Home

I am an unabashed fan of animated movies.  Yes, they are made for children, but I maintain that the best animated movies are the ones that are clever and which give the adults just as much enjoyment as the children when they’re thrust upon the television screen 20 out of 24 hours of the day.

I was perusing for something to watch and came across Dreamworks’ “Home” and decided to give it a try.  Two things immediately came to mind:
I have not heard of this movie before, so it is probably not good.
and, once we got started: The animation on this isn’t precisely up to the “How to Train Your Dragon” level, so this is probably the B team.  Which means it is probably not good.

Boy was it ever not good. We were interrupted by a late night phone call for my husband and I left the movie running as he answered it, then decided to be courteous and asked “Do you want me to pause it?”  He surprised me by saying yes but I thought ‘well maybe he is enjoying this more than I am, then!’.  After his call was done I unpaused it, then said “If you hadn’t asked me to pause it this could be done by now!” and he was like “Yeah.  I don’t know what I was thinking.”

It was hollow.  Soul-less.  It teaches children that bad grammar is good, that little girls should be named ‘Gratuity’, and it was like 1 hour and 20 minutes of music commercials for Rihanna.  It was awful.

After it was done it was midnight and I was like “Fuck this movie.  I am going to watch a REAL movie about interaction between an alien and a little girl.” and I dug deep and found a copy of Lilo and Stitch and put it on right then and there.  I fully expected to fall asleep, but now I am writing this review at 2:20 AM because Lilo and Stitch is a really fucking good movie and ‘Home’ is a really terrible movie and you need to know about it, dammit.  THIS IS IMPORTANT.

Lilo and Stitch made me laugh almost non-stop until the parts where I welled up with tears and pretended to have allergies.  Yes, it did have the disgustingly improbable ‘Disney’ happy ending.  But ‘Home’ elicited none of those emotions in me.  You may have seen Lilo and Stitch before, but did you realize that in the beginning of the movie she is upset because she wants the proper offering to feed the fish that controls the weather, and then later we discover that her parents died in a car crash due to bad weather?  That is why she wants to control the weather!  This has no bearing on the plot whatsoever but it adds depth and it adds soul.  It is good writing. That scene that seemed like a typical illogical childish whim that you may or may not be familiar with has a bearing on the inner workings of this character.  In Home, they dance involuntarily because Rihanna paid a lot of money to have all of her music showcased in this movie.  It was insulting.

Do not let your children watch ‘Home’.  Make them watch Lilo and Stitch instead.

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Frozen

I started this blog so I could call attention to lesser known or obscure things that I enjoyed, so I try to avoid doing reviews of things which are obviously popular unless I have bitching to do.  Winning Oscars is kind of a good clue that something is popular… but at the same time I have been utterly obsessed with Frozen since I watched it and I can’t stop listening to the soundtrack.  I can’t even explain why I enjoyed it so much.  I grew up on Disney musicals (I have a Disney soundtrack collection.  Shut up.  It’s probably why I have such good scores in Rock Band so it’s not like it hasn’t paid off!  If only there was a Disney Rock Band edition…).  Frozen just struck a nostalgia chord that nothing else has done in the past 5-10 years.  It could be related to the fact that they apparently started writing this movie in fucking 1990 so it literally is a “Disney renaissance” classic, but as far as I can tell it’s gone through about 80,000 revisions since then and in no way resembles their original scripts, so who knows.

I could even nitpick the fuck out of bits of it because you know what, it wasn’t even that good.  There were story plotholes, character plotholes… if you dig into it it’s really obvious they re-wrote the story eight times.  But it was so good.  I am completely incapable of being coherent right now and that’s okay because I am blissfully happy.

I briefly considered addressing the conspiracy theories surrounding the themes underlying the film but you know what, it’s not even worth it.  From the Lion King spelling “sex” in dust clouds (OMG THINK OF THE CHILDREN) to The Little Mermaid apparently being a metaphor for transgender issues, someone will make a fuss about something.  It’s like Life of Pi with probably significantly less intention in its potential interpretations.  It’s a fucking awesome movie no matter how you choose to interpret it, for so many reasons.

The characters are amazing.  The subversions of tropes are amazing.  The CGI is amazing (holy shit the snow).  This movie is amazing.

I wish the collectors edition had like cool figurines and shit.  I would so buy it.  Lithographs??! meh.  Maybe for the obvious-cash-in 3D edition they release later…

Alright, I still love this movie but I feel like I should weigh in on some common criticisms about the writing.  Because I agree with them, and nagging about the ways writing could have been improved is kind of my thing.  Read more of this post

Turbo

We’ve been taking a lot of sinus decongestants and I kinda wanted to do something completely effortless… so I watched some animated movies!  I haven’t really been keeping up with the animation scene, but today I watched two relatively recent ones: Turbo and Despicable Me 2.

Despicable Me lived up to its predecessor in that it had supervillains hatching ridiculous plots, crazy ray guns and gadgets, and low IQ minions.  All the humour was spot-on, and the plot was dumb, but enjoyable mostly because the timing of the writing was excellent.

Turbo was terrible.

The interesting thing about that is that it follows a very familiar “underdog” formula.  A down on it’s luck [blank] falls on hard times and decides to follow its dream of [blank], making new friends and learning valuable moral lessons along the way.  In this case the [blank]s are “snail” and “win the Indy 500”.

I am going to paste this quote out of Wikipedia (without checking to see if it’s properly sourced or anything first. I’m living dangerously!):
“For me, it was less about trying to make a racing movie and more about finding an underdog that I could really latch onto. I think that a snail is inherently an underdog. It’s smashed, eaten by people, the butt of slow jokes around the world. It just seemed loaded with obstacles. Obviously, the opposite of slow is fast, and that’s where racing came into the picture.”

That’s it.  That’s the extent of the writing in this movie.  “People like underdogs.  Snails are slow, and fast is the opposite of slow – let’s have a snail win the Indy 500!”  Usually the writing in these things is clever enough to hide the formula a little bit, but in this case the movie is like “eh, he gets splashed with nitrous oxide and that lets him move at 230mph.  The kids won’t realize how dumb that is, don’t worry.”  It also installed LED lights that leave a trail behind him, his eyes are headlamps, there are blinkers in his butt, a stereo he turns on by banging his eyes together, and an alarm he can’t figure out how to turn off.

It was really dumb, and this is immediately after I praised a movie which contains yellow minions wielding fart guns. It’s all about suspension of disbelief, man.  Of course a supervillain is going to have yellow minions and they’re going to create fart guns!  It’s a natural step in the progression!  Dumping a snail in nitrous is only going to result in a dead snail.  You could at least say it’s some sort of super experimental thing someone was working on in order to create a super car, but they just couldn’t get it working until whoops, a snail fell in and it looks like the formula only works when combined with living tissue!  See, I’ve already written a better movie, and it’s still really stupid.

This is all completely ignoring the fact that once he gains super magic racing powers and sets a world speed record, he is no longer the god damn underdog.

It wasn’t even just that, though.  All of the characters were terribly written, which is probably tied directly to the fact that no real worldbuilding occurs.  The snail colony at the beginning is full of non-characters who do nothing but belittle Turbo for having a hobby.  The only purpose for any of it seems to be to set up a transparent “never give up on your dreams” morality lesson (and maybe hopefully a “don’t bully people like those dicks are doing” lesson), except that in this case the dream is fulfilled by somehow gaining magic powers, which is maybe not the best lesson for the little ones.  The “working at the plant” joke was something that they clearly thought was pretty clever (evidenced by the long pause and camera pull-out to reveal the plant.  ho ho ho it’s a literal plant, get it?), but it was hollow because they didn’t spend any time doing any worldbuilding in the garden.  You realize why worldbuilding is so threadbare when you realize the movie is split between three different locations, none of which are lingered in long enough for any building to occur.  Just as we start to figure out who these characters in the garden are, everything is whisked off to a new location and we lose track of them.  The “racing snails” are hastily introduced about halfway through the movie, not developed whatsoever, then go with Turbo to the race and proceed to do absolutely nothing important or even interesting (my god how did they get Samuel L. Jackson in on this?).  The only character that has any development at all is probably the driver that Turbo idolizes, and that’s only because he turns into the villain so he’s there throughout all of these locations.  Then we have Turbo’s brother who spends the entire movie being negative as shit and completely unproductive (he witnesses his brother moving at 230mph and still does nothing but whine about what a waste of time it is to try to do anything with it), making you want to punch him in the face. Then he makes a crazy about-face at the very very end, just when everything seems bleakest.  Man oh man I did not see that twist coming.  I still want to punch him in the face.

You know what would have helped immensely?  Just cut the whole garden from the plot.  Start at the mini-mall with the racing snails as a diversion in the back.  Suddenly Turbo has a reason to be into NASCAR, he has a reason to want to be faster, it doesn’t take an amazing amount of serendipity for him to be randomly picked up by some guy who happens to race snails, we have more time to develop the supporting cast…. dunking him in Nitrous is still really stupid but the rest of the movie would at least support it better.

There’s a big difference between a plot that’s written to appeal to children, and a plot that’s dumped out because kids won’t notice the difference.  Your kids might like this movie… in fact they probably will like it.  But there are so many cleverly written movies nowadays that appeal to children, teach them things (without being sappy as shit), AND contain humour that still appeals to adults… that’s the standard that movies should be trying to reach.  Turbo is just an unfortunate cash-in attempt.