I don’t know why but this wasn’t one of the Disney flicks that I liked a lot as a kid, which doesn’t make sense as it has pirates, Native Americans, sword fights and flying, all of which would have won me over.
I think the problem is that even as a kid the main character kinda annoyed me. Peter’s a self centred braggart and for me the idea of never growing up held no appeal. As a kid you can’t do a bunch of stuff which adults can, I wanted to be a grown up. It was only years later that I find myself wishing I could stay away from adult responsibility. I must have seen it as a kid but it never wowed me.
Watching it as an adult, Peter (Bobby Driscoll) still irritates me, but I think that might be the point? That growing up is kinda important and staying as a child would be daft?
There’s another aspect of this that I don’t think I picked up with, in that I actually feel sorry for Captain Hook (Hans Conried). I mean, sure, he’s a villain and he tries to make them walk the plank, but the poor dude lost his hand and is now a frazzled mess, reduced to a jibbering wreck whenever the crocodile that swallowed his hand is nearby.
Incidentally, this is one of my favourite parts of the film, the way the ticking arrives and the croc’s eyes move with each sound. It’s wonderfully done, and the croc is shown to be quite a malicious beastie, gleefully awaiting Hook to fall into his jaws.
Back to Hook, he’s actually quite a good villain, with a clear motivation and some smart plans (he plays Tinkerbell like a fiddle), and there’s quite a lot of humour from the inept crew he is surrounded by.
This film actually made me laugh quite a few times, and there are some very funny moments and the action is quite good too. The plot moves along at a decent pace that just about covers up the flaws.
The flaws are numerous, with Peter’s obnoxious nature being just one- almost all the female characters are shown at varying times to be either stupid, jealous or vindictive. Wendy, Tinkerbell and the mermaids all seem besotted with Pete, and react badly when he shows interest in someone else.
And the representation of the Indians on the island is horrible to watch. All the braves have giant noses and deep red skins, talking like cliches. You may say it was a different time, but watching it in this time it’s not pleasant.
One thing I had forgotten was just how angry and sassy Tinkerbell was. In the more recent films featuring the character she’s shown as a heroic, nice character but here she’s quite nasty. She’s madly jealous of Wendy and Peter’s interest in her, to the extent that she tries to kill the poor girl and rats out the Lost Boys’ hideout to Hook. I have to say she’s one of the more memorable characters thanks in part to the great animation which captures her mannerisms and quickly shifting moods.
When it works, this is great fun, and the times it stumbles are fairly brief, and you can ignore most of them if you go with the movie.
It’s a fun adventure story but the ending baffles me. Was it all a dream? If yes, then how did Wendy’s dad have the same dream? If it wasn’t a dream does that mean he was a Lost Boy who chose to leave? It makes no sense!
Disney Score: 6/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to. BETEO.
I’m going to be upfront with you, I’ve never been overly fussed with Lewis Carroll’s creation and none of the versions I’ve seen have won me over. I think it’s because there’s a sense of self conscious, deliberate, quirky weirdness to the whole thing. It’s clearly a matter of taste as this is one of MWF’s favourite Disney movies, whereas in the Page house it was one of the ones which got taken off the shelf less often.
For the unfamiliar, the story follows a young girl named Alice (Kathryn Beaumont) who winds up in a weird place called wonderland filled with unusual characters and creatures, where the rules of logic and sense don’t apply. The plot is kinda hard to nail down as it’s less of an overall story and more just a series of episodes as Alice goes along bumping into different characters.
It’s not without any charm and some of the visuals are quite striking and interesting in their psychedelic weirdness. There are some nice little touches along the way such as how the different flowers are portrayed and the whole size-shifting aspect is used rather well. I also like the croquet sequence with the Queen of Hearts, who falls somewhere between unpredictably scary and ridiculous, which seems the best way to approach the character.
The “Very Merry Unbirthday” song is quite catchy, and the weirdness plays better in animated form, because at least you can’t see the actors trying their damndest to be “mad” (yes, I am talking to you, Mr. Depp). But some of it still feels like it’s trying to hard and some aspects like the Dodo don’t work for me. It feels like too many ideas were being thrown around and a lot more could have been dumped to make the film flow better.
It’s not a terrible movie at any rate, but with Alice being a bit annoying and it all feeling rather fragmented, it’s not the most satisfying either. I mean, it uses the “it was all a dream” ending that we were told to avoid at GCSE!
That being said, it’s probably my favourite film version of the story.
Disney Score: 5/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
Finally, Disney get their groove back returning to familiar territory with a feature length single story fairytale. The film introduces the second of the Disney Princesses and is a delightful movie.
The story should be familiar but a quick recap- after the death of her father Cinderella (Helene Stanley) has to live with her evil stepmother Lady Tremaine (Eleanor Audley) and her two ugly stepsisters Drizella and Anastasia. They treat Cinderella as a servant, making her do all the work and living in a tiny attic while they spend all of her dad’s cash.
But one day the King (Luis Van Rooten), eager to marry off his son arranges a ball, to which all the women of the country are invited. Lady Tremaine says that Cinderella can go but only if she completes her chores and finds an appropriate dress. Too busy to mend a gown that belonged to her mother Cinderella is aided by her animal friends and shall go to the ball. But Lady Tremaine and the sisters realise she has used stuff they rejected. They tear the dress to shreds in a scene which is genuinely upsetting. It’s just so bloody mean, those jerks!
Luckily, Cinderella’s fairy godmother arrives and magics her a fancy dress. She also makes a carriage for her from a pumpkin and footmen and horses from the animals around. The catch? At midnight it all goes back to normal.
Cinders hits the ball and dances with the Prince who is smitten with her. Unfortunately it reaches midnight and she has to make a run for it, on the way losing one of her glass slippers.
The King sends out a Grand Duke (voiced by the same actor as the King) to see who fits the shoe. Lady Tremaine wants one of her daughters to win the prince, and realising that it was Cinderella at the ball locks her in the attic. Fortunately, her animal friends manage to slip her a key and she proves she was the mysterious girl. She marries the Prince and they live happily ever after.
I’m not getting into a discussion of the story’s attitude towards gender roles or how it altered the traditional story, arguments which have been flogged to death. Instead let’s just have a look how this holds up as a film.
And it works. The music is solid, especially “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” which is insanely catchy, seriously, it’ll rattle around in your head for a good while after the credits roll. The art style is a little dated, but in places genuinely gorgeous and the character work is superb.
Cinderella has a simple, elegant beauty and the stepsisters are ugly without it being overdone. The King is a Disney staple- short, rotund, bearded and bald, and the Prince is rather dull. The success comes in Lady Tremaine, voiced by the same actress who would go on to voice Maleficent, is superb. A detestable villain who is petty and cruel to her stepdaughter.
The most charming characters are the animals, particularly the chubby, dimwitted mouse Gus and the more courageous Jaq. They provide comic relief and help Cinderella out along the way, and are rather entertaining.
Also stealing the show is Lady Tremaine’s cat Lucifer. Proving that nominative determinism exists, he is properly evil, tormenting the mice and going out of his way to make life difficult for the heroine. The scenes with him and the mice, pad out the rather simple story and provide some action along the way.
The whole thing is very simply done and sweet, with the familiar story retold in a charming manner. It might have dated in the style or the way a female heroine is portrayed (Cinderella is never really mistress of her own destiny), but it’s a gem of a movie and easy to see why it still captivates young audiences to this day.
Following the underwhelming run they had delivered before this is a major return to form for Disney and a film which still stands up. I thoroughly enjoyed it and am glad to be out of the wilderness and into Disney’s Silver Age.
Disney Score: 7/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
Another compilation movie, which like Make Mine Music uses popular music as the driving force behind many of the sections. And again, the results are a mixed bag.
These package movies were later cut up and distributed in different ways and the opener “Once Upon a Wintertime” must have appeared on a Christmas video because I’d seen it before. The short is rather quaint, dealing with a young couple who go skating on a frozen pond and there’s a nice touch in having the young lovers followed and copied by a pair of lovestruck bunnies.
It’s all cutesy stuff, but not without its charms and there’s a little bit of action as tragedy almost befalls them thanks to some thin ice and a waterfall. It’s decent enough, and in the context of this movie one of the high points.
The low comes courtesy of a section called “Trees” which is instantly forgettable. Another duff entry is the story of Johnny Appleseed, who is apparently an American folk hero. Why is hard to see from this offering as the story seems to be that this fella went and grew apples in the West. That’s it. I’m sure the real story has more to it, but here it’s all rather dull.
Johnny goes West, befriends the critters, plants the trees and these help the westward expansion of America. I don’t want to get too political here, but even for a kids’ movie this dumbs down the pioneer years and we see Native Americans briefly at a festival where they celebrate apples, everyone is happy with the new status quo. Most worryingly is a kind of manifest destiny vibe where Johnny’s guardian angel tells him to go West to help the frontiersmen, as if the whole thing is divinely mandated.
The musical accompaniment is alright, but the story is rather uninvolving. Slightly more entertaining is “Blame it on the Samba” which reunites Donald Duck and Jose Carioca for the third time. This upbeat number is quite fun and the visuals, featuring the cartoon characters interacting with live action organ player Ethel Smith. The problem is there doesn’t seem to be a story or much of a point, and it’s just a nice upbeat part.
Similarly “Bumble Boogie”, which presents a jazzy update of “Flight of the Bumblebee” is quite fun. It’s got a surreal vibe and the marriage of music and visuals is well done, with the musical instruments morphing into flowers and other things which the bee hero navigates his way through.
The remaining two sections have clearer stories and the first of these, “Little Toot” sung by the Andrews Sisters is quite good fun, dealing with a young tugboat who wants to be like his dad but only succeeds in causing trouble before coming good.
The last section, and the one which closes the film, is the story of Western folk legend Pecos Bill and is narrated by Roy Rogers. It’s got some nice moments, mainly from the hyperbolic exploits of the hero, who lassos a tornado and uses lightning to light a cigarette. There’s a goofy spirit to the proceedings and it’s probably the most fun of the sections, and the story is well done. The visuals are reminiscent of the madcap Looney Tunes style and it has an energy which is lacking elsewhere.
Again the wilderness period throws up another package film, and this one has more misses than hits. While the art is solid throughout, and the marriage of live action and animation is slicker here, it still feels lacklustre and too much seems to be included to bump up the running time.
I can’t wait to get back to proper feature length stories, oh well, at least the end of the wilderness period is in sight now.
Disney Score: 3/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
This movie is essentially a double feature of shorter stories, and both parts are pretty decent, if flawed.
The linking device is Jiminy Cricket (Cliff Edwards), who sets up both stories. Firstly he arrives in a playroom where he plays a record which plays music by Dinah Shore that serves as narration for the first part.
This deals with the story of Bongo, a circus bear who fed up of his “gilded cage” escapes and winds up living in the woods. He struggles to adapt at first but soon finds his feet and falls for Lulubelle.
Unfortunately, having been raised in the circus he has no idea of bear courtship rituals which apparently involve slapping each other, and he is hurt when Lulubelle strikes him. Lulubelle then gets grabbed by the hulking, bullying Lumpjaw. When Bongo realises his mistake he runs back to Lulubelle and fights off his rival.
I kinda dug this part because the story is quite well done and the action is madcap and fun. There’s also a marvellously surreal sequence as Bongo and Lulubelle fall in love, which is rather trippy. I also like that as with Dumbo the film is pretty hard on how circuses treat animals, which is quite ahead of it’s time. There are a few parts when it drags a little and the song isn’t particularly catchy, but it still mostly works.
Jiminy then finds a invitation to a party and goes to it. Here he arrives at the weirdest party ever. I get that this film comes from a more innocent era, but for a modern viewer it’s kinda weird that a grown man throws a party for a little girl which is only attended by her and his two ventriloquist dummies. I guess that in the context of the film the ventriloquist dummies are meant to be real characters, but it still feels odd. Why not throw in another couple of kids?
Also, ventriloquist dummies are creepy as hell anyway, but one of them in particular, Mortimer, will haunt my dreams.
The ventriloquist, Edgar Bergen, then narrates the story of “Mickey and the Beanstalk”, with the dummies throwing in gags along the way. Some of these gags actually work, and the dummy Charlie offers sarky commentary and postmodern nods to the story. The story is of course Jack and the Beanstalk but with Mickey in the role, accompanied by Goofy and Donald.
It’s worth mentioning that this movie would be the last feature length outing for Mickey where Walt himself provided the voice.
The story is familiar and told with a few changes, Happy Valley is suffering because the Golden Harp has been stolen, and when they grow the beanstalk they find it in the possession of the giant. It’s an okay story, but it goes on a bit long and sags in the middle.
There are a few moments where it works, such as when Donald, mad with hunger, tries to kill the farm’s cow, which the little girl is appalled by. And Donald is the most entertaining as the barely controlled ball of rage.
Mickey and Goofy are their usual selves and the story is told well enough. The ending where Willie the Giant is shown to have survived is a cop out and a daft flourish the movie doesn’t need.
The two part structure actually works, with both stories having enough room unlike in the previous episodic movies. But it doesn’t feel like a complete film and the presence of the creepy dummies hurt it a lot in my view.
Disney Score: 5/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
We’re still deep in the wilderness years for this one, which is kinda like a pop music version of Fantasia, with this being a series of animated pieces to music. The problem is that in terms of art and music it can’t match the earlier effort. This is understandable as this was made during the Second World War and many of Walt’s men were overseas or making propaganda. Feature length animation had stopped being a priority and like Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros, this is a package affair.
While those were linked by themes of location, here it’s a much more muddled effort and as such the segments are rather hit and miss. As a kid I must have seen some of this as I remember the “The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met”, the final part and this is one of the stronger, telling a complete story which uses music well and is quite funny.
Aside from this it all felt new to me. Some pieces like “After You’ve Gone”, “Two Silhouettes” and “Blue Bayou” are incredibly forgettable, and I’d struggle to give many details on any of them, despite having watched it a few hours before writing this.
These are the more serious parts and they all fall flat, with the comedic entries having to carry the film and even here they drop the ball. “Casey at the Bat” a reading of a poem about a cocky baseball player coming a cropper is quite fun, but goes on a bit.
“Peter and the Wolf” is the closest this gets to classical and it’s a well done piece, with the different instruments working well and the cartoon style in bringing the characters alive is charming, even if the ending is a cop out.
The hillbilly star crossed lovers who turn up in “The Martins and the Coys” are quite good fun too, even though it is a bit weird to see a bloody turf war turned into comedy. Nonetheless, it’s got some nice touches and the ending where the loving couple fall out after marriage is a neat kicker to the story.
“Johnnie Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet” is sweet enough but rather dull, but the jazzy “All the Cats Join In” is a treat. Capturing the fun, fast paced life of a group of teenagers it’s cleverly animated with the artist’s pencil adding details as the story progresses. The dance scene is quite good fun, and the energy of the piece lifts the film, although any momentum is utterly lost in “Without You”, a mournful ballad of lost love.
All in all this is a frustrating watch with the changes in tone jarring and the lack of a through line to connect the pieces means it never feels like a movie and rather just a collection of shorts. And you wonder why they’ve been put together in this order.
Disney Score: 4/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
Long time readers will know that I’ve been doing the Disney Classics films in order, but I’m going to jump ahead to include this on my list of favourite movies.
This movie was Disney returning to their roots with a fairy tale inspired story rendered in traditional animation and introducing the latest Disney Princess. And it ticks a lot of boxes, boasting a quality soundtrack, a funny script, a great villain and an involving central story. On it’s own merits it would rank high on my Disney list but what makes it a personal favourite is a sentimental attachment.
This is the first movie that MWF and I watched together, before we were a couple and just friends. We’d hung out for the day chatting and then put this on as MWF insisted I had to see it. It would be a while after this that we got together, but the movie and the day we spent together when we watched it were when I started to genuinely fancy her.
The movie riffs on the traditional Frog Prince story, but gives it a clever twist. The old tale is retold in New Orleans, at the start by Eudora (voiced by Oprah Winfrey), a black seamstress to the daughter of her white boss and her own daughter, and the boss’ daughter dreams of meeting her prince. The seamstress’ daughter wants to run a restaurant with her father, but he reminds her that it takes hard work as well as wishing to get things done.
We then jump forward to the 1920s, and the seamstress’ daughter Tiana (Anika Noni Rose) is now a young woman, still chasing her dream of the restaurant by working two jobs and saving every penny she can. Her social life suffers and her mother worries that she is failing to enjoy her life and is working too hard. An opportunity to get the money needed for the building she wants for the restaurant arises when her old friend Charlotte (Jennifer Cody) offers her a catering job as her wealthy father is hosting a big party.
Charlotte, still obsessed with landing her prince is excited as the party is hosting Prince Naveen, a handsome, suave young man.
Naveen (Bruno Campos) is a bit of a playboy and used to having money, although his parents have now cut him off. Arriving in New Orleans with his valet Lawrence (Peter Bartlett) he wants to live the high life but Lawrence reminds him he needs to settle down and get married if he wants to get back on the gravy train.
Naveen and Lawrence meet Doctor Facilier (Keith David), a voodoo witch doctor who reads their fortune and then tricks them into a bargain. His magic transforms Lawrence into Naveen, while Naveen becomes a frog who they lock away. Facilier plans for Lawrence to marry Charlotte, after which he will kill her father Big Daddy (John Goodman) and get his fortune and influence.
Naveen escapes and at the party meets Tiana, who has just been told her bid for the building has been rejected. Inspired by the story he tells Tiana she needs to kiss him, thinking she is a princess. She is reluctant to do until he promises to give her the money for her restaurant. When they kiss, however, it is Tiana who is transformed, becoming a frog as well.
Naveen realises that Tiana, despite her costume, is not a princess and that’s why it didn’t work. She in turn learns that he is broke. Both then get lost in the swamps and must try to find their way back in order to stop Facilier’s plan and return to their human form. Along the way they are assisted by Louis (Michael-Leon Wooley) a trumpet playing alligator who dreams of playing Jazz and Ray (Jim Cummings), a cajun firefly. They are led to meet voodoo queen Mama Odie (Jennifer Lewis) who they hope can help them.
The movie works because it’s got bucketloads of charm and a host of cool characters. And unlike a lot of Disney movies the leads are among the best characters on show here, with both Tiana and Naveen being very likeable. Their dynamic works brilliantly with the strait laced Tiana clashing with the laidback, pampered Naveen. Naveen oozes suave charm throughout and his carefree approach to life is fun, although he comes to learn that some things require work and that sometimes sacrifice is needed. In the same way he helps Tiana loosen up and realise that there are more important things than work and success.
Tiana is one of the better Princess heroines, as she’s shown to be smart, tough and hard working throughout. While she may need her priorities sorting out she is still a great heroine, being very proactive and swinging into action when needs be. She’s a very modern princess and works well, telling the audience that it isn’t enough to wait for good things to happen, you have to go out and make them happen.
The supporting cast are great, particularly Ray and Louis their guides in the swamp. Louis’ stupidity is endearing and his bizarre dream works well, and Ray is just flat out brilliant. With his bayou accent and spirit he is more than just comic relief and serves to educate the leads as to what love is about.
And Tiana’s loud, brassy friend Charlotte is a great character, full of life and chattering constantly she could easily be a simply ridiculous character, but the script gives her a chance to show greater depths of friendship, decency and kindness. All of this without diluting her over the top character.
Of course, all the best Disney movies have a great villain and here the film scores a big win with the sneaky, smooth talking Doctor Facilier, wonderfully voiced by Keith David. During his songs and speeches he delivers funny asides and is shown to be a smart, scheming foe. Distinctly creepy at times, it also works because Facilier doesn’t have power in a real sense, having received his gifts as part of a deal with his “friends on the other side”. It means that he too is under the cosh and the dark forces are kept at the fringes although they do make menacing appearances, and his main skill is reading and exploiting people’s weaknesses.
The plot flows well and the development works, with the relationship feeling real and the turns making sense. There’s also a gut punch in the final act which continues a Disney trend of actually sneaking in some dark moments into what people dismiss as cheesy and cheery kids films. Even as a grown man it left me with a lump in the throat.
Of course, it all ends well, and the ending is satisfying. It’s a very rewatchable flick and the music, influenced by the New Orleans setting is filled with some crackers, especially the villain song and Ray’s ode to his distant love Evangeline.
Fun, charming and well done this is one of my favourite movies and high on the list of my favourite Disney movies too.
Disney Score: 8/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
I was a massive fan of The Lego Movie and one of the many good things about it was the treatment of Batman (Will Arnett), who they transformed into a cocky, self absorbed show off. When it was announced that he’d be getting a solo run out, it instantly joined the list of movies I was looking forward to and yesterday MWF and I went along with a friend to check it out.
The film kicks off with the Joker (Zach Galifianakis) leading a team of Gotham’s villains in a daring attempt to seize control of the city by threatening with a gigantic bomb. Unfortunately for the Clown Prince of Crime, Batman arrives just in time and makes short work of his associates. As the duo face off the Joker is hurt to discover that Batman doesn’t regard him as special or his archenemy, announcing he doesn’t care.
Batman saves the day and all is good, however, it is revealed that when he returns to Wayne Manor he is lonely and bored. His trusty butler Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) is concerned that he has no life beyond Batman, but he refuses to acknowledge this. Bruce—0s0A\\\ attends the retirement party of Jim Gordon, where his replacement is to be announced. The replacement is Jim’s daughter, Barbara (Rosario Dawson), who Bruce is attracted to. Distracted by Barbara’s beauty Bruce agrees to adopt nerdy orphan Dick Grayson (Michael Cera).
Barbara announces a bold new plan for Gotham and her desire for Batman to work with the police, and highlighting that despite his efforts Gotham is still the worst city for crime. Joker and Co. attack but Joker then surrenders, much to the suspicion of Batman and Barbara. Joker and the other villains are imprisoned, and the city celebrates.
With nothing to do Batman is bored and sad, resisting Alfred’s urging to spend time with Dick and act as his father figure. Batman continues to spy on Joker and decides that the only way to be safe is to send Joker to the Phantom Zone, where the universe’s worst villains are imprisoned. Recruiting Dick as his sidekick, and giving him an old colourful costume the duo steal a device to send people to the Phantom Zone from Superman (Channing Tatum), who Batman discovers is throwing a party for all the superheroes that he was not invited to.
They send Joker to the Phantom Zone, but Barbara imprisons them. Unfortunately, this has played into the Joker’s plans and he breaks out with several other villains to get revenge on Batman and Gotham.
Batman reluctantly agrees to allow Barbara, Dick and Alfred to help him, but can they triumph and can he resist his urge to go it alone? And will he be able to admit to himself that his insistence on working alone comes from his fear of losing people again?
This is an incredibly daft and fun movie which works because of the central character, with Batman continuing to be a swaggering, boastful jerk who has to face up to his failings and feelings. It’s a big twist on the traditional way the Dark Knight is portrayed and the egomaniac is hugely entertaining, especially when he is repeatedly outwitted or out of his depth.
This happens often with Barbara who is a clever, confident woman who has his number from the jump and provides sensible advice he routinely ignores. As the movie unfolds he is forced to accept that teamwork is key and slowly acknowledges the help the others provide him with.
The other supporting players work well, especially the irritatingly cheery Dick Grayson who slowly breaks down Batman’s stern exterior.
The storyline of the Joker’s rejection and his relationship with Batman is quite well done, playing it as almost a warped romance, with Joker believing it was a deeper connection and Batman brushing it off saying that he “likes to fight around”. The Joker’s plan is pretty clever and allows a whole host of cameos from different villains in the final act, with King Kong, Voldemort, Daleks, Gremlins and the Wicked Witch of the West among others.
The action is fact paced and largely comical, with characters making the sounds of the guns they use and the Lego world allowing for inventive chaos. Batman, as a master builder, continues to build massive, crazy contraptions and visually it is stunning.
It’s also a delight for geeks as it’s rammed with little gags and references. The beginning and end poke fun at the seriousness of some superhero movies, and there are nods to the many different incarnations of the characters (including a brief clip of Adam West in action). The Joker’s posse includes a host of Gotham’s villains including lesser, dafter enemies and there are nods to the comic book conventions, especially how inept the Gotham police are and one hostage’s relaxed response to being confronted by the Joker. It’s quite clever and funny, but I did wonder how well it would play for kids as a lot of it is very ironic and pokes fun at the character and the world.
Plot wise it’s quite straight forward, and the issues of teamwork, family and Batman accepting help from others and letting people in hardly groundbreaking. It’s not quite as good as The Lego Movie in terms of sheer manic energy, but it’s still a very solid comedy adventure and keeps moving at a decent pace. But it feels like this is a good place to leave the block Batman, as any more would overplay the joke.
Verdict: Consistently funny and loaded with injokes, this is an extremely entertaining movie. Daft in places it, it works well as a fast paced romp. 8/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
Warning! Spoilers ahead!
Despite the success of adult orientated animation on the small screen, Hollywood has been less ready to dip it’s toe into feature length animation geared for grown ups. There have been a few attempts, but a 15 rated animated film is still a rarity. The trailers looked fun so MWF and I joined a friend and went to check out Sausage Party.
This, co-written by star Seth Rogen starts off with a simple, Pixar like premise “what if food in the supermarket had feelings” but then takes it in a far more darker direction. All the produce view humans as their gods and dream of being chosen to go to the “great beyond” outside their home in Shopwell’s supermarket.
Hot dog Frank (Rogen) and bun Brenda (Kristen Wiig) develop an attraction and want to be together, hoping to be getting selected together. The relationship between dogs and buns is leant a sexual element.
In the run up to Independence Day a jar of Honey Mustard (Danny McBride) is returned and appears traumatised by what he saw on the outside, ranting that the “gods” are evil. When he is chosen again, alongside Frank and Brenda, he freaks out and tries to kill himself. Frank leaves his packaging to save him, followed by Brenda. In the confusion that follows both fall from the trolley, along with other products who are damaged in the chaos.
Lost in the store they try to get home although Frank is troubled by what Honey Mustard saidand begins questioning what is really going on. One of the other products that fell from the cart is Douche (Nick Kroll) an obnoxious feminine hygiene product (obviously) who blames Frank for his being discarded and damaged. Seeking revenge he begins drinking other products becoming stronger as a result.
Meanwhile, Frank’s friends Carl (Jonah Hill) and Barry (Michael Cera) have been taken home and witness the other products being cooked and eaten, horrified by what they see. Barry escapes and decides to head back to the store where things were better.
Can Barry get back? Will Frank work out what really happens in the great beyond? And if he does how will he change things?
As the premise tells you this is an incredibly silly film, and rather stupid. The film keeps the jokes coming quick and fast, and I laughed a fair few times but it doesn’t quite work. While the premise is clever there’s not enough there for a full length movie, as a short it might work but here it’s laboured and some of the jokes are worked to death.
Take Brenda and Frank’s companions on their journey Sammy Bagel Jr (Edward Norton) and Lavash (David Krumholtz). Both are stereotypes, a Woody Allen-like Jew and an angry Arabic character. While the initial gag about the Israel style situation between the two is funny, it drags on far too long and the continuing stereotypes feel lazy and old fashioned.
There are some parts that work though. A running joke about puns is quite well done especially when they acknowledge how laboured some of them are. It’s also quite clever in the way that it cuts between the human view of the world which is drabber and the colourful world of the products where they have facial features and so on.
It’s also quite a funny sequence where a stoner (James Franco) pierces the veil between the two worlds while tripping.
There are some quite dark moments as the film unfolds particularly when the products declare war on the humans, and it’s kinda jarring. And the attempts to go for a deeper subtext of talking about faith, acceptance and finding what people have in common, but it never really goes deep into anything and most importantly the characters don’t engage you fully. Without forming a connection with the players it’s hard to care and leaves this as a series of vulgarity and OTT moments which after a while lose their charm.
While it delivers some laughs it feels kinda like a bunch of teenagers trying to be as shocking as possible, and while they probably enjoyed it’s very messy, particularly a food orgy at the end which goes on far too long. It’s self indulgent and could have done with some trimming, which for a film that doesn’t even reach an hour and a half is quite damning.
Most telling is that it’s a day later and I don’t remember a single line. It’s a pity as I usually like Rogen’s stuff and this boasts an impressive cast, but it all feels a bit of a waste.
Verdict: There are enough laughs along the way but it feels flat and self-indulgent. They obviously had fun making it, but it doesn’t quite translate and it loses it’s way. I laughed but it gets old doesn’t have a lasting impact. 5/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
I love the movie Finding Nemo which for me is right up there with The Incredibles and the Toy Story trilogy as the best work Pixar have done, so I was pretty stoked about a sequel, especially one that focused on Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres), the upbeat fish with short term memory loss.
Picking up a year after the original Dory is still living with Marlin and Nemo (Albert Brooks and Hayden Rolence respectively). One day she remembers something about her childhood and parents, and decides to go find them, aided by an excited Nemo and reluctant Marlin. They cross the ocean where they find the Marine Life Institute. Unfortunately they are separated when Dory is captured by humans.
Inside the institute, Dory begins to remember some things and is marked for transfer. Enlisting the aid of cranky octopus Hank (Ed O’Neill) who doesn’t want to be released back in the wild and agrees to help if he can get Dory’s tag which will help him be transferred. They begin searching the institute looking for clues.
Meanwhile, Marlin and Nemo must try to get in and find their friend. Along the way both are aided by different marine residents including two lazy sea lions, a shortsighted whale shark and a lonely clam.
Can Marlin and Nemo find Dory? Will Dory find her parents? And if she does which family will she live with?
I quite enjoyed this film which is fast paced and fun. The plot is simple but the Pixar team load it with some exciting sequences, colourful characters and plenty of emotion, but it falls short of the original. it lacks the scale of Marlin and Dory’s journey across the ocean or the heart of the Marlin and Nemo story.
That’s not to say this isn’t emotionally involving as they take the comical Dory and add depth, exploring the isolation and sadness that comes with her condition. It also shows us her family life which is incredibly sweet and features an unbelievably cute baby Dory.
This is the heart of the film, as is the theme of family, with Marlin and Nemo being driven to find the adopted Dory as she seeks out her biological family. The question of whether Dory will leave them is a major question and one we see the characters have to face with some reluctance.
The flashbacks are warm and sweet, and Dory’s fears and frustration about her loss and getting back are well done and moving. DeGeneres manages to make Dory engaging and likeable through her voice work and adds just the right wobble of uncertainty to the formerly cheery and charming character. It’s the same Dory audiences fell in love with, but with a slightly deeper insight.
The story moves along briskly and the action sequences have a chaotic, humourous tone which keeps the audience hooked and the laughs coming, as do a selection of new characters.
I laughed numerous times and it continues Pixar’s knack of layering jokes for adults into their family films. There are some nice running gags and Hank’s camouflage skills are used well throughout, and an OTT car chase is wonderful.
It’s gorgeous to look at and quite good fun but MWF and I both left with the feeling that this is a lesser Pixar work, good but with their ridiculous high standards a slight disappointment.
Verdict: Full of fun and with likeable characters, a simple, engaging plot. But it can never match the original and feels slightly lightweight in places. Good but not great. 7/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.