Movie Review: Frozen (2013)

January 14, 2014 in Movie Reviews, Reviews

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I’ve always been a little biased against cartoon movies, even when I was a kid. I like the classic stories and cute characters, but for some reason I just prefer movies with real people. There are exceptions, such as Toy Story and Up, but these are clever modern tales, whereas the Disney ones, while enjoyable, don’t have quite the same effect on me.

Frozen is Disney’s latest adaptation of a classic tale, this time The Ice Queen from Hans Christian Anderson. Like the previous effort, Tangled, it features a blend of CGI and hand animation techniques which I think works very well and probably saves a lot of time and money too. The cast features Kristen Bell as Anna, the sister of Elsa, the Ice Queen, played by Idina Menzel, plus Josh Gad as Olaf, a magical snowman.

The plot is fairly straightforward. Elsa has special powers like the Iceman from X-Men, making her afraid that she will hurt the people she loves, such as her sister Anna. One day she loses it and unwittingly unleashes an eternal winter on their home land of Arendelle before running off to live on her own, forcing Anna to go look for her so things can be returned to normal.

As an animated feature, Frozen is done very well, with beautiful animations, likable characters, wild action sequences, and some of the best songs Disney has done in a very long time (who knew Kristen Bell had a set of pipes on her?) and I’m sure Oscars are in store. It’s arguably the best classic animated Disney film in years, and it is no surprise to me that the film has been a hit, especially with the kiddies.

On the other hand, the film is undoubtedly formulaic and doesn’t offer anything we haven’t really seen or felt before. There’s the beautiful princess, the charming and handsome love interest, the nasty villain, and of course the cute sidekick (which in this case is the snowman). The story, however, was lacking in my opinion, and more importantly, I didn’t find the film that funny — an amusing moment here and there, but the jokes are more obvious and less edgy than that from other recent animated films such as say Monsters University. 

This is probably my bias creeping through again so I’ll stop now. Objectively, Frozen is a delight, something both children and family should enjoy, though for me it’s just an above average animated film that doesn’t stand out among some of Disney’s more famous classics.

3.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: The Smurfs (2D) (2011)

September 24, 2011 in Movie Reviews, Reviews

La la la la la la, la la la la la!

I practically grew up watching The Smurfs cartoons, but I was sceptical when I heard they were making a film version — in ‘please rip me off’ 3D’, no less.  Nonetheless, despite my better judgment, I decided to check it out.  It wasn’t easy finding a 2D session, but I managed to squeeze one into my busy schedule (damn you 3D films!).

I have to admit I rather enjoyed The Smurfs.  The voices weren’t quite what I remembered (Katy Perry as Smurfette?) but it was a fun trip down nostalgia lane.  The jokes may be targeted primarily at children, but it was good to see that many jokes were also self-referential and tongue-in-cheek.  Some fell flat but even one laugh was more than I had expected from the film.  Great to see director Raja Gosnell (who has a pretty dodgy resume with films such as Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Big Momma’s House and Scooby-Doo) not completely stuff this up.

The premise is recycled and doesn’t require familiarity with the old comics or cartoons.  It uses the formula laid down by Enchanted, where the cartoon characters live in their cartoonish world but are magically transported into the real world.  The Smurfs’ human ally in the real world is none other than Doogie Howser himself, Neil Patrick Harris, who I never seem to get tired of.  Harris is not bad but is completely overshadowed by the true star of the show, the villain Gargamel, played masterfully by Hank Azaria.

Ultimately, The Smurfs really isn’t all that different from your typical kiddie holiday film in that it has a formulaic plot and relies on childish jokes and a lot of silliness.  I thought I’d be rolling my eyes every couple of seconds but I ended up liking it more than I expected.  I’m just glad my favourite Smurf, Brainy, was given one of the more prominent roles amongst the Smurfs (I always like the dickhead characters).

Interestingly, despite lukewarm critical reviews, audience reception of The Smurfs has been pretty good, especially amongst the younger demographic.  A sequel is already being planned for 2013.

3 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Gnomeo & Juliet (2011)

March 5, 2011 in Movie Reviews, Reviews

William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is an all-time classic.  Animated garden gnomes are deliciously cute.  Elton John’s music is sensational.  James McAvoy and Emily Blunt are both likable Brits.  But the culmination of all of these things, Gnomeo & Juliet, is one of the worst animated films I’ve ever seen.  And it’s in pointless 3D.

I had reasonable expectations for this one for the above reasons, and the fact that the promotional campaign made it look like a fun, funny, musical spectacular with an all-star voice cast (including, apart from McAvoy and Blunt, Jason Statham, Stephen Merchant, Michael Caine, Maggie Smith, Ozzy Osbourne, Patrick Stewart and Hulk Hogan!).

But somehow, Gnomeo & Juliet turned out to be painfully unfunny and entirely uninspiring.  How could this be possible?  The garden gnome jokes were essentially exhausted in the first few minutes, and the rest of it was repetitive and unclever.  Yes, the garden gnomes were cute, but that alone wasn’t enough to carry the film.  I actually had a couple of micro naps during the film, which has not happened since Van Helsing.

Worse still, Elton John’s music was criminally underused.  How they managed to screw up something with so much potential is beyond me.

The worse part is probably the lack of heart.  I wasn’t moved at all by the story or the characters.  Disney/Pixar/Dreamworks are light years ahead when it comes to creating a cartoon that connects with audiences.

And yes, once again the 3D served no purpose other than to rip people off.

1.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Tangled (2010)

December 25, 2010 in Movie Reviews

Disney, animation, fairytale.  You really can’t go wrong.

And so we get Tangled, Disney’s latest animated feature — a spin on the Rapunzel story.  You know, the girl with the really long hair.  As per usual, there is a heroine princess, an animal sidekick, a potential romantic partner, an evil witch, love, action and plenty of singing — an old and trusted formula that has succeeded time after time (this is Disney’s 50th animated feature!).

As you can probably tell by now, for me, Tangled is nothing special — but that doesn’t mean it’s not pretty good.

I watched the film in 2D (thankfully) and it was visually impressive nonetheless, with an intended ‘oil painting’-like quality to the animation.  The music and songs (led by Mandy Moore, who voices Rapunzel) flow effortlessly as you would expect from a Disney cartoon, and of course, the jokes appeal to the young, old, and everybody in between.

It’s just that Tangled felt very much like just another regular Disney cartoon, like say Disney’s last full-length feature, The Princess and the Frog.  Don’t get me wrong — whether in terms of story, music, humour, heart or overall enjoyability, Tangled is very good, but just not outstanding.  Perhaps I’m just so used to Disney making great traditional animated features that simply being very good no longer does it for me.

But Tangled did apparently take 6 years and $260 million to make, so obviously the film was intended for great things.  I’m just not quite sure it gets there.

Ultimately, Tangled is good family movie that will make a worthy addition to any DVD cabinet, but is unlikely to be remembered as a classic in the vein of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast.

3.5 stars out of 5!

DVD Review: Toy Story 3 (2010)

December 21, 2010 in Movie Reviews

I absolutely intended to watch Pixar’s Toy Story 3 (in 2D) at the cinema, but for whatever reason I missed it.

Thankfully, it’s no longer too long of a wait these days before films go to DVD, and I finally watched the third instalment of arguably the greatest animated feature film series in history.

The thing with the Toy Story franchise is that you know exactly what you’re in for — a focused and clever storyline, fantastic animation, an all-star voice cast (Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, etc), a touch of poignancy, and plenty of great laughs.  So while Toy Story 3 offers no real surprises, it’s still extremely funny and a joy to watch for the whole family.

This time, toy owner Andy is all grown up and heading to college, and Woody, Buzz and the gang are in danger of being tossed out for good.  But as fate would have it, the toys find themselves in a brand new setting, with new friends, enemies and challenges.

As usual, the toys (especially Barbie’s boyfriend Ken, the Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear, the freaky Baby and the Monkey with the cymbals) offer many laugh-out-loud moments, most of which are pure genius, but it’s the touching relationship between the toys and their owners that elevate Toy Story 3 (and all the films in the series) to that whole other level.  While it may not be as magical as the first film, Toy Story 3 is in my opinion better than the second, and is arguably the best in the franchise.

At 108 minutes it is probably a little too long for animation, but on the whole Toy Story 3 is a perfect blend of comic brilliance and emotional satisfaction.

4.25 stars out of 5!

 
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