the place, a big farm party, all animals, lots of foods lots of things break. But then one day, a young Mr. McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson) shows up, the new owner. He has a lot of anger issues from his job, and now he finds this place he would just like to fix up and sell a disaster.

So of course he hates the rabbits, and says no to their shit. Even if he starts to find Bea attractive and wants to impress her. And this is the story of their war.

Also starring mostly the voices of Fayssal Bazzi, Sia, Colin Moody, Margot Robbie, Elizabeth Debicki, and Daisy Ridley.

Familypic
Some family trees are hybrids.

For a majority of this story, this film is spending its energy and effort on convincing me, a normal(ish) human male, that I should be on the side of the bunnies on this story. The bunnies who are certain that they should be able to eat the wonderful things that are grown in this garden, that a human spent time growing in order to make food for themselves or to make a profit in order to buy other things.

What in the fuck kind of movie is this? If the bunnies are so sentient that they can talk, and are just not talking to the humans out of secrecy, then goddamn it, go raise your own carrots in a garden and eat it. We can see them making traps and hatching plans, and grabbing and picking things up, then there is no excuse for this insanity.

The old man they have was mean, and he never searched out and tried to kill the rabbits. He just protected his land. Fair. The new guy? The one dealing with grief. Who also only goes out of his way to stop the bunnies when they trash his house, injure him, and kill him with his allergies. No. Just no.

They try to change it by the end, but what doesn’t change is that at least the first half if not more, it is a plot just wanting me to hate the rabbits.

What kind of values are this shit? Grow and go into poverty and depression so some bunnies can eat?

0 out of 4.

Paddington 2

Paddington 2 was probably one of my most looking forward to films for awhile. No, not some big superhero film, or a drama with all of my favorite actors. Paddington. Two.

The first one was just a delight. It was cute, funny, and it felt like the perfect family film. It didn’t help that Europe got it so much earlier than other parts of the world, so I heard about its praise, and I just wanted more.

Who would have thought that a little bear could bring the world together so much? Well, the makers of the first Paddington, I guess.

Family
A successful family film always needs a big family so everyone can relate to someone.

Things are changing in the Brown household. The kids (Madeleine Harris, Samuel Joslin) are changing their appearances and hobbies, the mother (Sally Hawkins) wants to go on adventures and is training to swim to France, and the father (Hugh Bonneville) is going through a big midlife crisis because he feels old and is missing promotions at work.

But Paddington (Ben Whishaw) is just chill. He is helping his neighbors, making the world a brighter place, and really just finding a place to exist. He does want to get a gift for his Aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton) though, which leads him to a sweet pop up book of London! It is very detailed and it will let her experience London like she always wanted to. But the book is rare, so Paddington will have to get a few jobs in order to pay for it.

What Paddington doesn’t know, is there are others out there that will go to great lengths to get that book, even if it means Paddington ends up in Prison as a result.

Also starring Hugh Grant, Michael Gambon, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, and Brendan Gleeson.

Prison
Jails are just a red herring of course. Or a pink herring.

At the time of writing this review, Paddington 2 has a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. And that isn’t based on only 20 or so reviews, it is based on ONE HUNDRED NINETY-SIX reviews! That is almost 200 people who agreed that it didn’t suck. Of course it doesn’t mean it is a perfect film, just everyone found it overall good and gave a positive impression. And that is frankly unheard of in this day in age.

Of course while watching it, I found myself chuckling a few times. Just the generic slapstick portions as Paddington flails about trying to do human things are worth it. The story goes really well together and ends with a lot of the pieces coming together quite nicely.

Most importantly, it is a film with a simple story and that works in its favor. It is slow enough moving that even those younger kids will be able to follow along and enjoy it, while not being too slow or boring for adults. The family was funny enough. And Grant was very good in his role, and at a very good age and time in his career to play something like he did.

It doesn’t resort to violence, it resorts to smarts, and maybe some bonking, but not an all out brawl.

Hooray!

3 out of 4.

Coco

Walt Disney Animation Studios have been on a kick lately, where they want simplistic, yet bold film titles, often in one word. Tangled. Frozen. Moana. Zootopia. Gigantic, which apparently isn’t going to happen anymore.

Disney isn’t officially doing Coco, Pixar is (Which is owned by Disney), who, outside of the franchise that should not be named, has mostly shied away from these sort of titles. Is Coco a sign of things to come for Pixar in the title department? It is hard to say, given the fact that its previous two movies, and next two movies are all sequels. Ugh.

I will note I experienced almost no hype for Coco. And that is because of its immediately similarity to The Book of Life. They aren’t even doppelganger films, because the other one came out years earlier, so it is just a bit odd to see such similar topics in animated films so close to each other. But the good news is, The Book of Life was only okay, I forgot basically all of it by now so it really didn’t mess with my opinion.

Strum
Guitars, afterlife, Mexico, love, sadness, revenge. Very similar films indeed.

Mama Imelda (Alanna Ubach) has a sad story, but a strong one. She had a daughter, Coco (Ana Ofelia Murguía), with her husband, who had more loves in the world than just his family. He left them, to become a singer and a star, and never returned. Poor Imelda had to raise Coco on her own, while also bringing home the bacon. She learned to make shoes and started her own shoe empire, going down her line of children.

Now, many years later, Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) is a 12 year old boy, and he loves music. He wants to play the guitar and sing, but there is a ban on music in his family, given the past incident. His Abuela (Renee Victor) is the main matriarch now, since his great-grandmother, Coco, is in a chair and doesn’t speak much.

Miguel idolizes Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), who is basically the Mexican Elvis in this film, extremely famous and well loved. But he has to keep his obsession secret. Well, due to some shenanigans involving a dead man’s guitar, Miguel finds him in the underworld! And on this, Dia de los Muertos, when the dead are trying to get back to the real world, not the other way around.

Miguel is going on an adventure, on the run from disapproving and dead realities, while he searches for his great great grandfathers approval, so that he can return to the real world AND play music officially. And he has bumbling Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal) to help him, who just wants someone to post his photo in the real world so he can cross over to the real world just one time before no one remembers him.

Also featuring the voices of many others, including Edward James Olmos, Jaime Camil, Alfonso Arau, Herbert Siguenza, Lombardo Boyar, and Sofía Espinosa.

Familia
Well, Miguel doesn’t LOOK like his ancestors.

It is interesting that this film came out in Thanksgiving weekend and not like, the week before Dia de los Muertos like the film takes place on. Usually films go into effort to come out near specific holidays, but Pixar needed that Thanksgiving break money. It was released in Mexico before the day at least, so it has been out for almost a month somewhere else in the world.

On an emotional level, Coco hits on most of the cylinders. It should be a relatively easy feat, given the subject of DEATH and loss being its main focus. Relatives dying? Wives, kids, parents, whatever the level, it will get people choked up. It had a diverse soundtrack of authentic sounds, and despite Remember Me getting the most screen time (and one cry), my favorite song was Proud Corazón by the end, which tied up everything with a nice bow, as these films tend to do.

Miguel’s relationship with his various family members feels real on the level that a 12 year old boy might feel, including the parts where no one lets him talk. But adults refusing to listen to children in films end up usually being a pet peeve, as they just create lazy plot situations where communication does not occur and leads to all of the conflict.

Coco is a beautiful film, physically and emotionally, but it just seems to falter on the smaller elements. Ideas I couldn’t get out of my mind. Timing these events on Dia de los Muertos seemed to have hurt it instead of helping it. On this day, the dead want to go to the real world to party, hang out, get trinkets. And yet the city of the dead is so fucking full of people. We see a very small shanty area of folks who can’t cross because they don’t have pictures. But all of the biggest underworld celebrities are just still there? All the citizens are having their own parties in the place they are stuck so many days of the year?

It seems like a minor nitpick, and maybe it is, but it really distracted me most of the film. There were issues with the spirit animals, in that apparently one is so much more powerful than the others that it can just murder in the underworld and be basically okay. We have the fear of falling to death ruined by a last minute save, that would have still killed the person falling based on how they did it.

And we had SO MANY times when slow decisions were being made just toe extend the film. At least three times we had moments where the viewer would assume that everyone is fine now, time to fix things, and then wham, nope. Whether it be from last second pointless arguments, lack of communication, or just forgetting how to move.

The plot felt very lazy, so much that the film became more tearjerky than anything.

I love the culture of the film, I love the authentic voice actors, and how some of the songs were actually all in Spanish. Having this much of a multicultural element in a Pixar film is a welcome change (since most of their culture is inanimate/dead things with feelings). It just relied to heavily on that component and not enough on a decent plot.

And to bring us back to the beginning, Coco is not a good title for this film.

2 out of 4.

Wonder

As a middle school teacher, Wonder is a book I have seen before existing that I have blatantly ignored. It had an interesting cover, sure, but a guy can’t just go and read everything that is hip and cool with the kiddos.

I was still excited for this one, as I knew a lot of librarians and English teachers and students who talked highly about the book. So sure, I would watch it and hope for the best, and not worry about comparing it to the book.

Oooh, I wonder wonder what’s in a wonder film.

Family
Maybe that helmet is full of wonder balls.

August “Auggie” Pullman (Jacob Tremblay) is a boy who had a lot of problems right out of the womb. He has been in the ICU, and has had many surgeries. There were many problems, and basically, he now has a really different looking face when compared to other kids. Because of his issues, he has been homeschooled his entire life by his mother (Julia Roberts), who put a degree on hold. His dad (Owen Wilson) works and tries to keep the humor in the house, and his older sister, Via (Izabela Vidovic), just has to deal with most of her problems on her own.

His family thinks it is time for him to finally join the real world. It will be hard for him to go to a real school, but it will be harder the more they put it off. So he is signed up for an academy for middle school that starts in the fifth grade and does a lot of advanced science work. Auggie loves science, dreams of being an astronaut, and has been using a space helmet to hide his face when going out in public.

Middle school is going to be a hard adjustment for Auggie. But he doesn’t realize is that many kids are finding it to be a hard adjustment. And that school itself is a hard adjustment, across its various levels. Auggie will realize the value of friendship, betrayal, and more, and that he also is not the center of his own universe.

Also starring Noah Jupe, Mandy Patinkin, Bryce Gheisar, Elle McKinnon, Daveed Diggs, Ty Consiglio, Kyle Breitkopf, Millie Davis, Ali Liebert, Danielle Rose Russell, Nadji Jeter, and Ben Ratner.

Woods
When they recreate frame by frame that scene from Deliverance? A bold choice from the director.

My first initial thought about Wonder: The movie only made me cry three times, what a shitshow. A good film needs five cries minimum.

But then I got over my not super salty cheeks and thought about the film and story as a whole. The film isn’t just about a dude with a messed up face learning to cope. It is about his whole family moving on with his condition. It is about his sister finding herself, i is about his friends realizing their own fuck ups. Shit, it is even about his sister’s friend realizing she is a fuck up.

It is a really easy conclusion to come to as well, because the film is formatted in a way to (quite obviously) show several different point of views. I have been told the book does it more frequently and better, but I did really appreciate it when it happened in the film. I got giddy with each iteration. If anything, one of the reasons the rating isn’t hire is because the film didn’t go deep enough in this method. Don’t introduce point of views and do it half-assed. Basically every time it did so, it did it only once, and then didn’t do it for enough characters. Let me see all of the other side characters who acted weird, go all in damn it.

I was able to connect with a lot of the characters, including Auggie, despite only having a minor facial deformity myself. Except the deformity I have made me really really attractive, so I guess people stared at me for other reasons.

Acting is swell, and honestly, a shout out to Wilson. He was more than a generic joking dad. He had some really sweet and tender moments as well, less than the mom character, but he did a lot with his lesser screen time.

3 out of 4.

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie

Dreamworks films never reach their full potential. Or they do, and Dreamworks films just suck, outside of the two Dreamworks franchises that I don’t even have to mention at this point.

They do not aim for universal appeal, they just want to get their cheap kid jokes and run.

I expected to outright hate Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie. I have never read or looked into a book with any level of effort, but I see the sort of humor that exists. You know, poop and underwear humor. Like the whole series, all based on one sort of joke. It is a bold move, but it was a hit with kids, and honestly I am surprised it took this long for a movie.

But as I left the film, it had some level of charm, despite all the shit.

Hero
His whole body is just so round.

Before we get to the superhero, we need to talk about George (Kevin Hart) and Harold (Thomas Middleditch). They have been best friends since Kindergarten, thanks to their similar humor styles. They pull pranks on school to get them by, and they love making comics together. George tells the story, Harold is the illustrator. Their favorite comic that they have made is Captain Underpants!

But at school, not everything is okay. The mean Mr. Krupp (Ed Helms) is the principal, and he outlaws fun for the sake of discipline, so George and Harold are a thorn in his side. But he never has proof! When he does get proof, he will be able to separate the two boys into different classes, thus killing their friendship, or something like that.

And thanks to a few other pranks their nightmare is about to come true! As a last ditch effort, they attempt to hypnotize him, and it works! There they decide to make him pretend to be Captain Underpants and wham! A superhero is born!

But can their school be run by a make believe super hero? Can they control him and protect their friendship? What about the evil Professor P (Nick Kroll) who has a weird plan to hurt children too, with the unknowing help of Melvin (Jordan Peele), a humorless nerd. Also featuring Kristen Schaal as the voice of the cafeteria worker.

Kids
Although pretty round, they have a few more edges so this isn’t just some freaky round planet. Whew.

Guess what?! Captain Underpants wasn’t extremely poopy, just somewhere poopy. For the most part, I didn’t find it really that funny. It relied on the same sort of joke over and over again. Of which the film did talk about how “toilet humor” is the lowest form, so they understood what they were doing. The exaggeration of their friendship being killed by being in different classes was a bit annoying, since they straight up hang out with each other as direct neighbors after school all the time as well.

But it was telling the story in their kid point of view, so it made sense on a level. On a different level, they are supposed to be very smart and savvy compared to the rest of the students, so when their characterizations are sometimes very childish versus mature, it is a bit confusing on what they are supposed to represent.

There are however aspects that I really enjoyed. This is a film where all the main characters are voiced by famous people. It is a stupid trend, it still doesn’t lead to more ticket sales like Robin Williams did in the early 1990s. They are paying more money for lesser voices. BUT, the characters in this film didn’t just sound like the normal actors for once. The closest two were Hart and Scahal, but everyone else I would not have been able to tell you the voice at all, so that is wonderful.

The second aspect I enjoyed was their decisions to tell the story in different ways. It is a CGI film, but we weren’t just given a completely CGI movie. It starts off with a paper comic book feel, we are given a flip book scene, various forms of day dream, but best of all, a sock puppet scene. Sock puppets! The changing formats of the film helped keep my interest and make the film a bit more sophisticated?

No, not sophisticated. Let’s just keep it as interesting.

It still caters to a lower form of humor. It still doesn’t have a lot of substance. But hey, it did try a few things I enjoyed and wasn’t a complete shit show.

2 out of 4.

A Dog’s Purpose

Dog films are all the rage now. Just look at the last two reviews on my website. But in reality, despite this mini awkward dog theme, actual dog movies are NOT popular like they were in the 1990’s and 2000’s. They pop up every once in awhile and usually try to kill a dog by the end of it in order to get all pet owners to cry and feel nostalgic about past pets and current pets.

It is easy money. A Dog’s Purpose is based on a book that a lot of people liked and read, so it should have made money. Then it had a silly controversy a whole week before it came out, people decided not to see it, and here I am today, hoping it is terrible because it came out in January.

But really, I want to note that the idea behind the movie is brilliant. If dying pets makes people love the movie, buy it on DVD and give the movie money, then why not have the main dog more than once? Why not a whole handful of times?

There is tear jerking, and there is tear sucking out of you with an industrial vacuum.

Boyhood
I think an alternative title for this movie might have been Doghood.

The movie has dogs, people, and a lot of both. If you are the type of person who gets sad over the death of pets, you are goign to get really fucking sad in this movie.

Because our main dog (Josh Gad) who goes by many names, so I will just call him Dog, is going to die over and over again. This Dog is wondering what his purpose in life is. He likes to play and have fun he guesses, and there are humans that tell him to do things, but what is he here for?

So he hangs out with a kid who grows up into an adult. He hangs out with a lady in school. He is in an abusive home. He is a dog for a cop! He does so much more, but really, he just wants that stomach scratched.

Featuring a hot mess of people though, so here we go: Britt Robertson, Bryce Gheisar, Dennis Quaid, John Ortiz, Juliet Rylance, K.J. Apa, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Logan Miller, Luke Kirby, and Peggy Lipton.

Doggie
I wonder how many humans die in this movie? More than dogs?

A Dog’s Purpose is a waste of time. For dog lovers, cat lovers, and human lovers alike. Now, I have never made a movie before, but I have to imagine that making the audience care about a pet has got to be pretty easy. I imagine it is one of the easiest tasks ever to make someone cry in a theater by having the pet go bye bye, second only to a relative.

And yet, after watching A Dog’s Purpose, which had at least five dogs, I think, I found myself unable to make a connection with most of them. In fact, some of them, the deaths came sort of out of nowhere. And not in a “Oh no, tragedy, death!” shocking sort of way. Just a “Oh, this is the end of this plot line I guess, let’s move on” sort of way. They just did a poor job of making me care.

Maybe a big element to get someone to care about the pet is time with the pet, but a common narrator sound just isn’t good enough. I wasn’t feeling the stories, I wasn’t feeling the other humans, I just didn’t care.

And a dog movie, where the dog dies so many ties, that fails to make me cry? Just feels a bit shallow and rushed. No emotional connection, means not a good drama film.

0 out of 4.

Rock Dog

2017 is the year of the animated disappointments so far, and yes, I still have not seen The LEGO Batman Movie, get over it. It might be funny, I just don’t care too much, as Batman was what I disliked the most about The LEGO Movie.

And I figured I would be skipping Rock Dog, it was an animated film released almost a whole year prior in China. You know, because they made it. And I know America isn’t number one at everything anymore, but I know we are still number one at animated CGI films. Yes, some anime notwithstanding, we do CGI cutting edge and well, so foreign films just seem behind.

And also the title, Rock Dog. Sigh. Come on animated films, be better.

Legend
I wonder which one is the rock and which one is the dog.

Way way far away, in a land called Snow Mountain (which is, guess what… a snow mountain!), there lives a young Tibetan Mastiff named Bodi (Luke Wilson). Bet you thought his name would be Rock Dog. Nah, not yet.

A long time ago, a bunch of wolves led by Linnux (Lewis Black) were driven out of their town by Bodi’s father, Khampa (J.K. Simmons). Khampa is pretty sure the wolves will eventually come back, so he is training up the local sheep and his son to protect it again once they come back. There is also some magic stuff about finding his inner fire to help defeat things, but uhh, that is weird.

Turns out Bodi just wants to rock, once he discovers what music and rock music actually is. It is all he thinks about, it is his new dream and passion, and he is a bit of savant. But his dad disapproves, so he one day just goes out on his own to prove him wrong.

After getting to the city, he heads to a place called Rock and Roll Park in order to find a band and make a big name for himself, like the legendary rocker Scattergood (Eddie Izzard). But the wolves are out, the people are mean, and Bodi might just have to make it on the music biz on his own.

Also featurign the voice work of Kenan Thompson, Mae Whitman, Jorge Garcia, Matt Dillon, and Sam Elliott.

Home
The snow or rain or whatever is happening is indistinguishable from that yak’s beard in the background.

Rock Dog is another animated film that ushers out a line of celebrities to do their voice work instead of real voice work, because names sell. Names like Eddie Izzard. Thankfully, two of those names are J.K. Simmons and Sam Elliott, who have unique voices and add something to the film. Too bad their characters are in Snow Mountain, so only at the beginning and the end of the film, really.

The premise of Rock Dog is mostly shit. Anthropomorphized badly explained worlds are all over the place, and this does nothing to rise above a Pre-K TV program on Disney. It doesn’t feel fully fleshed out and it is a super simple story. A lot of it about a dog who just wants to play music in a world that doesn’t rewward newcomers.

But despite its lack of originality, great CGI, or anything new to offer the genres, it is still an average movie.

I mean, I am not going to go out of my way to make sure my kids see it, but if they do see it, I won’t be annoyed at their mind being poisoned by drivel. It is just a bit dull for those of us who have been there, done it, when it comes to these types of movies.

2 out of 4.

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