Tag Archives: animated movies

Meet The Robinsons

Lewis is abandoned by his mother on the steps of an orphanage. By the age of 12, he’s been through over a hundred adoption interviews with no luck, so he spends his time on inventions that never quite work out. One day his school science fair is interrupted by two interlopers: a weird dude in a bowler hat, and a kid named Wilbur who claims to be visiting from the future. It seems like a pretty dubious claim until his space ship whisks them away.

In the future, Lewis meets the Robinson family, a wacky bunch of people he bonds with instantly. Which is too bad, because for the good of the space-time continuum, he really will have to go back.

This movie feels like it was designed by committee if that committee was a classroom full of kindergarteners shouting out their most favouritest things: robots! dinosaurs! food fights! And Disney’s feeling generous enough to stuff the movie with every last ounce of feedback it received, no idea too outlandish or sporadic to include. A story can be weaved around them all, and it involves time travel and one genius kid with big ideas.

It’s not the best film that Disney has to offer, but it’s got rapid-fire visual gags and a riot of crazy ideas and eccentric characters brought to life by some vivid animation. And eventually it circles back on sweet themes, like family and imagination, things you might expect that Walt himself would have been proud his legacy continues to endorse.

Arctic Dogs

Swifty is an arctic fox. His cautious parents liked to dress him all in white to make sure that he always blended in with the arctic snow. Blending in is safe. Standing out is dangerous. But Swifty dreams of being seen. He’s tired of being invisible.

Unfortunately, the movie bigwigs have conspired against poor Swifty, hiring the blandest of the Avengers to voice him. That’s right: Jeremy Renner, who does not have a distinctive voice (some, meaning me, would argue he does not have a distinctive bone in his body). Not all actors can or should be reduced to just their voice: Christopher Walken for sure. Definitely Tiffany Haddish. Patton Oswalt. Sam Elliott. Maria Bamford. Not everyone can do it. If you’re hiring Jeremy Renner, you may as well hire Joe Blow, who’s a heck of a lot cheaper. Well, he’s somewhat cheaper. I can’t imagine Renner commands all that impressive of a salary. You might hire a well-known actor with a boring voice because you need a big name up on the marquis. Again, Renner isn’t exactly fitting the bill. If anyone, ANYONE, goes to the theatre especially for Renner, it’s not a kid who likes mediocre animated dog movies. But the people who made Arctic Dogs don’t cast movies based on “good reasons” or “talent” because Heidi Klum is also voicing a fox named Jade. I suppose it makes as much sense for an arctic fox to have a German accent as an American one, but nobody in the whole history of the world has accused Klum of having a face for radio. Or a voice. She has other assets, and they’re better appreciated in still photographs, or, I imagine, live in person, preferably rolling around on a white sand beach but let’s not be greedy.

Anyway, back to our pal Swifty who wants to be noticed and isn’t. He works in the arctic mail room, sorting packages but he dreams of being on the front lines where the Top Dogs, a team of husky couriers so well-known and respected they’re practically celebrities, are the ones making the deliveries. One day Swifty decides to make his big move, and he highjacks a sled to deliver a package to a secret location, perhaps persuading his curmudgeonly boss Magda (Anjelica Huston) that he’s up for the job.

Anyway, Renner turns out to be the perfect guy for the job because the movie turns out to be just as bland as the man. Had they hired, say, Robert Downey Jr. or Chris Hemsworth, we might have expected something good. Best to temper our expectations with a second (or third) tier celebrity and call it a day. The story and animation are just good enough to satisfy most little ones, but it has little else to recommend it and won’t be memorable for anyone. Is that a plus? Your kid won’t get obsessed with this movie and demand you rewatch it 14 dozen times: GUARANTEED.

The Angry Birds Movie 2

The people (birds) of Bird Island have been deeply engaged in an epic prank war with the people (pigs) of neighbouring Pig Island. But then an actual serious threat arrives from a third island, which has the pigs’ King Leonard (Bill Hader) calling for a truce so the two frenemy nations can discuss. Red (Jason Sudeikis), however, isn’t into truces. He’s the bird who gained popularity last movie when he saved the birds’ eggs from the evil green piggies. He’s afraid that a truce would make him irrelevant, and worse, unpopular.

But the threat is real, y’all. Purple-feathered tyrant Zeta (Leslie Jones) from Eagle Island is tired of living on the cold island. Birds and pigs are going to have to band together to overcome the threat together. Only problem: both Red and Leonard are reluctant to give up alpha status. Red is terrified if no longer being needed. But things are a little more complicated than the bill we’re being sold.

The movie hits all the cute notes the first one was known for: bright characters, great voices, zany antics. Plus pigs and flightless birds breaking out into dance almost constantly to crazy catchy pop songs. That’s literally all an animated film needs to be popular with kids. Angry Birds knows it. It’s undemanding, at times even unthinking, but it harnesses a charming chaotic energy that moves along so agreeably and so quickly you’ll hardly have time to think, let alone be bored. Fire! Ice! Lava injectors! Smells like bacon! Urinal hijinks and pigs in spandex: it doesn’t make a lot of sense but you wouldn’t be watching the sequel of a movie based on an app if you cared about logic in plot.

The voice talent is wonderful though it’s growing so exponentially it’s hard to give everyone their due. The animation seems to have leveled up since its last foray, if you bother to look past the garish colours and frenetic action. The sight gags are almost as frequent as the pop songs which means brainless or not, this movie is light-hearted fun.

And on a personal note, I get that Zeta is supposed to be the villain here, but as a Canadian living in my own wintry wasteland, I get you, girl. You just want to get some sun on your buns. But we could have avoided all this violence and mayhem if you did as Canadians do and buy a ticket to Mexico. Did I mention we’re going to Mexico next week? Feliz navidad, bitches.

The Lorax

Once upon a time, a lovely young woman named Jay flew first class. Yup, all those travels, and it was just the one time. I don’t even remember where we were going. What I do remember: 1. it was an early morning flight 2. the breakfast was good 3. I had a mimosa 4.The Lorax was playing 5. I almost immediately fell asleep and missed the whole thing. I think we got a pretty good deal on the upgrade but still, it was disappointing to have slept through all the luxury. Of course, it was probably only because of the luxury (read: space) that I could sleep. Still. I kicked myself. I kicked Sean too; he also slept, though it’s a less a rarity for him.

But all this time, I’ve wondered: is The Lorax boring, or did I just fall asleep because it was a 6am flight and I was incredibly tired?

The Lorax is based on a Dr. Seuss story in which a 12 year old boy, Ted (Zac Efron), decides to impress a girl, Audrey (Taylor Swift), by bringing her a tree. A real, live tree. Which no longer exist. They live in a place where the trees were replaced long ago by sculptures of plastic lit up by dozens of C batteries. Their whole town is utterly devoid of nature. They’ve been denuded. But Ted has a pretty big crush on this chick Audrey so he treks out to an isolated home where he meets the elderly Once-ler (Ed Helms), the one responsible for the world’s current problems. As a young man he was so determined to have his company succeed that he thought nothing of cutting down all the trees. He butted heads with the guardian of the forest, The Lorax (Danny DeVito), but he wouldn’t change his mind until it was too late. And the thing about too late is that it’s true to its name: too late.

Sean asked me how heavy-handed the environmentalism theme was, but I actually consider it to be more anti-capitalist than anything. The Onceler’s greed costs them everything. And yet this kid-friendly, animated family film is basically one long commercial, replete with product placement, basically neutering its message.

The animation is lovely. Illumination has done several Dr. Seuss adaptations at this point and they’re pretty adept at the translation. Their trees look like swirls of cotton candy. The town is fairly bursting with brilliant details. And yet once again this film has failed to truly grab me.

All I Want For Christmas Is You

Do you believe in love at first sight? Have you experienced it yourself? I do because I have – four times. That’s how many dogs I have, and that’s how it was each and every time. Two pieces of the same soul recognizing each other, and one of us being small enough to jump into the other’s arms. Now I have four little pieces of my heart running around my house and the factor by which they brighten and add to my life is practically immeasurable.

All I Want For Christmas Is You is a sweet little animated movie based on the very popular Mariah Carey Christmas song, the one that every radio station in the world plays ad-nauseum starting in November. In fact, this year, 25 years after its original release, it reached #1 on the billboards, giving her her 19th hit (only behind the Beatles, who have 20). That’s how popular the song is, and has remained, year after year for a quarter century. It’s the first holiday track to top the Hot 100 chart since The Chipmunk Song in 1958.

So who could blame her from trying to capitalize on it, just a little? Well, a little more. This movie is based on the children’s book she published earlier. It’s about a little girl named Mariah who desperately wants a puppy for Christmas, and has for years. Her parents always eschew the idea; apparently, her father is allergic. But this year she’s even more determined because she’s spotted the perfect specimen at her local pet store, a poo-chon she’s already named Princess, who will be the perfect accompaniment in the school’s charity doggie-daughter fashion show.

Instead her dad brings home Jack, a mangy mutt belonging to her uncle and in need of some pet-sitting over the holidays – a test of sorts. Jack is scruffy and wild and gets into lots of trouble, but little Mariah is the perfect caregiver, determined to earn Princess and prove herself worthy.

It’s not exactly a Christmas classic, but perhaps a nice little addition to your family viewing party, particularly if your family includes some of the four-legged variety.

I Lost My Body (J'ai perdu mon corps)

I forget sometimes that I speak French. Well, maybe not forget so much as don’t think about it. Much like I don’t specifically think about speaking English. I just do. If I hear or see French, my brain understands without me having to engage anything in particular. It’s just effortless. Growing up we spoke both at home, both at the same time, every sentence seasoned with both languages, choosing whichever words or expressions suited us most. So when I started watching this French film on Netflix, I listened without thinking, and since I was also doing work on my laptop, I didn’t even realize there were subtitles, and may not have consciously realized it was French until I glanced up and my brain shuddered: the subtitle had a mother calling her son “sweet pea” when in fact what she called him was a “soft caramel.” Soft caramel isn’t really a thing in English. I mean, it’s a thing you can eat, but it’s not a term of endearment. So the subtitles substituted for something that made more sense but wasn’t a direct translation. This happens all the time of course, sometimes with hilarious results, but when you’re understanding both at the same time, it can be a little jarring. I’m positive Netflix must have an option for turning off the captions but I’m also positive that about 4 minutes of bumbling through buttons netted no results.

So here I am, watching an animated movie with two tracks, basically: spoken French and written English, and the two are in basic agreement. It’s about a little boy named Naoufel who dreams of becoming a concert pianist and an astronaut. And about the same young man, grown up, who is a pizza delivery guy. Which I feel is supposed to be some sort of humbling come down, but what has an astronaut ever done for me? And yet the pizza guy routine brings joy, hot and cheesy, to my front door. My life would be worse without him. Anyway, Naoufel isn’t exactly the most exemplary of deliverymen, and one night when he’s struggling even more than usual, he just gives up, gives in, sits down in an apartment lobby talking to a woman on the intercom while he eats her undeliverable pizza. He falls in love and devises an elaborate scheme for stalking/wooing her.

Meanwhile, across town, a disembodied hand escapes from a laboratory fridge. The hand goes on an epic Parisian journey through the city’s gutters, fending off pigeons and rats. The hand is sad, I think.

Yeah, it’s weird. That might be the weirdest sentence I’ve ever written here. It’s damn weird to have a stalker love story be intercut by a dirty roaming hand. And all the dirty, greedy flies who follow it. And yet it is strangely beautiful, poetic, almost hypnotizing. The animation is soft, subtle. The story is intimate and sad, truly something unique and unforgettable.

The Star

In nearly every church staging of the nativity story, some beatific, well-behaved little girl is cast as Mary, some lucky boy as her Joseph, and then about 30 of their friends as various sheep and camels and goats and whatnot (in Love Actually, Emma Thompson is surprised to learn there was not just one lobster but several, plus an octopus and a Spider-Man) – the point is, there are lots of kids and very few roles, so they’ve always been padded out with the animal brethren likely to be hanging around a manger.

In this particular retelling of the nativity story, the humans take a back seat to the animals; for once, they’re the stars, especially a brave young miniature donkey named Bo (Steven Yeun). Bo dreams about being in the royal caravan but in fact is locked up in a mill grinding grain all day. His buddy Dave, a dove (Keegan-Michael Key), eggs him on.

Meanwhile, Mary (Gina Rodriguez) and Joseph (Zachary Levi) are celebrating their wedding feast and about to have a VERY awkward conversation. Boy is she relieved when a wayward runaway donkey crashes the party and gives her a few minutes’ reprieve. Anyway, eventually she and Joseph start their trek to Bethlehem and Bo and Dave find a helpful sheep named Ruth (Aidy Bryant) to lead the way and help Bo with a Lassie moment.

Meanwhile, a trio camels (Tyler Perry, Oprah, Tracy Morgan) belonging to the three wisemen are also having a moment trying to get their human cargo to a baby foretold by the stars.

Every nativity scene you’ve ever seen has a donkey. Now you’ll actually appreciate him.

The Star is actually a charming little movie full of big voice talent and quirky little moments to make your season bright.