Quick Hit: A dreadful bore of a film with actors that struggle to lift it out of a poor torturous script.
I really thought this was a shame because there is a lot of promise to this film. After I failed to enjoy the movie, I looked up the story of the book and the way it was told. Why were there changes? Why take a book that is fast-paced and easily enjoyed, full of sarcasm and dark humor, and water it down into a slowly told flashback film?
I may rant a bit here.
It bothers me that whenever an author has a hit book, it is turned into a movie. That sounds ludicrous to say on a movie blog, but it's true: not all books need to be movies. Sometimes the power of one's imagination, or the author's style and tone, is much more powerful than the visual and auditory medium of a film. There are certain stories that should stay in the written word.
Quick Hit: A nice film with witty dialogue, an interesting story, and enough moments to make you jump.
Cloverfield, Cloverfield. Indeed, J.J. Abrams in general. Let’s just let me come out and say it: for the most part, I’m a big fan of Bad Robot productions. I loved Lost (We gotta go back Kate!), and several other TV shows and movies (Revolution, Super 8) had enough good moments to make them enjoyable. Anyways, on to Cloverfield.
I liked Cloverfield quite a bit. It’s my kind of movie. I think this is an example of a found footage film that did things right in what is now a bit of an overused genre. The teasing of the monster(s) throughout the film keeps you interested enough that you don’t get bored. I really liked the monster design for Clover. So much so that after the film, I googled it. It turns out that a lot of the original designs for the monster didn’t make it into the film, but the raw elements did. The idea was to make a creature that was immature, scared, and out of its element (much like an elephant going on a rampage through a modern Indian city).
The witty dialogue in the film was pretty good too. Writer Drew Goddard captures some great awkwardness in the first scenes, and T.J. Miller (Hud) does the lines justice with just enough heart to make you love and not hate him. I consistently noted how much I loved the minor interactions between characters, in scenes that weren’t really important to the film. I think this, coupled with the found footage technique, really made you feel a part of this film.
There were some minor things that didn’t really sit well with me. I think anybody that was old enough to remember 9/11 has a hard time when you see buildings crashing down in New York. I also think that when people are running out of the smoke and rubble covered in dust, you can’t help but drudge up those painful memories. Though it is a filmmaking technique that will be revisited over (War of the Worlds) and over (Star Trek Into Darkness) and over (Man of Steel), it is really hard on the viewer. Can Hollywood please think of something besides emotionally wrecking the audience?
Another thing that I didn’t like was the lack of overall depth of the characters. We find out very little about the people in the film. We have little background, little motivation, etc. I know I may be asking a lot from a film that tops out at barely 90 minutes, but I like my characters to be able to stand on their own a bit more.
If you want more information on this movie, check out IMDB.
Quick Hit: A visual spectacle that falls short of the story status that Pixar usually claims.
Let’s start off by saying that I am a huge fan of Pixar films. I loved them as a kid, and I love them as an adult. I think that animation is a medium that is extremely underused and can be a wonderful way for parents and their children to spend time together. However, I can’t give this film all the glowing reviews I could many others (Inside Out) because it just seems so… recycled.
Don’t get me wrong. The Good Dinosaur is not a bad film. In fact, it’s pretty good overall. The story of Spot and Arlo is one that lots of people will recognize, no matter how old you are: a boy and his dog. The main characters are fairly loveable, and I can’t say enough about the animation of this film. Technically, this film is breathtaking. If you pull your eyes away from the characters and look out at the landscapes, it is almost enough to make you forget that you are watching animation. Indeed, some of the first scenes with Henry on the farm make you swing your eyes back to the dinosaurs, which are obvious animations, just to give yourself some more perspective.
However, it is that familiarity that hurts The Good Dinosaur more than anything. Pixar is known for new ideas that make grown-up and child alike laugh and cry. The emphasis there, for anyone that missed the bolded text, is new. This film recycles so many ideas from other films. I am going to go into some minor spoilers here, so don’t read the next paragraph and just skip to the end if you are so inclined. I tried to give you some space with a photo here.
This movie is just a reiteration of The Lion King. I typed into my film notes that this film was Mufasa for the next generation. I mean, how many kids were scared by Mufasa’s death? And here’s another father dying as his son watches. Sure, it’s all about growing up and your father never truly leaving you, but come on. Another idea that seemed familiar was the T. Rex cowboy type characters. They seemed eerily (at least their introduction) similar to the sharks in Finding Nemo.
There are a couple other things that didn’t really hit home for me. There is a scene where Spot and Arlo enjoy some fruit that is one the ground. The implication is that the fruit has spoiled and fermented, leaving our child characters drunk (or high?). I though Disney had gotten past the pink elephants phase of Dumbo. Not only is this sending a message to children that are way too young to understand it, it is nightmare fuel on the highest level.
In fact, there is a lot of terrifying elements in this film for someone young. One of my little guys is just a bit south of three, and he watched this with me. He was pretty mesmerized by it, and didn’t really react to some of the scares, but I actually think he is too young to understand the horror. There are religious fanatics, there are inbred (possibly) hillbillies… anybody else recognize these themes from famous horror films? Getting past the scares, this movie is just plain sad. Indeed, other reviews I have read have said that this film is "engineered to make you cry". Growing up is hard, but at least some kids films have the decency to be happy the majority of it. This is like Secret of Nimnh!
All in all, it’s like I stated before. The Good Dinosaur is not a bad film. However, it contains several elements that just aren’t fitting with the plot, it feels recycled, and just isn’t up to Pixar’s standards. But, kids seem to like the bright, colorful visuals and the loveable main characters. I’m going to give this film a generous B-.
Check out IMDB for more information about The Good Dinosaur.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"