Part of watching and enjoying Home Alone is letting go of all the improbability and nonsense and just taking the film as it comes. My 6 year old nephew Ben watched it recently and had this to say about it:
We watched it too, and Sean reviewed it himself, though less adorably. I’m sure you know its premise: it’s about an 8 year old kid named Kevin (Macauley Culkin) (in the first take of the above video, Ben called him “Cameron” and I think it’s really funny that in the 30 years since this movie was released, it is now more common to know a Cameron than a Kevin) who accidentally gets left behind at home when his whole family takes a European vacation. His mother (Catherine O’Hara) struggles to get home to him while Kevin has quite an adventure thwarting two burglars (Daniel Stern, Joe Pesci) from terrorizing his house. You really have to stretch the imagination to allow for an 8 year old’s prank assault on two hardened criminals, and his family’s supposed inability to have virtually any adult in the entire city of Chicago check in on him. But it’s fun.
Home Alone did such voracious box office that they couldn’t help but come out with a sequel. Now, it’s fairly common to leave a kid behind. My mom was vigilant and caring but with 4 daughters and a mini van that was often brimming with extra hangers-on, I myself was left behind as a kid and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one (were you? have you done it as a parent?). I was peeing when they left and wasn’t too distressed to find my family had disappeared. I knew right away what must have happened and didn’t panic. I’m sure my family came back for me within minutes. But I bet it’s even easier to forget a kid now, with parents splitting duties with different cars and different destinations. It happens. But really, has it ever happened that someone BOARDS A PLANE AND LEAVES THE COUNTRY without their kid? I realize this was pre-9/11, but there were still security measures. You still had to check your luggage and have your passport checked and your boarding pass printed and your carry-on scanned through security. How did they continually not notice their youngest was missing? The one that writer John Hughes has repeatedly pointed out is a troublemaker, a constant thorn in almost everyone’s side. Wouldn’t the silence have been a dead giveaway?
Anyway, Home Alone 2 asks us to believe that it has happened again. The very next year, Kevin’s family plan to spend Christmas in Florida. Kevin gets as far as the airport but is separated from the group but is somehow not missed. And wouldn’t you be extra vigilant after the first time? And despite airport security being a general thing, Kevin doesn’t just get left behind but in fact manages to board a flight to New York. And then has a whole vacation, checking himself into a swanky hotel with his dad’s credit card and going to town on room service. And if your incredulity was already meeting its limit, get this: the very same criminals who tried to rob him last year have just been released from prison and are headed for – you guessed it – New York City, which Kevin, though just a 9 year old boy, must defend with a very similar set of elaborate pranks, frankly enough to kill just about anyone and yet somehow not enough to discourage these two dimwits even though there isn’t a heist in the world that’s worth this aggravation.
This movie strikes me as incredibly dated, though I love seeing all these weird little relics of the past – a carbon paper credit card imprinter, a hotel room key that’s actually a key, a cameo by Donald Trump that nobody boos.
The thing that I feel is unforgivable? Kevin’s family have had a whole year to rehearse him in emergency protocol. Last year they were unprepared. Kevin could have made one call to a grandparent or a family friend or the goddamned police, and been done with it. Again, in New York, he decides to take on criminals himself rather than asking a grown-up for help. How dumb is this kid?
Home Alone 2 takes no chances, it simply replicates the first movie almost exactly, sometimes line for line, scene for scene. It’s more a remake than a sequel, but what the heck, give the people what they want!
[Note: Disney+ has announced plans to reboot the franchise. Jojo Rabbit‘s breakout star, Archie Yates, is set to star (not as Kevin McCallister, but as another neglected child), and Ellie Kemper and Rob Delaney are also set to appear.]
We recently visited Disney World’s new Star Wars land, Galaxy’s Edge in Hollywood Studios, where imagineers ingeniously have used 14 acres to create the village of Black Spire Outpost, on the wild frontier planet of Batuu. Batuu was mentioned in the novel Star Wars: Thrawn: Alliances and Black Spire Outpost was very briefly referred to in Solo: A Star Wars Story, so while this planet on the “Outer Rim of the Unknown Regions” has technically always existed in the canon, it wasn’t already familiar to fans, allowing for a whole new Star Wars experience.
We spent several days exploring Galaxy’s Edge and we happened to come home on the very day that Disney was unveiling its new streaming service, Disney+, which means we immediately watched The Mandalorian and it was like we hadn’t left at all. Its sets made me realize just how much attention to detail is present on Batuu, in Galaxy’s Edge. Imagineers worked closely with LucasFilm and it honestly feels so immersive and convincing it’s like we might have stepped out of any one of the films, or indeed this new show. The team cited Ralph McQuarrie’s concept art for the original Star Wars trilogy as a basis for the architecture and aesthetic look of the land which does indeed feature 41m tall (135 foot) spires standing amongst the rockwork that are intended to be the petrified remains of massive trees of an ancient forest. Black Spire Outpost was once a thriving trading outpost which has more recently faded in importance, so it’s now the perfect kind of place for people to hide out, which means it’s crawling with smugglers, bounty hunters, and rogue adventurers – hang around long enough and I’m sure you’ll witness an arrest. The town is run by the First Order of course, with a heavy storm-trooper presence, but there are knots of Resistance as well, so think twice about who you talk to. The parked is signed primarily in Batuu’s fictional Aurebesh language and it stays true even when it comes to merchandising in Black Spire’s many shops and markets, which means you won’t find anything that’s branded Star Wars because “Star Wars’ doesn’t exist within Star Wars canon. But you will find a wooden storm trooper doll, or a card game native to the planet; a toy stall is run by an actual Toydarian. Even their Coke bottles don’t look the same.
The stuff going on in Black Spire Outpost while you’re there is said to be set between the most recent film, Episode VIII – The Last Jedi and the upcoming film and last in this trilogy, Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker. You’ll find lots of familiar and impressive stuff – a TIE Echelon and THE Millennium Falcon chief among them. Using the Disney Play app on your phone, your ‘data pad’ remembers all of your Black Spire achievements and failures. If you do a less than stellar job on Smuggler’s Run (in which you fly the Millennium Falcon), it may cause problems for you when you visit the Cantina. Walking around the park will even sound like Star Wars thanks to John Williams’ score.
I can tell you all about it but really it needs to be seen, and to that end may I present Jay, Matt and Sean visit Galaxy’s Edge, frequent the Milk Stand for green and blue milk, find the Droid Depot to build a new R2 friend, ride Smuggler’s Run with increasing competence, hear the musical stylings of DJ 3-RX in Oga’s Cantina, and find out what a Ronto is. Plus Sean builds a custom light saber in Savi’s Workshop and is visited by Master Yoda himself.
And please like and subscribe while you’re there – it helps us enormously!
As it happens, the morning after I happened to meet ‘Enchanted Christmas’ Belle at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, my 3 year old niece was watching the movie at home. I’d never seen it myself, somewhat miraculously because my sisters seemed to watch it religiously when we were small. It’s nice to see that they’re indoctrinating their offspring on straight-to-video sequels so young.
My other sister’s kids were not so well versed on Beauty and the Beast lore, perhaps because they are boys. When we were at Disney with them back in February, we had a dinner reservation at the very hard-to-get Be Our Guest restaurant inside the Beast’s castle. The boys were nonplussed until Hollywood Studios generously put on their Beauty and the Beast musical and sped them up on the essentials – though I do stress essentials. It’s a lovely little stage show but it’s quite stripped down. Belle’s father Maurice is completely written out, and the Beast’s transition is so hasty that it seemed to go unnoticed by our two boys. Little Jack, who was teetering between 4 and 5 years old at the time, worried about our upcoming dinner with the Beast. “Does he know we’re coming?” he asked, worriedly. “Will he be mad?” “No, no,” I assured him, “now that he’s married he’s very domesticated, very calm and inviting, just like your dad when he makes spaghetti.” Once there, the Beast is in fact very much the gentleman, and the kids realized there was nothing to fear.
Meeting Enchanted Belle helped me to complete my Belle trilogy – blue dress, yellow dress, holiday dress. If you want to shower me with special prizes, go ahead. I’ve also met the Beast of course, and Gaston, who made me feel very much an old lady by being a young lad himself. In my mind, Gaston has always been, well, a man. But standing beside him made me think that perhaps I’m now…in my Maurice years? Dear god.
[Why does Gaston look like he’s trying to punch me in the tit?]
[When Matt told Gaston it was nice to meet him, Gaston, true to nature, replied “I know.”]
Anyway, shall we talk about the movie, perhaps?
At the end of Beauty & The Beast, the Beast has turned back into Prince Adam and the teapot and candlestick and so forth have all taken human form once again as well. However, to re-live the glory days (according to Disney’s pocketbooks – likely the servants who spent years as household objects would say otherwise), this movie flashes back to the Christmas they all spent together still under the spell. So Belle was still technically a prisoner with an on-again, off-again case of Stockholm Syndrome, and the furniture/servants hadn’t celebrated the holidays in years because the Beast had “forbidden” it.
Sadly Gaston does not appear as the antagonist; the part of “villain” is played by – and this is going to be as hard to hear as it is for me to write – an organ. An organ who takes credit for writing ‘Deck the Halls.’
So…not quite as beloved as the first, shall we say? That seems diplomatic. And perhaps so terrible an understatement as to be blatantly unfactual. Factually speaking. But, um, it was an honour to meet her in person!
Reviews for Frozen 2 were a bit mixed and I confess I didn’t exactly love the first one (was I the only one on the entire planet not to?). I didn’t hate it, but it was just okay for me. I didn’t even love the song. On our recent trip to Disney World, we met pretty much the whole Frozen crew but needed to attend a sing-along (where people definitely, enthusiastically sang along) to even remember some pretty big plot points from the movie, which came out in 2013 (for example, not one of us remembered trolls). Still, we dutifully brought back an Elsa dress for our 3 year old niece, who has caught Elsa fever (not the kind that produces snow boogies) like pretty much every little girl under 10 has at one time or another.
So of course we went to the see the film. The trailers looked…well, astonishing, frankly, real marvels of computer animation, if a little light on story. We tempered our expectations and emptied our bladders (it’s not really that long, just long for kids – nearly 2 hours with previews) and took our seats in a theatre packed with kids.
And you know what? I can’t speak for the kids, but I freaking loved it. Yes, the animation is, well, staggering. There was more than one moment when I had to convince my eyes that they were looking at cartoons, not real life. The cinematography is top-tier; the light design is dazzling. But, okay, throw all that aside: what about the story? You may have heard that it doesn’t reach the heights of its predecessor, that it lacks drama because it doesn’t have a distinct villain. That the songs are a bit on the forgettable side. I think that’s all a bunch of hogwash.
Frozen II is more interesting, more complex, and more satisfying than the first one, perhaps because its themes are more mature, perhaps because instead of battling a bad guy, it turns inward, introspective. An enchanted forest is calling to Elsa, and though everyone fears what will happen if she opens Pandora’s box, she opens it anyway, exuberantly, after obsessing over it. Though she and Anna vow to go forth together, as a team, they inevitably part ways and both will be tested.
I laughed. I cried. I was surprised on several occasions by its bold and curious choices. There’s a musical number performed by Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) that inserts what I can only describe as a 1980s-style power ballad into the proceedings for no apparent reason. The number is done as if it’s an early MTV music video, all hokey and cheesy and wonderful because of it – clearly not aimed at children who will never know that the M in MTV once stood for music.
I felt that the first film espoused a fake kind of feminism – people applauded it while apparently failing to note that lots of male characters were still propping up the sisters. But in this film they simply do, and they do well, all by themselves, without anyone needing to point it out. You can tell the ladies are genuinely getting down to business because Elsa’s beautiful dress, already being marketed to little girls in stores, comes with slacks, making it easier for her to kick butt. Elsa seemed moody and bratty in the first, but here she’s a woman full of confidence, full of competence. And Anna knows her worth, magical powers or no.
Do any of the songs rival the powerhouse Let It Go? from the first film? How could they, really? Let It Go was an anomaly, one in a million. And then horribly overplayed and quite tedious. Still, several of the songs were quite good, if not quite as memorable, and performed by Broadway’s best, well, it’s nothing to sneeze at.
I don’t know what kids think of it (yet – my 5 year old nephew and 3 year old niece will see it tomorrow – and in 2 weeks, when that 3 year old niece turns 4, her aunt Jay will bring an Elsa cake to her birthday party) but I do know that I was impressed by it, entertained by it, moved by it. I said previously that the first Frozen felt more like a merchandising tool than a movie, destined to spawn straight-to-video sequels, so this is a rare occasion when I admit my mistake, and am humbled by it. Just a bit. 😉
This is my nephew Jack, who’s providing the kid perspective.
And my other nephew Ben.
It’s okay. You can tell me their reviews are better than mine. I know it. And I’m the proudest aunt.
Growing up, Noelle and Nick new what fates awaited them: Nick would take over his father’s role as Santa Claus, and Noelle’s job would be to support her brother and spread Christmas cheer. Sure it sounds awfully patriarchal, but do you think a Christmas movie has room to unpack that?
Spoiler alert: Santa dies (not to worry, off camera, nothing traumatic) and Nick, now an adult (Bill Hader), reluctantly dons the jolly red suit. He goes deep into training for his big night, learning the fireplace trick, and getting licensed to drive reindeer. But his heart’s not in it. When he confesses his ambivalence to sister Noelle (Anna Kendrick), she suggests he take a weekend away and come back refreshed. Except Nick doesn’t come back. Facing a ruined Christmas season, Noelle and her nanny Elf Polly (Shirley MacLaine) follow him to Arizona to pull him away from his new life of yoga and enlightenment.
Never having left the North Pole, Noelle is a fish out of water. Not unlike Will Ferrell’s Buddy the Elf, there’s a lot of humour to be found in a true believer, a fully Chistmas-spirited weirdo finding her way in a world full of cynicism. The girl uses gingerbread-scented deodorant for Santa’s sake. The joy she radiates is a lot to take and though I am not a fan of Anna Kendrick, I admit she is probably perfectly cast in the role. But she doesn’t just excel at all things merry and bright, she tints it all with just a hint of oppressed anger.
Although I like the premise, I wish they’d taken it further. Maybe I wish it was a little less kid-friendly and embraced the acerbic edge it seems more suited to. I’d like to praise it for its feminist edge but it largely ignores it in order to keep the sleigh moving along with good tidings and cheer, plus I’d previously watched Santa Girl, also about a daughter of Santa’s, which tackles a concerning amount of the same material. And I’d like to praise it for avoiding the sappy romance, except it seems to go to a lot of trouble to set one up only to leave us unfulfilled in the end. Strange choices.
A Bill Hader as Santa movie should be a slam dunk. You have to take a lot of wrong turns to mess this one up, but unfortunately Noelle just isn’t my cup of cocoa.
I know it wasn’t available worldwide on November 12 but it was here in Canada, which just happened to be our travel day home from Disney World where we saw lots of evidence that Disney is putting some major marketing power behind this streaming service. The Mandalorian, the Star Wars episodic series that debuted today, was publicized everywhere with flags and posters and merch – particularly in Hollywood Studios where Galaxy’s Edge calls home. And alongside standard Lady and Tramp stuffed animals were new models, based on the live-action dogs featured in Disney+’s original programming.
Jim Dear (Thomas Mann) gives his Darling wife (Kiersey Clemons) a puppy for Christmas, a lovely and darling little cocker spaniel she names Lady (voiced by Tessa Thompson) who immediately lives up to the moniker. She enjoys a very cosy life nestled between her two favourite humans and can’t imagine life getting any better. But then she meets a street dog who goes by a lot of names but we’ll call Tramp (Justin Theroux). Tramp reveals that life is about to change and not for the better – Darling is about to have a baby, and everyone knows that when baby moves in, the dog moves out. Lady doesn’t want to believe it but of course when baby arrives, she is no longer the centre of her masters’ universe.
Sean and I had just suffered through the inevitable travel day that always puts an unfortunate end on every vacation (waking up at 4:15am is always brutal, particularly when poor Sean was up past midnight purchasing a whole additional suitcase to hold all the souvenirs we bought our niece and nephews, but since we had a relatively easy commute home via a direct flight that came in under 3 hours and Matt had 2 connections and hours of delays resulting in 14 hours of travel, it’s rude to complain…the snow, however, was morally depleting no matter how long you’d traveled to reach it). No matter how tired we are when we walk in that door, we have 4 little pups who celebrate our homecoming like we just won the Superbowl or walked on the moon. If they had access to ticker tape, we’d be hip-deep.
That said, we were cuddled in bed with our 4 4-legged friends (that’s 20 legs if you count ours) by mid-afternoon and were soon watching the newest and finest that Disney+ had to offer. I always find it hard to be away from my pups and this vacation was particularly rough because on our very first day away our dog sitter texted me pictures of bloody stool and I worried for 10 days straight (everyone seems fine). Anyway, I’d been lonesome for my little loves and this movie made me quite emotional.
Perhaps it lacks the sparkle that the first one had, and I’m not 100% convinced real-looking talking dogs (or any animals) is a good ideas, but it’s here, but it’s kind of sweet and it’s a safe family pick. Plus, keeping the antique setting is a lovely excuse for the most sumptuous sets and costumes.
And with some interesting voice work by Tessa Thomspon, a delightfully cast Sam Elliott, and a racist song replaced by a new ditty co-written by Janelle Monae. This updated Lady and The Tramp isn’t a huge hit but it isn’t a miss either – I think it’s worth a watch, especially for dog lovers who just can’t help themselves.
Giselle is a typical Disney princess who lives in a tree and has bird and chipmunk friends who sing with her and help her sew a wedding dress so she can marry her prince. But Disney movies always have an evil Queen – in this case, Narissa, who interrupts Giselle on her way to marry prince Edward and instead shoves her down a magical well which turns cartoon Giselle into live-action Amy Adams, and spits her out in Times Square.
Live-action Giselle is still fairly blessed – sure her tiara is stolen by a homeless man, but ultimately a gentlemanly lawyer, Robert (Patrick Dempsey), takes her in and gives her his couch despite her being a crazy woman in a poufy-sleeved wedding dress claiming to be a princess. And her magic hasn’t deserted her completely: when she leans out Robert’s apartment window to summon some animal friends to help her tidy up, they still respond. But it’s New York City, so the respondents are rats and pigeons. Oh, and cockroaches. Which are ostensibly worse than the dust, but Giselle seems not to notice as she prances about singing her happy songs.
Giselle proves to be quite a disruption to Robert’s life – especially when it comes to his intended (Idina Menzel) and his young daughter Morgan. Luckily her prince charming is so devoted that he throws himself down the same magical well in pursuit and goes through the same cartoon-to-human transformation (James Marsden). Queen Narissa sends her bumbling sidekick Nathaniel (Timothy Spall) down after him.
The film has some wonderful casting, other than Patrick Dempsey who could have been replaced by almost anyone and don’t I wish that he was. James Marsden is wonderfully game to play a toothsome prince. Idina Menzel, Broadway star and future voice of Frozen’s Elsa, is the only lead in the film NOT to sing. But this movie belongs to Amy Adams. I don’t think anyone else could play Giselle. She’s wide-eyed and naive and full of love bubbles, but it never looks ridiculous on her.
Enchanted is, if nothing else, a love letter to all things Disney. The film and the script are bursting with references to Disney films future, past and present. Sean has never seen this movie before (and in truth seems to be sending a larger than usual amount of work emails during it), and I’m trying my best not to shout them all out as I see them:
Jodi Benson, voice of Ariel herself, plays Robert’s secretary
Narissa tires to poison Giselle with an apple, just like in Snow White
Giselle and Robert eat at an Italian restaurant reminiscent of Lady & the Tramp
The apartment elevator looks like the Tower of Terror in Disney parks
Giselle takes off her heels and leaves one behind, like in Cinderella
The old man dancers in Central Park are chimney sweeps from Mary Poppins (not to mention Julie Andrews narrates the film)
We often hear pieces of classic Disney theme songs
Narissa turns into a dragon, like in Sleeping Beauty
Judy Kuhn, voice of Pocahontas, appears as a neighbour answering her door
I could go on and on – director Kevin Lima assures us there are “thousands” of little Easter eggs that an astute Disney fan might notice. That’s why this movie is the perfect way to celebrate our own trip to the happiest place on Earth, Walt Disney World. My own love letter involves eating a poison apple cupcake on Main Street and visiting Ariel at her grotto and letting Sean (making Sean?) nudge a meatball over my way, and wearing my own Mary Poppins dress. We have an ambitious schedule and 10 days to fit everything in, so do play along on Twitter (@AssholeMovies) to see what we’re up to right now – 10 points if I’m standing next to a castle.
I think this list will vary wildly depending on when you were born and what Disney movies were most precious to you as a kid – the ones that get you in childhood are destined to hold the greatest impact. Also, though Disney now owns both Marvel and Star Wars, both of which are of course replete with the baddest of the baddies, I’m sticking to Disney-Pixar here for simplicity’s sake.
10. Man/The Hunter, Bambi. I still remember being flooded with shame when we find out that our friend’s greatest enemy is humans. Humans! I myself was a tiny human, quaking with guilt by association. He is faceless, unnamed, unknown, and yet his presence is vile and antagonistic, instilling liquid fear into all the beating hearts in the forest. Their panic was contagious and though we see only his shadow, the score identifies him quite clearly as predator. And as if killing Bambi’s mother wasn’t enough, he also sets fire to their home, forcing all the animals to flee. It’s an awful legacy to inherit as a child and clearly I’m still not over it.
9. Lady Tremaine, Cinderella. I think the scariest thing as a kid is learning that your parents could die, and Disney liked to press the orphan button more than most. With her mother already dead, Cinderella’s kind but useless father remarries a bitter woman rather than take on being a single dad. Lady Tremaine, the archetype for wicked stepmothers, is the worst kind of villain: the kind who lives right in your house! When Cinderella’s father also dies, there’s nothing left to stop her from treating Cinderella like the help. Worse than the help, really, because she isn’t even paid. She’s abused and neglected in her own home, threatened continuously with homelessness. Lady Tremaine goes out of her way to make sure Cinderella knows she isn’t loved or cared for, and her stepsisters only reinforce these points, both by comparison, and by their own poor behaviour. As children we have very acute sense of justice, particularly when it comes to siblings, and to see Cinderella treated like a second class citizen is unnerving. But to understand that your mom and your dad could die, leaving you with a hateful old woman? That doesn’t bear contemplation.
8. Governor Ratcliffe, Pocahontas. Ratcliffe is based on a real historical figure, but he’s also just colonialism personified. He’s greedy, manipulative, and power-hungry, but worst of all, he’s crippled by xenophobia. He’s not going to just take the Indians’ gold, he’s going to take their land and their lives as well. And he feels entitled! They’re not even people to him, they’re just obstacles to his success and he has no moral qualms whatsoever about mowing them down to get what he wants. Like Judge Claude Frollo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, what makes these men truly fightening is how much they believe themselves to be in the right. Their moral authority and superiority make them impossible to argue with, and their outlook allows them to reclassify people as sub-human when convenient, a truly terrifying concept, and not just for children.
7. Lotso, Toy Story 3. A big, pink, strawberry-scented teddy bear, Lots-o’-Huggin Bear is the surprising villain of Toy Story 3, running the Sunnyside Daycare like a prison – as one toy describes him to our pal Woody, “The guy may seem plush and huggable on the outside. But inside, he’s a monster.” There are two things that make Lotso a truly memorable villain as far as I’m concerned. First, that he starts off friendly and welcoming. A devil in disguise, he’s the most horrifying kind of bad guy, the kind on the news, the kind your mother warns you about, the ones you can’t spot with the naked eye. Most other Disney villains wear black and dark purple and blood red. They have sharp features and mean eyes and you know what’s what. So when his true self is revealed – a sadistic dictator fueled by rage – it’s a truly terrifying transformation. But what really sets him apart in my opinion is his back story. We know very little about the previous villains on this list – the dark spots in their hearts, their motivations, the root of their malevolence. But with Lotso, we know. We know he was once the beloved toy of a little girl named Daisy. And one day he was lost – through no fault or lack of affection on Daisy’s part, but Lotso took it hard. Still, devoted to his kid he somehow makes it back to her home where he finds that he’s been replaced by a brand new Lotso. Something inside of Lotso is broken in that moment, and his anger and bitterness breed evil. It’s brilliant story-telling, and you might even draw parallels with the new Joker movie, but at the end of the day, Lotso is a complex villain stuffed with nihilism.
6. Jafar, Aladdin. Jafar looks like a proper villain. He has a proper villain sidekick and proper villain goals and a delicious theatricality. He wants money and power. He’s willing to sacrifice a street urchin to get them. As the sultan’s “most loyal and trusted” vizier, his deviousness and duplicity are legendary. He too presents one face to the royal court while another is revealed in his underground lair. He’s manipulative, employing hypnotic powers to keep the sultan under his control. And while murder and greedily wanting world domination are of course very bad in and of themselves, I didn’t fully appreciate Jafar’s nefarious depths until I watched Aladdin as an adult and noticed the particularly troubling relationship with Jasmine. Who, let’s remember is a 15 year old girl. And whom he schemes to marry to gain status, and when that fails him, he literally has her in manacles, and treats her like a sex slave. It’s disturbing.
5. Captain Hook, Peter Pan. This is one case where the villain may outshine the hero in his own movie. Though a bloodthirsty pirate, Hook has abandoned the high seas to devote himself (and his ship) to being the scourge of Neverland and exacting revenge on Peter Pan. Peter may just be a boy, but he once cut off Hook’s hand and fed it to a crocodile. Fantastically, that crocodile haunts Hook, following him around with the awful threat of his tick-tock-tick-tock. I like to believe that the croc has simply got a taste for human flesh and wants more of where the hand came from. Sure he’s up for slaughtering children; he’ll even murder members of his own crew. But his temper leaves him vulnerable and his single-minded revenge is often his undoing. Plus that damn crocodile – that strange reptilian relationship alone is the source of almost comedic relief, a rarity for Disney’s villains. Thus, Hook is nearly a sympathetic figure, destined to be forever thwarted, forever chased by his own hand, haunted by the memory of his own amputation.
4. Cruella De Vil, 101 Dalmatians. Cruella is an interesting villain because she doesn’t have any powers or magic lofty ambitions. She’s a spoiled heiress who simply insists on having everything she wants, even if it means stealing the last 15 puppies for a dalmatian coat she’s been dying to add to her already stuffed fur closet. She is reckless and impetuous and eventually driven into a mad, frothing fury due to her own relentless pursuit of said dogs. She’s an attention whore, rude to others, thoughtless when it comes to anyone else. She’s among the more stylish of the Disney villains, and considering we’ve got be-feathered Hook and heavily-accessorized Jafar on this list already, that’s saying something. She’s got signature half-black, half-white hair, green-coated eyelids, and red opera-length gloves. She’s almost always got a cigarette holder in one hand, leaving behind a trail of vile smoke. Her current coat (mink, I believe) is larger than life while her own frame is skeletal. She’s a lot of fun and became even more dynamic when played by Glenn Close in a live-action remake (and she will be again when Emma Stone reprises the role in a movie devoted to the villainess).
3. Gaston, Beauty and The Beast. Frankly, I’m surprised he’s not my #1. He’s boastful and vain – he’s the Kanye West of Disney villains. I admit this: I am a little bit (lotta bit) attracted to arrogance. The incel vibes are a total turn off though, and Gaston has that in spades. He’s an excellent gambler, an excellent shot, and roughly the size of a barge. So he’s baffled to be rejected for the first time in his life, by the town’s beauty, Belle. And once he’s set his sights on her, he can’t possibly settle for anyone whose affections are reciprocal. Now, when Gaston, who is already a huge jerk, finds out that the woman who spurned him is falling for a beast, that just blows his gasket and he is filled with a murderous rage, a rage so visceral he immediately forms a mob with actual pitchforks and storms a goddamned castle.
2. Scar, The Lion King. I’m not sure that Scar is my #2, but in a recent Twitter poll, he was almost universally voted #1. Markus volunteered “Scar is smart, conniving, and has an amazing voice. Gaston is just a douchey beefcake.” Wait – douchey beefcake – is THAT my type? Anyway, if you like Jafar’s penchant for theatrics, you’re gonna love Scar. Had he studied theatre and moved to NYC, his destiny would have been much different. But alas, he languished in the jungle with only hyenas for an audience, and they don’t applaud well on account of their paws. Scar is the Claudius to Mufasa’s King Hamlet, and if fratricide isn’t terrible enough for you, he pins it on an innocent little cub and then orders his murder too. And it’s not even like Scar was suffering – he had a cushy royal life. He could have been living it up like Prince Harry with all the perks and none of the responsibility. But no. Murder. BUT he does have a truly excellent musical number.
1. Ursula, The Little Mermaid. I have serious #UrsulaGoals. I want to be her when I grow up: commanding, stylish, large and in charge. Perhaps just a tad less soul-sucky. Ursula is actually based on a drag queen named Devine. Her shock of white hair, blood red lips, even a bold blue eye – this witch has been to Sephora and you know she’d kill it on Instagram if she could access it underwater. She’s conniving and manipulative, with a sadistic streak as thick as her lipgloss. Disney may not be ready to give us a thicc princess, but Ursula is unapologetically curvy, rocking a body-conscious, cleavage-baring, backless dress and vamping at every opportunity. I’m not an opportunistic cannibal (at least not yet), but otherwise, Ursula is pure inspiration from Disney’s dark side.
If you’ve been to Disney in Anaheim, Orlando, Hong Kong, or Tokyo, then you’re familiar with a staple of the parks, a ride called Jungle Cruise. The premise is that you’re at a 1930s British explorer’s lodge and you’re taken on a voyage on a tramp steamer down a river (which river? depends on the day – but let’s say it simulates the biggies from Asia, Africa and South America).
The boat is driven by a Disney cast member by a number of scenes involving animatronic jungle animals. The cast member keeps up a patter I can only describe as dad jokes, with apologies to dads. The jokes are cheesy as heck, and scripted of course, but the cast members usually manage to tell them in a way that makes it feel fairly fresh even though for them it’s canned and on a continuous loop all day long. Disney really expects a lot from their employees! There seems to be a fairly large pool of jokes, or the script is getting refreshed fairly often, because I bet if you took two tours back to back, you’d get two different experiences. Jungle Cruise isn’t exciting or eye-catching or new or thrilling, but it still feels like an essential ride, a classic. The last time I was there, I was with my 5 year old nephew Jack. After “driving” the boat near a waterfall and back, the cast member said something like “Show of hands – is anyone missing?” and little Jack, not usually one to volunteer, raised his little hand. So at least one joke went over his head, but he and his brother still enjoyed their ride, though unsurprisingly it was their DAD who laughed the most. Dad jokes!
The attraction has some exotic imported plants but to keep on budget, it’s also got local plants that you might not recognize: orange trees, for example, a Florida staple, are planted upside down, coaxing vines to grow from the exposed roots. The water is tinted a dark green to keep up the illusion – otherwise, the fact that it’s only about 5 feet deep, and the boat is on a track might give away some of the magic. A sister restaurant, The Skipper Canteen, keeps the story and theming going. You might dine in any of the restaurant’s 3 “curiously quirky” (Disney’s words) rooms: the crew’s colonial-era Mess hall; the Jungle Room, styled after the family parlor of Dr. Albert Falls himself; and the S.E.A. Room – a secret meeting place for the Society of Explorers and Adventurers, with plenty of little easter eggs for you to find and enjoy. The menu boasts “exotic flavor” for “wild appetites” – you might start with a Lost & Found soup – Chef’s Seasonal Soup prepared with the freshest unclaimed cargo! Please ask you Skipper for today’s selection, followed by Sustainable Fish (“not Piranha”), and perhaps ending with some Quick Sand – jasmine rice pudding, mango sauce, lemon curd, hibiscus meringue, and pineapple.
I can promise you that Jungle Cruise will be a for-sure stop on our Disney adventure and if you check our Twitter feed (@AssholeMovies) you might find us there now. It’s a great time to go, not just because at this time of year it gets a holiday overlay becoming the “Jingle Cruise” but because Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt will soon be starring in a live-action movie based on the ride. And yes, if you watch the trailer, I do believe you’ll hear at least one dad joke from The Rock.
The pair seem to have become quite good chums on the set, and they’ve even visited Disney World together, with Johnson jumping aboard an actual Jungle Cruise ride, taking over skipper duties and delivering I’m sure a very memorable string of dad jokes to a boatful of surprised holiday-makers. What can I say: Disney is magic.