best animated feature film

Brave (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Brave (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
2/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award, which it won.
Won Best Animated Feature Film (Brenda ChapmanMark Andrews).
Watched April 28, 2013.

When it comes to kids’ films, Brave is pretty good.  When it comes to Pixar films, it doesn’t quite meet expectations.

 

The animation is nothing to complain about–it is the absolute beauty that we have come to know and respect from a Pixar film.  However, except for Cars 2Brave almost hits the bottom of my list of watch-worthy Pixar films.  I was more than excited when it came out in theaters–Pixar’s first female lead is a fiery Scottish red head who wants to ride through the glen shooting arrows instead of getting married.  The story is indeed what holds this film back, and I hardly felt it was worth 93 minutes of my time.

 

Perhaps my expectations got the better of me when it comes to Brave (and who can blame me with the song they chose for the trailer–see below).  It starts out well enough, following a predictable yet charming and entertaining storyline that is very well in line with the trailer.  Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald)has a long, unruly, incredibly red mane of hair that goes deep down into her soul.  While her father is distracted by hunting bears and telling the story of how he lost his leg, her mother is preoccupied by making a lady out of her daughter, who is in fact a princess.

 

As is true in many royal situations, and other cultures besides, Merida is going to have an arranged marriage, although the method of choosing her suitor is rather barbaric and the candidates are bleak.  They participate in games to win her hand–such as throwing heavy objects and other manly displays.  Merida is furious with both of her parents, but most especially her mother.  The two of them have a strained relationship, fueled by both who refuse to see the other’s point of view.

 

I won’t say much else about the story, else I should give away some major plot points, but it is the rest of the story that I was very disappointed with.  There needed to be some way to solve the situation.  If Merida lay down and accepted the marriage, she wouldn’t have become a Pixar leading lady.  However, there needed to be some way to bridge the communication gap between herself and her mother, and frankly I found the results a lot more childish than most Pixar blockbusters.

 

There are a few twists and turns in the story that don’t lend much, and actually weigh down the plot, although I cannot embellish lest I give too much away.  Therefore I will leave you with this: the animation, colors, and scenery are all beautiful.  The music is fairly good, and although the men are all one dimensional, they were my favourite bits of the film.

 

If you enjoy Pixar, I would say that Brave is probably worth seeing at least once, but there are a lot more films on my list to watch before I would see this one again.  Maybe I can satisfy my need for more Celtic culture in my life by listening to the song from the trailer (“Tha Mo Ghaol Air Aird A’ Chuain” by Julie Fowlis) over, and over, and over again.

Puss In Boots (2011) Review | Jamie Daily

Puss In Boots (2011)
84th Academy Awards 2012
2/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Animated Feature Film (Chris Miller).
Watched January 29, 2013.

 

Puss In Boots had the potential to be the Zorro for kids and a great family movie that everyone could enjoy.  The classic character from the successful Shrek films was fabulous as a secondary character, but when placed in a leading role, his charms run thin and the depth of his character is questionable.

 

Puss borrows the theme of fairytale creatures from Shrek and puts its own spin on it.  Puss grew up in an orphanage where he was friends with Humpty Dumpty, an evil mastermind in the making.  They dream of one day finding the magic beans of legend and climbing the bean stalk to find a golden egg.  Things go awry, however, when Puss saves the Comandante‘s mother and suddenly becomes the town hero.  Friend turns on friend and once Humpty forces Puss to become a fugitive, things will never be the same.  Years later, Humpty finds Puss again and through some genius tactics and a gorgeous feline sidekick, he pulls him back into the dream of chasing those golden goose eggs.

 

Every character has the potential of being heroic, deep, and screen worthy.  Perhaps the writers held back because it was a kids movie, or perhaps their ideas did not translate well into reality, because every character and plot line fell short.  Humpty was the only character who came close to his full potential.  At the same time, the motivation seems forced, the circumstances unreal, and some scenes are so out of place it completely throws off the balance and pacing of the film.  For example, within the first few scenes, Puss and his feline counterpart Kitty Softpaws have a dance off in an underground cat bar.  The circumstances, dance off, and bar itself seemed so out of place and unreal that it was astonishing the script even got funded.

 

The rest of the movie is fairly entertaining and held my attention pretty well.  There was a bit of meandering and some unnecessary action, but all in all it went over well.  The ending was obvious, but perhaps this made it rewarding.  It seems as if the character of Puss was not able to maintain being the main character.  Unlike his compared human likeness, Zorro, his stereotypical Latin personality traits get old a little fast, but still tend to amuse.  The humor is definitely more childish than what one might find in Shrek.

 

The animation, was of course, lovely.  I am always a fan of an animator capturing the giant eyes of an animal and how we all fall under their spell.  There was a great use of lighting and texture, and again, I really enjoyed how they brought so many more fairytale creatures to life in a new and unique way.

 

All in all, it might be a good movie for the kiddos, but I’m not such a big fan.  I wouldn’t exactly seek out this film to see it again.

Sources: FanArt.TVIMDBRotten TomatoesNY TimesEvery Oscar Ever

Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011) Review | Jamie Daily

Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)
84th Academy Awards 2012
2/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Animated Feature Film (Jennifer Yuh).
Watched January 26, 2013.

 

I am a sucker for Pixar, but especially for Kung Fu Panda.  The main character Po reminds me so much of my brother-in-law that he is perhaps the best character ever.  That being said, we all know that sequels, especially of late, are generally prime examples of trying too hard to better one’s self.  The simplicity and wit of the first is lost or overextended and the character arcs take on more and more drastic turns.  The first time I saw Kung Fu Panda 2 when it came out, I was severely under-whelmed.  This time, thankfully, my expectations were lower and thus I enjoyed it much more.

 

Once again we travel to China to see its beauty and its tradition in almost exaggerated ways, thanks in part to Hans Zimmer‘s compositions that play tribute to past kung fu films.  We get to see some of our favourite characters again and watch them, in all their amazingly animated glory, perform incredible feats and fight more beautifully than we can imagine.  We see the characters interact again, and more importantly, we get to learn more about them.

 

The fact that we maintained the old cast from part one and then gathered many more in part two makes the plot a little heavy to begin with.  Po (voiced by Jack Black) and the Fabulous Five are clearly great friends at this point.  Po is having the time of his life being The Dragon Warrior and always seems to pair up with Tigress (Angelina Jolie) to successfully bring down their foe.  Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) continues to guide Po’s training and in this film encourages him to find his inner peace.  It is only then that he can defeat the new villain.

 

Shen (Gary Oldman) is a particularly troubled Peacock who has committed genocide and stolen the throne.  When the Fabulous Five learn that he has killed a great kung fu master and is using a new weapon to destroy all that they hold dear, they immediately set out to bring him to justice.  Through much revelation, heartache, and unbelievable peace, they will bring Shen down or die trying.

 

The character relationships, for the most part, were a bit too friendly in comparison to the first film, in my opinion.  Po and Tigress are suddenly best friends, for example, which is very far from what they were previously.  Shifu has a very small role but stays true to himself, and the development between Po and his father is very touching.  Po, despite what he discovers about himself and his past, seems to have slipped backward a few notches and the humor the writers give him is much more idiotic and slap stick than it was before.

 

If only for the love of the first film, I would suggest Kung Fu Panda 2 for you.  Its animation is outstanding, its cast is phenomenal, and the kung fu is amazing.  If you have low expectations and just want some fun, this would be a good family movie choice.

Sources: WikiaIMDBRotten TomatoesNY TimesJohn Likes Movies

Rango (2011) Review | Jamie Daily

Rango (2011)
84th Academy Awards 2012
2/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award, which it won.
Won Best Animated Feature Film (Gore Verbinski).
Watched January 25, 2013.

We all know characters who experience an identity crisis.  “Who am I?”

Rango is your classic lizard in a glass box who fancies himself a thespian–the hero.  The one problem is that the hero doesn’t know his motivation.  In fact, before the movie really gets going, we aren’t even sure if the lizard has a name.  He lives in a tank with a small pool of water and a couple plastic friends, but when his road tripping owners swerve to avoid some roadkill, he is sent flying and the adventure begins.  He finds himself in a vast desert where water is valuable currency.

 

After wandering for a day, he encounters Beans, a ranch owner, who takes him into town.  Dirt is a modest western town down on its luck.  The bank has almost run dry and even the kids are tough gun slingers.  Deciding to finally become the man and the hero he wants to be, the lizard creates the character of Rango and wows a whole saloon with his fearsome tales.  Suddenly he finds himself sherif and protector of the water.  This leads to mysterious thieves, fighting giant rattlesnakes, and a high speed chase involving rodents on bats.

 

The animation in Rango is undeniably brilliant.  Just when we thought that Pixar was going to hold the lock on blockbuster worthy, pristinely gorgeous animation forever, Paramount in the form of Nickelodeon comes out with this number and sweeps us all away.  Its win for animation is definitely deserved, and possibly a statement to throw Pixar down a rung or two.

 

Rango himself is voiced by Johnny Depp, who is always a classic with brilliant comedic timing.  I enjoyed his depiction of the character.  In fact my favourite scene in the film is when he creates the character of Rango for himself in the saloon.

 

Despite these two wonderful aspects of the film, there was little else about it that I enjoyed.  The beginning had immense promise, but once it got past his accidental killing of a hawk that vaulted him into the (not so coveted) position of sherif, it went downhill quickly.  It was predictable, long, and meandering.  It almost felt like it was trying too hard to be too many things.  When the film isn’t even two hours long but can’t hold your attention for half of it, it is not competing with the generally engaging story telling of Disney Pixar‘s masterful creations.

 

I wanted so much to be a fan of Rango.  The beginning had me hooked–an animal stuck in a cage and wondering “who am I?” is hardly original, but at the same time I saw the promise and loved it.  But like I said before, once he was sherif, they didn’t do enough with the story and let the beginning fall to waste.  If it wasn’t for this blog, I wouldn’t have finished the film.

 

Rango deserves the two stars because of the beginning and the animation, but otherwise the story and characterization needed a lot of work.  I might encourage you to watch this film just in case you disagree with me, but otherwise it isn’t something I will actively seek out to watch again.

Sources: WallpoperIMDBRotten TomatoesThe Best Picture ProjectJohn Likes Movies