Tag Archives: animated movies

Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Candace Against the Universe

I didn’t know my Phineas from my Ferb until about 20 minutes ago. No, I’m exagerating. I still can’t tell them apart. I vaguely knew they existed but had assumed the teal bird was either Phineas or perhaps Ferb. He’s not. Turns out he’s called Perry the Platypus, so apparently he’s not even a bird. As far as Phineas and Ferb (two human children, step-brothers) know, Perry is just the family pet, but he’s actually been placed in the family as a secret agent, which is old news if you’re a fan of the show – nearly every episode’s b-plot involves Perry trying to foil mad scientist Dr. Heinz Doofenschmirtz’s latest evil scheme. The main plot usually consists of Phineas and Ferb embarking on some grandiose project – like building a roller coaster in their backyard – which annoys the heck out of big sister Candace, and of which all evidence is improbably erased before she can alert their parents. This movie, it would seem, is when poor Candace finally gets her due, not to mention a starring role (although have no fear: Phineas, Ferb, and even Perry are all along for the ride).

If, like me, you’d never seen the show, worry not, because Candace basically sums up her fraught history with Phineas and Ferb in a cute opening musical number. Which brings me to the next point: Phineas and Ferb is somehow an animated musical comedy. That’s ambitious!

Anyway, poor Candace is usually portrayed as controlling and a tattletale, but I bet you’d feel kind of annoyed if you little brothers were always getting away with murder in the backyard. This is the film that finally reveals that she’s mostly been misunderstood. She’s not mean. She doesn’t hate them. She just feels excluded. So not only will Phineas and Ferb’s project today involve her, she’s actually its inspiration: Phineas and Ferb are going to rescue their sister from an alien abduction!

Yeah, I may have buried the lead. The stepbrothers witness her abduction and recruit Isabella, Baljeet and Buford¬†to build a portal which fails to bring them to the planet where she’s been taken and instead redirects them to Dr. Heinz Doofenschmirtz’s lab, where he too was attempting to build a portal. So instead they board the evil doctor’s spaceship and head toward outer space, with Perry the Platypus secretly tagging along.

But Candace is not having the very bad day you might expect from the recent victim of an alien invasion. She’s bonding with her captor, who commiserates with her hardships (she also has 2 brothers, ugh), and who makes her feel special for carrying the rare element Remarkalonium.

Will the brothers find Candace before extraction takes place? And if they do – will she even want to leave? And will their parents finally catch them in the act?

The movie was surprisingly accessible to a first-time viewer, and was also surprisingly well-written. A stand-alone movie is planned for a theatrical release, but this movie, meant to have taken place before the series ended, was written specifically for Disney+ where it will find its fans the quickest. And that’s who this movie is really for, after all: the people who have loved and supported it since day one. The people, young and old alike, who miss seeing their favourite characters in new adventures. Fans of the show will be delighted with the film, which expands the Phineas and Ferb universe while working in all the things you loved about the original series.

Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Candace Against the Universe features the voice work of Vincent Martella, Ashley Tisdale, Dan Povenmire, David Errigo Jr., Alyson Stoner, Maulik Pancholy, Bobby Gaylor, Ali Wong, Dee Bradley Baker, Wayne Brady, Olivia Olson, Thomas Middleditch, Diedrich Bader, Caroline Rhea, Tiffany Haddish, John O’Hurley, Weird Al Yankovic, and more besides, but my fingers are cramping. It’s a good mix of new and old, which is what you want in a nostalgia-driven sequel. And what better way to indulge your youthful whim than to spend a Saturday morning in pajamas, with a heaping bowl full of sugary cereal, and your subscription to Disney+.

Fearless

I’m sorry to have to tell you that Fearless (Fe@rLeSS_) is a not very good animated film on Netflix. It’s not even a very good video game handle, but that’s what we’re dealing with.

Reid is a teenage boy who is definitely “not” going to sit on his couch playing video games all weekend while his parents are away (at least that’s what he tells his mom when she calls to check up on him – he’s not even that convincing). Logged in as Fe@rLeSS_, Reid (Miles Robbins) is on the last impossible level of a very difficult game into which he’s already sunk many, many hours of play. When fat shaming the monster (I guess this is what passes for PG trash talk?) doesn’t work, he realizes that his character, Captain Lightspeed (Jadakiss), doesn’t have the necessary weapon to defeat the ultimate boss, Arcannis (Miguel). As Fe@rLeSS_ and sidekick/teammate Fleech (Tom Kenny) discover, Captain Lightspeed has one weapon in his arsenal they’ve never deployed: babies. Babies? What kind of creepy code name is that? It’s not. They’re actual babies, triplets actually, who all have some sort of super power like their dad, only they’ll have to be deposited into daycare so they can “grow” into them, or something like that. Obviously they should have been cultivating the baby potential a long time ago. But then something really weird happens (bear with me, and don’t shoot the messenger): the babies end up in Reid’s living room. Reid who is a real, human, teenage boy, with science homework due on Monday, and the babies, who are fictional video game characters, just a bunch of 0s and 1s, are now living and breathing and crying and pooping in his living room. As babies do. Real ones, anyway, which these ones aren’t…and yet here they are, adorable, needy little monsters, encouraging the awful screenwriters to commit a multitude of heinous poop puns. Thank goodness for Melanie (Yara Shahidi), Reid’s unsuspecting lab partner, who shows up to do “homework” (I see you, Melanie: don’t go thinking you invented that move yourself) but gets redeployed into babysitting/saving the world. Which is when this movie tries to rip-off The Incredibles but clearly got a pirated version and a bad stenographer.

Which may still satisfy young audiences, who have notoriously bad taste in EVERYTHING (sorry, but: velcro, Lunchables, Caillou, Baby Shark, toys with sirens, etc, etc), but it lacks Pixar’s more universal appeal. In fact, it’s so far out of Pixar’s league it would be unfair to compare them had they not brought it on themselves by making a carbon copy of The Incredibles and delivering the 7th or 8th carbon down and not pressing nearly hard enough. If you got that reference, you’re way too old for this movie. But you will get the one throw-away E.T. reference, which is hard to miss because it’s both lazy and obvious. I can’t seem to keep the contempt out of this review even though the film itself is relatively harmless. It just reminds me of the kind of forgettable movie Dreamworks would have put out 12 years ago, the kind that only ever gets played in the back seats of minivans (a local car dealership once had a “promotion” – buy a car, get some dijon mustard. Incredible, I know. Yet true. I never saw the numbers on the avalanche of deals that were made that day or just how enticing that $4 jar of mustard was on the back end of a $20 000 investment that starts depreciating the minute you sign on the dotted line ((did lines used to be dotted, or is that just a really stupid expression?)), but I’m sure the Grey Poupon ((I hope it was Grey Poupon)) was better bait than not one but TWO copies of Megamind. Two because mini vans come standard with not one but two screens that have better picture quality in a moving vehicle than even the movie theatre itself had when I was a kid, and how dare you ask your glazed-eye children to choose between The Lego Movie and The Lego Batman Movie for the 6 minute drive to Nana’s?) (Whew, someone sure woke up on the ranty side of the bed this morning!)

Anyway, what was I saying?

Oh yeah, Fe@rLeSS_.

More like Dickless.

Heh. Cross that off the old bucketlist: end a children’s movie review with a swear. Peace out, motherfuckers!

Latte & the Magic Waterstone

The animals of the clearing are worried about drought. Collectively they have only 4 pumpkins full of water left, and the sources are drying up, but Latte, a spunky young hedgehog and an outcast from the forest community, has her own small reserve. A young squirrel named Tjum tries to seize her water for the communal coffers but in the ensuing fracas an entire pumpkin is upset, spilling a quarter or more of the clearing’s dwindling water supply. Yikes. The animals are, as always, quick to point the finger at Latte, but this time Tjum recognizes the anti-hedgehog sentiment and takes sole responsibility for the accident.

It’s nice and all but still doesn’t account for the water shortage. Luckily a crow with impeccable timing arrives to tell them all about this mythic waterstone that once rested at the top of bear mountain, allowing water to flow abundantly down to to everyone in the forest and beyond. But then the bear king stole it for himself, leaving all the other animals to go without. Latte resolves then and there to retrieve that stone, and Tjum follows after her. If the bear king doesn’t sound scary enough, they’ll have to cross a perilous forest to get to him, encountering predators like wolves and lynxes who are just as thirsty and even more desperate, not to mention a cockeyed toad whose motivations are mysterious.

Latte & the Magic Waterstone is a German animated film, and German fairy tales aren’t exactly known for their light-hearted joviality. Nobody gets their eyes pecked out (Grimm’s Cinderella) or any kind of blinding (Grimm’s Rapunzel) indeed; eyes are largely safe in this one. But there is some real sadness to contend with: a sweet little hedgehog alone in the world, a community content to shun her. But the movie doesn’t really dwell on such matters. It sticks to its simple and predictable story, an easy little adventure to find or not find a stone that may or may not exist. Dying of thirst or dying of loneliness: what’s the difference?

This movie is occasionally visually stunning and mostly just a forgettable little cartoon about a hedgehog who probably deserves better.

Animal Crackers

Zoe and Owen are enthusiastic circus goers when they meet as children, and the circus is the background of their courtship growing up. But when Owen (John Krasinski) is ready to settle down with Zoe (Emily Blunt), he heeds her father’s advice, leaving the circus behind in favour of the family dog biscuit business. It’s not his passion, not even close, but it pays the bills and seems befitting of a family man. It takes a tragedy – the untimely death of Owen’s eccentric, long-lost uncle Buffalo Bob, who bequeaths to him his circus.Unfortunately, the circus is not at its best. With aging performers, absentee animals, and a ledger in the red, it’s definitely past its prime.

Do you want the good news first, or the bad news?

The good news is that Owen finds Buffalo Bob’s recipe for success, one that’ll guarantee amazing animal acts and paying butts in the seats. But he also remembers that he has not one but two long-lost uncles. Uncle Horatio (Ian McKellan) owns the largest chain of circuses in the world, and there’s no way in hell he’s going to let his dweeby nephew Owen threaten his empire.

Animal Crackers has an all-star voice cast, which is the entire list of things it has going for it. The script is clumsy, the story unremarkable, the songs subpar. It’s not going to knock the clown socks off anyone. But since we’re experiencing a movie drought due a certain global pandemic who shall remain nameless, this might just about fit the bill for a family film night. Hand out the Cracker Jack, or dare I suggest – animal crackers? – and I can promise you that young kids won’t hate it. Neither will you, of course. It’s completely harmless and completely forgettable. But it’s new and it’s available for streaming on Netflix, so step right up, put on your red nose, and prepare to be whelmed.

Ne Zha

Bear with me: I am about to attempt to describe the plot of a cartoon, which is deceptively hard work.

A chaos pearl, birthed from primordial essences, manifests as a giant crystal monster, is sucking up energy to feed its seemingly infinite potential for destruction. The Primeval Lord of Heaven, Tianzun, sends two of his disciples, Taiyi and Shen, to subdue it, but it just keeps siphoning energy, growing bigger and stronger, so the Primeval Lord Tianzun has to separate the pearl into two opposite components: a spirit pearl and a demon orb. The spirit pearl is meant to be reincarnated as a son to Li Jing, while Tianzun curses the demon orb; it will be destroyed in 3 years’ time by a powerful lightning strike. Tianzun gives them to the care of Taiyi and promises him a seat at his heavenly table if he performs well. This makes Shen insanely jealous of course, so he steals the spirit pearl, which means that Li Jing’s pregnant wife Lady Yin is possessed by the demon orb instead. Poor Lady Yin has been pregnant for 3 years and now gives birth to a demon child, Ne Zha.

If you’re following even 25% of what I’m saying, you deserve a silver medal (sorry, I’m reserving the gold for Lady Yin’s marathon pregnancy).

Ne Zha is born with unique powers, as you might expect, and he’s known (and feared) in the village as being incredibly destructive, which makes him a lonely outcast. Taiyi brings him to a universe inside a painting to train him and his progress is astounding, even if his discipline is lacking (note: this is an extremely advanced toddler). Meanwhile, Shen takes the stolen spirit pearl down to the Dragon King. The dragons are angry because they’ve been banished underwater as hell’s gatekeepers. The Dragon King believes that a son of his born of the spirit pearl would mean dragons would finally be worthy and could ascend to heaven, so he gives birth to an egg OUT OF HIS MOUTH and names the kid Ao Bing.

Against the odds, Ne Zha and Ao Bing meet and make friends, but as we know, they’re actually enemies, and they’re going to have to meet in battle on their third birthdays.

Written and directed by Yu Yang, the movie starts out with some shaky story-telling, and as you can tell by my synopsis, there’s quite a bit of vital information to parse rather quickly (we had to pause the movie, compare notes, and restart). Once it gets going, the problems get largely ironed out by some pretty compelling animation. The action scenes are of course commendable but I was also rather dazzled by the universe contained within the painting. Yu Yang takes full advantage of the perks of animation, allowing bold action sequences to communicate character, engaging the audience and fueling the film’s momentum. Kids will delight in the low-brow humour (and by low-brow I of course mean disgusting) and everyone can appreciate the visual spectacle of it all.

In China it was released exclusively in IMAX 3-D and I can imagine this would have been an excellent use of the medium. We watched the English dub on Netflix (we also had the subtitles on, which made for a mind-bending exercise as the two NEVER matched); if you do the same, make sure to check out mid- and post-credit scenes which introduce a new character and set up a sequel. The sequel was actually due to be released January 2020 in China but was postponed indefinitely due to COVID-19.

Scoob!

To be honest, neither of us was exactly looking forward to the new Scooby Doo movie. I’ve got nothing against it but I also have no nostalgia for it or interest in it. But these pages don’t fill themselves so we shelled out our 30 bucks(still cheaper than going to the movies) and prepared to be whelmed. But you know what? We were pleasantly surprised.

Or certainly Sean was. We were just minutes into the origin story/meet cute of a young Shaggy and puppy Scoob when Sean was commenting on the interesting animation. He chuckled over many of the references. And he seemed to know some of the characters from outside the Scooby Dooby Doo universe.

Scooby and the gang face their most challenging mystery ever: a plot to unleash the ghost dog Cerberus upon the world! Which apparently would be quite bad. As they race to stop this dogpocalypse, the gang discovers that Scooby has an epic destiny greater than anyone imagined. You’ll recognize Shaggy (Will Forte), Velma (Gina Rodriguez), Daphne (Amanda Seyfried), and Fred (Zac Efron) as Mystery Inc. mainstays, even their inexplicably psychedelic van, but this time they’re teaming up with super hero Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg) and his super dog, Dynomutt (Ken Jeong) against the obviously evil Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs). This movie is intended as the first in a rebooted, shared Hanna-Barbera¬†cinematic universe, which nobody asked for, but I suppose explains the randos. Unfortunately, they distract a bit from what makes Mystery Incorporated so fun in the first place: exciting but wholesome teenage detectivery. And despite some of the callbacks to the original series, Scoob! doesn’t quite justify itself.

While it may not win over discerning adults, Scoob! is probably perfect for kids and Seans alike. It’s got a string of pop songs, some childishly crude humour, and a talented voice cast. Will Forte may not “sound like Shaggy” to some diehard fans, but as a casual viewer, I enjoyed him very much. I even though Mark Wahlberg fit in well, and to my knowledge he doesn’t do much animation. I felt a little sad for the other 3 non-Shaggy members of Mystery Inc who got the short shrift. I missed the chemistry between them, and with the addition of both super heroes and super villains (not to mention super dogs, villain dogs, and ghost dogs), we really got away from the winning formula that fans have come to expect.

The Willoughbys

The Willoughbys come from a long line of impressively mustachioed ancestors as evidenced by the numerous oil paintings lining the hallowed halls of their “old fashioned” home. But the buck stops here, apparently.

Mother (Jane Krakowski) and Father (Martin Short) Willoughby love each other passionately. They are so consumed by their marriage neither can see anything outside it. No wonder Father has such a minimal mustache – and Mother none at all! They have four kids but not a thought to spare for any of them, never mind a care. Tim (Will Forte) is the oldest, but is still a young boy, unmustached and still attached to his head protector (you and I might call it a hat). He corals the other children – the golden-voiced Jane (Alessia Cara), and twin brothers both named Barnaby (Sean Cullen) with only a single sweater between them – and makes sure the kids don’t bother their parents with things like hunger or attention. They’re cold and they’re hungry but it’s all they’ve come to expect. Until they get a brilliant idea: to send their parents on a dangerous and frankly deadly trip cleverly disguised as a second honeymoon.

So off go Mother and Father and the children celebrate – finally, as orphans, they might fill their own bellies and occupy space in the house itself rather than the coal bin. But two strange things complicate matters: a baby gets left on their doorstep, and unable to care for her, they leave baby Ruth on the doorstep of the mysterious owner of a candy factory (best home ever!), Commander Melanoff (Terry Crews), and an unqualified but well-intentioned Nanny (Maya Rudolph) arrives. While the kids are initially wary of Nanny, she soon grows on them by providing the basic necessities of life and caring whether they live or die. It sounds a bit dire, I know, but worry not, this is a very family-friendly animated film by Netflix, and the kids are resilient and crafty, and their neglect never feels so serious that it cannot be overcome.

And of course, there are plenty of childish high-jinks, lots of pranks and booby traps and Nanny catapults, and a whole rainbow candy factory montage where a baby has the time of its life while narrowly avoiding death.

Oddly, and luckily, while the children have dismissed their parents, they learn valuable lessons about family. The Willoughbys may not land on the ending you’d expect, but they get their happy ending and they have an awful lot of fun doing it. This is a pleasant surprise from Netflix and I think your young kids are really going to like it.

Altered Carbon: Resleeved

First let me say that although there’s a lot of Altered Carbon sprayed across various media these days, this is my first brush with it. Anthony Mackie stars in a Netflix series and though this is not that, it does involve the character he plays, Takeshi Kovacs.

What you need to know is that “people” are no longer defined by the bodies they inhabit. Flesh is just a sleeve you slip on and off, discarding it when it’s no longer useful, carrying on via your digital conscience uploaded to a “stack” and potentially immortal if treated right.

In this animated Netflix film, Takeshi is hired to do a job, so his stack is uploaded into the body of a soldier, a body so ripped and primed for combat that his head looks tiny compared to the breadth of his shoulders. Takeshi (voiced by Ray Chase) must protect a tattoo artist while investigating the death of a yakuza boss. Holly (Brittany Cox), the young tattoo artist (to clarify: the flesh sleeve she inhabits appears to be that of a tween, but her consciousness is many times that), is fighting for her life. As the yakuza tattooist, she’s in charge of an integral part of each boss’s death ritual and the succession of the next boss. Takeshi has only the help of CTAC agent Gena (Elizabeth Maxwell), whose motives may not align exactly with his own.

Right away, you’ll notice the anime style is unique, with the characters popping and almost glowing compared to the duller backgrounds. The film’s story is fairly simple, and while it does serve as a bridge between season 1 and 2 of the live-action series, it can also be taken as a stand-alone film. While this Kovacs isn’t quite as brooding or as witty as Mackie’s, the action is just as bloody. Kovacs and Gena team up seemingly every 5-10 minutes against enhanced ninjas. In fact, at one point I realized that this felt like I was watching an intense video game walkthrough. All that was missing was some sort of coin reward for K.O.s. Which means it’s a visual treat with some truly impressive (and numerous) action sequences, but the character development is a little lacking. If you’re coming into this with background you’ve gleaned from watching the series, you’ll might find it all the more rewarding. If you’re a newbie like me, you might just feel sufficiently motivated to take on the series – especially now that everyone’s got some serious quarantine and chill time on their hands.

 

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The Simpsons Movie

They’re mumbling about a sequel – well, I should say, a second movie – so the time seems ripe to review this one, right? We’re quarantined and we’ve been binging The Simpsons since the day Disney+came out (do you know how many seasons those guys have???). Like most episodes, the movies are meant to be stand-alone and self-contained, meaning little if anything that happens during them will affect the series as a whole. Poor Maude Flanders: hers is one of the few deaths that actually took. The characters have remained the same age though more than 30 years have passed since they were introduced. They used to be older than me and now I’m older than Homer and Marge. How did that happen?

At the end of each 22 minute episode or 90 minute movie, everything resets…well, almost everything. Now that we’re catching up on the decade’s worth of shows we missed, we’ve seen Spider Pig pop up more than once – and he’s from the movie!

As you might have guessed (or likely know, this movie being more than a decade old – I had a different husband when we saw it in theatres!), the movie plays much like an episode, with all of the same characters and gags, a little more saltiness than network television usually permits, and a slightly more involved plot.

Basically, Homer adopts a pig and he shovels the pig’s droppings into the local water reservoir, raising Springfield’s pollution level to near-extinction. In response, the EPA lowers a giant dome over the town and leaves the residents to rot. Of course, the Simpsons have managed to escape, and the fugitives flee to Alaska to start over/ lie low. Except then Marge hears that all their friends, neighbours, pets, and Grandpa (!) have been domed and intends to…do something…while Homer plans to do nothing. So she leaves him.

Anyway, if you like the show, you like the movie. It doesn’t do anything differently at all. No risks, no stretches even, just the same old, tripled. It doesn’t astonish and it doesn’t aim to. It’s pretty comfortable with the status quo, and after 3 decades on the air, so is its audience.

Spies In Disguise

I don’t know if you heard, but Special Agent Lance Sterling (Will Smith) is a lone wolf. He doesn’t work in teams, the world’s greatest spy kicks butt solo. He’s a little peeved when he’s in the middle of a 70 on 1 situation and what he thinks is a grenade turns out to be a glitter bomb. It works but he’s cranky about it, and he wants Walter (Tom Holland), the young tech officer involved, fired.

But Lance has some bigger problems: internal affairs accuses him of stealing the very weapon he was in charge of recovering. He knows he’s innocent, but he’ll need to disappear to prove it, and there’s only one person who can help him: Walter. If it’s at all awkward to ask the guy you just had fired for a favour, Lance doesn’t show it. He’s an incredibly cool customer. But Walter, an inventor since childhood, has all kinds of next generation concealment tech at hand. The very future of espionage! Unfortunately, Lance’s arrogance gets him in trouble once again when he accidentally chugs a potion that will turn him into a pigeon. Technically speaking it gets the job done – he’s not invisible but he’s definitely unrecognizable. If you thought dashing hero and geeky sidekick were an odd couple, try nerd and pigeon on for size.

Spies In Disguise is an easily digestible, fast-paced children’s movie with limited appeal for adults. These spies take on villains just like James Bond but unlike 007, they’ll do it without violence; Walter’s gadgets and indeed his personal credo are more about helping people than hurting them.

The film is propped up by an impressive voice cast, including Reba McIntire, Rashida Jones, Karen Gillan, and Ben Mendelsohn. But the major lifting is done by Tom Holland – affable, eager, guileless Tom Holland, who also voices a major character in Disney-Pixar’s Onward, both roles handily done in the gung-ho American accent he’s perfected playing Spidey, much of his fan base perhaps shocked to learn he’s actually English. At any rate, he is indeed the stand-out actor in Spies in Disguise and his character is the real hero, showing the veterans in his field that there IS a better way, which is a welcome message for young audiences.