Animated Film

The Croods (2013) Review | Jamie Daily

The Croods (2013)
86th Academy Awards 2014
3/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Animated Feature Film (Chris Sanders, Kirk DeMicco, Kristine Belson).
Watched August 28, 2014.

If I could suggest one thing when viewing “The Croods,” it would be to not read too much into the plot and characters and just enjoy the story for what it is.  A pre-historic cave family has their home destroyed and must set out across the unknown in search of safety and a new cave.  With the help of a slightly unwanted stranger, they discover what it is to embrace change and to face adversity together as a family, even if your family is stupid.

That synopsis might not sound too bad until you get into the grit of things.  Grug (Nicolas Cage) is the father, and he is fiercely opposed to any kind of change or outside thinking.  When his daughter Eep (Emma Stone) tests the limits and then meets an outsider named Guy (Ryan Reynolds), who is also an inventor, he does what any typical dad would do and tries to lock her in the cave.  When their home gets destroyed, everything changes and Grug reluctantly follows Guy and Eep, along with his wife Ugga (Catherine Keener), crazy Gran (Cloris Leachman), son Thunk (Clark Duke), and little one Sandy (Randy Thorn) across the unknown.  They face perilous adventures with wacky creatures and explore lands full of vivid colors.  Grug is obstinate the entire way and refuses to accept a new way of thinking.

This is where things could get weird.  The parent is refusing to see another point of view and won’t listen to his teenager.  On the other hand, the teenager thinks she knows best and is drooling over a boy.  The boy seems like the most level headed character, even though he has a sloth for a belt and he invents things like fire.  He is all about progress and moving forward and sees little value in tradition.  The dad is stuck in his ways and resists change to a fault.  He apparently doesn’t use his brain, according to the film.  The black and white representations of opposing sides of society could be that, or just a typical plot point in a children’s film.  You make the judgement call.

The story telling is predictable, albeit entertaining and funny.  There are some basic plot points, although surprisingly both parents last at least the majority of the film, whereas most films for kids feature a dead parent.  The kids have to go through some great emotional turmoil to make them understand the value of family, even when they’re being stupid, and nature continues to beat the cave people into submission.

I feel like this review came off more negative than I intended.  Like I said, the colors are fabulous, the film is entertaining and funny, and I enjoyed the animation.  I don’t know how quickly I would watch the film again because, let’s face it, it’s no Shrek, but it wasn’t the worst film of 2013, that’s for sure.

If none of the things I mentioned above bother you, and especially if you have kids, then I would recommend that you see “The Croods!”

Advertisements

Frozen (2013) Review | Jamie Daily

Frozen (2013)
86th Academy Awards
5/5 Stars
Nominated for 2 awards, of which it won both.
Won Best Animated Feature Film (Chris BuckJennifer Lee, Peter Del Vecho), and Best Music-Song (“Let it Go” by Kristen Anderson-LopezRobert Lopez).
Watched May 1, 2014.

Frozen is probably one of my favorite films that I have seen in a long time.  While still slightly more childish and more princess-y than the popular Pixar films, this new Disney princess installment makes a giant leap in its franchise.  It has a modern take on the typical formula and even pokes a little fun at common missteps in the original princess films.

 

The animated success is a story about sisters.  The girls are princesses, happy and carefree.  They love each other and Elsa’s (voiced by Idina Menzel) uncommon ability to create ice and snow out of nowhere keeps them entertained for hours.  After a freak accident where the youngest, Anna (Kristen Bell), almost dies because of Elsa’s powers, she and her parents are forced to keep her abilities a secret.  Even Anna has her memories removed and Elsa is confined to her room where she attempts to control her feelings and her powers.

 

When Elsa comes of age to take the throne, the girls are finally together again, but the coronation doesn’t go as planned and Elsa flees the kingdom, turning the carefree summer fjords into an untimely winter wonderland.  Anna teams up with an ice salesman named Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) to track her sister down and bring an end to the winter.

  

The film has good humor from the beginning, but one of the best characters is definitely Olaf, a snowman come to life as the comic relief.  Olaf combined with Kristoff and his personable reindeer Sven make excellent companions as they try to solve first one problem, and then the next.

 

I saw Frozen for the first time with my sister, so anyone who has seen the film will understand why it made everything that much more special for me.  My sister lives on the other side of the country and I rarely get to see her, which is hard when we’re best friends.  Getting to see an animated princess movie with songs and cute animated boys and ridiculous humor was the best.  The end made it that much more sweet.

 

The most important message of the film, which is a bit of a spoiler so watch out(!), was that the love of family is just as important and powerful as romantic love.  In fact, when Anna is so preoccupied with finding The One, especially because she has been alone and dreaming for so long, she and Elsa both take each other for granted.  It isn’t until the dire end when all might be lost that they find each other again and rekindle a bond they once had in childhood.  Elsa has likewise been preoccupied, but more with hiding her true self.  She has a personal crisis that most people never experience and her sister is one of the only people who can help her come out all right.  While the story has some side plots, its main message is that true love heals everything, and the love of family is just as powerful, if not more so, than other types of love.  This is a really big step for Disney and I am exceedingly proud of this film and its message.

 

I could tear apart the film a lot farther (I tend to do that with movies that I really enjoy), but I will stop here except to say that the animation was stunning, the music was wonderful, the voices were perfect and a-typical Disney corny magic, and I want an Olaf… or a Sven of my very own.  If you have yet to see Frozen, do yourself a favor and add it to your Netflix list.  Now.

Paperman (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Paperman (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
5/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award, which it won.
Won Best Animated Short Film (John Kahrs).
Watched March 4, 2014.

  

Paperman is one of the cutest shorts ever and the clear winner from the 2013 nominations.  It is a black and white short with little to no dialogue and a love story involving paper airplanes that takes up a whopping seven minutes of time.

 

The story opens in old school New York City on a man and a woman at a train station.  The man in his suit and his stack of papers and the woman with red lipstick engage in a tangle with papers blown by wind, and then suddenly the woman boards a train and disappears.  A turn of fate finds them just across the street from one another at their end destinations and, convinced that she is The One, the man employs his killer paper airplane skills to try to catch her attention.

 

The story is cute, quirky, and magical.  It does not waste its seven minutes and nor does it over pack them.  There is just enough repetitive action to create a tension the audience can feel, and then as if in response to the viewers, the man changes course into something unexpected and humorous.

 

Seven minutes of this cute film is certainly not a waste of time.  I definitely recommend it, and it is very easily found online.  Enjoy!

Despicable Me 2 (2013) Review | Jamie Daily

Despicable Me 2 (2013)
86th Academy Awards 2013
4/5 Stars
Nominated for 2 awards.
Nominated for Best Animated Feature Film (Chris RenaudPierre CoffinChris Meledandri) and Best Original Song (“Happy” by Pharrell Williams).
Watched March 7, 2014.

I liked Despicable Me 2 quite a lot.  It has been a while since I have seen the first film, and as such I possibly had a more positive reaction than true lovers of the original and its main character Gru, but I felt completely satisfied by the end of the animated feature.

 

Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) is a retired villain who is now embracing the home life–raising his three adopted girls and throwing the perfect birthday party.  He has his famous lair full of minions working on a new line of jams and jellies that no one, not even Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand) can deny are disgusting.  As a result, it is hard for Gru to turn down the Anti-Villain League when they come to him in need of some assistance.

 

A research facility in the north was stolen–completely disappeared.  They have determined that a shop owner at the local mall is likely the culprit, which means that Gru and his new partner Lucy (Kristen Wiig) must go under cover.

 

For lovers of the original, they may be dissatisfied with Gru and his character arc.  His story is wrapped up very nicely in the first film and there is little left to develop in him.  It is true that he is pretty one note.  His one conundrum is dating, which is humorous but hardly comparative to the life altering changes he encountered previously.  He has funny lines and quirks, but the red headed Lucy tends to upstage him constantly.

 

Despite this huge flaw, the rest of the story is pretty solid.  My favorite aspects of these films has always been the Minions, second only to Agnes, the precious, big eyed little girl who will tug at your heart strings.  The Minions are hilarious, charismatic, and blessedly stupid.  For those who have seen the film, “BAH!” has become my new favorite exclamation, but for everyone else I cannot explain because it would be a huge spoiler!

 

If you are having any doubts as to if you should see this film, let me assure you that the final scene itself is worth the entire film.  Hint: 90s music sang entirely by Minions.  J’adore.  If you like animated films, particularly what usually comes out of Universal and Illumination, you will likely love this film as well.

Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare” (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare” (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
4/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Animated Short (David Silverman).
Watched February 13, 2014.

  

Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare” is a very cute animated short that is right up my alley.  I have been a fan of The Simpsons since I was a kid (much to the chagrin of my mother) but have not watched it in a few years.  Watching this short was very nostalgic and wonderful.

 

The short is without dialogue.  Marge brings Maggie to a very Simpsons-like daycare where she goes through airport style security and has a brain scan that labels her as average.  She joins the “nothing special” kids in a dank corner, with the kid who eats paste, and the baby who loves squishing butterflies with a wooden mallet.  Maggie discovers a caterpillar friend and soon realizes that it will shortly turn into a butterfly.  She must save her little friend from the evil baby!

 

The animation is a step up from your average Simpsons.  It was released in theaters in 3D, but even in 2D it captures shadows and colors that are not normally a part of the Simpsons world.  The story is cute and well executed.  It is a very short short, but it takes no time at all to feel a connection with Maggie and a dislike of the evil mallet carrying baby.

 

This short is so cute and, well, short that I find no hesitation in recommending you see it.  It is readily available online and if you like The Simpsons, I see no reason why this animation should evade your attention.