Tag Archives: family movies

Lady And The Tramp (2019)

Happy Disney+ day, everyone!

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.

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Chicken Little

Chicken Little has been shunned in his community ever since, you know, that incident. The one where he said the sky was falling but it wasn’t? Yeah, majorly embarrassing – they even made a movie about it, seemingly just to rub it in. Plus he’s bullied at school and things have been totally strained between him and his dad.

Chicken Little’s dad, Buck Cluck, was a very popular jock back in his day and he hardly knows how to cope with such a puny, disappointing son. Chicken Little (Zach Braff) decides the best way to win over his dad (Garry Marshall) is through sports, so he joins the baseball team and against all odds scores a game-winning run. Don’t worry, he doesn’t let it go to his head (yeah right). But you know what does go straight to his head? Another piece of the sky, which promptly falls on him. Chicken Little’s a little wiser this time – he knows sounding the alarm bells will only spell more mortification for him, so he keeps it to himself and a few trusted friends, namely Runt of the Litter (Steve Zahn) and Abby Mallard (Joan Cusack) (aka Ugly Duckling) (Abby Mallard, that is, not Joan Cusack; Cusack is a wonder and a delight, but I don’t think it should be used for poor Abby either). Turns out, Chicken Little ISN’T crazy, but nor is the sky falling. In fact, it’s pieces of wonky spaceship he keeps getting pelted with, and the whole thing boils down to: ALIEN INVASION!!!!

Truth is, I forgot about Chicken Little, which came out back in 2005, and I definitely forget to classify it as a Disney film, which it is. It came out just a year before Disney officially merged with Pixar, so it’s a weird hybrid where the animation is definitely trying to look more like Pixar but it lacks Pixar’s edge, their detailed world-building, their boundary-breaking story-telling. It’s only Disney’s second completely computer-generated animated film (after 2000’s Dinosaur) so it makes sense that they haven’t found a signature style yet.

Anyway, I was reminded about Chicken Little being a thing when I visited Disney World back in February because Chicken Little himself was just walking about the park as if he had nowhere better to be. His friend Abby Mallard was with him, and they both stopped to sign autographs for my 4 year old nephew who was delighted despite not knowing who the heck they were. Abby was in such a good mood that she grabbed my hand and started skipping down Main Street with me, toward Cinderella’s Castle. And that’s what you have to love about Disney. Those characters were unannounced, unscheduled extras. They were walking around making the day extra special for several kids, and several more kids at heart.

Alice In Wonderland

Alice may have avoided her unfortunate tumble down the rabbit hole had her mother not been such a bore. She’s reading to her in a tree from a book that doesn’t even have any pictures. Practically a textbook. No wonder Alice resoundly rejects it, and the boring, logical world that it espouses. She’s positively ripe for following a charismatic leader, or tardy hare, into a world of nonsense and nonconformity.

Alice, as it turns out, is a self-pitying, impetuous crybaby. She is such a little deviant, in fact, I wonder if 1951 audiences figured her for a commie. Now, as an adult, I can see her for the petulant spoiled brat that she is, but as I kid I was blinded by her pristine blue pinafore and her perfect blonde hair. I writhed with jealousy when my mother cast my youngest sister as Alice in our school’s entry in the Christmas parade one year. The theme was story books and our float was Wonderland-themed. My mother, god bless her overachieving soul, was determined to make a costume for each and every kid in the school who wanted to participate (not quite as terrible as it sounds: we had less than 100 students). There were caterpillars and psychedelic flowers, the white rabbit of course, and a mad hatter. And dozens of people trailed the float as either story books of a different ilk, or members of the Queen of Hearts’ playing card army. The Queen was played by the school’s tiniest, most taciturn teacher – a part she was born to play, but I don’t know how my mother proposed the idea without being threatened with her own beheading. Meanwhile, as the eldest daughter who routinely ‘took one for the team’, I walked in front of the float, just me and my childhood crush carrying our school’s banner. We were dressed as Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. I don’t remember which one I was, but pictures would prove clarifying as my little propeller hat identified me rather firmly. We lacked a proper costume from the neck down and were compelled to wear matching California Raisin costumes for uniformity, and perhaps just flat-out maximum humiliation. My mother must have WANTED me to hate my sister. She made it fairly impossible not to.

Anyway, if I sound bitter in this review, it’s because I am.

Drinking helps, which is fortunate, because Sean, Matt and I are in Disney World for the forseeable future, where we’ll have ample opportunity to meet Alice, should we want to. She hangs out by the teacups ride which is actually called the Mad Tea Party, and is often accompanied by a Mad Hatter at the very least. When I visited the park with my sister back in February (NOT the one who played Alice), she turned an alarming shade of green as her 4 year old son put an extra spin on our trip. But should we miss her in Magic Kingdom, she also hangs out in Epcot, in the U.K. pavilion, directly across from the Yorkshire County Fish Shop in The Tea Caddy Gardens. Mary Poppins can often be seen strolling about with a parasol on her arm in the U.K. portion of the World Showcase. Other countries have their own princesses: Belle in France, Anna and Elsa in Norway, Mulan in China, Jasmine in Morocco. There are no princesses in the Canadian pavilion, just a bunch of poutine and some maple-flavoured popcorn (though I sort of think Duke Caboom should hang out there, revving his motorcycle).

The World Showcase is fun in many ways, not least of all because you can literally drink your way around it, with each country providing many samples of their finest hooch. There are margaritas in Mexico and prosecco in Italy and Oktoberfest beers in Germany. Because I’m ambitious, and mean, I intend to subject Sean to this booze tour, so I’ll take the opportunity to suggest you visit our Twitter feed at @AssholeMovies because there are 11 countries and countless opportunities to get your drink on, including an alcoholic popsicle stand, and a Frozen-themed blue lemonade spiked with moonshine. I predict Sean will need propping up by the time we hit Japan.

Anyway, please pardon my little digression. Back to the movie. I’m still rather astounded at how much they got away with, stuff that feels like pretty blatant drug references to me, counterculture stuff that seems out of place in a Disney movie, especially one with a little girl for a protagonist. I mean, she literally eats mushrooms.

The Cheshire Cat sounds awfully familiar – like Winnie The Pooh really, without much embellishment. I check IMDB and I’m right: Sterling Holloway voiced both. He was also Mr. Stork, in Dumbo, adult Flower in Bambi, Kaa the snake in Jungle Book, and Roquefort in The Aristocats. Disney’s casting certainly was incestuous. Sean and I ate at the Cheshire cafe last time we were in Disney, and we can certainly recommend the Cat Tail, and the Wonderland slushy. This time we’ll be dining WITH Winnie the Pooh (can you stand the excitement?) – and his pal Tigger too!

This movie actually takes from Lewis Carroll’s two Alice books, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (fun fact: I once saw a Looking Glass play in Stratford starring a young Sarah Polley, then known as Canada’s sweetheart for roles in Ramona and Road to Avonlea). Alice is here voiced by Kathryn Beaumont, who also voiced Wendy in Peter Pan, and continued to do so until her retirement in 2005 (reminder: this movie came out in 1951!). You can still hear Beaumont narrating the Mad Tea Party ride to this day in Disneyland. That’s her here, providing a live action reference for Disney animators.

And somewhere in the Disney parks, I am currently the live action reference for a grown woman having far too much fun.

[In fact, I believe today we are attempting to ‘Drink Around the World’ in Epcot. Epcot’s World Showcase has 11 country pavillions and we’ll be grabbing a drink in each one. Sounds like potential disaster! Why not keep tabs on us via Twitter – @AssholeMovies, and be sure to play along on the Disney Bingo card.]

Lady and the Tramp (1955)

Jim Dear gives his wife Darling a hat box for Christmas, and inside she finds a beautiful golden cocker spaniel she names Lady. Better than a hat any day. This was taken from Walt Disney’s own life – having once forgotten a dinner date with his wife, he made it up to her with a puppy and was immediately forgiven. As you would be. Take note, Sean.

The story belongs to the dogs. We rarely seen the owners’ faces, and their home is mostly seen from a dog’s eye view. It is simply told and simply felt – simple, but awfully sweet.

Lady is a well cared for, sheltered dog who’s lived an indoor life having her coat brushed until it’s lustrous and shiny, her meals served on a china dish. When she meets the Tramp, he’s a street-wise mutt who’s seen some shit. They’re opposites, but after the obligatory initial turning up of the snouts, the two can’t help but sniff each other’s butts. Which in dog speak is hot hot heat. Instant dog lust.

Would I watch a reality-based dating show featuring dogs? I really might.

But I won’t have to, thanks to Disney+, a new streaming service to rival Netflix that will host movies but also lots of new episodic programming from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic. Aside from the movies you’d expect, there will be lots of new comic book content, including Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk, Moon Knight, and shows that will get to know some of the lesser-known Avengers like WandaVision, which will star Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany), plus Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, and something or other about Loki (Tom Hiddleston). And Jon Favreau is overseeing an extremely big-budget Star Wars series called The Mandalorian, and you can expect a spin-off of Rogue One about Rebel Alliance freedom fighter Cassian Andor with Diego Luna and Alan Tudyk reprising their roles. And rather excitingly, Ewan McGregor will once again suit up as Obi-Wan Kenobi for a series that won’t begin shooting until next year.

You might also find yourself anticipating The World According to Jeff Goldblum, a reality show featuring you know who explaining different topics. Or maybe you’re more excited about the Toy Story 4 spin-off, Forky Asks a Question. Or the “short-form unscripted” (whatever that means) Muppets comedy series unimaginatively titled Muppets Now. Or the announced series remake of High Fidelity starring Zoe Kravitz.

Personally, though, I’m in it for the new movies. And just our luck, a Lady and The Tramp live-action remake is among the first, with voices by Tessa Thompson and Justin Theroux (and Kiersey Clemons, Thomas Mann, Janelle Monae, and Sam Freaking Elliott) so you can fall in love with this movie all over again.

I’m talking about Lady and The Tramp today in particular because as you may have noticed, Matt, Sean and I are at Disney World and today we’re eating dinner at Tony’s, which just happens to be the restaurant where Lady and Tramp have their adorable spaghetti dinner date in the alley out back. As far as I know, we’ll get a table inside, but spaghetti IS on the menu, and if the three of us are feeling particularly romantic, we may just be nosing meat balls at each other and two-mouthing noodles to meet in the middle. Do tune in to Twitter @AssholeMovies to see the things you cannot unsee, and check out the new Lady and The Tramp on Disney+ November 12.

p.s. I hope you’re all playing along with our Disney Bingo card.

Jumanji (1995)

Sean thought Jumanji was just the movie for viewing on Halloween night. Sean had fond memories of having watched it repeatedly in childhood, whereas I hadn’t seen it at all, but understood it to be a film marketed towards children. In fact, it is a little spooky and a little scary.

In 1969, a little kid named Alan Parrish finds an old board game buried deep in a construction pit and ropes his friend Sarah into a game. The game, Jumanji, is more than they bargained for. The board game claims Alan, sucks him right up, and he’s never seen again.

Cut to: 1995. Judy (Kristen Dunst) and little brother Peter (Bradley Pierce) move into what used to be the Parrish family home, which as been abandoned since Alan vanished and his parents left heartbroken. Jumanji still sits in the home’s attic, where it soon calls to them. They start playing, which once again unleashes the beast, but does have one small bonus: Alan pops back out of the game, now a fully grown man (Robin Williams), after having spent some 26 years fending for himself in what I believe he describes as both “a jungle” and “hell.” But he hardly has time to reflect because the game must be finished, which means Sarah (Bonnie Hunt) must be tracked down, and horrible creatures and terrible catastrophes must be survived because every roll is a different kind of doom.

Having seen only the 2017 reboot starring The Rock, I didn’t realize that this movie wouldn’t bring us inside the game, rather the game would escape into 1995: flash floods, angry lions, quicksand, spiders the size of basketballs. It’s actually disappointing that we just gloss over Alan’s 26 years of board game purgatory because he certainly insinuates that shit. went. down. And it feels like there might be an interesting story about innocence lost and the good of the group vs. the good of the individual – there’s stuff to be mined if only we had time between elephant stampedes. And of course it’s hard for 2019 eyes to watch 1995’s CGI, which more or less looks like someone cut pictures of monkeys out of a National Geographic magazine, drew silly faces on them, and called it special effects.

Anyway, I’m pretty jazzed to have seen this one if only to give context to a future rewatch of 2017’s Welcome To The Jungle (and 2019’s sequel). Is that a sad thing to say? Sean says that we actually see Alan’s treehouse in the 2017 film, and that might actually mean something to me now that I know who the heck Alan is. Of course it also makes me wonder what 2017 Alan is up to. We know that in 1969, young Alan and Sarah chuck the game, weighted, into a river. Which is dumb. That game is evil and needs to be destroyed. We also know from the end of that movie that of course Jumanji washes up on a shore somewhere and is discovered by two little French girls. However, the 2017 iteration contradicts this: it tells us that in 1996, Alex Vreeke’s father found the game washed up on the beach in the same New Hampshire town. Alex isn’t over taken by the game but when it magically turns into a video game cartridge, he loads it up and gets sucked inside. He basically pulls a 20 year vanishing act, just as Alan had done. At the end of original Jumanji, Alan is alive and well in 1995 and still living in New Hampshire, so I have some questions:

  1. How did the French girls find the game in 1969 or soon after, play it or not play it, then throw it back into the ocean…only to wash up in the exact same New Hampshire town from which it originated?
  2. How does grown up 1995 Alan hear about Alex’s vanishing and not put two and two together? Or Sarah for that matter, who lived through his 26 years of disappearance being called delusional for her insistence that he’d been drawn into a board game?
  3. And where is Alan in 2017 for that matter? I realize that Robin Williams is dead so a cameo is more or less impossible, but it would have been nice.

Anyway, it seems the 2017 movie managed to weave in some interesting elements from the first movie, references I may actually catch now that I know about them, which is kind of the catch with references.

Which is not to say the 1995 movie is trash. It was obviously loved enough to spawn a sequel 20 years after the fact. Robin Williams is always a joy to watch, even if it takes a third of the movie before he’s actually on screen. Jonathan Hyde plays both Alan’s father and Jumanji’s main bad guy, Van Pelt – “that’s symbolism,” Sean tells me. And he’s not wrong.

The Tale of Despereaux

In which Sigourney Weaver proclaims herself anti-ratist, and is wrong about rat facts. You might think a mouse named Despereaux is the hero of this film but Sigourney the narrator first introduces us to Roscuro the rat (Dustin Hoffman) who is quite pleased walk fresh off the boat into a village that’s in the middle of worshiping soup, as they do annually. The royal soup smells amazing and Roscuro cannot wait to partake, but his eagerness unfortunately plops him right into the royal cauldron, and when the queen finds them there, she dies on the spot. The king, in his grief, outlaws soup. And rats. The kingdom goes gray. You might not have guessed that soup could have such a vital influence on a town’s happiness and success but there you have it. Roscuro flees into the sewers.

Which is where he eventually meets Despereaux (Matthew Broderick), a mouse unlike any other. Despereaux is bold and curious but he can’t or won’t follow the strict rules of Mouseworld where learned fear is the most important thing.

Fun Fact: Sean and I are pretty into soup. Which is admittedly a weird thing to be into. We love to cook together – I am an excellent cook and Sean is a decent helper (as long as he does grunt work like cleanup and grating cheese – he’ll chop veggies too but it takes him at least 20 minutes to fell a bell pepper). I’m on the front lines, being impressive, he’s in the background, looking for a stubborn cap to unscrew. One of our favourite things to make together is roasted red pepper soup, a recipe we’ve come to think of as our signature dish. We made it in our first apartment, accidentally splashing the walls red and murdery when the blender’s top wasn’t properly secured. We repeated the process out at the cottage one winter’s eve (minus the murder scene), with a fire roaring and big fat flakes of snow coming down outside. We loved making it so much that when we got married we insisted the chef replicate it for our wedding menu.

Fun Fact #2: Sean is also not anti-rat. He grew up with not one but two rats as pets. Pets! They let them in their house ON PURPOSE. And named them BamBam and Rocky.

So it would seem that Sean is the prime target for a movie about soup-loving rats. If not him, who? The Tale of Despereaux is like the dark side of Ratatouille (which, incidentally, is one of Sean’s favourite Pixars): what if it turns out people DON’T like rats in the kitchen? Crazy, I know, but hear me out. It’s mixed with shades of Dumbo and a touch of the Gladiator with maybe a wee bit of cursed princess, a smattering of Downton Abbey, and a sprinkle of The Three Musketeers for good measure. Which ultimately means that while the voice cast is excellent and the the film looks great, the story is familiar no matter which way you look.

The Addams Family (2019)

Tired of being chased with pitchforks and fire, Gomez (Oscar Isaac) and Morticia (Charlize Theron) find a perfectly horrible asylum to convert into their matrimonial home shortly after their wedding. Thirteen years later, their family resembles the one we all know and love: creepy daughter Wednesday (Chloe Grace Moretz), bumbling son Pugsley (Finn Wolfhard), faithful servants Lurch and Thing, indefatigable Grandma (Bette Middler), and a pet tiger. Out of fear and caution, Gomez and Morticia have kept the gates to their home closed, so their children have never seen the world outside it – have never breached the gates certainly, but an enveloping fog means they have also literally never seen beyond their own property.

Which means they don’t know that at the base of their hill, a new town is flourishing. A home renovation guru named Margaux (Allison Janney) has been building a town called Assimilation for her TV show, and besides her own daughter Parker (Elsie Fisher), several homogenized families live there as well – the rest of the homes will be auctioned off during her show’s season finale. But when Margaux drains the marsh, the fog lifts, revealing an unsightly castle on the hill filled with undesirables. And it’s not just the immediate Addams family but the whole clan: uncle Fester (Nick Kroll) leads the way, but soon everyone will be assembled for Pugsley’s rite of passage. Margaux protects her investment the only way she knows how: to cultivate fear among the existing residents, and to start sharpening her pitchfork (or catapult, if that’s what you have handy).

The new Addams Family movie combines elements from the original source as well as the beloved 90s films, so lots will be familiar, but there’s still enough new ground to keep you interested. It’s not quite as dark or as morbid as other iterations, which means it’s not quite as spooky as you’d like, but is probably safer for small children. The voice work is excellent; Theron and Isaac are nearly unrecognizable below the creepy accents they’ve refined. Wolfhard is perhaps the only one who doesn’t distinguish himself and sounds a little out of place – he’s just doing his regular little boy voice while Moretz, for example, is doing some very fine work as deadpan little Wednesday.

The movie does offer some fun little twists: the TV host’s daughter Parker makes friends with Wednesday when they unite against the school’s bullies. Parker decides to go goth to her mother’s complete horror, while Wednesday experiments with pink and unicorns and her own mother struggles with acceptance.

The animation is also quite well rendered and I appreciated the little details that make such a movie unique: Wednesday’s braids ending in nooses, Gomez’s tie pin a tiny dagger, the gate to their family home looking vaguely like metal teeth and opening like a set of jaws. The critics seem not to have loved this one but Sean and I found it quite enjoyable, definitely a fun Halloween outing for the whole family.