Rango Review

Rating: 8/10

Plot: A pet lizard finds himself lost in the desert after his tank flies off of the back of his owner’s car. He arrives at a town called Dirt where water is scarce to say the least. He plays himself up as a hero of the west to the local townsfolk, and after (accidentally) saving them from a hawk. Because of his feats, he’s given the title of Sheriff by the mayor. Taking the name of Rango, he enjoys his newfound respect and admiration but when the situation gets dire in Dirt, he’ll have to pay up or shut up.

Breakdown: I was never a fan of westerns, unless you count space westerns. And despite being interested in this movie when it was first released, mostly because Nickelodeon promoted it quite a bit (They produced it, but it’s hard as hell to find their name on it) I never got around to watching it until now. Too bad too because this is a pretty damn good movie.

Admittedly, the story is completely overdone. Some guy pretends to be something he’s not only to eventually get ousted and then gather up the courage to return and set things right. Been there done that. And yes, the awkwardness of the continuous lying does irk me quite a bit.

However, I really love the writing of the dialogue, the timing of the jokes, the characters and the style. I can’t really compare this to any other animated movie that I can think of. It’s pretty unique in its own right, at least barring the story.

One of the ways this movie stands out is its art and animation. Rango was produced by ILM (Lucasfilms) and it is absolutely gorgeous…..I think I drooled a little.

Excuse me, I really should say it’s butt ugly, but it’s meant to be gritty and kinda ugly. It’s a western with a bunch of desert animals like rats and lizards. Even the love interest, Beans, that’s her actual name, is pretty blech-looking. But my god, the details. They are fantastic. From the littlest drops of water and the hairs and scales on the animals to the town of Dirt and the vast desert. It is all just deliciously…..Ugligorgeous. What’s even more incredible is how they integrated the human world into their own world. The cars and lights look fantastic, we’ve got a huge cityscape, and even stuff like the items in Rango’s tank are beautifully detailed.

Then we see one human character briefly, The Man With No Name; IE A Clint Eastwood ‘Spirit of the West’ character who guides Rango back on his path. And not only is he also incredibly well-detailed, but his part is probably the least cliched because he doesn’t do that lame ‘just believe in yourself blah blah’ speech. He gives a realistic speech that a Clint Eastwood character would probably give. Sadly, however, they did not get Clint Eastwood to play this part, but he was well-performed by Timothy Olyphant.

They also didn’t dumb down most of the scenes for the sake of the children. Characters get shot, they die, they swear (to a degree), they describe several gory situations and the dialogue is perfectly suited for older audiences as well as young ones. Which is weird because somehow this movie managed to grab a PG rating.

In regards to characters, they’re all kinda stereotypes, but they’re done in a fairly unique and memorable manner. Johnny Depp (hey, you broke away from Disney and Tim Burton for five seconds! Congrats!) plays our titular character, Rango. Interestingly, his real name, the one he would’ve been given by his owner, is never mentioned, which kinda makes him a legit ‘man with no name’. He named himself through the traditional means of reading it off of something he saw.

He’s a bit of a delusional chameleon who longs to be a big popular hero, but he’s lived all of his life in a tank with no one to interact with except a wind-up goldfish and a barbie doll torso. It’s actually a little sad to think that his owner might be devastated over losing his pet, but Rango never mentions it or seems to care.

Rango’s one of the most uncomfortable characters to watch because he’s lying through most of the movie, and he plays up his lies as much as possible in order to fully create a heroic sheriff persona, but he really is a good guy who wants to help the people of Dirt.

Beans isn’t all that interesting. She’s a typical ‘no non-sense’ female lead whose only schtick is her defense mechanism. Beans is a desert iguana and she has a defense mechanism that essentially causes her to freeze up and be completely unaware of her surroundings. Problem is, this ability sometimes springs up without warning or trigger. She’ll just be talking and then boom. Then she just transforms into a doting girlfriend at the end, and it’s actually a little annoying.

Priscilla, the cactus mouse, steals several scenes with her odd habit of being incredibly and painfully blunt about situations and going on small tangents about frightening or gory situations.

Then there’s the mayor who is about as transparent as humanly possible. It’s obvious that he’s behind the water shortage in the town yet it takes Rango to finally figure it out and call him out on it. He’s not much of a villain, but there is someone who actually earns the villain title; Rattlesnake Jake.

As you can guess, Rattlesnake Jake is a rattlesnake. A huge rattlesnake….with piercing almost glowing orange, yellow and red eyes, huge fangs…..and that’s about it…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh there is his KICK-ASS MACHINE GUN TAIL. Oh my god, I never knew I needed a movie with a rattlesnake with a machine gun for a tail in my life, but that part of me has been fulfilled now. He is a big, badass, looming bastard of a snake. Though the reason I really like him isn’t just how badass he is, it’s that he actually has some sense of honor. By the end, he’s basically an anti-hero.

The fact that everything looks more or less real along with stuff like guns and animal threats such as hawks really makes the movie much more intense.

And might I commend the movie for having the best end credits sequence I’ve seen in ages? The art, the direction, the style, the music; they were all awesome for that segment.

Bottomline: Even if you don’t like westerns, I’d say definitely give this movie a shot. It’s cleverly written, has a great realistic feel to it, is gorgeously detailed, has some fantastic music, intense action sequences and while it’s not the most unique story in the world, you never once feel bored while watching it. I had a lot of fun with this movie, and I’d gladly watch it several more times.

Recommended Audience: Mild swearing (hell, damn, maybe an ‘ass’ I can’t remember), guns, smoking, some people get shot but I don’t think anyone dies from a gunshot wound, a bird dies from being crushed, an armadillo ‘dies’ from being run over by a car (and ew they closeup on his squished body, even though, oddly, there’s no guts or gore, it’s like someone flatted a balloon filled with flour) ‘scary situations’ maybe. 10+

Pixar’s Lamp: Toy Story

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Rating: 9.5/10

Plot: In a world where toys are alive, yet pretend to be inanimate around humans, a boy named Andy’s favorite toy, a cowboy named Woody, feels threatened by the presence of a new toy, a space ranger toy called Buzz Lightyear. Andy slowly starts playing with Buzz more than Woody, and in his jealousy Woody accidentally causes Buzz to fall out the window. When Woody ends up getting lost as well, he and Buzz have to work together to make it back home and back to Andy.

Breakdown: It’s Pixar’s turn with their first baby; Toy Story and I LOVE TOY STORYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!

*cough* Sorry.

It’s one of my favorite movies ever. I’ve become fairly good at removing my nostalgia goggles when it comes to things that I used to love when I was a kid, but Toy Story holds up extremely well as still being entertaining, fun, funny, heartwarming and exciting. Best of all, it’s a movie that parents and kids can enjoy together; not a movie that you turn on just to humor your kids.

The characters are all unique and lovable. They all implement various parts of their designs into their own specific brands of humor. Even the minor toys get their own little times to shine and be memorable. Woody and Buzz in particular have great chemistry both as enemies and friends. They bounce off of each other with plenty of entertaining banter and they are really a joy to watch.

The story is fairly unique and never becomes boring or cliché (Also I never knew Joss Whedon worked on this.) Jealousy’s not really a new thing, but they implement it in a way that doesn’t come off as tired.

Love or hate Randy Newman, I love his songs here. He was perfect to do the music for this movie.

Art and animation wise, the designs are unique and memorable. The animation is believable and really brings the toys to life in more ways than one. I will say that the animation, usually involving the human characters and Scud (whose eyes are just weird), is sometimes not quite as polished as what we’ve come to enjoy from Pixar movies today, but this is hardly noticeable and nothing major. Besides, they were just starting out here anyway.

……Oh wait, no. I can never forgive the nightmare fuel that is Molly. *shudder*

It even does product placement right. It puts a bunch of existing toy brands with allusions to real brands with toys made specifically for the movie and manages to market all of them. I still, to this day, wish I had gotten that creepy baby doll robot spider from Sid’s room. That kid may have been a serial killer in the making, but that toy was cool. (Seriously, his parents just let him buy rockets, play with matches, blow up his toys and get an ‘I ❤ explosives’ bumper sticker on the wall and don’t suspect a thing?) I did have a big Buzz Lightyear toy that I actually still have in my closet somewhere with his rocket (non-cardboard version).

This movie stands up really well and never ceases to be entertaining and heartwarming to me. It is a very fitting opening to Pixar’s prestigious career.

Recommended Audience: There’s toy violence when it comes to Sid as he really likes torturing and blowing up his toys through various means. The final scene with Sid would also be insanely frightening if shown without context in any other movie. But eh, come on. 5+

Dreaming of Dreamworks: Antz Review

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Rating: 7/10

Plot: Z is a worker ant who feels like a nobody. Part of a huge colony where hardly anyone has a real identity or personality, Z wants to break away from all of them and be his own ant. The colony’s princess, Bala, also wants to break away from her boring duties as princess to have some ‘fun’ with the workers and meets Z at a bar. They hit it off, but are torn apart by the horrific norms of society. However, when a general, Bala’s fiancee, has a terrible secret plan to wipe out all of the workers and create his own colony with soldiers, it’s up to Z, Bala and his friends to save the colony.

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Breakdown: Going through all of Dreamworks’ productions this time, and Antz is first on the list. A lot of people are quick to dismiss Antz because so many people saw it as a blatant rip off of one of Pixar’s first babies, A Bug’s Life. I can see that, given the fact that both take place in ant colonies and both have a ‘different’ and ‘weird’ main character who falls in love with their colony’s princess. I can also easily see this since even the studios were arguing over who was really copying who. In addition, their productions were going at at the same time. Antz actually debuted a couple of months before A Bug’s Life, so I kinda wonder why Antz is labeled as the rip off if it came technically before A Bug’s Life.

Pixar did make more money off of their movie than Dreamworks did, but Pixar also had about 20 mil more in their budget to work with than Dreamworks. They seem to be pretty square in their releases and productions yet A Bug’s Life is always seen as the triumphant one. Let’s differentiate these two.

At face value, this plot is actually quite a bit different from A Bug’s Life in that there’s no dictator-esque group of people squeezing the colony of every bit of their food….but there is a nazi-esque general who believes that the worker ants are useless and wants to kill them all in order to make a new colony with the princess and the soldiers.

There’s no circus group that helps out, but the main character does lie to a bunch of people in order to feel good about himself and gain support.

The main character’s not an awkward outcast inventor….but he is Woody Allen….take that as you will.

There’s plenty that is different with this movie. Some different good (No annoying child ants!) and some different bad (Z is not very likable, in my opinion. Also the artwork is weird to me sometimes.)

I guess that is my main problem with this movie. I never grew to like Z. Maybe because I never liked Woody Allen, but he is just so damned annoying, and he really is just Woody Allen as an ant. Z doesn’t like the fact that he seems to be insignificant and this is only reinforced when people….reinforce it.

There is a hive-mind way of thinking in the colony, as expected. There’s no individualism, no free thinking, no real choices; just doing what you’re told to do and doing it for the sake of your colony. A Bug’s Life worked in a similar manner, but they were far brighter and upbeat about the situation like everyone was in their roles because they wanted to be not because they didn’t know any better.

Z’s so different because he actually thinks for himself. Ooh what a rebel. This wouldn’t be that bad if he wasn’t so…..vocal about his character being mindless robots….He’s a goth kid without the black is what I mean. Always prattling on about how everyone just does what their told and never thinks for themselves and–

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Yeah that.

Not that he doesn’t have a point; they don’t do anything but what they’re told. But it’s just thrown in your face so blatantly. And of course Z setting one example causes a huge shift in everyone’s mindsets and causes everyone to revolt against their work. Thing is, the scene where they showcase this makes it seem like individualism=laziness. They were told to do nothing but work, but their work had a point – to help the colony. Yet the instant they’re like ‘hey we can think for ourselves’ no one wants to work or help at all anymore.

The colony really is a bunch of, forgive this term,…sheep. They change their attitudes so quickly back and forth that you nearly get whiplash at how quickly they turned on their almighty hero Z in order to follow the antagonist.

The art and animation were also…..blech-ish. I didn’t mind the character models all that much. The ant designs were also much different than what we see in A Bug’s Life. In fact, that’s a bit of a gripe I have with that movie. I know black and red aren’t really appealing colors to work with, but blue ants? Bright blue ants? Really?

Anyway, the ants here have a much less cartoony design than Pixar’s, and they’re colored in a more realistic brown color. It works okay, but that art, especially where Weaver was involved, looked claymation-ish. Or almost unfinished. I get that Dreamworks was just starting out with this but still, not grade A work. The animation is good, though. A little on the stiff side. There never seemed to be any moments where it seemed funny or unnatural….Well, okay, the human scene was weird. You never see his/her torso and the walking just seems so slow.

In the end, it was a pretty enjoyable movie that kept my attention, but I don’t think I’d ever have a reason to watch it again. Despite having enough to stand on its own merit and not be compared to A Bug’s Life….A Bug’s Life is just a more enjoyable movie to me.

Recommended Audience: Another fairly significant difference between this movie and A Bug’s Life is that this has more adult humor in it. A good chunk of the jokes are really jokes for older audiences and there are several instances of swearing and some allusions to sex. Nothing major, obviously, though. 7+

Aardman’s Clay: Chicken Run

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Rating: 8.5/10

Plot: Ginger is one of many chickens in Mrs. Tweedy’s chicken farm, and she’s also the one leading a mass effort to break out of the place. With their lives amounting to nothing but laying eggs and suffering from a swift blow by an ax when the eggs stop being produced, they are desperate to escape by any means necessary. However, every escape effort made by Ginger and the chickens has been met with failure.

When hope seems to be at its dimmest, their salvation falls from the sky. Literally. A rooster named Rocky flies into the farm and subsequently crashes. With a poster revealing Rocky as an amazing flying rooster, Ginger recruits him to teach them all how to fly and escape in exchange for hiding him from the circus that he belongs to. Rocky agrees, but seems to be hiding something. And with Mrs. Tweedy’s new chicken pot pie making machine arriving on their doorstep, they have no time for secrets or failures.

Breakdown: Once upon a time, Dreamworks had a sexy love affair with Aardman animations, also known as ‘oh yeah that claymation studio’. Like all good relationships, this one started out steamy and ended in a toilet…..but more on that another day. The main point of this is Chicken Run.

Chicken Run was Aardman’s first ever feature length film after many years of doing short films. Aardman is indeed ‘that claymation studio’ as they pretty much have the market cornered in keeping that style alive. You may know them from Wallace and Gromit, Shaun the Sheep and even Arthur Christmas.

Aardman clearly seems to have more creative control on this project that Dreamworks did. Other than the logo in the beginning, I can’t really feel anything Dreamworks-y here. That will change down the line, but again we’ll talk about that later on.

Chicken Run, at its base, is kinda predictable but mostly in regards to what I feel is the weakest part of the film, Rocky.

It is painfully obvious from the getgo that Rocky is hiding something, and even more obvious that he’s hiding the fact that he can’t actually fly. Much of the running time is somewhat awkward as you subconsciously tick down that clock in your head that will eventually reach ‘when the shit hits the fan’. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I hate when shows and movies do this. I don’t want to feel awkward while watching a movie. I don’t want to sit there twiddling my thumbs waiting for the big devastating ‘secret’ to come out in the open. It’s not entertaining to me.

Luckily, the way they handled it with Rocky wasn’t too bad….but then you have Rocky himself. Rocky is a very…if you’ll forgive the pun, cocky guy. And he’s the lone handsome American in a group of English girls (and one old rooster…and one Scottish hen) so of course the girls all fawn over him except for Ginger who is way more concerned with getting out of there, which leads the two to bicker and have weird sexual chicken tension. They even do the bit where he calls her by cute and semi-psuedo-ish sexist nicknames like dollface while she constantly corrects him that her name is Ginger.

All that said, I watched this movie when it first came out and I remember not being all that impressed with it. However, on the rewatch, I got plenty of laughs and entertainment out of it. Barring the cliché plotline with the deceit and cliché character relationship between the two leads, it’s still a very solid movie.

While Rocky does seem like he’s going to be the one to end up saving the day in the end, and they even have an almost eye-rolling scene involving Rocky saving Ginger while they both yell each other’s name in slow motion, it’s still Ginger’s idea that comes out on top and Ginger as the final hero. Ginger is very likable in that she seems to be the only one around with real sense and determination. She is a true leader to her friends, and while she honestly could get away from the farm on her own, she refuses to do so even under threat of death because she won’t abandon her friends.

The setting of the chicken farm is pretty unique, even if it is masking for a prison break movie. Most of the characters, large and small, are pretty memorable and funny. Babs in particular is funny purely because, no matter what they’re doing, she won’t put down her damn knitting needles. Also, there are egg-obsessed rats who are contracted out to get supplies for the girls and oddly enough they seem to be based on Statler and Waldorf as they make snarky commentary over everything the chickens do to escape.

Mrs. and Mr. Tweedy are a bit too super-villainy for my taste, but they also get some great scenes and have a good dynamic. Mrs. Tweedy is a greedy evil bitch who is so emotionally detached from….everything, she even calls her husband ‘Mr. Tweedy.’ Speaking of Mr. Tweedy, he is the only one who realizes that the chickens are smart and organized, yet his wife continues to simply call him crazy. He’s the bumbling oaf, she’s the evil mastermind.

I also don’t really understand their plan. They don’t seem to be making enough money selling eggs, so they buy a really overly-complicated chicken pot pie making machine to turn their chickens into pies and get rich off of selling the pies. Okay….well, what happens when you run out chickens? You’d have to buy more chickens. And you have to have a constant supply of vegetables, pie crusts and gravy not to mention how much money it probably costs to run the machine. I’d bet by the time they processed their last chicken they probably would only barely cover the initial costs of the machine.

Then, spoiler alert for the ending, she sees that the chickens are indeed intelligent, organized and have built a giant mechanical bird to fly out of the farm (this is the second movie I’ve seen involving a bunch of oppressed animals building an operational mechanical bird…) yet she’s still obsessed with killing them instead of….I dunno, selling them to the circus that came by earlier. Or putting on her own show. I’d think an intelligent chicken who can build complicated aeronautics is more of a ticket seller than a chicken who is shot out of a cannon. End of spoilers.

I will admit that I’m not a fan of claymation/stop-motion. I respect the living hell out of claymation animators because it is just so painstaking, slow and frustrating to work in this style, but it just doesn’t typically work for me, outside of movies and shorts that are intentionally driven for creepiness and horror. Something about it is…., well, creepy to me. That said, this is a very well-made film. Aardman does some fantastic art and animation work that really draw you into their world with some incredible details. I think the teeth and constant open mouths on the chickens was a bit off-putting, but nothing that bad.

In regards to voice acting, everyone did a great job. They did a wonderful job making these characters real for me…..though, again, Rocky is kinda the exception. Rocky is voiced by Mel Gibson, and I can’t separate the two. Mel Gibson does not have range. He just doesn’t. And every voice acting role he takes is just Mel Gibson talking through whatever animated mouthpiece he’s given. He acts perfectly fine, but I just can’t not hear Mel Gibson.

Bottomline: Chicken Run is a great movie with some fantastic characters, wonderful comedic timing and slapstick, and a fun little prison break adventure. It’s not full-on comedy as some moments get pretty damn real, but it is still a movie that achieved in making me actually laugh out loud several times. The two tones work well together, and I found it to be a fantastic ride.

Recommended Audience: While there’s nothing graphic, there is a lot of talk of slaughtering chickens, and one chicken sees the business end of an ax during the movie. They obviously don’t show the scene full out, but you see the silhouette of the ax being raised and then the sound of it hitting the chopping block. There’s also a slight gore fake out at the end. Other than the downright depressing mood that this movie can bring about, there’s nothing else of note. 7+

Dissecting the Disquels: Brother Bear 2

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Rating: 4/10

Plot: Kenai and Koda are back, and Kenai has reunited with his old friend Nita who wants a favor. She’s trying to get married, but apparently she’s already been promised to Kenai after giving her an amulet when they were children. The great spirits support monogamy so they force Kenai and Nita to go to the place where the amulet was given to burn the amulet and break the bond between the two. However, even the simplest tasks can be complicated when love enters the picture.

Breakdown: I loved the movie Brother Bear. It’s not as dear to my heart as some other Disney movies, but I still loved it. It had wonderful visuals, a good story, mostly good characters and great music. One of the best things about Brother Bear is that it’s one of the few Disney movies to almost completely omit the subject of romance.

The main characters never fall in love, they have no romantic interests and there’s no big get together or wedding at the end. The most romance that they had in that movie was some sappy couple of bears at the salmon run that were meant to be comedy focuses, and a passing flirtation with Denahi and a couple of girls. That’s it. There was no room in Brother Bear for romance because the story was set purely on the brothers; Kenai, Denahi and Sitka and Kenai and Koda. The reason I loved that was because I am really just so sick of stories feeling like they need to shoehorn in romance into any and all storylines even if there’s no room or no point.

In this sequel, they rectify that by having the entire movie, subplots and all, be about love and marriage. Oh and brotherhood is squeezed in there somewhere. Every character that reappears in this movie gets a love interest beyond Koda, and love is shoved so far down your throat that it’s painful.

Well, let’s ruin another Disney movie for me. Welcome to Brother Bear 2.

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We start with Kenai and Koda chasing each other as the opening music plays. The music’s somewhat reminiscent of the original movie’s, but noticeably different. The opening song, Welcome to this Day, pales in comparison to Great Spirits. Right from the start you can tell we’re in for a romance themed movie with swans making a heart shape with their necks to happy little goat parents watching their children.

Why hasn’t Koda grown….at all? In the least? It’s an entirely new year, yet he’s not even slightly bigger.

While one has not changed at all, the other has changed quite a bit as Kenai has had a voice change in this movie. I understand when they can’t get back original voice actors for sequels, especially direct to DVD ones, but Patrick Dempsey sounds nothing like Joaquin Phoenix.

They’re on their way to some ridge for the spring equinox to get all sorts of different berries to eat.

We have a short run-in with Tug, the big bear from the last movie voiced by Michael Clarke Duncan, who is really only there to plant the idea of romance into Kenai’s head by talking about his girlfriend. Kenai says they don’t need anyone else, but is clearly speaking with a bittersweet taste in his mouth.

We cut to a dream sequence that Kenai is having about a childhood experience. He and Nita were playing around in the snow using spears as pole vaults until Nita stuck the spear in too close to the edge of a floating piece of ice and fell into the water. She’s saved by Kenai, who brought her up to the top of the nearby waterfall to warm up….What an awful place to warm up. The water rushing in front of the cave has to make it even more freezing in there than it is outside. As Nita tried to keep warm, Kenai gave her an amulet that he had been wearing and they drew their stick figure drawings of each other on the cave wall. Nita’s father appeared on a boat below and she left never to see Kenai again I guess.

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….Well, there’s your big story behind this character and the amulet. Real impressive, huh? Also, simply giving a girl, especially when you’re children, a wooden amulet is an instant promise of eternal bond? Meanwhile, we cut to another Inuit village where a woman named Nita is getting ready for her wedding.

The first scene with Nita is very reminiscent of the scene in Mulan that starts the “Bring Honor to us All” song. She has two women who are never given names or explanations as to who they are to her clamoring over her every detail for the wedding. She tricks them into leaving as she puts on her wedding dress, which is the last thing that she has left of her mom. Oh yeah here’s something Disney doesn’t do very often, Nita’s mother is DEAD! Whawhawhaaaaa?

Her father comes in to talk to her before he gives her away saying how her mother would be proud and whatnot and they walk down the aisle.

It’s here where we see our first and practically only glimpse of Nita’s fiancee, Atka. He stands at the altar and gets no lines. There’s your characterization, people.

However, the great spirits will have none of that and send their mighty wrath upon the wedding by shooting down a lightning bolt which cracks the ground between the bride and groom. The villagers see this as a sign from the great spirits and we cut to Nita meeting with a shaman about what to do about it.

She’s played by Wanda Sykes, because God forbid we just have serious characters. She invokes the powers of the great spirits who tell her that Nita has already been promised to another in the form of an amulet. In order to break the bond between the two, the couple must go to where the promise originated and burn the amulet. Nita tells the shaman that Kenai’s a bear now. How she knows that is unknown. Maybe village to village gossip? So even if she found him she wouldn’t be able to talk to him.

Also, remember how the spirits were the ones who changed Kenai into a bear? Remember how none of the characters had magical powers? Well, now we have a shaman who has the power to talk to the spirits whenever she wants and give people the ability to talk to animals. Hell, even the village elder from the first movie couldn’t understand what Kenai was saying when he got turned into a bear or do magic stuff. But screw that, we need to speed this movie up so ✮ MAGIC✮ ✸!!

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She sets off on a journey to find Kenai an– are you kidding me? Not even a minute after she learns that she has to find Kenai….a bear….in the vast wilderness…..she finds, you guessed it, Kenai! In a scene that is reminiscent of when Nala finds Simba from TLK…She’s seen as a hunter by the boys and Kenai tries to protect Koda by attacking her, but finds that it’s Nita and puts her down.

Nita and Kenai reunite for a bit before she explains that she needs his help to burn the amulet that he gave her so that she can get married.

Kenai obviously feels a bit hurt that Nita wants to burn the amulet that he gave her when they were kids and refuses to go with her. She says that neither of them can go on with their lives if they don’t do this, but he still refuses.

….Wait, why can’t he go on with his life? He’s been doing just fine so far. It’s not like bears get married. But she, for some reason, brings up that the great spirits might turn Kenai back into a human again for some reason to help her burn the amulet…..What? How?…What? He’s not a bear under punishment anymore. He became a bear of his own volition. Even if they did offer that, why would he care? Unless…..wait, are they using his relationship to Koda as leverage? Are they technically keeping Koda hostage away from Kenai unless he agrees to help? Wow, that’s kinda awful, spirits and Nita.

Koda, hearing this, worries that they won’t be brothers anymore if they do turn him back. So, in order to sate Koda’s worries, he agrees to go to the waterfall to burn the amulet. Flimsy plotpoints are on buffet right now.

The boys and Nita run into the moose Rutt and Tuke, the comic relief from the previous movie, as they’re also on a mission of love. They’ve been trying to find mates, but the girl moose that they’ve found won’t give them the time of day. Kenai agrees to help them by pretending to attack while Rutt and Tuke pretend to save the girls and win their hearts.

It ends up in an awkward to watch scene where both Kenai and Rutt and Tuke fail miserably at their roles. Kenai does an embarrassing job trying to attack, which is odd because he’s shown that he can seem threatening, and Rutt and Tuke actually end up getting so scared by Kenai’s lame acting that they fall into the river and float away. I get that the scene was meant to be lame, but that was painful.

Kenai ends up getting kicked into a hollow log by the girl moose before they leave as well. In an attempt to get Kenai unstuck from the log, we realize that Nita has a fear of water ever since she nearly drowned as a child. She loses her bag containing the amulet in the river and is too scared to simply lean over and grab it from the water. She basically has a fit as the bag starts to float away and breaks the log that Kenai was stuck in as she yells at him to retrieve it for her. It goes over a waterfall, but quickly ends up on shore, somehow. As she breathes a sigh of relief, a comic relief raccoon comes over, sifts through her bag and steals the amulet. Why? Because padding.

I’m just now realizing that Kenai doesn’t have his totem around his neck. It was given back to him at the end of the first movie. What happened to it?

Anyway, Kenai, feeling guilty for apparently being responsible for her losing the necklace, goes off in the middle of the night to find the raccoon. He spends all night tracking it down and then Nita barges in and climbs the tree when Kenai was waiting for the raccoon to fall asleep to take it without bothering them. That’s the way to repay someone for doing a favor to you and working their ass off all night; by doing your best to ruin their hard work and not thanking them at all.

She makes too much noise and alerts the raccoon. He doesn’t notice Nita, but sees the boys. They ask for the necklace back as Nita tries to retrieve it herself. He then calls on his raccoon brethren of about 100 friggin’ raccoons as backup. What exactly happened to everything being afraid of this BEAR? The raccoons pelt him with pinecones until Kenai offers a trade. He has nothing to trade, but Nita has the amulet so who cares?

However, there’s a baby raccoon clinging to the necklace. She shoos him off, but then he cries for his mommy, which alerts the raccoons to Nita’s presence and they start chasing her. I should also mention that this scene is very reminiscent of the scene in Tarzan where Jane makes a baby monkey cry because she shoos it off of something she wants and then is chased by hundreds of monkeys. What is going on in this movie? There are so many scenes seemingly taken from other Disney movies, yet the movie itself is boring as hell.

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Kenai tells her to climb to the top of the tree while all of the raccoons follow her. He advises her to let go because he’ll catch her and they send the raccoons flying while sending themselves flying into a snowbank. Then they speak a mile a minute about what just happened while ending on how amazing the other is in a scene that is very reminiscent of a scene in a fellow Disney sequel, Lady and the Tramp 2: Scamp’s Adventure. Really, what is going on?

We’re at the halfway point in the movie and I’m still failing to get into it. Nita’s really annoying. She’s pushy, whiny, selfish and just an overall chore to watch. Koda’s annoyed me since the first movie and he’s no better here. Kenai’s okay, but his different voice and constant slapstick gags get old fast. The subplot with Rutt and Tuke is just embarrassing to watch. I didn’t mind them much in the first movie, but they’re pretty awful here. They’re there to push the message of love and extend the running time. That’s about it.

As for the plot, it’s very thin. It’s obvious as hell that Nita’s not going to end up marrying Atka especially since he’s not even a character so much as a picture with a name. He has no personality and no dialogue thus far. She’s gonna fall for Kenai and, if that shaman was any indication, she’ll likely get turned into a girl bear and they’ll live happily ever after.

Anyhoo, we meet back up with Rutt and Tuke who are still trying to court the girl moose. They’re rubbing themselves with dead leaves mud and, thanks to a prank from Tuke, poop, in order to attract them with scent.

Poop jokes? Really? That’s what we’re reduced to? Thanks, Disney.

Kenai tells them that he has another idea, but Nita explains that his last plan sucked. Kenai then decides to brush off the whole situation and go to the falls, but Nita decides that she wants to stay which is completely against the way that she has been acting this entire time. She’s been hell-bent on burning that amulet at the falls since she arrived, not willing to put up with any nonsense that interrupts them. Now she wants to delay her trip?

Nita sends Koda out to the girls to act all cute and cuddly even though bears, ya know, eat moose. They’re all in love with the little guy and Koda says that he’s playing hide and seek with his two best friends. Rutt and Tuke then come out asking if they’ve seen their bear friend. Koda comes out and they act all cute with him, tickling him and laughing and whatnot. The girls are all impressed with how good they are with the kid. They finally look like they’re going to get a date, but Rutt, for reasons beyond my understanding, suddenly blurts out poetry which makes him look like an idiot. Tuke knocks him down and walks way with both girls stating that his brother was hit on the head as a child and Rutt runs to follow. Bros before hoes doesn’t apply to moose apparently.

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Here’s my entry in the ‘most photogenic moose’ contest.

Nita and Kenai basically flirt about how she was able to hook them up but he wasn’t and they ignore Koda’s pleas for attention at impressing them with how good he acted during the plan.

Kenai explains that the falls are close as they only have to go a short ways and cross the river to get there by lunchtime the next day. Obviously the whole water-phobia thing comes into play so Nita suggests that instead of going through the river that they climb a bunch of mountains and crap to avoid it. Kenai and Koda practically laugh at the stupid route she has suggested and they vote to go their way, but she refuses like a stubborn child. Koda flips a fish out of the river for lunch which lands in Nita’s hands and makes her fall into the river. She flips out and immediately makes her way to shore.

Koda believes that she’s afraid of fish so Kenai and Koda quickly start laughing at her for it. Koda even takes the fish that he caught and does a puppet show about how scared she is of fish.

Wow, how completely insensitive and assholeish of you guys. First of all, she’s freaked out at the concept of water three times by now. That’s not a big enough hint that she’s afraid of water?

Second, even if she was afraid of fish, that’s no reason to act like an ass.

Third, this water-phobia thing is getting old, and it doesn’t even make complete sense. I can understand if she didn’t display outright signs of trauma after she was rescued as a child, but she left that scene ON A BOAT! If she’s so traumatized by water to the point where she won’t even lean over and grab a really important bag out of a slow as hell moving river, how the hell did she easily get into a boat and paddle away? She’s so scared of water I really have to wonder how she handles bathing or gentle rainshowers.

Kenai realizes that they’re upsetting her, so he yells at Koda to stop it. He doesn’t explain why, especially since he was laughing with him a minute ago; he just sighs in disappointment and goes to comfort Nita. He apologizes, and she explains her phobia of water and how she can’t go through the river because of it. Kenai says that they got through this much together so they’ll get through that together as well.

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Thus begins the ‘Koda Neglect montage’. Basically we have a montage of Nita and Kenai flirting and having fun together as they travel, while Koda is either treated like crap or completely ignored the entire way. Kenai stops Koda from walking on a log bridge to let Nita go first, he and Nita completely block Koda’s view of a mama bird feeding her baby birds, they nearly KILL HIM by not noticing or caring when he nearly falls off of a mammoth that they’re riding, barely able to hold onto the tail, and every other scene Koda shows him being completely ignored.

The song accompanying this montage is also okay, but it’s not very memorable.

The montage ends upon reaching the riverside. Kenai gives her a ride on his back to cross the river, and after going under the water and seeing turtles, she’s completely over her fear of water to the point where she actually gets off Kenai and swims to shore on her own.

What utter and complete bull. Yes, facing your fears helps you get over them, but a quick dip in the river and seeing some turtles shouldn’t be enough to completely cure you of a crippling phobia that you’ve had since you were a child that was caused by a traumatic near-death experience. It’s also a completely anticlimactic and stupid end to that insipid plotpoint.

Kenai and Nita walk away on the other side of the river, and Koda watches them with sadness as he continues to get ignored. They’ve been ignoring him in his entirety all day. I’d be surprised if they even realize he’s still traveling with them. What a good big brother Kenai turned out to be.

As Koda broods, we get another appearance by Rutt who has also been ditched by his brother for those floozies from before. He tells Koda to watch out because his brother might do the same thing to him. Rutt and Tuke; good for stupid comic relief and giving awful messages to children.

Koda doesn’t believe that Kenai would ever ditch him, but obviously has doubts.

Koda crosses the river and eavesdrops on Kenai and Nita who are laughing and talking by a fire not even realizing that Koda could’ve drowned behind them eons ago and no one would’ve been the wiser. I have a feeling these two are somehow the ancestors of the parents from Rugrats. Nita asks Kenai if he’s ever considered going back to being a human. He says that he’s thought about it and before you can say ‘obvious misunderstanding’, Koda interrupts and says that he is going to leave him for Nita and become a human again and he runs away. Kenai and Nita sit on their asses long enough for him to get a good head start.

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So yeah now they’re ripping off their own movie. Koda ran away in the last movie too, also in the snowy mountains.

Kenai and Nita search for him by following his tracks in the snow. Even though Kenai showed amazing tracking skills with those raccoons, he completely misses the footprint that leads into an ice cave, but Nita finds it. She also fails to tell Kenai because the plot said that Nita and Koda needed to have a heart to heart.

Nita finds Koda hiding in a hole in the wall of the ice cave and tries to bring Koda back, claiming it’s not safe, but he refuses. As the cave starts to collapse, he jumps into Nita’s arms. Well, that’s kinda what she meant by unsafe….

They manage to escape, but Koda gets pinned under a bunch of ice. Nita saves him, but flings them over the cliff in the process. They dangle over the edge while an avalanche occurs due to the collapse. They somehow ride the broken cliff piece on top of the avalanche (rocks do that?) but inevitably get buried. Kenai spots them and surprisingly only yells out Koda’s name. As he digs them out, again, all he says is Koda’s name. Ya know, you can show concern for both of them. There’s no need to play favorites just because Koda overreacted prematurely and you’re a terrible brother.

Koda explains that he believes Kenai’s going to leave him to go off with Nita and become human. He said he does miss being human, but they’re brothers and he’d never leave him. If Koda had just let Kenai finish his sentence before, this whole thing could’ve been avoided….

Hearing this, Nita gets all whiny. How did we go from constant slapstick and stupidity to butthurt city and stupidity?

We cut back to Rutt and Tuke where they’re watching the northern lights. Rutt’s off on his own while the girls are cuddling with Tuke. Tuke asks Rutt to get them some twigs and Rutt chokes back tears and agrees to go. Hearing that he’s crying, the girls instantly gravitate to his sensitivity and cuddle with him. These girls are more easily swayed than girls who thrive on teen romance novels. Oh you’re good with kids!?

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They reach the falls and see the lights as they prepare to view the spring equinox.

Oh did I forget to mention that in this universe the spring equinox is a magical event made by the great spirits? It happens in an instant. Yup, the great spirits turn winter into spring in mere moments, melting feet of snow, growing grass, blooming flowers and more. Because gradually doing that stuff over the course of a few weeks wouldn’t have meshed well with the movie.

Koda brings up connecting with his dead mom through the lights as Nita mentions her dead mom as well. We get some cliché line about how you don’t need to see the spirits to know that the people that you have lost and are gone are within your heart forever. The speech couldn’t be more cliché if it were on a Hallmark card.

Despite this talk about spirits and dead relatives and this being called BROTHER Bear, I guess dead brothers need not apply to this conversation because Kenai never brings up his dead brother from the previous movie, Sitka. The guy dies for you, turns you into a bear to teach you a life lesson, and is a friggin’ eagle, which is awesome, yet you can’t even give him a verbal cameo? Nice. I will give some slack here as to why Kenai’s other brother, Denahi, makes no appearance as his voice actor committed suicide before this movie was created. However, he can still be mentioned.

They start the burning and the lights vanish. After the amulet is gone, Nita tries to talk to the boys, but find that the spell broke with the burnt amulet. This creates a mirror of the same scene from the last movie where Kenai becomes human and is hurt when he can’t understand Koda’s words. She tearfully says goodbye while Kenai and Koda simply roar and grunt at her.

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We get our first sad song as they go their separate ways. It’s actually a very good song. Much more memorable than the songs we’ve been given. It has a nice somber tone and melody that fits the mood right. I wouldn’t say it’s as good as “No way out” but I’d still download it.

Koda and Kenai reach some food while Nita reunites with her family and prepares for her wedding.

Koda talks with Kenai about Nita. He asks if her gave her the amulet because he loved her and he says it was a long time ago so it doesn’t matter. Kenai goes off to sleep to get to the ridge with all the berries that they were going to early in the morning.

Koda speaks to the spirits, moreso his mom, telling her that he’ll be fine on his own and that they should turn Kenai back into a human so that he can be happy. The spirit lights….flicker for some reason and we cut to Kenai waking up. They kinda trick you into thinking that the spirits did turn him back, but he’s still a bear. Rutt and Tuke inform him that Koda ran off to find Nita and bring her back to him to make him happy. Kenai freaks out because Koda will be killed by hunters the instant that he sets foot in the village.

We cut to Nita getting ready for her wedding again. She’s having doubts this time and tells her father than she can’t marry Atka. Aw, but we got to know him so well and fell in love with him during that 32 seconds of screentime with no dialogue or backstory. And we know she truly loves him because she never talks about any aspects of him whatsoever and really never brought him up at all.

They’re interrupted by screams as Koda runs around being chased by the villagers. Nita tries to stop them to no avail. We finally get dialogue from Atka a full hour into this hour and 13 minute long (including credits) movie. However, we don’t learn much about him besides he’s like every man in the village in that if a bear entered it, they’d want to kill it. Kenai bursts onto the scene roaring to get them away from Koda. They run away with Kenai getting grazed on the back by a spear, but don’t worry, the wound’s gone mere seconds later. Continuity!

Kenai sticks Koda in a tree and tells him to stay low while he drives them away. Despite doing his best to hide, other hunters catch Koda anyway while laughing like stereotypical villains.

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Rutt and Tuke surprisingly show up to save the day, but end up getting caught up in a tree as they try to jump on the hunters. Conveniently, the tree breaks and falls on the hunters, leaving Koda unharmed and the girls once again impressed.

Kenai tries to run away from Atka, but he can’t shake him. Kenai jumps onto a cliff, and Atka throws his torch on it to spook him while jumping on him with his spear. The two fight while Nita catches up to them. She tries to get them to stop, but only Kenai does. Atka throws the torch in Kenai’s face and pushes him over the edge of the cliff. I guess this scene could resemble the scene in the Lion King where Scar did the same thing, but not exactly.

Nita scolds Atka for what he’s done and goes to Kenai’s aid. Yes, Atka. You’re awful for doing what you were taught to do your entire life and has never been seen as wrong until this very moment since the bear was your fiancee’s friend. Oh and protecting the village from what appeared to everyone else as a violent rampaging bear. You bastard!

Nita and Koda go to Kenai’s side. He’s supposedly hurt but I don’t see how. Koda and Kenai are still speaking to each other in roars and grunts since Nita can’t understand them. It’s odd. This scene is the only emotional scene to me only because of the subtlety involved with not being able to understand them.

Kenai puts out his paw and Nita matches it with her hand, again, like Tarzan, and Kenai puts it to his heart to say ‘I love you.’ Eugh. Nita admits her love for him too and the great spirits make a cameo again. Apparently they’re loading the ‘Make Kenai human’ program as Koda tells them what he asked them to do and that it’s okay because he just wants Kenai to be happy again. Kenai tells Nita that he can’t become human and leave Koda, but Nita tells him that she can join him instead – BOOM! CALLED IT! NITA → BEAR RESOLUTION! *cough* Excuse me. I like making movie predictions.

Nita’s father comes and asks her if this is what she truly wants. She says yes and he gives her his blessing. What a cool dad. Interracial marriage still isn’t cool to some people, but he’s letting his daughter turn into a bear to marry a bear. We can all learn a lesson here people. It involves bestiality in some way I think, but it’s still an important lesson to learn.

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Also, since when do people order the spirits around? Last I checked, they do what they want when they want unless they feel like giving you a choice. What, is Koda’s mom pulling strings up there?

I’m sorry to say that, while the intro almost sounds like a remix, we don’t get a reprise of Transformation from the last movie, which sucks because that’s one of my favorite instrumental songs in the Disney franchise. Instead we get some mish mash dramatic music that sounds cobbled together. Sad. Face. 😦

Nita looks….kinda weird as a bear and we cut to their bear wedding with bear friends and the village merging together. Right, the villagers who were laughing maniacally at catching a bear cub are now cheering at a bear wedding. Okay, movie. Atka’s nowhere to be found here, by the way. I guess he got burned at the stake for trying to kill a bear which is now seen as a friend. Damn that bastard who only got about two minutes of total screen time and about two full lines!

This is a legit issue with me though because we’re left thinking that Atka’s an asshole when he’s supposedly a really nice and honorable guy. They could’ve resolved this a lot better. Have Atka be understanding like a good friend. If Nita really did love him enough to go through all this to marry him, he can’t be all that bad.

Surprisingly, Eagle-Sitka does make a brief appearance at the very end though.

The raccoons from before are also there to cheer them on for reasons beyond my understanding. Why would you cheer on characters that stole what you believed was your stuff and flung you across the forest by a tree?

We end on the great spirits changing the cave wall drawing of Kenai and Nita as humans together to bears. Because little details like that need to be changed by great and powerful spirits.

The end.

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Wow was that a big disappointment. To it’s credit, they could’ve done a lot worse, but what they did do still wasn’t really good. The movie’s a bore. It’s predictable as hell, the tone is so much more different than the original, Kenai and Nita’s backstory as well as the story of Atka and Nita aren’t fleshed out enough or, in the latter’s case, at all.

Why did Kenai love her back then? Because they played for a minute and he rescued her as she almost drowned? Why were they best friends? What did that amulet mean to Kenai? He’s the one who was wearing it before he gave it to Nita. It must’ve meant something to him. What was the story with Atka? Was it an arranged marriage thing like Pocahontas and Kokoum? What’s his backstory? How’d she meet him? Does he have any form of personality beyond hunting and standing at the altar? Why’d she never see Kenai again after that incident at the falls? How’d her mom die?

This is one of those movies that had nothing to really build on. The story decisively concluded. You could’ve done something with it, but why’d they have to go the cliché angle of making a sequel for the sake of giving everyone a love interest? Except Koda, I guess, but now he has an older sister/mom figure.

Brother Bear is really a movie that shouldn’t have been built on, however. Other than possibly showing us a grown-up Koda having some adventure or learning an important life lesson, there’s just not much to be done here. The story has a solid beginning, middle and most of all, end. No one was yearning for Kenai to get married after that.

Nita is annoying during the first half, but gets gradually more tolerable as time goes on. I never reach a point where I actually like her, but she was reaching good annoyance levels in the first half, so at least she avoided the dangers of my wrath.

On a technical aspect, the art and animation is very good for a Disquel, even if they seem to be going overboard with the color saturation, but not quite as good as the previous movie. It’s Direct-to-Dvd-ish while not being TV-series-ish like Hunchback or Aladdin. Also, we don’t have nearly as many epic views or sights to look at, if any, during this movie unlike the first one where practically everything was gorgeous.

The music was also better than most Disney Sequels, but nothing particularly memorable to me outside of that one sad song. Phil Collins doesn’t return to do anymore work on this movie, which is disappointing.

The acting is good, but I can’t mesh Patrick Dempsey with Kenai. He just doesn’t sound right.

Bottomline: As a movie, it’s just okay. As a Disquel, personally, I’d skip it, especially if you were a fan of the previous movie. It’s a predictable, confusing and lifeless movie meant to shoehorn in some love stories into the Brother Bear universe. The writing’s not very good and there are many scenes that seem almost ripped directly from other Disney movies. It has some moments that are legitimately good, and it didn’t make me seriously angry, but it’s absolutely nothing that you’d need to watch unless you like watching Mary Sue Disney fanfiction come to life. It could’ve been much worse, but I still can’t recommend it.

Recommended Audience: I think we actually get a fairly subtle sex joke. At the beginning of the movie, Rutt and Tuke are being chased by a buffalo or something while looking for a mate and Rutt says that she looked like a moose from behind….yeah. Other than that, it’s your basically sterile Disney sequel. 5+

AVAHS (Finale) – Regular Show: New Year’s Kiss

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Plot: Mordecai gets a date for a New Year’s masquerade dance, but Rigby gets a message from his future self to stop him from kissing his date at midnight for the sake of Mordecai’s future happiness.

Breakdown: Holy crap, it is insanely hard to track down New Year’s specials. I was only able to find this one, one for Batman and another for Young Justice, neither of the latter seemed to actually be about New Year’s. I know Charlie Brown and Rudolph have New Year’s specials but I wanted to delve into something at least kinda new.

I’ve watched some Regular Show in the past but I haven’t watched much of it, so I’m going into this semi-blind. This episode is….eh. It’s not really funny, but it has a couple funny-ish lines. The story’s just kinda weird. I wish they had explained why the kiss needed to be stopped outside of saying it was for Mordecai’s future happiness and leaving it at that.

All in all, there’s not much to say about it. It’s just okay. Which is disappointing given how this seems to be yet another holiday with slim animated special pickin’s. But it does, sadly, have more to its name than Hanukkah or Kwanzaa….

And thus concludes A Very Animated Holiday Special for 2016. Happy New Year, everyone!

AVAHS – Randy Cunningham 9th Grade Ninja: Happy Hanukkah, Howard Weinerman!

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Plot: Howard is lamenting over his Hanukkah gifts to Randy at the Game Hole when a robot bursts in and starts destroying the place. Randy suits up as the Ninja and takes it out, but finds that the whole thing was a ruse by his enemy McFist who is taking advantage of a building code loophole for the sake of opening up a shoe store for his wife for Hanukkah. However, as long as there is one working game with someone playing it in the arcade, Randy still has a chance to save the Game Hole. As he goes off to get more games, he leaves Howard in charge of playing the lone game left in the building until he returns, and he’s working off of Randy’s last token. Can Randy return with more games before Howard’s final game over?

Breakdown: Well, this is the last animated Hanukkah special I was able to find, and to be honest it’s not even really a Hanukkah special. It plays out like any other normal episode just with a few mentions of Hanukkah.

……But who the hell cares? Looking for Hanukkah specials introduced me to Randy Cunningham 9th Grade Ninja! This show is awesome! The style and humor just mesh so well, and it reminds me a lot of older shows where they were more comfortable with sarcastic humor and fourth-wall breaking in kids’ shows, like Invader Zim, which is fitting because Jhohan Vasquez, creator of Invader Zim, did quite a bit of artwork for the characters in the series.

But of course it’s already been ended/canceled by Disney because of that dumb 100 episode rule (technically it has 50 episodes, but since the episodes are broken into two segments, they count as two, so 50=100) I am definitely going to Cartoon Step-By-Step this, though.

As an episode, this is pretty darn funny with some great action and memorable moments. The characters immediately grow on you, with one exception being Howard. I’m not sure how he is through the series, but here he just complains a lot and diminishes what Randy did because he thinks he’s doing all the work by playing a game.

In regards to the Hanukkah aspect, they do a little more than just mention it. Howard complains how Hanukkah sucks because the gifts are lame and pale in comparison to Christmas (because that never gets old) and McFist is doing all of this as a Hanukkah gift for his wife. Though McFist is an odd Jewish name….

The biggest connection to Hanukkah is pointed out by Randy who explains that Howard kinda replicated the story of Hanukkah by getting through eight levels of the game. Howard was playing a game called Fight Knight, and he made it through eight levels or knights on one token, like how the oil burned for eight nights in the story. Kinda neat, but a fairly loose connection.

Being fair, there is a line in the beginning where they basically admit that they have no interest in making a ‘special holiday episode’ through Howard.

All in all, I really liked this episode and look forward to checking out the rest of the series, but I’m not going to kid myself into saying this is really any semblance of a Hanukkah special.

Happy Hanukkah everyone!

AVAHS – The Proud Family: Seven Days of Kwanzaa

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Plot: On Christmas Eve, Penny and her family briefly meet a homeless family. After donating some money to them, Penny invites them over for dinner on Christmas day, much to Oscar’s chagrin. The family seems a bit odd to the Prouds, but they quickly warm up to them after they share their holiday traditions on Kwanzaa.

Breakdown: Mmm, Christmas is over now. Guess I should move on to other holidays to make this a legit ‘holiday special’ instead of purely Christmas. Well, it’s Hanukkah. What animated Hanukkah specials can I review?

……Already reviewed the Rugrats one…..The day I review Eight Crazy Nights is the day they agree to donate $1000 to every animator on that movie for every review made of it as an apology for suffering through that….And…..Wow, seriously, that’s it? Can we write to someone about this because it’s a pretty raw deal for Jewish people. While I try to find some more animated love for Hanukkah, let’s tackle a holiday I’ve never touched upon in this special; Kwanzaa.

So, how many animated Kwanzaa specials are there?…..Hmmm…..Two? Again? We’re gonna have a sit down, Christmas. This is just a little ridiculous. You’re hoarding all of the animated specials; you need to stop. Now both of the Kwanzaa specials I’ll be covering are specials I have seen in the past, which makes this particularly disappointing because I really wanted to see something new, but I work with what I have.

My relationship with The Proud Family is a bit of an odd one. I did follow the series pretty regularly but looking back on it, I don’t really know why. The characters, for the most part, are kinda annoying, some downright infuriating like Dijonay and Oscar, the animation quality is pretty awful a good chunk of the time with obvious errors littering the series, something fairly unforgivable in a Disney series, the stories aren’t very memorable and the jokes are pretty meh. They had some heartfelt moments and they tackled some more serious topics that other shows were more wary of, but for the most part I could do without ever watching any episode ever again. (But oh God I will be reviewing the movie at some point. That crazy sack of weird cannot go un-reviewed.)

But it’s the holidays, and this is my first ever Kwanzaa special and The Proud Family review, so let’s give it a full review.

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We start with the Prouds doing some last-minute Christmas shopping around town. Penny whines to have a cell phone and her dad tells her it’s too expensive so she gives them a look that would earn me a few swift smacks to the backside in my youth, but this is Disney so we can’t do that.

This was one of the most common themes in The Proud Family; Penny really really wants something and Oscar won’t let her because money or she’s too young or just because he can never be reasoned with. Oscar accidentally drops a present and a man helps him pick it up. Oscar rudely denies that he needs help saying ‘he can help himself for free’ believing he’ll ask for a handout. They see the man is part of a homeless family standing nearby with a sign that says ‘We’re the reason for the season, give what you can.’

Trudy tells him to go give them a few dollars in the spirit of Christmas and much to Oscar’s annoyance (and his animation error that temporarily takes him out of his winter clothes into his regular attire.) he agrees. However, when he turns to give them the money, they’ve mysteriously vanished leaving only their sign behind. Trudy tells Oscar to go to the local homeless shelter to search for them and give them the money and Oscar, again begrudgingly, agrees and takes Penny with him to the homeless shelter.

They arrive at the shelter and Oscar decides to pretend to be giving by walking by all of the people asking for money on the street and putting a dollar in their buckets just to pull it away with a fishing line without the person noticing. I guess he justifies it by the charity people believing they got a donation, making them happy, and he gets to keep his dollar, making him happy.

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See, this is why Oscar is such an insufferable character to me most of the time. He’s not a completely hopeless asshole and he has plenty of comeuppance, but he’s still an ass most of the time. At least Penny points out how awful his trick is. It’s not even funny or clever. The ‘pull away a dollar with fishing line’ gag is very old and the only thing they do to it is make it even meaner than it usually is portrayed.

When they arrive at the shelter, they find the family and give them the money. Penny invites them to dinner on Christmas which Oscar, again begrudgingly, agrees to.

The next morning on Christmas, Penny and the others rip into their gifts like hyenas ripping into a freshly felled gazelle and Penny whines and moans that she got an obvious joke gift of a phone book, saying ‘oh look a phone book, so I can write down all those numbers I can’t call.’ Then Trudy and Oscar give her her real gift of a cell phone.

This reminds me of those videos on the Internet where a kid gets a crappy gift or ‘the wrong gift’ and they have a flip out about it, acting like their parents are assholes who ruined Christmas. Basically entitled little shits who thinks the universe owes them something for existing. Then once the parents film the reaction and have their yucks, they give the real gift to the kid and Christmas is saved.

I would not be able to give my child their real good gift if they reacted like a spoiled brat at the news of not getting the good gift they wanted. I would either put that gift away until they acted more appropriately, I’d return it or I’d give it to charity. You appreciate what you get, you little snot.

Penny’s not flipping out over her not getting her cell phone, but she is being an entitled little bitch here. She should be smart enough to take a phone book as a joke gift and put two and two together, but this is the same girl who entered a homeless shelter and asked her dad if everyone there was homeless.

After the kids open their gifts, Trudy gives her gift to Oscar even though they agreed to not exchange gifts this year and only get gifts for the kids (though that begs the question why Suga Mama, Oscar’s mother, is opening gifts). It’s a really expensive gold and diamond Wizard Kelly watch.

Oscar obviously has no gift for Trudy since he’s a cheap ass idiot. Though Trudy’s putting him on the spot by intentionally surprising him with a really expensive gift when they agreed not to get gifts for each other and outright asking where her gift is, so they’re both selfish idiots.

Look, anyone who gets caught in the ‘we said we wouldn’t do gifts for (holiday) this year’ trap, let me give you some advice. Get a present anyway. If they do end up springing a gift on you, you’ll have something to give.

If you feel like it would make them particularly happy, give it to them first. You run the risk of them not giving you a gift and feeling bad about it, but they’ll likely be happy with what you give them anyway.

Dead set on not exchanging gifts? No worry. Save the gift for another holiday or special occasion. Bonus points for giving it to them out of the blue. There is no downside to going out and buying a gift in this situation. The worst that can happen is that they don’t like it and you’ve gone so far from the purchase date that you can’t return it, which is really only a huge deal for extremely expensive gifts.

The doorbell rings and it’s the homeless family with a rancid fruitcake, coming earlier than planned. Their names, by the way, are Margaret, Joseph and their daughter Stephanie. I find it more than coincidental that the parents names are Joseph and Mary (Mary can be short for Margaret) and while Stephanie seems detached from this theme, Stephanie does mean ‘crown’ so it might be a very subtle poke at Jesus. I might be looking too much into this, but it’s not a real stretch. I don’t know why they’d have this theme in a Kwanzaa episode, especially considering, spoilers, this family is not real.

Yeah, this family are like a bunch of ghosts or something. They never adequately explain, but they’re either ghosts of a homeless family trying to spread Kwanzaa cheer or they’re the spirits of Kwanzaa.

Anyway, Penny brings them gifts for Christmas and Oscar tries to pawn off their awful fruitcake as a gift for Trudy (the fruitcake is so bad, Bobby, Oscar’s brother, kicks it into the lawn and it burns through the lawn). As retaliation, she gives his watch to Joseph. Really, Oscar, you would’ve been better off giving her nothing. You had an out with saying you agreed to not give gifts to each other this year. Giving her an awful fruitcake that she knows this family just brought in is just asking her to give your watch away.

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They see that the family is not enjoying the gifts, they’re not even opening them, so Trudy asks what’s wrong. They respond that they don’t celebrate Christmas. This line by itself would be fine, but then they have to get up on their high horse and say, word for word, ‘We got tired of buying into corporate America’s end of the year profit scam.’ These Kwanzaa ghosts just turned into hipsters.

Because yes, Christmas is exclusive to America. Because it’s only existed since corporations existed and is a big fat scam to get money. Because Christmas is all about what the stores dictate.

I am well aware that Christmas has a huge problem with consumerism, which is a common theme in Christmas specials. I think this episode is trying but failing to convey this lesson up to this point, too. I mean, yeah, Oscar’s a skinflint here, but he’s always a skinflint. Sure, Penny’s a selfish materialistic brat, but she’s always (more or less) a selfish materialistic brat. She is a teenager after all. But most people know that Christmas isn’t just about the gifts, and at its core Christmas is what you make of it. It can be a huge day for family and friends and traditions or it can be a quiet day to yourself or you can just have a day on the town enjoying the sights and sounds of the season etc.

This supposedly spiritualistic, deep and wise family fails to see the true spirit of Christmas and make of it what they want it to be. Instead they take the most cynical view on the holiday and refuse to partake in it on those grounds.

And, remember, this is a Kwanzaa special not a Christmas special. So they’re never going to show us the true meaning of Christmas or show it in a better light; they’re just going to move on to Kwanzaa and almost make an argument that Kwanzaa is better than Christmas because it holds truer values and meaning than Christmas. Don’t get me wrong, Kwanzaa is a great holiday and I’m not arguing that Christmas is inherently better. I’m complaining that this is even starting to turn into a competition by devaluing all of Christmas in that one line and kinda showing how consumerist the holiday is through the Prouds.

After more animations errors (Dijonay is laughing in audio, not even moving her mouth in the animation. Also, being technical, Joseph gave the sign from before to Stephanie to take with her and she obviously doesn’t have it here.) Penny introduces Stephanie to Zoey, Dijonay and Sticky. Zoey is a very stereotypical nerdy white girl with huge glasses, a wiry frame and plain styled red hair. Sticky is a very cool tech genius. Dijonay is the scum Satan scrapes off of his asscrack. I swear to God, if I ever get around to reviewing this show full out, the worst thing I’ll have to get through is any episode focusing on Dijonay. This series may not be the most memorable show ever, but if there’s one thing I definitely remember it’s how much of a huge bitch Dijonay is and how I wonder why Penny ever became her friend to begin with.

This next section is going to be kinda long because I really want to dissect this as much as possible to show how horrible these characters can be sometimes.

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So, obviously, the group keeps putting their feet in their mouths around Stephanie regarding her homelessness. Because these kids are seriously stupid assholes. ‘How can you be homeschooled if you don’t have a home?’ ‘You DO have friends, don’t you?’ ‘Why would you read a book when you can watch the cartoon?’ and inadvertently pressuring her into basically feeling bad that she spends so much time with her parents and doesn’t have her own room.

It quickly devolves from them putting their feet in their mouths or not realizing how crass they’re being to just outright insulting her. And of course Dijonay starts it off by asking her if her jeans are Guess or ‘Guess what?’ Responding to her saying it’s what’s inside that counts with ‘Yeah, what’s in yo’ pockets!’ Zoey laughs along with Dijonay here so I guess Satan has extra scum around the crack today. Sticky finishes off the asshole barrage by responding to Stephanie saying money’s not everything by calling her ‘loony’ and planning to ditch her by taking the other girls to the movies with movie passes he got for Christmas.

Stephanie says it’s alright if Penny goes since she can stay and do some reading. And despite the fact that Stephanie said she’d stay behind, Dijonay can’t help herself but be a bitch and say ‘Penny, why don’t you ditch ‘Beloved’ so we can go have some real fun?’

Penny says she can’t ditch Stephanie since she promised their parents they’d hang out. They decide to go without her, but not without Sticky saying ‘Well, we’ll catch you later….when she’s not around.”

Okay, look, I’ll admit, Stephanie has been a bit, for lack for a better word, cult-y. She calls her parents by their first names and parrots a lot of what Joseph says, starting several sentences with ‘Joseph says….’ but that’s all she’s done outside of saying her life is fine, she likes to read and there are more things to life than money. She’s smiled the whole time and has been perfectly pleasant.

So, if I get this right, the way they would’ve liked her is if she admitted her life as a homeless person was miserable, if she bitched and moaned about hanging out with her parents so much and being obsessed with money and materialistic things.

This is both an incredibly heavy handed way to show the stigma of homeless people, increase the consumerism/selfish angle by a million and, again, highlight how awful Penny and her friends can be. Oh and yeah, this is the only scene these characters are in this episode so they’ll never learn a damn thing or change their attitudes. Hooray.

Also, no you didn’t promise your parents anything Penny; you specifically asked your parents and hers if you could go together to the mall to meet your friends, which you didn’t even end up doing anyway. You met them on a street corner because street corners are easier to draw. This entire scene was pointless if the only goal was to make Penny exacerbated with a homeless person. You already showed her being materialistic and selfish, there’s no need to add her being annoyed with Stephanie over things that don’t even make sense.

Back at home, Oscar and Bobby try to put together a play set for Penny’s little twin brother and sister Bebe and Cece, but fail miserably. Joseph, a former construction worker, easily puts it together in seconds.

Oscar: “Well, I see why you’re still out of work. It looks rickety to me.” *sigh* And he jumps all over it, showing it’s perfectly sturdy.

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Please take note of Oscar’s expression here. He’s taking a lot of pleasure in the thought of destroying this thing to make Joseph look like a fool.

He calls the babies to the play set but gets angry when the babies would rather play with the box than the play set.

Oscar: “I work hard for the money, even harder to put the thing together and they’d rather play with the box!”

Joseph: “That’s because the box is not what’s important.”

Oscar: “Yeah, but the working hard sure is. But I guess you wouldn’t know about that.” *SIGH* Yeah, he’s homeless so he’s obviously not a hard worker. He’s just a lazy bum looking for handouts and free food even though he’s asked you for nothing directly.

Joseph: “That’s where you’re wrong. You have three beautiful kids, Oscar. You should spend more time with them.”

Oscar: “You mean quit work and hang out in the streets all day like you do!?” *SIGH* Yes, Oscar, I’m so sure that’s what he meant. Also, I’m even more sure that’s what really happened to him. He just decided on the construction site one day to quit his job and be homeless. Though, I will admit, it does seem like they purposely don’t pursue any sort of financial benefits for the sake of getting a home or anything. I guess that’s fine, but they’re acting like possessions and having a home ruin you. They only do that if you let them.

This insensitive blather carries on when Joseph asks him what Oscar’s nice home and things really amount to and asks if these nice things are really worth the stress…..Wait….no….no….he’s not REALLY arguing that Oscar should quit his job and spend all his time with his family. Right?

I mean, yeah, it would be nice if everyone could stop working and just spend time with their families, but people do need shelter and medical care and education etc. Things that require money. And his philosophy kinda falls apart when you remember that he and his family were asking for handouts at the start of the episode and happily accepted the money Oscar gave them. He wouldn’t have had that money to give if he didn’t have a fairly decent job.

Now to the women where Trudy asks Margaret about how she feels about her situation. She says it’s liberating because she used to be just like Trudy, bending over backwards to maintain the things in her life, which is reflected in Trudy washing her dishes I guess. She got tired of things controlling her life. Trudy tries to defend herself by saying she may love her house, but she’s not overly attached to anything. To which Suga Mama responds by smashing her good china, making Trudy flip out a little.

Again, this argument is placing full blame on the things. I will admit, if you live with even slight comforts like a bed or a roof over your head, it can be easy to get attached to them. But the control of that attachment is in your hands. If you have a philosophy of things being unimportant and the most important things in your life being family and spirituality, then you can still be the richest person in the world and still maintain the philosophy. You have to have the willpower to not let your things control you; things don’t inherently control people.

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I really hate this shot. It even comes with that ‘twinkle’ sound effect like she’s a little angel taking passive-aggressive shots at so many aspects of their lives.

Later, as the family is about to leave, we learn that they’re vegans, which is also a completely fine aspect of their lives and would have stayed fine if they didn’t go the extra mile.

They sickened everyone to the point of not being able to eat Christmas dinner by telling stories about how turkeys are enslaved before being pumped with steroids and slain.

Nice, guys. They invite you to dinner so you refuse to eat anything (even the vegetables?) and then ruin their dinner by making them imagine tortured enslaved turkeys and guilt tripping them up a wall. And how did it not come up that they were vegans before or during dinner? It had to have been mentioned during the turkey torture spiel. I’m sure Trudy would have fixed them something they could eat if they mentioned it. It has to make the dinner even more awkward when the only people at the table who won’t eat anything are the homeless people.

Oscar kicks them out, adding the brick in the face for more anti-greed messages by saying they ruined their ‘favorite most expensive holiday of the year’, only to have them reappear later. They legit break into his house and decorate for Kwanzaa excusing themselves by saying he invited them to spend the holidays with them and since they don’t celebrate Christmas, they decided to share their Kwanzaa festivities with them.

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First off, Penny specifically invited them for dinner not to ‘spend the holidays’ together. I must’ve forgotten that this show has as many story inconsistencies as it does animation errors. Second, even if that was the case, that’s no excuse to break in and mess with their stuff.

Penny, hearing there’s another holiday to celebrate, decides to flippantly say that she could use a headset to go with her new cell phone right in front of them. Good job. Also, if I keep getting bitch-slapped by materialism messages in this episode, I’m going to go to the hardware store and buy the most expensive hammer they have to smack myself repeatedly in the forehead.

Stephanie says that Kwanzaa’s not about gifts; it’s about instilling strong values and becoming in tune with the past, present and future. I’ll address this in a minute.

Oscar tries to kick them out again, but Trudy wants to celebrate Kwanzaa so they stick around and start the festivities. Suga Mama, acting as elder, pours a tambiko and say a word in praise of a worthy ancestor. Taking the chalice, she says ‘Habari gani’ (how are you?) and the others respond, as another animation error turns the whites of Joseph’s eyes brown, “Umoja” (unity in the family and community) Each person then takes a sip from the chalice as they say a word in praise of an ancestor who has contributed to the spirit of unity.

Suga Mama toasts to her deceased husband Percy, and Penny toasts her mother for not disowning her for acting like a spoiled brat. So there’s that car crash of character development. Don’t worry. None of this has any bearing on anything in the future. Oscar’s up next and he toasts Nebraska in hopes of winning his bet.

Stephanie then lights the first candle for Kwanzaa, Umoja for Unity.

The next day, they arrive for the second day of Kwanzaa and Trudy lights the candle in celebration of Kujichagulia or self-determination. Somehow this is reflected in Penny wearing a headband and hugging Stephanie.

The next day, Margaret lights the candle for the celebration of Ujima or collective work and responsibility, reflected in Trudy, Oscar, Suga Mama and Puff (Suga Mama’s dog) working together to change a single diaper.

The fourth day, Joseph lights the candle for the celebration of Ujamaa or collective economics, reflected in Oscar giving all of the money in his wallet to the people he bilked a few days ago.

The fifth day, Penny helps Cece light the candle for the celebration of Nia or purpose, reflected in Penny reading the bible. Sure hope there’s nothing Christmas-y in there!

The sixth day, Bobby helps Bebe light the candle for the celebration for Kuumba or creativity, reflected in Bobby playing drums and Penny painting an African mask.

The final day, Oscar lights the candle for the celebration of Imani or faith, reflected in everyone praying.

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After the festivities are over, they practice another important facet of Kwanzaa; Zawadi….friggin’ gift giving. Yup, after all of that anti-possessions stuff and specifically saying that Kwanzaa isn’t a gift-giving holiday, they suddenly remember that, hell, yes it is.

Okay, it’s important to remember that they’re giving gifts like books and African masks (that Penny made) as gifts, and typical Kwanzaa gifts aren’t like the usual Christmas stuff. They’re traditional Kwanzaa celebration items and things that were hand made, but they’re still things. They’re still gifts. They’re still possessions. This is pretty hypocritical is all.

The family leaves with all of the Prouds gaining a new view on the holidays and their lives as a whole, which, like I said, won’t have a bearing on anything after this episode. Felix, father of Penny’s frenemy, LaCieniga, and Oscar’s best friend arrives and says he had to cut his holiday in Acapulco short because his construction foreman quit on him. Oscar suggests Joseph for the job and Felix agrees to give him a shot.

Oscar and the rest of the Prouds arrive at the homeless shelter again to tell Joseph the good news. We learn Bobby frequents the homeless shelter, taking advantage of the free food. *sigh*

As I mentioned before, the big twist is that the family they’ve been celebrating Kwanzaa with doesn’t exist….mostly. There is no record of that family ever being at the shelter and no one but the Prouds have ever seen them, but there is a white family with an out of work construction worker named Joseph, a mother named Margaret and a young daughter named Stephanie who made the sign the Prouds saw at the start of this whole thing.

Hearing that Oscar has a construction job available, Joseph asks about it and Oscar gives him the information and recommendation before leaving. They wonder why someone would impersonate a homeless family, but they’re thankful for the values they helped instill in them, including appreciating their heritage and family and sharing it with others.

As the Prouds walk away in all their poorly animated glory, the sign gets picked up by an off-screen Joseph and the sign leaves little twinkly trails behind.

Not content to leave it at that simple ending, we cut to some time later where the Prouds arrive back home to see that there’s a huge tree in the yard.

Bobby: “That fruit cake I threw out the winda’…”

You threw it from the doorstep, not the window.

Anyway, the fruitcake somehow grew into a massive fruit tree and at the very top we see the family dressed in dashiki waving to the Prouds before walking off into the sun.

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Well, that was pretty long for one of these reviews. And I gotta say, this episode kinda blows.

The stuff actually about Kwanzaa is fine, but a majority of the special is holier-than-thou blatherings guilt tripping people for having stuff and money or even stuff like eating meat and dairy products. It’s also noticeably slamming Christmas and the people who celebrate it for its consumerism which is really a reflection on how Christmas has been exploited for profit, not that it was specifically designed for such a thing.

The disappointing part of this Kwanzaa special is that Kwanzaa isn’t even mentioned until the second half of the episode. Seven days of festivities and celebrations mushed into about nine minutes. They also didn’t set up the development of the characters through Kwanzaa very well.

Like I said, Oscar and Penny aren’t really acting any worse than they usually act. They’re acting better after the Kwanzaa festivities, but the festivities are a montage with only one five second shot per day barring the three second shots of the candle lightings. They literally sit the characters down and basically go through the seven main values and celebrations of Kwanzaa, just listing them off, and suddenly everyone’s changed in a millisecond, being happy and being charitable and forgetting materialistic stuff. They spent so much time on the anti-materialism part of the episode that the actual Kwanzaa special falls to the side.

Why did these Kwanzaa spirits or whatever appear to the Prouds anyway? Just because they were one of millions of people being a little greedy on Christmas?

And let me just say this straight out; nearly everyone is unpleasant in this special. Puff, Bebe and Cece and Trudy are the only people who aren’t slimeballs or complete and utter asswipes at some point in this episode. Bobby’s the only one who’s being funny, but that one exchange showing that he exploits homeless shelters for free food puts him into the slimeball category.

This family is meant to be someone you’d wish to be. They’ve valued family and spiritualism above all else. They’re not ‘prisoners of possessions’ or whatnot. They’ve seemingly reached a level of enlightenment in their lives. But these aren’t people I want to emulate at all. Their constant smug smiles, their complete lack of any real-world problems (they don’t see their poverty as a problem so neither am I) their holier-than-thou attitudes, their condescension, their rudeness; it’s another reason why I wish the Kwanzaa aspect had been more prominent because then they would’ve definitely would’ve been more tolerable for most of the special.

Oscar’s being obnoxious, Penny’s being selfish and rude, her friends are being total dickheads who don’t even learn a lesson here (and why were Zoey, Dijonay and Sticky able to see Stephanie if no one but the Prouds saw them?) Thank god LaCieniga wasn’t in this episode. I can only bet how horribly she’d react to homeless people who devalue possessions and money considering she’s a huge spoiled rich bitch.

It’s just not a very effective Kwanzaa special to me. The parts with the Kwanzaa celebrations are lacking to say the least and they spend way too much time getting to Kwanzaa. Ironically, we spend more time in Christmas Eve and Christmas than Kwanzaa. It covers the bare basics of the Kwanzaa traditions, but I really wanted to be more immersed in the holiday. Instead, I just end up almost feeling bad for buying gifts for Christmas and having a roof over my head. It’s not funny either, but then again, like I mentioned, the show rarely was.

And one of the points of this family doing this for the Prouds is to get the real Joseph a job so he can get a home and make life better for his child, when Joseph was practically chastising Oscar for doing that same thing? What’s even weirder, the real Joseph says he doesn’t want his daughter to live the way they’ve been living anymore which is why he wants the job so badly. So either homelessness isn’t the massive pile of possession-less rainbows the Kwanzaa family said it was or these people are way too attached to those possessions they don’t have.

The least I can say is they were more of less true to the holiday and I have to give The Proud Family props for doing a Kwanzaa special in the first place. It sparks interestin the holiday, but it doesn’t do much to celebrate it.

Maybe someone can put this special into a better light for me, but for now it’s just borderline aggravating.

Fear not, though. There is still one more Kwanzaa special to tackle, and it was done by the maestro of overlooked holiday specials; Rugrats. Will they have better luck? Guess we just have to have plenty of imani.

Final notes: But how stupid was that ending clip, though? A fruitcake tree that leads to the heavens where the Kwanzaa family is looking down on them? You guys sure the only things they were lighting during that week were Kwanzaa candles?

AVAHS – The Muppet Christmas Carol

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Plot: The story of A Christmas Carol, performed by Michael Caine and the muppets.

Breakdown:

Elephant in the room: A Very Animated Holiday Special

Twix: ………………..

Elephant: This isn’t animated.

Twix: …………………………………………

Elephant: Plus don’t you primary only review animated stuff anyway?

Twix:………………Uhhhhhhhh…..Pbbbbbbbbbbbbbbttttttttttttttttt………The muppets are animated by the puppeteers, thus it counts.

Elephant:…..Wha…..that’s just cheat–

Twix: It’s The Muppet Christmas Carol!

I mentioned in my reviews of the Flintstones Christmas Carol special that my favorite version of the story was the one performed by the muppets. Perhaps I should preface this with a disclaimer of bias and say it was partially because it was the first ever version of the story I ever watched. I still have the VHS of it somewhere. Still, it stayed near and dear to my heart, and upon viewing it this year, I have found that it holds up pretty well.

I will admit, having now seen many more serious versions of the story, seeing the mostly whimsical and comedic version brought to us by the muppets is a bit of a jarring change, even after following up A Flintstones Christmas Carol, but it’s not unwelcome.

Plus, while they do remove Fanny from the story, they don’t skip out on Tiny Tim or the implications of Yet to Come.

Gonzo and Rizzo are hilarious as ‘Charles Dickens’ and….well, Rizzo, being our narrators for the story. Their parts are still, by far, my favorite parts of the movie. They’re hilarious.

I loved the sets, the costumes, the roles each muppet was given and even a bulk of the songs. The writing is spot-on from the novel writings of Dickens to the comedic muppet elements. Michael Caine also played Scrooge very well, even if sometimes he seemed to be hamming it a bit.

If I had to throw criticisms at it, I’d say I don’t much care for the designs of the spirits. Present’s design was the best. Past freaked me out as a kid and still freaks me out. I like its voice and manner of speech, but the muppet design is just freaky. Yet to come had the traditional ‘grim reaper’ look but the costume design just looked off. He looked like a gray geoduck with a big hole in the top…..Dirty Jobs taught me what a geoduck is.

Also, the effects have not aged well….at all. It’s borderline laughable sometimes.

I feel like some of the moments were kinda ruined by the muppets; most notably I didn’t much care for Statler and Waldorf playing Jacob (and Robert) Marley. Splitting the character into two brothers who inexplicably died at the same time, I guess, is bad enough but the characters just kinda ruin this ominous moment by…well, being Statler and Waldorf. They show up later as employees of Fezz—Fozziwig’s company, and I think they were just fine being that one role. I just feel like that role was ‘cast’ a bit poorly.

Other than that, I still love this version to bits, and I recommend everyone watch it at least once. It’s great for the Christmas season or just to get a good dose of muppetness. Every time I watch it, I want to track down more Muppets movies. I still have Muppet Treasure Island around here too. Hmm.

AVAHS – Kim Possible: A Very Possible Christmas

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Plot: The Possible family is gearing up for their big Christmas celebration and Ron believes the best gift he can give Kim is an uninterrupted Christmas with her family. So, when an emergency arises, Ron takes it upon himself to take care of Dr. Drakken’s latest plan. He’s, surprisingly, successful in foiling the plot, but Drakken and Ron accidentally send Drakken’s air ship plummeting to the ground at the North Pole. Kim realizes that Ron is missing and with the help of Wade she searches the globe for him to no avail. Will Ron and Kim be reunited for Christmas, and are the holidays ruined despite Ron’s good intentions?

Breakdown: Another favorite cartoon of mine as a teen was Kim Possible. One of the first ever animated crime-fighting shows I was exposed to where there was a kick-ass female lead. Granted, it seemed like they purposely made Ron a bumbling fool to equal the scales on stereotypes, though. I love Ron, don’t get me wrong, and he definitely has his moments, but most of the time he’s relegated to causing accidents or having his pants fall down. Plus, this was the first Disney show that broke the ‘four seasons/100 episodes only’ rule.

This Christmas special is one I can go without watching every year, but is still a good special. The Possibles, despite also seeming to have that weird Christmas special tradition of ‘decorate and do everything for Christmas that should be planned/done before Christmas on Christmas’ thing, do a hell of a lot for Christmas, which I guess should be expected of them. I got kinda jealous. I have to prod my parents to do a lot of Christmas stuff, but they have a whole day and night loaded with holiday festivities.

It’s a nice gesture of Ron to go do ‘superhero’ stuff to give Kim a quiet Christmas at home, even if Wade should’ve had the forethought to stop him since, well, it’s really a terrible idea. Ron really only succeeded in his mission because Shego wasn’t there. She took Christmas off to vacation at the beach.

Some more points that I enjoyed/thought were minor but sweet;

Kim crying due to not being able to find Ron. She’s usually pretty stonefaced in the crying department, and it was nice to see her crack her shell a bit more when her best friend is missing and might be hurt.

Drakken saving Ron from the polar bear. They don’t even mention him doing it, but he clearly pulls Ron away from the bear when they notice it behind him. And Drakken’s heart grew three sizes that day.

Drakken and Ron bonding over Snowman Hank. There is a very old Christmas special for kids (in this universe) that is called Snowman Hank, and Ron loved watching it each year as his own little Christmas tradition yet was devastated when he found it was canceled in lieu of some x-treme snow sports show called X-treme X-mas. Now, most of the old beloved Christmas specials I grew up on are still airing on Christmas, like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and A Charlie Brown Christmas, but this is actually kinda ironic because this very episode is one of those ‘lost Christmas specials’ to me. If I didn’t have the Internet, my Christmas would be partially barren of these old special episodes.

Drakken and Ron have always seemed similar, just like Shego and Kim have a lot of similarities, and I liked when they decided to start a truce to just have their own little Christmas, celebrating Snowman Hank, in their hollowed out and decorated trash pod. I especially liked how Drakken said with a big sincere smile “Come the New Year, this truce is over. I’m going to open a bag of freak on all of you!”

Kim’s family following along was also a nice touch. It’s emphasizes that the holidays are also about being together with your family, even if they’re fighting a giant anaconda in the Amazon.

There’s a highly noted moment in this episode where Kim kisses Ron on the cheek because, of course, mistletoe, but even though I liked that moment when I was a kid, I can’t help but think it’s a bit….meh now. Not just because they now have entire season where they’re dating, it’s just a bit on the predictable side. I mean, it’s cute, but the mistletoe moment between the ‘will-they-won’t-they’ characters is just a giant yule log of cliché.

All in all, this is indeed a great episode with some nice holiday cheer, funny moments, action and some great character interactions, but it’s still not one of those ‘can’t miss’ Christmas specials to me. I still love the show and everything, and this was nice to watch this time of year, but I can do without it.

Also, there’s one specially made Christmas song in this episode and it’s just alright. Kinda catchy, kinda cheesy; just alright.