Would you like an invitation to our beta?
In terms of animated films, Moana has likely been the most discussed movie since Frozen. No, it never reached the same level of fame or popularity, but many aspects and key features of the film’s plot and theme made people grow invested quickly. A Disney film featuring a female Polynesian tribal leader and going through aches and pains to feature nature as the driving force of the story, it’s clear that Moana is...(more)
In terms of animated films, Moana has likely been the most discussed movie since Frozen. No, it never reached the same level of fame or popularity, but many aspects and key features of the film’s plot and theme made people grow invested quickly. A Disney film featuring a female Polynesian tribal leader and going through aches and pains to feature nature as the driving force of the story, it’s clear that Moana is meant to be a modern Disney princess musical, representing a lot of positive strides for the company regarding diversity and positive female role models. Unfortunately, I can’t say that these goals were enough to make this a genuinely great flick.
Moana is our titular hero, a teenage Polynesian set to take the seat of tribal leader for her people with a deep-seated obsession with the sea. Her father, in proper Disney fashion, forbids her to go sailing beyond the reef surrounding their island, but she does so anyway, not out of an act of rebellion, but rather to try and save her tribe from running out of food. Her quest? To take the life stone, or magical McGuffin if you will, to the island of Te Fiti to restore nature to its former glory, but in order to do this she’ll need the help of Maui, the demigod responsible for the life stone being lost in the first place.
Auli’i Cravalho, a new face in the cinematic scene, does a solid job voicing our leading lady, despite some poor writing choices that shape the character into being less than she could be. Dwayne Johnson definitely steals the show as a Maui that resembles the lovechild of Jack Black and the late Robin Williams’ Genie, providing a boisterous yet goofy tone to a fairly inventive character, from design to attitude. Beyond the brief appearance of Jemaine Clement as a giant melodious hermit crab and Rachel House as Moana’s grandmother, that are very few characters that have enough screen time to warrant mention, with only 11 voice actors being credited for their work. While this may sound like a criticism or negative, keeping the cast tight and selective makes for a stronger vocal cast than many other recent animated movies, relying on legions of all-stars who say one or two lines to sell an ultimately flawed and uninteresting film.
Unfortunately, Moana is clearly flawed from the moment starts, primarily due to its pacing. It takes the film just over a half hour to get around to starting our adventure, which really only takes us to three somewhat drab destinations, and when it feels like the film is about to wrap up, we get the typical fight between our two leads made even more unbearable by poor timing and presentation. Many of the moments Moana wants us to get invested are hampered by either spending too much time on one aspect or too little time on another.
Some of that first half hour is focused on the lore of the Polynesian tribe Moana comes from, which is presented in creative manners, accentuating the cultural significance and themes that most viewers will have been completely unaware of prior. These moments, however, are few and far between, with much of this time being dedicated to showing what a great leader of her people Moana is. While reluctant to the task at first, Moana shows great initiative and courage in taking up the mantle in her own way, a fantastic aspect to her character. That being said, a ton of time is invested in reiterating this point to near exhaustion, and while her quest is fueled by this passion, these scenes don’t serve to help accentuate or support later scenes with applicable information. There were a few scenes clearly there to tell a joke and nothing else, acting as a brief distraction rather than a coherent part of the story.
In fact, this movie goes through a lot of trouble to sell some of its rather unimpressive comedy routines. From Maui’s references to Twitter or addressing the audience at one point to the constant obnoxious antics of the animal “companion”, Heihei, Moana never gave me a reason to laugh, and while yes, this film is aimed at kids, Disney has proven before that they can make films enjoyable by all ages. Toy Story is still a fantastically funny movie to me all these years later, so such a defense is no excuse.
What does work well are the moments when the characters grow tender in their emotions. Maui has a few of these moments, with the voice work and deep expressions selling these moments well, but Moana is definitely the character geared to make such scenes flourish, and for the most part, she doesn’t disappoint. Because we only have two key characters to invest ourselves in, we get to know them fairly well, allowing for more emotionally provocative events in their lives having a stronger impact on the viewer.
Before I get too much deeper in this review, let me just comment on how Moana is an impressively new kind of Disney “princess”, though I hesitate to use that word as she openly refutes the title mid-film. She’s a leader with a strong sense of right and wrong, and demonstrates this actively during the film, as we actually do get to see her lead her people. She has a determination that doesn’t border on obsession, allowing herself to question her motivations and if what she’s doing is right. She has no romantic counterpart to speak of, making her story about her self discovery rather than searching for love. She has no real animal companion, as the pig in most commercials and ads disappears early on and the chicken is more of a punchline than anything else. She’s emotionally receptive and strong-willed, but allows herself to become upset and ask the appropriate questions rather than continuing in a blind wit of willpower. In every way, Moana is a character that shines as the best female role model for young girls in recent memory.
At the end of the day, though, this isn’t a very good movie. For all its good intentions and strides in the right direction, Moana can’t help but be the product of what I have recently come to refer to as the Disney Copy Machine. In hopes of selling to as broad an audience, just about every movie Disney has helmed in the last few years has been devoid of interesting storytelling, focusing instead on rehashing what has always worked to sell the most tickets possible. Yes, Moana utilizes nature as the primary force of conflict, incorporating all characters outside of the Polynesians as aspects of nature, yet this leaves us with a rather small and limited cast. Yes, I commented only a few paragraphs ago on how it was a great thing to have such a tight voice cast, but that doesn’t make the lack of characters any more boring. Yes, we get to know Moana and Maui well, but that takes a very short period of time, as each have very few dimensions to them, drawn out over the course of the film. The ideas and concepts of the film are great, but in execution, most feel lackluster, particularly any villains.
Due to the limited scope of the adventure, we see very few sets, and which ones we do are less of a location and more of an extension of the characters associated with it. And as I mentioned, due to viewers being focused rather exclusively on our leads, most of the side characters are incredibly annoying and tedious. And while I would like to comment on them specifically, I’d basically be giving the whole film away at that point, as there’s very little else here. Much of Moana’s voyage takes place on her boat, either talking to herself or Maui, meaning a lot of the movie is visually boring to watch. Disney’s animation is as great as always, and Maui’s character design, as I mentioned above, is absolutely fantastic, but the rest of the movie ends up feeling drab and detached. I couldn’t help but feel tired as I watched the same two characters on the same boat again and again.
The music is also rather uninteresting. After watching, I find myself unable to remember all but one song, Maui’s introductory tune. And while none of the songs are particularly bad per say, none of them have any staying power that leads me to believe I would listen to them otherwise. Much of what makes The Lion King or Aladdin resonate with me after all this time is my attachment to the songs that resonated with me when I was young. I’ll admit, it’s certainly possible that if I was the same age now as I was then, I might gravitate towards the songs of this film, but as it stands, I don’t foresee myself seeking out these tunes again.
Moana is a film for your kids to be watching, simple as that. It’s nothing special, and as an adult holds little value, but as a teaching tool for young girls or boys, this is a strong and positive presentation of flawed but heroic characters dealing with their uncertainties in order to reach their respective goals.
Logan has, understandably, generated a lot of buzz as of late, being Hugh Jackman's last opportunity to reprise the role of the titular and well-loved hero. The R-rating attracted the public's attention after the success that was Deadpool. The introduction of X-23 excited many comic readers and spoke to the potential of seeing her more down the road (though Logan takes place in an alternate timeline). And the...(more)
Logan has, understandably, generated a lot of buzz as of late, being Hugh Jackman's last opportunity to reprise the role of the titular and well-loved hero. The R-rating attracted the public's attention after the success that was Deadpool. The introduction of X-23 excited many comic readers and spoke to the potential of seeing her more down the road (though Logan takes place in an alternate timeline). And the black-and-white images and tone of the trailers evoked the same emotions and ideas as the tragic narratives of lone rangers or the gritty realism focused on in The Dark Knight Returns comic.
Luckily, all of the hype and comparisons were not just deserved, they were testaments to how well this film accomplishes the goal that the trailers clearly establish.
Logan features Hugh Jackman as an old and weary Wolverine, a limousine driver working to get by as best he can while caring for his elderly mentor, Professor X (played by Patrick Stewart), who now struggles to remember much of his past or control his powers without the help of pharmaceuticals. Their commonplace lives come to a halt, however, when they are wrapped up in a government hunt for Laura, a mutant whose powers mimic Logan's in a very palpable way. The team ventures as best they can across a dreary and depressing landscape as they try to save themselves from the soldiers hot on their trail and the internal struggles they face each day.
Something that I cannot stress enough is that this is barely a superhero film, and that's not a bad thing. Beyond one other mutant, Caliban, there are no other headlining characters from the X-Men lore to be found here, although there are some small references here and there. Rather, the film takes something of a step back from the potentially goofy and absurdist tales of the early '60's, occasionally pointing to the ridiculousness, to accentuate how far those same heroes have fallen and the ways in which they try to get by day to day. The emotions are palpable and well-deserved, making the film strong in its tonal and thematic endeavors.
The acting is top-notch, which is unsurprising coming from veterans like Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart, but the film's script and angle give each actor such diverse material for well-worn characters that I couldn't help but get choked up over seeing how low they had been brought and the sometimes self-inflicted nightmares that haunted them. Not only that, but the child actress playing Laura, Dafne Keen, gives a phenomenal performance, a pleasant surprise considering what a key role she plays in the movie. Keen's expressive face and ability to emote distinctly and appropriately make her one of the best up-and-coming talents I've seen on screen in a long time, more so even than the stars of Stranger Things in my opinion. She has been widely recognized for her role here and deserves to be. The other actors do a fine enough job, never distracting from the story and adding nice bits here and there, but our three leads are by far provide the standout performances, fittingly.
The setting and music, while not entirely memorable, help to create the desolate and depraved tone that the film lives and breathes, a constant reminder of the harsh world these characters live in. That being said, it never feels like anything is forced down the audience's throat. For the most part, viewers are trusted to deduce certain aspects of the story and new status quo without it being spelled out for them. There's clearly something very destructive and wrong about what's happening in the government and how people are forced to live, but it's all scene dressing you can choose to look for or not, and makes the universe at hand feel alive and palpable, like it still moves and evolves even when there isn't an audience to see it happen. With that comes a feeling of pointlessness to the venture, questioning why our adventurers do what they do, and if they accomplish anything, does it matter, again paying homage to the narratives of yesteryear. And while this may put off some viewers, I found it to be an engaging and fitting take on the characters and story arcs at hand.
While this isn't a superhero movie per say, the film is by far the best representation of an X-Man to date, as Wolverine is perfectly presented here, providing Jackman with a much more robust character to portray. No longer is Logan our witty and annoyed guide through the colorful world of mutants, but a depressed, angry, confused creature of habit wandering through an equally uncaring and inhospitable world that rejects him on a daily basis. There's real pain and rage to be seen, and the R-rating means there's no holding back on anything. This is the quintessential Wolverine film to date.
Are there problems I have with the film? Sure, that's why it's not getting five stars from me. As I mentioned, the music isn't particularly memorable, which is a shame in a genre that lacks many great soundtracks. The villain is rather ho-hum, more of a catalyst for the adventures afoot than a meaningful figure in his own right. And there are some plot details that I cannot disclose here, due to spoilers, that fall flat and come across as a little too contrived and symbolic.
But these issues don't take away from the fact that I was immersed in Logan from the moment it came on screen to the moment the credits rolled. Logan is a well-made, thoughtful film about one of the most memorable comic book anti-heroes to date, using the source material well while never being stuck copying it. For those of you expecting Old Man Logan the movie, you're not just kidding yourselves, you are missing out on one of the best and most film perspectives on a comic book to date. For the rest of you, make the time to see this movie not just if you're a Wolverine fan, but if you're the sort of person who's looking for a movie that encapsulates the feel of old Westerns without inherently being a Western.
Let me get this out of the way right off the bat; Doctor Strange is my favorite Marvel hero. A character that doesn't appear too frequently in the comics, Stephen Strange often pops into the stories of others, accentuating bombastic events with a witty and engaging figure who, ultimately, is incredibly flawed and often sees failure, seemingly more often than success. In understanding this, I realize that some of...(more)
Let me get this out of the way right off the bat; Doctor Strange is my favorite Marvel hero. A character that doesn't appear too frequently in the comics, Stephen Strange often pops into the stories of others, accentuating bombastic events with a witty and engaging figure who, ultimately, is incredibly flawed and often sees failure, seemingly more often than success. In understanding this, I realize that some of my critiques or thoughts on the film may come across as unfair or exaggerated due to my bias.
That being said, Doctor Strange was one of the most frustrating film experiences I've had in a long time.
Our film takes place at the origin place of the good doctor (played by Benedict Cumberbatch), a surgeon well respected in the industry, despite being something of an egotistical jerk. This is covered up mostly by a charm that harkens back to the original Iron Man film, as Strange seems to have good relations with his co-workers and ex-girlfriend, Christine Palmer (played by Racheal McAdams). This comes to a screeching halt as Strange gets in a car accident that renders his hands shaky and unable to perform the miraculous surgeries he once mastered. Throwing away a majority of his fortune trying to reobtain his dexterity, Strange finds himself in Nepal searching out The Ancient One (played by Tilda Swinton) and a group of monks who ultimately provide him with new perspectives and the chance to redeem himself.
The similarities between this movie and the movie that started this franchise, Iron Man 1, are plentiful; Doctor Strange is a rich, successful individual, well known in his industry as charming but flawed and unkind, whose ego is too big to realize the mistakes he's making until one unfortunate accident of his own making results in Strange going on the path of redemption, giving up his old life, and by and large becoming a superhero. There are even moments when I felt Benedict Cumberbatch's American accent sounded strikingly similar to Robert Downey Jr. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as it's understandable that the plots are similar, but it begs the question; why make this film at all? When the public was informed that the movie was being made, it was suggested that this movie would skip the origin story altogether in favor of a narrative that started sometime after the character had earned his reputation as Sorceror Supreme. Instead, we're left with a narrative that structurally is so familiar it borders on tedium.
Luckily, our lead, Benedict Cumberbatch, is just as charming as he always is, although not so engaging. Don't get me wrong, Cumberbatch has some excellent acting chops, as he's proven time and again with works like Sherlock and even his work as Smaug in the Hobbit trilogy, but it's clear that his abilities are being held back by the script and direction. At no point did I feel like Doctor Strange was a character I connected with closely or wanted to get to know. The delivery of most lines was believable but bland, and there was little that made Stephen Strange more than a typical protagonist.
Tilda Swinton did a phenomenal job of bringing The Ancient One, a somewhat nondescript and flavorless character, to the big screen, showing us a leader who's introduction is powerful and grabs at the viewers attention, but who is slowly turned into a trope as the film goes on, again by no fault of the actress. Despite the flaws in the character, Swinton's portrayal is somewhat mesmerizing, accentuated by a character design that stands out.
Unfortunately, there were no other performances that stood out as great. Some were passable, but most felt so phoned in it became irritating. Case and point, Chiwetel Ejiofor, aka Baron Mordo, one of the more rigid and advanced students of The Ancient One. Ejiofor's performance lacks all emotional beyond the occasional outburst of anger that feels undeserved, turning him into a polar opposite of Strange whose motivations feel confusing and fails to serve the story well.
Similarly, Mads Mikkelson joins the pantheon of awful Marvel villains as Master Kaecilius, who fills in the tired trope of the pupil who defected and became evil. Mikkelson is provided next to no lines throughout the film, and never comes across as intimidating or even interesting, often overshadowed by the promise of the devious and vile Dormmamu, one of Doctor Strange's best adversaries that's handled as well as Galactus was in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer; that is to say, incredibly poorly.
Rachael McAdams thankfully appears infrequently, almost to the point of questioning her presence, as a Jane Foster-esque human love interest who is amazed by Strange's new-found powers and helps him occasionally on his question of redemption. There's no witty banter here like that between Iron Man and Pepper Potts, although the script certainly thinks itself clever. Rather, we have a romantic side-plot that luckily doesn't encroach too much on the story at hand.
I say that the script thinks itself clever because the movie is constantly trying to interrupt the flow of the story to provide us with various jokes that are clearly supposed to make us bust a gut laughing (which they often did in the theater I was in), but felt so forced and out of place I couldn't help but be astounded by the absurdity. Wong (played by Benedict Wong) is a character whose sole purpose, outside of harkening to the comics, is to be comedy relief or exposition, lacking any character outside of a stoic disposition that results in various jokes, a strange and unfitting choice. Similarly, the Cloak of Levitation, a classic artifact of the Doctor Strange lore, takes on the properties of a conscientious entity solely to provide some physical gags that feel so forced it hurts. The subject matter of time, loss, and death are taken seriously for the most part, yet these moments of comedy are unsubtly sprinkled into every scene, making the film a mess from a tonal perspective, no thanks to these two figures.
What's perhaps worse, however, is the lack of understanding we have for the magical realm by the end of the film. So much is left unanswered, ignored to provide the same three-arc story that lacks all imagination. We're shown brief snipits of monks training or a few locations that house some of the magicians of this world. We're told about the multiverse and pointed to one specific dimension throughout the movie. Everything comes across from a surface-value perspective, never delving into the interesting, nitty gritty of what the locations had to offer. Similarly, the spells are glanced over so quickly and barely developed beyond a handful of techniques that are plot devices so obvious they might as well have labels stuck to them, leaving little to the imagination.
Despite how simple the story is, the pacing feels all out of sorts, likely a by-product of Marvel's recent tendency to get their grubby fingers into the interworkings of every Marvel film these days. It would perhaps explain why the script is so flat or why certain scenes are quickly brushed past. Most scenes felt jumpy, making those that didn't come across as odd and unnatural by juxtaposition.
The only truly fantastic part of the film was some of the visual effects, complex dream-like sequences that are entrancing and exciting to see play out, with one amazing scene standing out in my mind. Many have compared some of this to Inception, a fairly accurate comparison, but it's done very well most of the time, surpassing its predecessor. That being said, these moments are occasionally tarnished by the fight scenes, which come across as overly fabricated. At no point did any of the fight scenes feel viscerally satisfying, with the physics of them often feeling awkward and clearly fake. The Ancient One landing on the ground with the impact of the Hulk, despite the world not responding to her as such, or the odd appearance of the Cloak of Levitation as it moves through the air are two moments that stand out to me that drew me out of the experience in a big way. It doesn't help that none of Doctor Strange's opponents have any character, leaving me, as a viewer, feeling no interest in seeing them fight.
By and large, you only need to see one powerful scene to get what you can out of the movie, and it's not worth the price of admission for that one scene. Doctor Strange had such potential, yet was wasted with one of the most banal of stories that looks to copy the first of Marvel's successes, a perfect representation of the Marvel Studios we have today. My, how the great have fallen.
It's no secret that Miyazaki will go down in history as one of the legendary minds behind some of the greatest animated features of all time. Works like How'ls Moving Castle, My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, and Princess Mononoke have shaped childhoods, changed lives, and altered how audiences see the world, creating engaging and diverse narratives to explore, as well as ourselves. So after Miyazaki announced...(more)
It's no secret that Miyazaki will go down in history as one of the legendary minds behind some of the greatest animated features of all time. Works like How'ls Moving Castle, My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, and Princess Mononoke have shaped childhoods, changed lives, and altered how audiences see the world, creating engaging and diverse narratives to explore, as well as ourselves. So after Miyazaki announced his retirement... again, fans were forced to wonder what the fate of Studio Ghibli would be and if the films that came after would be any good. And while I have found myself engaging with at least one such work, From Up on Poppy Hill, Marnie and Me lacks anything that makes a Studio Ghibli film magical, investing, or genuinely emotional, stripping away the features most would deem are essential to the Ghibli experience.
The movie features a young orphan named Anna who feels lost and misunderstood in a world that makes no time for her. On top of this, she is sent away by her adoptive mother and doctor to get better by living out a summer in the countryside with some distant relatives. While she struggles to interact with those people in the real world, Anna stumbles upon a mysterious girl who appears in the evenings by a supposedly abandoned house. The two quickly grow a bond, with Marnie, the mysterious girl, pushing Anna to live more fully and try to appreciate life.
While on paper this may seem like a great topic to tackle, especially for films of this nature, it's done with no grace or sincerity, feeling rather hamfisted and unimaginative. This issue largely stems from the fact that the movie is building to a reveal so obvious I couldn't help but make the prediction a half hour into the movie. Once all the pieces are in motion, it's hard not to see where the plot is headed, and it makes much of the story feel tedious to watch. Neither Anna or Marnie are given anything interesting to say or do, with the performances never giving us female leads to engage with. Marnie in particular feels rather lifeless, with her lines having little impact, while Anna, a character who is supposed to be evolving, hardly changes except when the plot requires. By and large she's a very kind girl, but in one scene she lashes out at someone in a rather aggressive manner, an instance that, once kind of resolved, never appears again.
Similarly, none of the side characters appear long enough to make any lasting impressions either, devoid of the usual charms a Ghibli film offers. A few recurring townsfolk show up here and there, an obnoxious little girl crops up about halfway through the film, and the relatives Anna lives with are quickly shuffled off once introduced.
The art looks beautiful, per usual, but that's to be expected from a studio with such consistent visual promise, much like how it's hard to imagine a Pixar movie looking bad, even if it isn't a wholly good film. the problem, however, comes from the locales featured. While Howl's Moving Castle has the ever-morphing behemoth to explore and enchant us, and while Spirited Away had the giant bath house with all its colorful characters, the countryside Anna stays in is less than interesting, with few buildings or locations offering anything interesting. And yes, those films I just mentioned are magical in nature, but even From Up On Poppy Hill provides us with a world set in reality that's colorful, interesting, out of the norm, and exciting to explore. Here, we get a festival and a party on two different occasions, sure, but they hardly provide anything interesting from a story perspective, and otherwise the world we explore feels bland.
There isn't much more I have to say about the film. I was so bored by the film that myself and those watching with me couldn't help but groan as the scenes dragged on, shouting at the movie over false performances, shoddy and hackneyed plot points, and the general tedium of reaching a big reveal that comes across as a whimper. Don't waste your time on this one, and pray that Studio Ghibli's next doesn't follow such a terrible trend.
Zootopia is just the most recent in a line of overhyped Disney Animation flicks that deliver very little beyond stereotypical and frustratingly dull narratives. What really makes this one stand out, though, is its overreliance on pop culture references and preaching a handful of morals in ways that, in my opinion, don't entirely work. Couple that with jokes that don't land and awkward pacing, and you've got a...(more)
Zootopia is just the most recent in a line of overhyped Disney Animation flicks that deliver very little beyond stereotypical and frustratingly dull narratives. What really makes this one stand out, though, is its overreliance on pop culture references and preaching a handful of morals in ways that, in my opinion, don't entirely work. Couple that with jokes that don't land and awkward pacing, and you've got a recipe for one of the more disappointing offerings Disney has shelled out in some time.
Zootopia is the story of Judy Hopps, voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin, a rabbit with dreams of becoming the first non-predatorial police officer. When achieving that goal over the course of the first ten minutes of the flick, she soon discovers that the experience isn't quite what she imagined. Despite this, she quickly is embroiled in a kidnapping case, with her only lead being the sly fox Nick Wilde, portrayed by Jason Bateman.
The plot itself is very basic, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but has some serious issues with pacing. The story keeps trying to jerk viewers' focuses to a variety of topics as it sees fit, depending on the moral it's trying to teach, resulting in a film that feels uncertain of itself. Goals for our characters are established, only to be remedied much sooner than expected, leaving large chunks of the film where the movie has to build up to another goal to reach. And while we do focus on the mystery at hand for some time, it's a very linear method of presenting the landscape of the world rather than telling an appealing story. We meet the sloths that have been used as trailer-bait for some time, we visit a treetop vista, and run into a possum Godfather.
And yes, I do mean capital-G Godfather. This movie shamelessly rips off other works in the form of references, and while a good handful of these can be attributed to other Disney/Pixar films, even ones that haven't been released yet, it leaves you wishing you were watching a better film, one with its own identity. There's even a character who is literally Shakira, but an antelope, who is constantly pandered and forced on viewers randomly, like some confusing brand deal, all with a completely unnecessary music video in the credits of the film. If a movie consistently reminds you of other, better movies, it often means it's not good enough to stand on its own, which is certainly the case here.
The characters are fairly one-dimensional, mostly to have quirky animals pop in and out of scenes to keep the young ones entertained. None of them have much substance to them and are generally forgettable, that is beyond the awful Godfather knock-off. A majority of the side characters appear for about seven minutes, enough to have a scene, act weird or goofy in some manner, and give our leads what info they're searching for in that moment. Even our leads are less than appealing, as their demeanors can flip on a dime when the plot calls for it, especially Wilde.
This has a lot to do with one of the key morals the story tries to present; equality and fighting against stereotypes pushed on oneself. This, of course, is a very good thing to teach kids, but it's done so in a rather problematic and unrefined way. We only ever really see this issue crop up in regards to our leads. Sure, it plays a major role in the plot later in the film, but we're never shown the effects of it on the world outside of a few very brief glimpses. The story wants us to see Wilde and Hopps at the forefront, making this whole issue apply only to them, a method that greatly hurts the effectiveness of the moral at hand. On top of this, characters become very forgiving of what the film creates as slurs when the film needs our leads to band together, or very unforgiving when they need to be broken up. It feels manufactured, with none of the emotions earnestly hitting home outside of a couple of flashbacks Hopps and Wilde experiences. The hamfisted nature is difficult enough to navigate, but due to the film having you look in a number of directions, it causes all of the effort to feel for naught, with few kids I've talked to about the film taking away anything but a flashy character here or there.
On top of all this, the movie feels incredibly sexual for what it is. There are some clear pandering to the furry demographic through this movie, with a nudist cult, the aforementioned Shakira, and some overtly gay or sexually evocative characters that force this somewhat odd and off-putting vibe forward. While there's nothing wrong with having certain kinks or what have you, this is certainly not the place to be pushing them forward, as it causes the movie to suffer due to the inclusion.
All in all, this movie is not funny despite being a comedy, fails to convey its morals despite being a kids film, is overly sexual despite being a PG film, fails to appeal to adult and kid audiences despite being a Dinsey film (something these movies often boast), doesn't have its own identity due to pandering and references, and presents nothing novel or engaging from a plot perspective. It looks nice, but so does any Disney Animation movie these days. It sounds fine, but isn't memorable, though I can hardly blame the score for that. Your kids will likely enjoy it for now, but this isn't a movie that will last like some of the Disney classics of yesteryear, as those were made to be timeless whereas this is clearly a product of the here and now. And in all likelihood, that's where it will stay.
Back in 2006, shortly after my family visited the Museum of Natural History, we decided it'd be fun to go and see this film. Even at the time, when I was 13, it was a pretty dull experience, but now, looking back, it's clear why this film doesn't work as a children's movie.
More or less, the plot boils down to that Ben Stiller sucks at life and needs to impress his son in some capacity to show him he's not as...(more)
Back in 2006, shortly after my family visited the Museum of Natural History, we decided it'd be fun to go and see this film. Even at the time, when I was 13, it was a pretty dull experience, but now, looking back, it's clear why this film doesn't work as a children's movie.
More or less, the plot boils down to that Ben Stiller sucks at life and needs to impress his son in some capacity to show him he's not as terrible at things as everyone else thinks. So, he decides to take on the position of a the nigh guard of the Museum of Natural History. Yet, at night everything comes to life, and... wacky things ensure, I guess? It's a pretty thin premise, but it's a kid movie, and thus moderately forgivable. Don't get me wrong, children's films can have reasonable ideas backing it; look at any of the early Pixar films (before the plague of sequels). But some films can still recover from this when aimed at such a young audience. That can also account for the one-dimensional characters, cliched plot, and the general pace of the movie; again, this isn't okay, but it can still be a moderately okay movie for that's still teaching kids about the art of story-telling and film.
But, what makes this so much more difficult to stomach is what else it tries to teach kids, specially about history. Attila the Hun, the Easter Island statues, and Roosevelt are all present here, and it's clear that the movie wants to teach us about these people as Ben Stiller's character begins to develop better understandings of them. But this results in a lot of misconceptions of who these people were; Attila becomes a lovable guy looking for hugs, the T-rex skeleton acts like a dog, Roosevelt is in love with Sacajawea, and Jedeiah has a Napoleon complex (mainly because he's a miniature figure). Also, as mentioned above, they're one dimensional, not acting like real people, and thus gives a further skewed perspective. It goes against one of the main themes the film presents to you, making it an even further lack-luster story.
It also doesn't help that the whole movie occurs in the one building; yes, a couple scenes take place immediately outside the museum or in his apartment, but, for a at least 80% of the movie, we're stuck in the same building, seeing the same places repeatedly. Yeah, it's a big building, but there's an air of saminess, making everything feel even more repetitious than prior.
And then there's the "comedy," which boils down to Ben Stiller hurting himself. I get that this is what connects to kids well in terms of humor, but it's so overdone here, and it feels so fake that it can hardly be considered funny. This is mostly caused by the fact that Ben's being knocked over or tied down by CGI characters, causing Stiller's acting to suffer even more than it usually does. It's very forced and disinteresting, immediately losing most adult audiences, and perhaps some kids too.
This is just a really poorly thought out and written film that, though minimally charming at first glance, doesn't deliver a satisfying experience for anyone involved.