Pixar’s Lamp | The Incredibles (2004) Review

Plot: In the golden age, superheroes were loved, admired and cherished by the masses. However, one lawsuit started a snowball effect that changed everything. Supers were suddenly vilified, and they had to go into hiding with government protection to avoid all of the backlash. Now living as normal, average citizens, Mr. Incredible and Elistigirl, also known as Bob and Helen Parr, try to raise their children, Violet, Dash and Jack-Jack in a superpower-free world.

Bob is not content with his normal life and wants nothing more than to return to his good ol’ days of heroism. A mysterious message puts all the cogs in motion to grant his wish, but he forgot that with heroics comes danger – and danger means more when your family’s in the crossfire.

Breakdown: The year is 2004.

Marvel cinematic universe? Doesn’t exist.

DC actively trying? FEH!

This is an era where superhero movies are little more than a joke. People looked forward to them about as much as they looked forward to video game adaptations. They’d try and try again to make them work, and while they may be a box office success sometimes, they’d usually wane heavily in the critic department.

Pixar saw this as an opportunity. The Incredibles is not based on an existing comic book. It’s entire universe is built from the ground up on the silver screen. In addition, it’s animated – not live-action as a majority of superhero movies were at the time. In hindsight, this seems like a big gamble. Especially since the director, Brad Bird, was coming fresh off of his first venture into directing, which ended up being a box office disappointment.

But some people need to be reminded to keep the faith. After all, that box office disappointment….was The Iron Giant. The box office does not always reflect quality.

Let’s not keep beating around the bush. The Incredibles is……incredible. Yeah, I made that joke. Fight me.

From start to finish, the movie is filled with great humor, fantastic action, memorable characters and pokes at the superhero genre as a whole. This is a very realistic family in a, well, I can’t really say ‘unique scenario’ because the concept has been done before (In fact, when this first came out, this movie reminded me quite a bit of the short-lived, basically forgotten Nickelodeon series, The X’s.), but it is a very interesting and fun scenario.

Back in ‘the good ol’ days,’ superheroes were always hailed, respected and beloved, but you know that some jackass somewhere would ruin it by suing them. Granted, superheroes do make big messes and wrack up massive bills in damages, even the MCU addresses this, but I think whatever damage the enemy would do is almost always greater. And at least we’re lead to assume that the heroes aren’t piling up huge body counts during these battles….most of the time.

The heroes go into hiding, and there seems to be two sides to this coin. You have people like Bob (Mr. Incredible) and Dash who want to embrace their powers and be heroes. Because they’re not allowed to do so, Bob becomes very depressed and withdrawn, doing heroics in secret whenever he can with his buddy Frozone, and Dash acts out.

Helen (Elastigirl) and Violet, on the other hand, want to be normal. They still use their powers sometimes in private, but they want to fit in – Helen so she can protect the family and Violet because she wants to be a regular teenager.

In the end, they all find a middleground. Bob gets to be a hero more often, but he also comes to understand the importance of his family. Dash learns to tone it down, but he’s also now allowed to participate in school sports as long as he doesn’t play unfairly. Violet gets more self-confidence and embraces her powers. And Helen learns to not be ashamed of her life as a superhero while also encouraging that type of attitude in her kids.

It’s great that they chose to go down this route instead of having it black and white ‘this side is right, and you’re wrong.’

Helen and Bob have a great dynamic, and even Violet and Dash were really good together. I like how they eventually used their powers together. That hamster-ball idea was so cool.

Another thing to commend this movie on is, most of the time, they don’t pull any punches with the darker aspects. Helen even outright tells her children, basically telling the audience directly, that these bad guys aren’t like the ones you’d see on Saturday morning cartoon shows. They won’t show restraint on children. They will kill them without hesitation. That’s pretty heavy for an animated superhero movie in a world where kid deaths are typically taboo.

In addition to that, people attempt suicide, there’s hints of adultery and alcohol, some sexual-ish content and lots and lots of death.

Even though I said they don’t cause a lot of civilian deaths, there are a ton of bad-guy minion deaths – a good deal of which are caused by Bob and Dash. They don’t ‘directly’ cause these deaths. For instance, nearly all of the deaths caused by Dash are collisions caused by those pursuing him because he managed to out-maneuver them, but still…lots of bodies.

The ones they seem directly responsible for they kinda skirt around. For instance, Bob throws a huge tram car at two guys from a mile away and they specifically show them moving and groaning to assure the audience that Bob didn’t straight-up murder those guys.

Outside of that, we also have numerous depictions of heroes dying in that ‘NO CAPES!’ montage, including one of two instances where someone dies by getting sucked into a jet turbine. Yugh. And we have the harrowing fact that Syndrome essentially committed hero genocide, which I don’t think is given quite enough weight, but holy crap. Bob even finds the skeletal remains of one of the killed heroes and hides under his body to trick Syndrome into believing he’s dead. Wow.

Speaking of Syndrome, he’s a very effective and memorable villain. He’s very intimidating and is a serious threat. Lest we forget the hero genocide. His backstory is a little hokey, but not too bad. It’s understandable for someone who grew up in a world of supers and was basically a super fanboy to become jaded when given a massive tongue lashing by his favorite superhero. And he obviously did have value and talent, but Bob never wanted to give him a chance. He pulls off being both funny and threatening at the same time, which is very impressive. In any other movie, he’d be a complete joke, but he can be downright scary. It’s also a bit refreshing for the master plan to not be ‘take over the world’ again. Though, considering his normal job, maybe he already does, in a way. Hm.

His plan is fairly brilliant. Design a robot that is essentially perfect by having it learn and make changes to its design based on battles it endures with hundreds of various heroes. Kill the heroes, let the robot loose on the city, stop the robot and take the credit, making him the only and, by default, best hero in the world.

I will admit that the method of defeating the robot is a bit obvious, though. With all the weaknesses that have been exposed on this thing, Syndrome never thought to program it to not destroy itself? Especially when that’s exactly how Bob defeated it the first time? It has some sense of self-preservation, hence why it targeted the remote, but it’s still too stupid to not hit itself.

Some final things that I felt were a little negative in this movie:

I find Dash to be annoying 70% of the time.

While I really liked him, Frozone was mostly a superfluous character who barely did anything. I really wanted him to be given more to do.

I worry that, should they continue the series beyond the second movie, Jack-Jack will be too powerful. His main power seems to be shapeshifting, but from what I’ve heard he has many more powers that are revealed in the sequel (sadly haven’t gotten around to watching it quite yet, but very soon!)

His power is apparently that he’s a ‘jack of all trades,’ hence the name, but it’s also been suggested that, since Jack-Jack’s a baby, his power isn’t solidified and he has ‘unlimited potential,’ which is culminating in this mass array of powers. However, if that were true, that seems like it would be a normal part of a super’s life cycle. Dash and Violet would’ve had to have gone through the same thing as babies, which I doubt they did.

I dunno.

That’s about it on the negative side, though, and that’s not a significant mark on an otherwise exceptional movie. The Incredibles stands as one of my favorite movies and a testament to Pixar’s amazing talents as filmmakers. Even today in our saturated superhero movie market, I was very excited to rewatch this movie, and I’m jazzed to finally see the sequel.

Recommended Audience: It’s surprisingly dark when you get down to it, but a good chunk of the darkness is in the details. Still, there are some blatant darker aspects like the hero genocide, the suicide attempt and the implied infidelity. 10+


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Animating Halloween: The Addams Family (2019) Review

Rating: 7.5/10

Plot: They’re creepy and they’re kooky, mysterious and spooky, they’re altogether ooky – The Addams Family! *snap snap*

Breakdown: The Addams’ Family has always been a well-respected and awesome franchise. I used to love watching the old TV show, and I am fan of the movies that came out in the 90s. They’re a very cool and creepy family who were never ashamed of who they were. They embraced their creepiness and owned it, and we loved them for it. So when I first saw the trailer for an animated movie, I was actually looking forward to it. The trailer looked fairly promising, and what better time to check out an Addams’ Family reboot than for Animating Halloween?

They definitely went into this movie having a lot of respect for the franchise. While they obviously modernize things and add some stuff, especially considering the freedom that animation provides them, they make a lot of references to the original series, even including the always beloved theme song in the trailers and the movie itself a few times, and they keep pretty much everything in line with what it has always been.

Gomez and Morticia Addams are dreadfully in love, but their family has always been hated and feared by others because of their dark and grotesque manner of living. They adore all things dreary, dirty, horrifying and gruesome, and they have supernatural friends and abilities, to a degree. They’re always playfully doing risky and harmful things in their trap-ridden haunted mansion, but underneath all of the death and destruction, there lies a family that is just as close and loving, if not moreso, than your average family.

In this movie, Gomez and Morticia are driven away again, during their wedding no less, by an angry mob. Morticia wishes for a normal life for her future children. They run over their future butler, Lurch, who is a runaway from the nearby abandoned asylum, and adopt the creepy haunted asylum as home sweet home.

Thirteen years later, Gomez and Morticia have two young children – the oldest, Wednesday, and the youngest, Pugsley. They’ve all been confined to the foggy mansion ever since they arrived because their parents were worried about their safety, so their lives are shaken when the fog lifts and reveals a nearby brightly colored, pristine perfect-person town called Assimilation, where, as you would probably guess, everyone is the same pearl-clutching bland ‘normal’ person who puts on fake smiles and goes overboard being positive and ‘accepting’ when they’re really anything but.

They go just a tiny bit too far with the depiction of these people. I get that it’s supposed to be a parody of those squeaky clean white collar neighborhoods full of stuck up snobs, but it’s a little too blatant. For instance, there’s some pep squad team thing and they sing a song that sounds like a cult that’s not even trying. “What’s so great about being yourself when you can be like everyone else? It’s easy to be happy when you have no choice.”

Enter the giant-bouncy-haired plastic-faced Margaux, who literally created the town of Assimilation. She hosts a home remodeling show, and her biggest project was fixing up an entire town and filling it with happy homeowners. When the Addams’ creepy mansion on the hill is revealed through the lifting fog, she tries to turn their house into another one of the clean, bright and sparkly houses in Assimilation because no one will want to move or stay in the town with a scary house visible in the distance. The Addams’ gladly accept her offer, but are forced to ultimately decline because they have the entire family coming over in the next two weeks and don’t have the time for her remodeling.

Margaux is not as she seems on the surface, however. She secretly installed cameras in all of the remodeled houses of Assimilation, and she frequently pretends to be other people on her neighborhood community app, Neighborhood Peeps, to spread harmful rumors about others so they’ll fall in line or the others in town will force them to leave.

Wednesday, however, is intrigued by the town and the normal people since she has never been outside of the mansion’s grounds. She soon attends the local school and befriends Parker, the daughter of Margaux. She’s a social media obsessed girl who wants her mother’s attention, but also resents that she forces her into the happy peppy pastel coated world her mother has fabricated. She finds Wednesday weird and frightening at first, but comes to respect and like her when she stands up against her bully.

Wednesday slowly starts adopting more colorful clothing styles and branches out more into the ‘normal’ world, while Parker gains the confidence to wear goth/punk styled clothing to rebel against her mother. In Wednesday’s situation, it’s kinda confusing. She expresses that she’s actually disappointed her mother was accepting of her new colorful look, but when she becomes more unaccepting of it, Wednesday runs away to live with Parker. She does treasure her freedom, so maybe she just disliked her mother controlling her more than she liked her anger.

It’s also kinda weird on Morticia’s end. She was the one concerned about her children living a safe and (ab)normal life, but when Wednesday is starting to be accepted by the outside world, she resists against it firmly. I get that a good part of it is Wednesday starting to pull away from her as well, but much of it is reacting to the stuff she’s doing.

When Wednesday goes to Parker’s house, they accidentally find Margaux’s weird lair, much to Parker’s surprise and disgust. Margaux catches them and locks them in the attic so they won’t mess up her plans to drive the Addams out of town so she can destroy their house.

Meanwhile, in plot B, Gomez is trying to prepare Pugsley for his Mazurka, which, in this case, is a very long and complicated dance with a saber that every Addams boy must complete in order to gain the respect of the family and formerly enter manhood. Above all else, though, it’s symbolic of the boy’s ability and drive to protect the family from anyone who would harm them.

Pugsley isn’t doing well with his practice. He’s more of a demolitions kid than a swordfighter, but this Mazurka is a big event. The family is gathering for the first time in thirteen years to see it, and Gomez, an avid swordfighter, put on one of the best Mazurka performances in the family. Puglsey tries his best, but he simply can’t get it down, much to Gomez’s disappointment.

You really feel bad for Pugsley because, even though he doesn’t much care about the Mazurka, he’s still trying his best and working hard to make his dad proud, and it’s just not working out.

The two plots collide when the extended Addams family finally arrives in town for the Mazurka, right as Margaux’s TV show is filming its season finale. Margaux has already planted the seeds in Assimilation to rally the townsfolk against them all, and once the family arrives, they become an all-out angry mob lead by Margaux.

And, ya know, much in same vein as how Arnold’s Halloween tends to get under my skin a little because of how believable it is for a group of idiots to nearly hurt or murder a bunch of kids because they believe they’re aliens, even if these townspeople are overly done, it’s also not outside of the realm of possibility for a town of bubbled up posers to be stirred into an angry mob, even in modern times, and actually attack a family to drive them out based on rumors and being afraid of others for being different. Especially in New Jersey.

Granted, yeah, the Addams family do cause actual harm to others sometimes, though typically not on screen, but they didn’t do anything to the townsfolk besides be weird. In fact, many of them were quite kind and polite to them.

Parker and Wednesday see what she’s about to do from the window, so Wednesday breaks them out of the room to go save her family.

Pugsley, predictably, does poorly in his Mazurka. He apologizes to Gomez for letting him down, but Gomez apologizes for not supporting him and letting him be himself. Just as the Mazurka finishes, Margaux and the townsfolk start slinging boulders through the mansion with a catapult. Gomez asks Pugsley to remember the true meaning of the Mazurka – protecting the family. Gomez hands him one of his bombs and tells Pugsley to go out and do what he does best.

Pugsley does indeed get to strut his stuff with his precious bombs, fighting off the slue of boulders being flung through the walls and protecting the family, but eventually he runs out of bombs before they run out of boulders and it seems like it’s the end of the Addams’ family. In the nick of time, however, Wednesday shows up and uses Icabod, the living tree, to save everyone from the collapsing house. Morticia and Wednesday reunite and make up.

Thing happens to have one bomb up his slee–….Uhm….Anyway, Thing throws the bomb to Pugsley, he blows up the catapult and finishes his own brand of Mazurka.

In a rather sad scene, Gomez reiterates something Morticia said earlier – people can be cruel. As the townsfolk see the Addams’ are just people like them – people that they’ve frightened, attacked and nearly murdered – the citizens realize that THEY were the real monsters all along. Dun dun dunnnn.

Margaux, however, doesn’t see it that way, even after Parker sides with the Addamses. She is completely adamant in destroying their house and making Assimilation and her season finale perfect no matter what. She tries to get the townsfolk back to what they were doing, but Wednesday reveals to them all of Margaux’s hidden cameras in the houses of Assimilation. Even after being ousted, Margaux still doesn’t care about what the townsfolk think. They’re just extras in her show to her, and she won’t let even them come against her.

Parker reveals that none of this matters anyway because she’s been streaming her mother’s tirade since the start. Millions of people have been watching the real Margaux Needler, and it’s caused such a backlash online that her show was immediately canceled. However, she still has a bunch of houses she needs to sell. In comes Fester with his pitch to sell the rest of the houses to the Addams family so they can all live nearby each other.

The townsfolk all offer to help fix up the Addams’ house, melding their ‘normal’ style with the rough gothic chic of the Addams (Although, this gets reverted back to the full dark, dank motif after the spirit haunting the place returns after fleeing from the attack.) Fester not only teams up with Margaux to make a realty company, but he also starts dating her…..which…I found to really unrealistic. I mean, I guess he does love her for the monster she is, but why she would love him back I do not know. Margaux did not have a redemption arc at all. She was horrible from start to finish…and not in the fun way. I’m not sure I like that she was given a happy-ish ending after all that.

Back at the mansion, the family honors Pugsley’s Mazurka and officially commemorates him as a true Addams.

Cousin Itt takes their family picture, and the movie ends with a pretty cool remake of the original 1964 opening theme song sequence of the TV show. I actually checked and did a side by side comparison. They did the entire sequence shot by shot exactly, they even mimicked slight body language like Morticia’s little smile on her second snap and Gomez’s deep breath and side smirk. That was really cool of them.

However….it is kinda ruined when the credits come in and it’s a colorfully animated sequence with a hip hop song behind it….I have nothing against the song itself, it’s actually pretty good if you ask me, but it doesn’t belong in an Addams Family movie…

Overall, it’s a pretty good movie on its own and a much better sendup to an old franchise than a LOT of other reboots and remakes. I found myself laughing several times and smiling through a good chunk of the movie.

There were some bothersome intrusions like I still find it kinda hard to get used to all the modern updates in reboots like this. For instance, the townsfolk were holding up their phones with an app running that showed a torch instead of them actually using torches. I also got very thrown off when they had a segment where Lurch suddenly sings ‘Everybody Hurts’ by REM in a far higher tone than his normal voice as they had a montage of Morticia, Wednesday, Gomez and Pugsley all dealing with their problems in the midway point. What the hell even was that?

There was also another hip-hop song that played when Cousin Itt arrived. He pulled up in a limo and had fancy shoes and a pimp cane and it was playing him up so much. I get it. Cousin Itt is a beloved character and he hadn’t been in most of the movie, so why not make his entrance grandiose? Still, it felt a bit weird. You know what’s also weird? Snoop Dog ‘voices’ Cousin Itt…..Yeah…I…don’t know why either.

The absolute ending was a bit rushed, in my opinion. Like I already said, Margaux’s redemption was not earned in the slightest, not to mention that she suddenly started accepting these ‘freaks’ just because she was able to sell houses to them. The reunion and make up scene between Morticia and Wednesday just kinda fizzled. And they somehow managed to not properly wrap up an ending to a particularly important character.

Anyone notice that I explained the entire ending without mentioning Parker? What the hell happened to her? I had to rewatch the ending to see if she was even shown. She was. She was filming Pugsley’s final ceremony, but she wasn’t even centered in the shot – it was focused on Wednesday giving an approving nod to her brother. Did she make up with her mom? I doubt it. They never show them interacting after Parker literally destroyed her mother’s career. Where does Parker go from here? Is she going to go live with her dad (her parents are divorced), is she going to stay with the Addamses or what? What was the conclusion to her character arc anyway?

Is The Addams Family perfect? No. But given the absolute trash that we’ve had to wade through in regards to reboots and remakes over the past couple of decades, I know for a fact that they could’ve done so, so, so much worse.

They respected the franchise very well, they kept nearly every facet of the original series, though some information was more taken from the ‘90s movies, they added their own spin on it without being too bothersome with the updates and changes, and they managed to do all of that while still being pretty clever, funny, endearing and likable. They even made me give a crap about Pugsley, and I honestly never cared about him in any incarnation.

The art and animation are very stylized, and it works quite well with the Addams Family motif. And the music, while having some questionable tracks, is still really good. The voice acting was also done well. Allison Janney owned her role as Margaux. I think this would be a really good watch, especially around Halloween, for fans of the franchise and for newcomers.

Recommended Audience: This is obviously a bit dark, being The Addams Family, but there was no point where I’d ever consider shielding a child’s eyes from it. The point where I got the most weirded out was when Morticia used the ashes of her parents as eye shadow and blush. That’s about it. 7+

Final Notes: A sequel is being released on Halloween 2021. I’m looking forward to it, and will probably review it, whether for Animating Halloween or otherwise.

Screenshots Courtesy of cap-that.com.


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Animating Halloween: Fancy Nancy – Nancy’s Costume Clash/Nancy’s Ghostly Halloween

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Plot: Fancy Nancy celebrates Halloween!

Breakdown:

*thunderclap*

On the darkest of nights, as Halloween approaches, the spirits of the underworld start seeping into our realm.

Screams in the night.

Thump.

Thud.

Your blood is pumping harder. A cold sweat reaches your brow. You can’t sleep. You shouldn’t have stayed up late watching the most terrifying of Halloween specials. What were you thinking? Why did you do it? Why did you put on….

FANCY NANCY!?

*thunderclap*

Should I mention that when it comes to Halloween and Christmas specials I tend to use the randomizer on the Halloween/Christmas special Wiki pages to select what I watch? Because otherwise I don’t think I’d ever be watching Disney Junior’s Fancy Nancy Halloween Special.

Up until now, I didn’t even realize Fancy Nancy was a thing. It seems like you get what you pay for when it comes to Fancy Nancy. It’s a show about a girl named Nancy who likes her stuff fancy. This is really out of my wheelhouse. I am very much not a girly girl. I don’t care to have my stuff fancy. I am a simple schlub.

So, I’m going to channel my inner fanciness…..Uhm….Hm….How do I do that?

Oh thanks, Patrick!

Our first Halloween story is Nancy’s Costume Clash. Nancy and her friend, Bree, accidentally make the same Nanette the Nice Witch costume for a Halloween party, which is a fashion faux pas. They manage to settle their dispute with a coin flip and Nancy letting Bree wear her old mermaid costume. Everything seems okay until a bitch named Grace shows up wearing her store bought official Nanette the Nice Witch costume.

Like before, they settle this dispute with a coin flip, but Nancy ends up getting the bad end of the deal this time, so she’s forced to change. Her friend, Lionel, offers his old costume, a taco, which doesn’t meet Nancy’s EXCEPTIONAL needs, but she accepts it anyway.

Oh right, the EXCEPTIONAL thing. Nancy has this insanely annoying habit of saying EXCEPTIONAL all the time and needing everything she wears, has or uses being EXCEPTIONAL. Because she’s Fancy Nancy. She needs her stuff fancy. Also, she has a habit of saying French words a lot, which, while being similarly annoying – she’s not French, and really only says those words because French things are fancy by default – is at least educational. She also has a habit of saying ‘fancy’ words, which is meant to help kids with their English vocabulary, which is pretty nice.

She fancifies her taco costume via song break. The song, ‘Exceptional Halloween,’ is actually pretty catchy. When she’s done, the taco costume does look better, but it also looks worse.

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….what the hell is on her head? Is that a bowl of ice cream? Why is there stuff seemingly dripping over the edges of the shell? It really comes off more as a weird seashell costume more than a fancy taco, which actually would’ve worked better considering Bree’s a mermaid.

Everyone loves her costume, and Nancy even compliments Grace on her costume. They bob for apples, everyone’s happy, the end.

This story was pretty okay. It showed a very overused plotline resolved in a less conventional way. Usually stories with ‘OMG We’re wearing the same outfit!?’ angles just involve a lot of bitching and trying to force the other girl to change, but here they just come up with solutions on making everything fair for everyone. Bree and Lionel help Nancy out, and Nancy adds her own pizzazz to be fully happy with her ice cream sea shell taco costume.

But urgh….I don’t think I have the fanciness to continue onto the second half of the episode. It’s too much exceptionalism.

*knock knock*

Hm?

Ah, yes, many thanks, Patrick. How could I have been so absent-minded?

The second segment is about the girls trick or treating. Nancy is wearing a butterfly costume (with really tiny wings and a tutu, which kinda makes it look like a fairy costume.) Why she’s wearing a different costume than she was for the Halloween party, I don’t know. It’s a little chilly out, so her mom tells her to wear a jacket. Nancy doesn’t want to cover her fancy wings, so she asks if she can wear her cloak instead since she can keep it open most of the time to keep her wings uncovered and wrap it around her if she gets cold. Her mom agrees and they go off trick or treating…..by themselves? That’s kinda a weird thing to include in a Disney Junior show. I mean, they only seem to be going to houses they know, but still. They’re like, what, six or seven, and they’re babysitting a kid who’s like four? I didn’t think that going off on your own at that age was kosher anymore.

The kids all start getting spooked by the Halloween decorations in town, but they keep trick or treating anyway.

Nancy doesn’t like having her cloak on since it obscures her wings, so she leaves it on the fence of her neighbor, claiming she’ll come back for it later. Her little sister, Jojo, who is out as a knight, believes Nancy accidentally left it behind, so she puts it on and rushes to chase after her to give it back.

Cue the misunderstanding – Bree and Nancy think Jojo’s a ghost because her helmet locked in place, obscuring her face and making her voice echo, she’s now all cloaked up, and she accidentally hooked a light-up foggy decoration on the cloak to trail behind her.

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The girls and eventually Lionel, whose brilliant costume is just a zombie mask, run away from the ‘ghost’ until they realize it’s Jojo. They laugh it off, Nancy puts her cloak back on and they all go back to trick or treating. The end.

This story was also pretty decent. It was spooky enough for the younglings, but they made it clear that the ‘ghost’ was Jojo so they wouldn’t get too scared. Plus, it was trying to teach a lesson about not letting your imagination run wild and scare you, especially during Halloween where many things are scary, but mostly fake.

Overall, this was a pretty good Halloween special all around. I think I would have tuned in to watch this as a little Twix. My impressions on the show as a whole? Seems all well and good. Nancy IS a little grating just because she’s a very, for lack of a better term, diva-ish character. People were complaining that she’s a brat who always gets what she wants and never learns any lessons, but as far as I saw that’s just flatout not true. She can be a little abrasive, and the EXCEPTIONAL habit is annoying, but she always tries to be fair and nice and does learn lessons when things don’t go her way. She’s a very realistic kid. People need to chill the hell out.

Granted, maybe I’d get really sick of her after watching more episodes, but….I’m probably not gonna do that.

Plus, she’s helping kids develop vocabulary skills, teaching them some very basic French and the show manages to teach some good lessons while not being overly cheesy, talking down to kids and still managing to be entertaining. I was never bored or really irritated while watching it. In addition, the animation and music are quite high-quality. I did find myself enjoying the theme song and the ‘Exceptional Halloween’ song way more than I anticipated.

I leave off this review with the most important lesson anyone could take away from this.


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Illuminating Illumination – Despicable Me (2010) Review

Rating: 7/10

Plot: An aspiring supervillain, Gru, adopts three young girls to unwittingly help him with his plan to steal the moon. While initially using the girls as tools for his scheme, Gru finds himself rather liking fatherhood, though he’d be hardpressed to admit it. Still, the life of a villain and the life of a father don’t mix. It’s either shoot for the moon or follow your heart.

Breakdown: Illumination! They’re sure a company alright……

I have nothing against Illumination, really I don’t, but they always seemed like the animation company out of the big-wigs to be solely focused on money. There’s nothing wrong with that, they are a company afterall, but there’s something inherently…..artificial about nearly all of their movies. There’s never been much heart to them. And that’s before we get to the over-commercialization of nearly all of their properties. Do I need to bring up The Lorax being whored out to any company who would give them a buck, including a damn car company? The cognitive dissonance there was astounding.

And no.

No.

I’m not forgetting the minions.

It’s hard to avoid the flood of minions that came as a result of this franchise to the point where even a movie was made based on the little yellow pill bugs that ended up being, and I’m not kidding here, Illumination’s most successful movie to date. I don’t dislike the minions, I actually find them kinda cute and funny, but oversaturation can make anything a living nightmare.

The minions have become so front and center to this franchise that most of the current DVD and Blu-Ray box covers for the movies either feature them prominently with Gru and the girls in the background or it’s just the minions. There was one box art cover that was literally just one minion taking up the entire space.

But hey, they make the money.

Illumination is really is good at making money. Even their worst film by far, Hop, which I won’t be reviewing because it’s not animated, made more than three times its budget back. They’re a company that tends to know what they’re doing. They’re not out to make incredibly impacting stories or mind-blowing cinematic experiences – they’re out to make money. I can’t damn them for that, but I can give appropriate criticisms to their work.

Which leads us to our feature film.

Despicable Me is another one of those movies people would probably be surprised to hear that I’ve never seen before now. I never had much of an interest is all. No one’s ever told me that I had to see this movie for any reason or heard so many people quoting it or referencing it that my curiosity peaked. I’ve seen bits and pieces on TV before and it failed to hold my attention long enough for me to stay on that channel.

Who can really blame me? I mean, look at that plot synopsis and tell me you can’t give me a full explanation of what happens in this movie just by reading that paragraph. Not that being predictable is entirely a bad thing as long as you add substance and style to it, but this movie really does hit every beat you expect it to. About the only thing that surprised me even a little was that Vector, the antagonist, was actually a serious antagonist and THE main antagonist for the movie.

Not that that counted for much either considering he was a very predictable antagonist once it’s revealed that he is a serious threat, and that happened very early in the movie.

I actually got annoyed at the predictability at one point. Vector kidnaps the girls and holds them hostage so Gru will give him the moon. I said, out loud, “He’s not going to give the girls back once the moon is his, is he?” He, of course, doesn’t, but what irked me was, as he revealed he was doing this and was leaving Gru to his own devices, he yelled out ‘UNPREDICTABLE!’ I nearly had the pause the movie there because I wanted to slap somebody. Yes, it’s so unpredictable to do the exact thing expected of the villain in that exact situation.

Then, later, there’s a scene where Gru’s trying to save the girls from Vector’s ship midair and again, I said, out loud, “Vector’s going to show up and grab the girls before they jump, isn’t he?” Sure enough, I was right again.

While it was also par for the course that Gru had a somewhat sad childhood, that being his mother rarely ever paying attention to him, I felt like the role of his mother was kinda weird. They pepper flashbacks throughout the movie of Gru trying to impress his mother and her responding with ‘Meh.’ over and over, to everything. So, of course, he develops a complex about it. It’s even kinda implied that maybe Gru would’ve become a legitimate scientist or astronaut or something if his mother actually supported him. Instead, he became a supervillain and she’s still not impressed.

She randomly appears in the middle of the movie in present day, somehow knowing Gru adopted three girls, and the first thing she does when she arrives is show the girls a bunch of Gru’s baby pictures, which doesn’t line up with what we knew of her to this point. How do you go from a mother who seems to give zero shits about her son to her instantly visiting when she finds out he adopted kids and jumping at the chance to show them a ton of pictures of lil Gru?

Finally, she shows up at the end of the movie to watch the girls do ballet and she tells Gru he’s a good parent, probably even better than she was, and…I guess that’s the end of that arc? It felt like they skipped a bunch of development there. Just she was a crappy mom and now she’s a good grandma and passable mom?

So…..guess what the movie ends with.

A dance party.

Because someone at some point during the 2000s made a rule that all mediocre animated movies have to end in dance parties.

I want to make it clear that I didn’t dislike this movie. I knew what I was getting into from the start and it pretty much met expectations.

It’s an okay movie. The story’s predictable as hell, but the comedy is decent. The heartwarming moments go toe-to-toe with the sad moments, but neither really go far enough to pluck any heartstrings. There is nothing explicitly bad about the movie outside of its predictability. Even its art and animation stand up pretty well after nearly a decade. The voice acting is also pretty good. Steve Carell as Gru really ran with his character and even though the girls could sometimes be obnoxious, they were pretty realistically portrayed and well acted.

In fact, let me give this movie some more slack. There were some aspects that strayed away from the norm that made this experience a little better for me.

First of all, even though the minions are still, well, minions, it’s very obvious that Gru cares about all of these little guys. He treats them like family instead of abusing them left and right like most villains would do. I really appreciated that. The abusive asshole aspect would have made it harder to accept Gru as a good guy and would have made the movie feel more mean-spirited.

Secondly, despite his follies, Gru is a very competent supervillain. It’s just that circumstances tend to kick him in the ass sometimes.

Thirdly, they didn’t viciously harp on the girls’ orphan status as much as I thought they would. They had every opportunity in the world to play the ‘our parents used to (blank)’ card many times and they didn’t even really bring up their biological parents. To be honest, I’m not even sure if these girls are related at all and they seem to be the only kids at this orphanage barring one other girl we see in the box of shame.

They did kinda play up the fact that their orphanage is shitty place, though. The person who runs the orphanage is a total bitch who forces the girls to sell cookies door to door for the sake of the orphanage’s profit. She’s not physically abusive, but she is emotionally abusive. I wouldn’t say she’s bad enough for me to get into hatred territory, though. She’s a bitch, no doubt about that, but it’s like they wanted Delores Umbridge and got her more mellow second cousin twice removed.

Finally, Dr. Nefario, Gru’s right-hand man and head scientist, had a pretty good role and relationship with Gru. He didn’t hate the girls or even hate that Gru was showing signs that he wanted to be a dad – he just knew what their goals were and wanted to keep Gru on track. I do kinda resent him for sending the girls away behind Gru’s back, but he randomly decided to help save the girls in the end so I guess it’s all good.

In the end, it’s very much an okay movie. I probably won’t get the urge to watch it again anytime soon, but I would consider leaving it on if I saw it while flipping through channels.

I suppose I picked a good time to watch this, too, considering that the latest Despicable Me movie, Minions: The Rise of Gru, is coming out this July and there’s a Despicable Me 4 on the production slate down the line (Even though, if you count the Minions movies as being Despicable Me movies, which you probably should, that means that title should technically be Despicable Me 6….Yikes.)

Recommended Audience: There’s some questionable humor here and there, usually relegated to potty humor, but there is one joke where Edith, the middle kid, gets caught in an iron maiden, there’s a puddle of ‘blood’ that pools as a result and Gru brushes it off. It’s just her punctured juice box, but I was still pretty shocked they put in such a joke.

There’s also a moment where Gru makes the girls shaped pancakes and Edith’s (It should be noted that Edith has a thing for violence and the like) is a dead body that I’m almost certain was meant to be dead from a gunshot wound considering the hole in its chest…

Other than that, nothing really. 7+


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Animating Halloween: Dead Space – Aftermath Review

Rating: 5.5/10

Plot: Three years before the events of Dead Space 2, the USG O’Bannon went to Aegis VII to collect shards of the marker that Isaac Clarke crashed into the surface. However, shortly after they were dispatched, the CEC also loses contact with the O’Bannon. When the Marines go to investigate, they find that, out of the 137 crew members of the O’Bannon, there are only four signs of life detected. Everyone else was slaughtered.

Aftermath chronicles the stories of each of the four remaining crew members – Isabel Cho, Nickolas Kuttner, Alejandro Borges and Nolan Stross – as they piece together what happened on the O’Bannon.

Breakdown: I’m going to bite my tongue for something I’ll definitely be addressing later, but let me just say this movie had me internally screaming (in a bad way) within the first three minutes and consistently remains a prevalent problem throughout the bookends.

Dead Space: Aftermath was meant to serve as a bridge between the video games Dead Space and Dead Space 2, and….it’s kinda that a little I guess. But since homework is poo, as I mentioned in the last Dead Space movie, Downfall, we’re going to be trying to take this at face value without concerning ourselves too much with continuity issues between the games.

————————-

The USG O’Bannon has suddenly ceased communication with the CEC, so they send out a ‘rescue’ team of marines to see what happened. When they arrive, they see that the ship is littered with torn apart bodies. Only four life signs are detected on board out of the 137 listed crew. When they find them, one of them, Kuttner, goes berserk and kills one of the soldiers, so they’re stunned with high powered tasers and detained.

They start interrogating all of them individually to get their stories on what happened when they were deployed to Aegis VII.

The movie is separated into four flashbacks that are bookended by the continuing plot going on in the rescue ship, the USM Abraxis. Each flashback is drawn and animated in a different fashion. This is a creative and interesting way to both convey the story of what happened on the O’Bannon while also getting specific perspectives of the information through the eyes of each of our main characters. However, I do also have to ding it because it ultimately serves no point.

People were noting some changes in certain details that show differences in perspective, like Cho seemingly being made sluttier in Stross’ flashback while she’s very tall and well-built but also mature and responsible, barring the affair she was having with Stross, in her own flashback. In Kuttner’s flashback, he easily overpowered Noah and Alejandro, but in Alejandro’s flashback he gives a much better fight, even hurling him about 300 feet as he took a swipe at him near the end.

In any other story, these might be amusing changes, but in this circumstance, who cares about such petty discrepancies in perspective when over 100 people were brutally murdered? It’s no time for dick measuring contests and slut shaming.

The first one to be interrogated is Kuttner, who was the first one to have exposure to a fragment of the marker on Aegis VII. He went insane almost immediately after that, having constant hallucinations of his recently deceased young daughter, Vivian, leading him to have violent outbursts that set most of the events of the downfall of the O’Bannon into motion and created a slue of problems on the Abraxis.

The art style used for his segment is pretty good. It’s a sort of melding of Western and anime-styled art that is craggy but overall good. I did have a good laugh at Vivian’s face in one shot only because they made her eyes into sharp diamond shapes for no reason when they never look that way again after that.

Next up is Borges’ flashback, and uh…the art, but moreso the animation, for his segment is uh….stiff. Like, for several instances at the beginning, it seems like people are pivoting and turning like actual robots stiff. Outside of that, the art is much more in the realm of anime and is overall more detailed than Kuttner’s, but everyone keeps their suits on so it’s hard to tell for most of it.

Also, in case you somehow manage to forget because god knows they remind us enough times, Noah, who is part of Borges’ engineer crew, is his cousin. And as if we couldn’t already figure it out by the fact that he’s not a fellow survivor, Noah dies. Also, in case you somehow forget because, again, god knows they remind us enough times, Alejandro has a robot arm. He got it from trying to save his crew in a mining accident.

The robot arm is pretty cool, admittedly. Especially with the art in this segment.

Borges’ flashback continues further than Kuttner’s as it includes Noah’s death, their escape off of the exploding rig and the gratuitous death of several characters. Dead Space is no stranger to gruesome deaths, but yeesh.

Soooo….Halfway through the flashback, the only real views of actual faces have been either behind helmets that block nearly everything or Noah’s smashed up face. Once we get back to the main ship, we see the facial art and it’s not nearly as good as Kuttner’s flashback to say the least. The mouths are particularly ugly, being overly large (most notably on Borges) with nearly always-showing teeth, the oddly proportioned eyes, the heads are thin, and the stiff animation continues to bleed into it, particularly in the area of the horrible lip syncing.

They manage to return to the ship, and seem to be one of the only ships that made it back since the rest got destroyed in the debris of the planet as it was exploding. But the deaths aren’t over. The O’Bannon gets heavily damaged while trying to escape, and apparently they put TNT in the control panels because several of them blow up and kill crew members as they take damage.

Once the marker fragment has been given to the Captain, Borges demands to know why a rock was worth his cousin’s life, but gets little answer besides that it’s worth a lot of money.

Next up is, surprisingly, Nolan Stross. I say ‘surprisingly’ because Stross is the only character from Dead Space 2 who appears in this movie. I thought for sure they’d save his segment for last, but whatever.

By the way, they get all of the survivors to talk by tormenting them with hallucinations of their worst fears…….but 1) I don’t understand how they’re even doing that and 2) there’s no indication they wouldn’t have talked beforehand. It’s literally that they put them in the chair and then torture them without asking any questions.

Stross’ flashback is definitely the most anime-ish one so far. Outside of some eye designs that remind me of Reign: The Conquerer, it’s pretty darn good. I don’t exactly know why the Captain now has a collar so popped it’s covering his ears, though. Apparently, the marker fragment is making him think he’s in the 1980s.

Stross, being the head scientist on board the O’Bannon, is tasked with studying the fragment. He’s having marital problems as he struggles to maintain both his job and his family, including his precious infant son. Doesn’t help that his wife thinks he’s cheating on her with with Cho.

As Stross studies the fragment, he finds that it’s a blueprint for DNA and could completely revolutionize life as we know it…..But enough of that, time to prove his wife right by boinking Cho right in the research lab.

Later, Stross explains that the marker fragment has an odd effect on dead tissue. On contact, it reanimates it. When living beings touch or are around the marker for long periods of time, they have visions and nightmares at the start and eventually psychotic breaks – some being more susceptible to this effect than others. Kuttner was the one to break because he both touched the fragment (though, he was wearing gloves…) and was already on edge because it had only been weeks after losing his daughter.

Showcasing some pretty cool effects, we see that Stross is also slowly losing his sanity due to his exposure to the marker piece (And considering how he is in DS2, that’s no surprise.)

Well, it’s 45 minutes into this 80 minute long movie, so it has to be time for necromorphs to finally emerge, right? Right! And Stross actually manages to MAKE one.

He’s so interested in the powers of the marker, that he decides to grab a cadaver and test out its power of reanimation on it. Surprise, surprise, it turns into a necromorph and kills his colleague before going on a murder spree. It’s not long before the, this is probably the wrong term but let’s call it, infection starts spreading like wildfire and the entire ship is thrown into chaos.

Stross runs to save his family, only to be shocked to find that there are two creatures in the room that he swiftly kills. It doesn’t take much for the viewer to realize that the creatures he killed were actually his baby and wife, and that they most likely weren’t killed and reanimated as necromorphs – he just killed them in a psychotic fit, believing they were posing a threat to his family.

Our final flashback is Cho’s and….wow. Her segment has some crazy craggy art. It’s jagged af faces on top of weirdly proportioned bodies. It’s so weird. It’s like someone took the art from Akagi and made everyone super buff. Even Stross is completely cut, but he also a beak nose, so I’m really conflicted.

I’m also endlessly baffled at the fact that they will show some of the most graphic deaths they can but actually show a full-out sex scene? Oh dear god no! Children might see this! Now go twist another young girl’s neck ten times over until her head pops off. (See: Vivian)

Most of her flashback is stuff you can surmise from the others. She meets up with the other survivors as well as the Captain and some stragglers, all of which will obviously die because, again, this movie kinda has too much balls to believe it has the story strength to be able to work with showing us the only survivors at the BEGINNING of a horror movie. (And, dammit, that’s the same problem Downfall had!)

Some confusing deaths happen. One of the stragglers gets all of her head meat melted off by a necromorph throwing up in her face. I’m pretty sure that would be an insta-death, but they not only show her still standing several moments after her head has literally be reduced to a clean skull, but she can also hold her hands up to her head like she’s in pain. Can a doctor please tell me if any of that is plausible?

Other straggler dude dies because of a boring death, but then the Captain dies. There’s a hull breach and they try to shut the airlock doors, but the power is out so the captain sacrifices himself to shut them….since the manual lock…is outside of the door…..What purpose does it serve to have the only manual airlock mechanism…be outside of the airlock doors?

His death is actually pretty cool, though, because, realizing he won’t make it out, he grabs a grenade and launches himself into the group of necromorphs to take as many of them down as he can with him.

Now tasked with throwing the shard of the marker into the reactor core of the engine to stop the necromorphs, the survivors go and….well, do that.

Borges: “I am so fucking sick of these fucking things.” Did you try in terrible, terrible vain to make a Snakes on a Plane reference? Did copyright fright just completely wash the line of any actual reference?

Cho throws the shard into the reactor, the necromorphs all stop moving and we’re looped right back around to the start of the movie.

Catching up on what happened in the bookends, Kuttner accidentally gets himself killed by opening an airlock in an attempt to chase the hallucination of his daughter, Borges gets executed after they find out he didn’t touch the marker piece, thus he’s more of a liability than an asset now, Stross is put into a pod and kept in storage for experimentation on the effects of the marker, and Cho is lobotomized by the overseer after she refuses to help him create a coverup so they can blame her for the ‘terrorist’ attacks on the O’Bannon, the Ishimura and Aegis VII.

…..Which is…some sort of coverup story indeed. Who in their right mind would believe this spindly little doctor was the mastermind behind three of the worst ‘terrorist’ attacks in human history? By herself? She slaughtered everyone on the Ishimura and trashed the ship. She slaughtered everyone on the O’Bannon and destroyed the ship. She BLEW UP AEGIS VII. It’s ridiculous to think anyone’s accepting that.

The people who were interrogating the survivors are killed because I dunno. As we see Isaac’s pod right next to Stross’, our movie ends.

So, yeah, the events of this movie are largely inconsequential to the plots of either Dead Space 1 or 2. It mostly just explains how Stross came into contact with the marker and gives him a little more backstory.

The overall plot is at least a little more interesting than Downfall, even if they did go over the same information a couple times over. I like that they explored the concept of the much larger conspiracy regarding the unitologists here than they did with the few yahoos they had on Downfall. The characters were definitely given more exploration and personality than those in Downfall too. (Please note, however, that this is not a direct sequel to Downfall, as several reviewers were noting.)

The structure is interesting, and even though it doesn’t really serve much of a purpose here, I thought it was fun that they had different art and animation styles for each flashback, even if the art and animation quality of each varied a lot as well.

I also kinda liked the buildup to the necromorphs. Even though we waited quite a while for them to finally appear, there wasn’t a shortage of action in the meantime, and there was certainly a sense of foreboding as I realized Stross would try to use the marker piece on a dead body.

While the voices weren’t the best, I think most of the cast did a pretty good job, particularly Curt Cornelius as Stross (though, that might be cheating because that’s his game voice actor) and Graham McTavish as Captain Campbell.

Well, now. That sure is a lot of positive things I’m saying.

Allow me to ruin it all as I break out into raucous laughter in response to the art and animation of the bookends.

I have been holding that in for over an hour.

I wish I had taped myself reacting to the first few non-credit shots of this movie. I was in awe at the horrible. First, we see entrails flying by that look like the cheapest of cheap plastic toys.

This was when I started muttering “Oh! Oh…god, that’s…that’s not good.”

And then this motherfucker popped up on screen.

I had to pause the video just to process how terrible this looked. I was astounded. But then I took a step back and remembered that this is outside of the ship, so maybe the main scenes will look better.

Uhm.

Yeah.

I’m uhh…

I’m gonna go with a hard ‘no’ there.

How did they manage to make CGI that looks exponentially worse than the video games from which they were based? Isn’t that the bare minimum we’re meant to expect from modern day animated video game movies? This is from 2011!

This….is almost Food Fight levels of bad CGI and animation. Barring the lack of animation errors, it’s basically the same level. Complete lack of detailing, non-moving hair that looks like it was rendered on a Speak and Spell, really odd design choices, and everything simply looking like it wasn’t completed on time so they just said ‘fuck it’ and sent it out. I continued to be increasingly blown away by the lack of quality in the CGI spots. It was impressive it was so bad.

Some of my personal favorites were the doll-like representation of Kuttner’s bloodied daughter.

Looks more like raspberry jam.

Whatever default pose they left Kuttner’s character model in after his death.

These bowling ball spiders.

And even though I would never be able to get a good quality gif of it, the little animation of Cho they made to show her psychotically shooting up someplace that is literally her with her mouth agape and turning as if she were on a mechanical pivot joint swaying back and forth while laughing maniacally. That was the pinnacle of robot animation right there. I laughed out loud for a good minute. No regrets.

Something I should mention is that it wasn’t just different art styles being applied to these separate sections – it was also a slue of animation studios. The animation for the bookends was given to Digiart Productions. You may know them from such masterpieces as Dr. Dolittle: Tail to the Chief, Garfield Gets Real, Bling and the Shark Tale ripoff, Shark Bait/The Reef.

Contrast that with Kuttner and Stross’ flashbacks who had a bit more quality and competence with DongWoo Animation, who produced Magi-Nation and did animation work on shows like Avengers Assemble, Justice League, Kodocha, Rurouni Kenshin and Steamboy.

Then we have Borges’ flashback, which was done by JM Animation. They did animation work on 32 episodes of Avatar the Last Airbender, Dante’s Inferno: An Animated Epic, and Green Lantern: Emerald Knights.

Finally, Cho’s flashback was done with JM Animation, but specifically Team Seed, whoever they are because I cannot find a single drop of information on them.

Either way, any of these studios and teams could’ve done a much MUCH better job on the bookended segments than Digiart, but nope. Technically the main part of our movie is the part they gave the people behind Dr. Dolittle: Million Dollar Mutts (Lucky Goes to Hollywood!)

And just to give everyone fair shame, I’ll also list the main production studios who more prominently put their names on this – Starz Media, Pumpkin Studios, Film Roman and the bastards themselves – EA.

Bottomline: The differing art styles will either leave you impressed and refreshed with the variety or will leave you confused and put off because most of the segments look passable at best. Some people were saying Cho’s part was the best animated, but I’d have to disagree as I found Stross’ flashback to be quite a bit better.

The CGI bookend segments are, by far, the worst offenders. Put the flashbacks side and side and the transitions aren’t too jarring, but throw in the CGI bits and it’s like falling off a cliff at the beginning and end of each flashback.

At the very least, the CGI is so bad I got a good laugh out of it. Being fair, too, the shots of the ship in most of the versions look pretty okay, outside of Cho’s flashback where it looked a bit too fake and like it was moving out of sync with what was hitting it.

The voice work is pretty good, the music has quite a bit of tension to it and most of the time the direction and cinematography are nice enough.

This is largely a pointless movie, though, that hardly acts as the bridge between Dead Space 1 and 2 that it seemingly wants to be. While I do believe the story is a bit better than Downfall, the structure will definitely put some people off. There’s also no getting around the fact that all of the tension gets drained out of a horror movie when you show the only survivors at the start and tell the story through their eyes. The only tension left is who will be left alive in the bookend segments, and considering Stross is the only person we see or hear about from this story in Dead Space 2, most people can instantly infer that most will either die or otherwise be silenced.

It’s a perfectly fine movie. It’s fine. It’s very okay.

If you can survive a few vicious assaults on your eyeballs, it’s perfectly watchable for both Dead Space fans and people who just want an animated horror movie.

As you can tell by the rating, it’s, sadly, not as good as Downfall, despite some of my earlier notes. I was definitely more immersed in a horror environment with Downfall. The art, while not being fantastic, was far more consistent. And the pacing was much better because we didn’t have to go over some spots twice or more and we didn’t have to come to a near halt four times due to transitions between storytellers.

In the end, I feel like Aftermath is a movie they both put more work into but also cared significantly less, if that makes any sense.

Recommended Audience: It’s Dead Space, so….duh. If you don’t know Dead Space level gore, it’s really, really high. People get brutally crushed, their heads smashed in, head meat melting off, heads sliced in half, burned to death in lava, and even though it was masked as a necromorph at the time, there’s also a very brutal baby murder. Etc.

There’s also a few brief spots of nudity, all of which is contained to Cho’s segment. It’s also the only segment that includes sexual content, but it’s nothing porny. It’s mostly just a brief shot of movement, her sitting on him naked and then a couple suggestive shots.

We also have a bunch of swearing, if that bothers you in comparison to everything else. 17+


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Watching the Blue Sky – Ice Age (2002) Review

Rating: 7.5/10

Plot: In the dawn of the ice age, all of the animals have begun migrating south – All except Manfred “Manny” the mammoth and Sid the sloth. Sid got left behind by his family while he was sleeping and Manfred purposely went the opposite direction so he could live his life in solitude. The two are brought together when a dying woman entrusts her baby to the pair and they make it their mission to find its ‘pack’ and reunite it with its father.

Along the way, they begrudgingly team up with Diego, the saber-toothed tiger, who is sent out on a mission from his boss to get the baby, but decides to add a bonus mammoth to the haul. He sets up an ambush right next to their destination. With the tigers and the dangerous hunters waiting for them, can Manny and Sid get the baby to its father with their lives intact?

Breakdown: Ah, Blue Sky Studios – long time runt of the animation company litter. I have nothing against Blue Sky Studios, but they’ve always had a problem with reaching a level of quality that was the same as the top dogs – Disney, Pixar and Dreamworks. Funny how both Pixar and Blue Sky are now under Disney’s umbrella.

They at least tended to stay at the upper part of the animation studio B-squad list (with Sony Pictures Animation and Illumination) but nowadays I’d say even that’s not accurate since Sony keeps upping their game, especially with Spider-Man Into the Spiderverse. They probably grapple with Illumination above all else, but they’re still doing better at the box office with the damn Minions taking over all of society.

Blue Sky rode the coattails of Ice Age for a long time, to the point where it became a joke. Apparently, we didn’t know what monster franchise Shrek would truly become.

Now that the Ice Age train has seemingly stopped (There supposedly has been talks of another sequel, but nothing has been said since 2016 and their future slate doesn’t include anything Ice Age related), they don’t have much of a stake anymore. Only future endeavors will tell. I am somewhat interested in Spies in Disguise, so there’s something.

It might be surprising to some people to hear that I’ve never watched any of the Ice Age movies, considering how they were everywhere for a while. I only had bare minimum knowledge on them, too. I knew Ray Romano was in them, there was a funny acorn-obsessed saber-toothed squirrel named Scrat and it took place in the ice age. That’s about it. It just never interested me.

Now that I’ve given it a shot, I’m happy to say that it was a pretty good movie and surpassed my, albeit somewhat low, expectations. It never really made me laugh, but it kinda made me smile. The action was pretty good, and, somehow, this movie managed to tug on my heartstrings several times.

It even went down a bit of a dark path with Manny’s past. I figured his family had died and that’s why he was such a loner, but I didn’t figure that not only was it a case of him being a father and husband (instead of him losing his family as a child or something) but that his family was killed by hunters and it’s implied that they stoned them to death…..

IceAge1

I also didn’t expect that Diego was on a path to being a good guy until about halfway through, which is strange because typically plotlines like that are easier to spot at the start.

I did feel a bit ripped off at the very end, though. Death fake-outs are nothing new, and this movie did a couple already, but they had what seemed to be a real death scene, goodbyes and all, for Diego near the end. We didn’t see how badly he was wounded, because kid’s movie, In fact, we can’t see any wound at all, but it’s implied that it’s a bad wound with how they’re all reacting. Manny doesn’t even argue very much when Diego tells him to leave him behind because it’s implied that he realizes his wounds are simply too grave.

I was shocked when they actually did leave him behind. For a few moments, I thought for certain that they were going to have the balls to kill off a main character in a touching and respectful manner. I was prepared to write the review and give them so much props for that. He was a bad guy gone good because of the influence of those around him and his dying act was an ultimate act of redemption…..

IceAge2

……But, nope.

Right after they bring the baby back to its father, Diego just comes out of nowhere, no wound in sight, not even limping – perfectly fine. I had to pause the movie because I just felt that insulted. Don’t get me wrong, I really like Diego. That’s one of the reasons why his ‘death’ emotionally impacted me at the time. I’m glad to see him alive, but at the same time I feel insulted that they pulled such a ridiculous bait and switch.

I can’t really fault the writers here too much because, upon further investigation, this was a change made at the last minute. Diego was originally set to die, but when they presented the film to a test audience of children, they burst into tears when Diego’s death scene occurred. Since emotional responses are apparently bad, they opted to hastily rewrite the ending to have Diego unrealistically live.

From a studio standpoint, I get it. But from a writing standpoint, I don’t. You write a death scene for a main character, you get tears – that’s a GOOD thing. That’s the emotion you’re going for. Why would you see that response and take that as a problem that needs to be fixed? It’s just frustrating, is all.

Diego’s story is interesting in its own right. At first, I really thought he was merely a lackey character for the main bad tiger, but he showed some signs of having sympathy for the humans at the start and he developed a lot over the movie as he traveled with Manny and Sid.

However, I think the one big downside to his story arc is the fact that the main bad tiger is so forgettable. I even confused him with Diego several times because they didn’t do much to differentiate them, design-wise. His motivation is hatred against the humans because they killed half of his pack and worse their furs. He wants to kill the baby of this group personally because the baby’s father was the one who lead the slaughter. A bit of emotional and mental revenge rather than just killing the guy.

It’s actually somewhat weird, because, if we’re meant to hate this guy and feel sympathy for the humans because he wants to kill their baby, doesn’t that mean we’re meant to hate the humans too because they killed Manny’s kid?

The main bad tiger does have a name, Soto, but he’s so forgettable and bland that I couldn’t remember it until I read the Wiki synopsis. I even had a list of the other tigers’ names in the credits and I still wasn’t 100% sure I’d be getting his name right.

The way the humans are portrayed is very realistic, which surprised me. I thought for sure they’d be demonized like most any other hunter is in nearly any show or movie where animals are the main characters. The animals do show a clear distaste for them, even Manny, but the hatred isn’t born of ‘they’re humans and hunters, so they’re terrible beings’ it’s born of personal vendettas. Soto hates them because they killed tigers in his pack and wore their pelts, Manny doesn’t like them because they killed his family, Diego hates them for the same reason as Soto and Sid is simply afraid of them. In fact, Sid’s the one who first openly accepts the kid and vows to get it back to its pack.

One question that continues to pop up as they go about their journey is ‘Why help this kid? It’ll probably just grow up to be a hunter.’ and the answer is never really given. It’s just the right thing to do. Plus, even if you do hold a grudge against humans for hunting animals, the baby hasn’t done anything itself yet, if it will at all.

It’d be wrong to demonize them anyway because they really have no choice but to hunt animals. It’d be like demonizing literally any carnivore. Especially in the ice age considering that foliage is extremely scarce. They need the meat for food. They need the animal pelts to keep warm. They need their bones for weapons. Etc.

They show that the child’s parents are very loving. The mother literally sacrifices her life to save her child (even though the method could’ve easily killed the baby too…) and they cut to the father several times throughout the movie, holding a necklace that belonged to his wife and looking behind the group as they travel, hoping to see a glimpse of them trying to follow. It’s very sweet and sad.

IceAge3

However, that’s slightly tainted when we get to the part where they show Manny’s wife and kid being killed by hunters. The wife thing is bad enough, but it leaves a bad taste in your mouth knowing they killed a baby mammoth too – the child of a main character, no less. Though, I guess that goes to show how big of a person Manny is as he doesn’t only not hold a grudge, but he lovingly cares for the kid and returns it without issue.

The dynamic between Manny, Sid and Diego is pretty good. Manny’s the voice of reason, Diego’s the also reasonable but somewhat aggressive one, and Sid’s the annoying idiot.

Sid did grow on me as the movie went on, mostly because of how much he clearly loved the kid, but it’s a really terrible start for a character when the first memorable thing they do is stomp through the food of two innocent rhinos as he tries to scrape shit from his feet. He even eats the last dandelion, which was supposed to be a nice little special treat for them.

The CGI and animation has certainly not aged well, especially in regards to the humans. The animals are passable, especially Manny and Scrat, but Sid’s design is all sorts of fugly.

The voice acting is pretty good. There’s not a whole lot of emotion to be had here. I appreciate that the humans didn’t talk most of the time and, when they did, we couldn’t understand them. I don’t know if that was for the sake of the main characters being animals, so, since they can’t understand them, neither can we, or they’re adhering to the fact that English and most other languages hadn’t been created at that point.

The music is okay. At least they didn’t load the movie up with pop songs or anything. Most of the music is a traditional score with only one lyrical song, Send Me On My Way by Rusted Root, being present.

Bottomline: Ice Age was a pleasant surprise. It wasn’t knocking my socks off or anything, but it was a fun and touching story that I’m sure kids and adults alike would be able to enjoy. The art and animation are certainly dated, but outside of some freaky shots of the human characters, it’s nothing too bad.

Recommended Audience: There are some light poop jokes and mentions of killing. Even though we see Manny’s family get killed, it’s done in a cave painting animation (which is pretty cool) and the death is never seen or heard. The animation ends once we see the hunters above them holding up rocks. There are two deaths that occur in real time, but one just has her vanishing in the water, and the other is off-screen (impaled by falling icicles.) There is absolutely no blood in this movie, even when we saw Diego with his supposedly horrible life-threatening wound from a zoomed out shot. 6+


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Aardman’s Clay: The Pirates! Band of Misfits/In an Adventure with Scientists

Rating: 7/10

Plot: The Pirate Captain is a bit of a bumbling chap. While he adores life on the seas with his crew and all of the adventures they have, he’s not the best at his job. He yearns to be Pirate of the Year, but he’s considered a joke among the other pirates in the community. While trying to attack more ships to gain a better reputation, he comes upon the research ship of Charles Darwin, who is incredibly interested in the captain’s beloved ‘parrot’ Polly. Turns out, she’s actually an extremely rare dodo bird – last of its kind.

Charles wants the bird to be world-renowned in the world of science (and be successful enough to get a girlfriend) and the Pirate Captain believes presenting the bird will make him a lot of money and give him recognition. He won’t give Polly over since she’s one of the family, but when the world sees you as a loser, you’re sometimes willing to sacrifice family for a taste of fame and respect.

Breakdown: This is the first time Aardman has really failed to engage me as well as it usually does.

That’s not to say The Pirates! is a bad movie in the slightest, it’s just rather predictable and a little blah for Aardman. After about the first 15 minutes, I knew almost exactly where the movie would go beat by beat. The only thing that caught me a little off-guard was the climax but only because I didn’t think people would be so stupid as have a competition to see who can find the rarest animal to cook and eat – and that the royal figures of the world were the ones holding it.

Cleverness abounds with the jokes. Aardman is never really a disappointment there. I especially enjoyed every shot with Mr. Bobo, Darwin’s mute monkey assistant who speaks in flashcards. And I did enjoy the relationship between The Pirate Captain and his first mate, Number 2 (Hardly anyone has an actual name)

I just can’t see myself wanting to watch this again anytime soon. It never clicked me on that level of pure enjoyment. It was especially a chore to watch them go undercover to present Polly to the scientist award committee and Captain try to pretend everything’s fine at the Pirate of the Year awards. We just got done with a movie with similar themes, and I don’t much care for it in the first place.

I also had to roll my eyes because, of course, the one prominent female pirate is a flirty sexpot that everyone wants to get with. She’s not a big part of the movie, but it still irked me.

(And, yes, I’m aware of the Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate.)

In regards to the art and animation, I love the way they melded regular stop-motion with CG. It flowed extremely well, and some of the shots on the sea were quite beautiful. The character models are better than usual because they don’t fall into the ‘I’m always showing all of my giant teeth at all times’ habit they were wrapped up in for a long time. The style as a whole is different, if only slightly, and it’s a bit of a nice breath of fresh air.

The music is slightly out of place sometimes. The score is usually fairly good, but then they insert modern songs and it feels off. They’re not pop songs, but they still don’t fit that well, in my opinion.

All in all, this is a fun movie and I think everyone should give it at least one watch, but it’s not Aardman’s A game.

Recommended Audience: There is mild violence, these are pirates afterall, some dark themes like implied torture and execution. No nudity or sex, but a couple of very mild swears. 10+


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Pixar’s Lamp – Finding Nemo (2003)

Rating: 9.5/10

Plot: A clown fish named Marlin had it all. The love of his life, Coral, a new home in the anemone and a clutch of fish eggs nearly ready to hatch. His perfect life comes to a grinding halt when a barracuda suddenly attacks. Coral, in an effort to rescue her babies, is killed and the eggs are eaten anyway. Marlin wakes up to find everything gone except for one lone egg that was damaged in the attack. He names the fish Nemo – a name chosen by Coral right before she died.

Some time passes, and Nemo has grown up enough to go to school. However, considering past events and the bad fin Nemo was left with as a result of the attack, Marlin has become an incredibly overbearing and protective father. It takes nearly everything he has just to let him go to school.

Marlin catches him wandering in open water with his classmates, trying to play a game of Chicken to see who can swim closest to a nearby boat. Marlin is outraged and demands that Nemo come home, but Nemo, sick of his father’s restrictions, decides to swim right up to the boat and touch it in defiance.

A scuba diver soon grabs Nemo and makes off with him. Marlin is too slow to keep up. He ends up in the fish tank of a dentist and learns from the other fish that the dentist plans on giving Nemo to his niece, Darla – an obnoxious girl who killed her last fish by shaking the bag too much.

Meanwhile, Marlin and the forgetful Dory set off on an adventure to find Nemo while Nemo and the fish from the tank try to break him out before Darla gets her mitts on him.

Breakdown: The best animated movies are ones where adults and children alike can enjoy it at the same level. The best animated movies are ones in which both adults and children alike walk away having learned something. The best animated movies are ones like this.

Finding Nemo is one of my favorite movies. It’s incredibly well-written, has fantastic characters, is very funny as well as being emotionally impacting, and it never talks down to its audience. Some movies you enjoy as a kid and you reconsider watching them as an adult, but worry that you’ll end up focusing on all the goofy or stupid parts and realize that the movie wasn’t as good as when you first watched it.

This is definitely not one of those movies. In fact, I’d say this is one of those rare movies where you gain an entirely new appreciation for it when you become an adult. It makes sense, because Finding Nemo seems intentionally split to relate to both adults and kids by separating the movie between what’s happening with Marlin and what’s happening with Nemo.

In Marlin’s story, he’s hanging around with Dory, who has short-term memory loss. She’s trying to help him find Nemo, but her condition leaves her to being an annoyance to him sometimes, and, like Nemo, he starts to get overbearing with her too because he doesn’t trust that she can do any of the things she claims she can do since she has such a terrible memory.

Marlin’s journey is all about realizing that he can’t protect Nemo at all times, and, honestly, he shouldn’t, because that’s bad for Nemo’s growth as a person (fish?). Dory said it best.

“Well, you can’t never let anything happen to him….because nothing would ever happen to him.”

A parent protecting their child is only natural. A parent becoming overprotective after what Marlin went through is completely understandable. Here, he has to realize that his fears are getting in the way of not only Nemo’s life, but also his happiness. If you protect him from everything that is perceived as possibly bad, you’re also shielding him from any good experience he could possibly get. And sometimes you need to experience bad things, even pain, to have a truly fulfilling life.

I may not be a parent, but I definitely understand the negative effects of having a sheltered childhood and overprotective parents.

While we’re on the topic of Dory, she is just as funny as I remember her, even if she did get a tiny bit annoying in spots. And I am so glad they didn’t try to force in some sort of weird romance between her and Marlin.

Nemo’s side of the story is not only about becoming independent, but also overcoming his own fears and limitations. Simultaneously, it’s about him understanding his father’s stance. While Nemo is more than willing to try and prove his father wrong in what he can and cannot do, he still holds hesitation rooted in his bad fin. We never see it hindering him much, but the fact that he has it makes him feel like he sometimes can’t do things.

One of the most important scenes with Nemo was the failed escape attempt. After gaining some self-confidence in his abilities by the gritty Gill, Nemo is quickly recruited to be a part of Gill’s newest escape plan – which involves jamming the filter system for the tank and swimming out of the narrow tube.

Everything goes according to plan until the pebble that was being used to jam the system suddenly slips, sucking Nemo down into the rotor. The other fish manage to save him, but Nemo is very shaken by what happened and Gill gives up all escape plans out of shame.

This scene is especially important because it teaches Nemo that there was a reason behind Marlin’s concerns. The world is dangerous and you do have to be cautious within it. You could argue that the incident with the boat did the same thing, but this is a little different.

Gill gave him confidence in his abilities, whereas the boat incident was fueled by defiance for Marlin. He wasn’t concerned with his abilities or the danger at hand because he was too focused on defying his father, like most kids do. It was an immature thing to do.

In this case, Nemo was focused on getting them all out of there, escaping Darla and being reunited with his dad. He still had reservations, but he was willing to give it a try. This is more mature and is a sign of actual bravery.

In the end, he manages the entire operation by himself after finding out that his father was braving terrible danger, including sharks, to find him. His father facing his own personal fears to find him gave Nemo a more healthy dose of confidence and clarity that allowed him to pull off this feat.

You could say Marlin and Gill are pretty good opposites – especially as father figures. Marlin is an embodiment of the dangers of living too cautiously while the scars on Gill’s face from a failed escape attempt and the fact that he nearly got Nemo killed doing the same make him an embodiment of what happens when you’re overly headstrong. In the end, they all find a good balance.

This film is also a rarity in that there’s not a single side character that I disliked. While some segments could be classified as filler, I was always more than entertained enough to not care. The sharks, the synchronized school of fish, the seagulls and especially Crush and Squirt were all very funny and great to watch. Some of the fish in the tank were a little weak on the comedy, such as Bubbles (His shtick is he likes bubbles…) Gurgle (germaphobe) and Bloat (a kinda gross pufferfish voiced by Brad Garret.)

If I had to say anything negative, some of the jokes are a bit too juvenile and there was nary a single human character who wasn’t despicable. The only two main human characters are the dentist, who is annoying and gross, and Darla, who is an obnoxious little brat. I get that kids do indeed do this, but I about wanted to smack her upside the head when she started violently shaking the bag Nemo was in while yelling “FISHY! WAKE UP! WAKE UP! WHY ARE YOU SLEEPING!?” The kid watching all of the commotion from a little window, thinking the dentist is torturing her, is pretty funny, though.

Also, there are way too many death fakeouts. Nemo has a grand total of five death fakeouts. Dory and Marlin have one together, and Dory kinda has one on her own (It’s more like a ‘severe injury’ fakeout)

Finding Nemo has aged wonderfully in the art and animation department. 15 years have passed, and I am still in awe of the attention to detail and the beautifully fluid motions of the fish. This movie does an outstanding job at really making you feel like you’re in a vast ocean, and I give them double props for this because underwater animation is insanely difficult.

Pixar is also noticeably better at making human character designs at this point.

The music is good and fitting, but a little forgettable.

The voice acting is fantastic. I loved Willem Dafoe as Gill and Alexander Gould did a great job as Nemo.

All in all, I still love Finding Nemo as much, if not more, as when I was a kid. It’s a timeless (outside of one mention of 2003) film that is a fantastic ride for adults and children alike. It’s funny, emotional, full of great action and just a joy to watch. You’re truly missing out if you don’t see it at least once.

Recommended Audience: There’s quite a bit of death. Either characters dying or talking about death. This movie probably has the biggest Pixar body count if we count every one of Marlin’s kids. It’s all very well handled, however. There are no dead bodies….well, one, and the language is very tame. It’s not like that scene in The Little Mermaid where Sebastian watches fish being slaughtered. Other than that, nothing really. They avert saying a swear once, but that’s the worst of it. 6+

 

Dreaming of Dreamworks: Shrek (2001) Review

Rating: 8/10

Plot: In a fairy tale world filled with creatures from nearly every fable known to man, an ogre named Shrek is forced from his home by the ruler, Farquaad. In order to get his home back, he is set out on a mission to retrieve a princess from a tower guarded by a fearsome dragon. Along with the talking donkey, Donkey, Shrek succeeds in his mission, but the journey back home proves to be much more eventful as Shrek and the princess start to fall in love.

Breakdown: It’s Dreamworks cash cow as a little calf, awwww.

Despite being milked for all its worth in the future, Shrek’s first installment is still a very solid movie with plenty of memorable and fun moments for all ages.

The message is one we’ve heard time and time and time again, but it’s told in a very refreshing way. There always was something odd about ‘it’s what’s inside that counts/don’t judge a book by its cover’ stories that end in the ‘ugly’ party becoming traditionally beautiful.

That doesn’t mean the movie’s perfect. There are still loads of gross-out gags and fart jokes that will never go away because, well, that’s Shrek’s bread and butter.

Not to mention this movie has dated itself quite a bit. It’s not loaded with pop-culture references, but we all know how Smash Mouth has become forever linked with this movie. There’s also a song on this by Leslie Carter, sister of Nick and Aaron Carter, and the end credits include a Baha Men song….the Who Let the Dogs Out? guys have a song on this….Not to mention that in the Shrek in the Swamp Karaoke Dance Party mix, one of the songs they sing is actually Who Let the Dogs Out?

Oh yeah, and there’s the fact that there are two separate dance parties in this movie. At least on the DVD. The one where Donkey’s singing ‘I’m a Believer’ (Smash Mouth’s version, of course) and the Karaoke dance party that’s a bonus after the credits on the DVD. I wish the dance party trope would die in animated movies

Overall, I still really like this movie and would be more than glad to watch it again in the future. I even managed to spot some more ‘mature’ jokes on this viewing that I never caught in the past, and I have watched this movie several times as an adult.

The CGI has aged fairly well. It’s not mind blowing, and some shots are kinda shaky, but it’s still pretty damn good. However, compare the dragon ride scene in Shrek to the one in How to Train Your Dragon and you can tell they’ve made a world of improvements.

The music, despite some odd choices, is pretty good and fitting. My Beloved Monster and Me is particularly good. That song that plays as Fiona and Shrek eat dinner is also very nice to listen to. I even have It is You I Have Loved (All Along) on my iPod.

The voice acting is fantastic. Mike Myers as Shrek is a perfect example of a character brought to life through its voice. I know Chris Farley was the first voice actor for Shrek before he tragically passed away and was unable to complete recording, but he did a marvelous job standing in.

Eddie Murphy may have gotten on my nerves here and there, but I honestly couldn’t see anyone else as Donkey.

John Lithgow as Farquaad was also very well done, but that’s to be expected of Lithgow.

Recommended Audience: There is some crude humor as well as adult jokes, but the crude humor isn’t too offensive for little kids and the adult humor is usually way too subtle for kids to catch onto. There’s only some minor swearing, mostly in regards to saying the word ‘ass’ and usually referring to or talking to Donkey. 10+

Aardman’s Clay: Flushed Away (2006) Review

Rating: 7.5/10

Plot: Roddy the rat seemingly lives the high life. He has a mansion of a cage in his mansion of a house, he eats well, pampers himself and never misses an opportunity to have some fun. The one problem is that he is terribly lonely. When his owner isn’t around, he pretends that he has a lavish social life, but ultimately realizes that he’s all alone most of the time.

A sewer rat named Sid suddenly invades his house through the pipes. He’s loud, gross and forcibly makes himself at home while simultaneously destroying the house. While Roddy is lonely, he’s not lonely enough to want him for company, so he tries to trick him back into the sewer through the toilet only to be knocked into the bowl and flushed away by Sid.

Now lost in a sewer, Roddy finds himself in a massive underground city for rats. He wants nothing more than to get back home, and in his efforts to do so he meets Rita, a rough and tumble rat who is being harassed by The Toad, who wants to steal her father’s precious ruby. However, he has much more nefarious plans outside of a little ruby.

Breakdown: Flushed Away tends to get shit on a lot. That’s my lone potty humor joke of the review. I’m sorry.

However, I have noticed that most of the time when this movie gets slighted, it’s in passing. Some reviewer will bring this movie up randomly as being terrible when talking about something else. Because of that, I was dreading this review. However, I realized that I’ve never bothered to go and read a full review of this movie, which I didn’t bother to do until I had nearly finished the movie because I enjoyed it a hell of a lot more than I expected, so I was wondering why the movie got such a bad rep.

What I found was mixed but mostly positive, with the main issue the reviewers were having with the movie being the exact same one I had.

I’d almost believe this movie was a punchline for many people based solely on the main plot and the title yet didn’t actually watch this movie or give it a chance.

Let me start off with the positive. The humor in this movie is top-notch. Despite the title, there’s very little in regards to toilet humor, and so many of the gags, even the running ones, work so well that I found myself laughing out loud numerous times, which is a difficult goal to accomplish with me.

I particularly enjoyed the running gag of the slugs, which easily could’ve been one of the most annoying things in this movie, but were hilarious every time they were on screen. I also loved the legion of frogs under Le Frog’s command. The mime frog in particular was a riot.

There are some groan-worthy jokes, and some slightly offensive-ish jokes like the French frogs immediately surrendering or the American rat being gross and rowdy, not understanding that the World Cup is soccer, not American football, but these were few and far between.

Also, despite the fact that Aardman switched to a CGI format for this movie, it still very clearly holds the traditional Aardman claymation aesthetics. And yes, you get the unreasonably large always-grinning mouths. The animation really doesn’t suffer due to this change of format, in fact, it kinda benefits in the area of freedom of movement, and considering the massive world they had to animate, plus the added complication of water, I fully understand why they went this route. Plus, with movies like Arthur Christmas under their belt now, we know that Aardman definitely has talent in the CGI world.

The voice work was also quite good with Hugh Jackman voicing Roddy, Kate Winslet voicing Rita and Ian McKellen voicing The Toad.

Now onto the negatives. While the villain characters had their funny quirks, the protagonists are rather cut and dry.

You have Roddy, our main lead, who is basically any fish out of water (or rat out of cage?) story. He’s miserable in his current life, is thrown into a new one that he initially dislikes, he longs to go home but his adventure getting back shows him that a life in the other place is much better and chooses to live there forever.

Reviewers kept bringing up that Roddy was meant to be parodying James Bond, and, I’m sorry, I don’t get it. He does dress up in a tuxedo, briefly parody James Bond and watch a spy movie at the start, but that’s it. Outside of having a villain to fight and going on an action adventure, there’s nothing else to imply a connection to James Bond.

Then you have Rita, the ‘I’m defying gender stereotypes’ clear love interest. She does more to move the plot along than Roddy does, and she’s kinda badass, but she doesn’t do much to differentiate herself from a trope that, ironically, is trying to escape a trope.

Being fair, neither character is unlikable in the slightest, which is an easy pitfall for characters like this. Rita starts out as a bit abrasive, and Roddy has his selfish and kinda jerkish moments, but these are usually justified in some way.

Sid is somehow turned into a good guy out of nowhere in the third act, even though he started as one of the grossest, dumbest, rowdiest dill holes I’ve ever seen. Also, he tried to kill Roddy in the first act, so what the hell?

The weakest area of this movie, however, is in the story. It’s just….not all that good. It’s boringly cliché at best and stupid at worst. This is definitely one of those movies that’s good because of its parts not the sum of its whole.

While we have a ton of great quick gags that more than make the movie worth watching, as well as a bunch of action that is fun to watch, when the movie slows down and reminds you of the plot, it loses your attention badly. The plot with Roddy is so predictable it practically hurts. Just by reading the synopsis, you can tell EXACTLY what will happen.

The one facet of his story that I was wondering about is if he’d really be willing to leave his owner, because even though we only get little snippets of his owner, a little girl named Tabitha, she takes great care of him and seems to love him a lot. I’d feel bad for her knowing Roddy would just up and leave her for a life in the sewers.

This is where Sid comes in because after he suddenly heel turns in the third act, Roddy leaves him to be Tabitha’s new pet. Sid promises he’ll be good to her, but you can’t trust this guy. He tried to kill Roddy earlier. He also basically destroyed the house by making a massive mess. Not to mention, this is a damn sewer rat. A filthy, stinky, fat sewer rat.

Do you honestly believe 1) She’d be fooled into thinking this is Roddy? (Spoiler alert: She is, somehow. So either she’s an idiot (she even ignores the massive mess around him) or she really cares so little about Roddy that she can’t tell him apart from any other rat, which doesn’t mesh from what little we know about her.)

2) If she doesn’t, that she’d be cool with losing Roddy forever and just adopting this new rat?

And 3) that her rich, pristine parents or even Tabitha herself would be cool with her adopting a disgusting, smelly sewer rat that infiltrated their house while they were away?

He does kinda get comeuppance in the end, but eh. I’m quite certain nothing actually bad would happen to him, but….again, eh.

On the…I guess we’ll call it the ‘James Bond’ plot, we have a story that’s both kinda dark and silly/immature at the same time.

The main villain here is The Toad, and I’m not being lazy, that’s his name. His big plan is to commit genocide against all the rats in the city by opening the sewer flood gates during half time of the World Cup, which is when thousands of people will all flush at the same time. All of the rats will drown in a tidal wave of piss water while the frogs and toads take over the city and he can repopulate with a massive collection of tadpoles that he…somehow created by himself?

See what I meant about being dark but also really silly/immature? Roddy and Rita got tangled in this mess when they both got captured by his men in an effort to retrieve a ruby Rita’s father passed down to her. The Toad believed it was his, she stole it back, so he hunted her down and took it back. In their escape from The Toad, they steal the master cable, which is necessary for this plan to work, so then he starts chasing them for that.

I will mention that, while the ruby is ultimately not very important to the overall plot, it did lead to the one story element that actually surprised me a good deal, but I won’t spoil it.

Overall, this movie is a truckload of really good gags with a decent amount of solid action piled on top of two stories that just don’t hold up very well. It could be a lot worse, it’s more like all the good stuff is sitting on cheap plywood more than wet toilet paper, but I was certainly waiting for the next gag to come along whenever the plot started to slow down. The first act in particular was a bit of a chore to get through.

Not to mention, they felt the need to include a small bit where Roddy lies about his situation to Rita and tries to pretend his life is fine, which was painful to watch for all the wrong reasons. I truly, sincerely hate awkwardness and lying plotlines. They never cease to suck all of the enjoyment out of a scene or movie. Luckily, this was shortlived.

There were some serious moments that I thought were really good, like Roddy being so happy that there was someone else to say ‘goodnight’ back to him that he kept saying it over and over to Rita, and Roddy making good on his promise to give Rita not only a ruby but also an emerald to help replace something she lost.

This is also one of those movies that I imagine would get better on repeat viewings due to little background jokes you might have missed the first time out.

Also, very minor, but I hate that this is one of those movies that ends on a dance party. That friggin’ trope needs to die.

Recommended Audience: While there is some potty humor here and there, it doesn’t fare nearly as badly as you might expect from the title. There’s some kinda dark humor and mild violence, but nothing terrible. I was actually somewhat insulted that this movie essentially got a free pass by Common Sense Media for being kinda crass, yet a fun, good kids movie when they absolutely trashed Monster House. Ya know, the movie that doesn’t include a plot about goddamn genocide by piss water. Fairness is fun. 6+

Images courtesy of AnimationScreencaps.com.

Final Notes: Supposedly, Dreamworks meddled a lot with this movie after the US failure of Wallace and Gromit. Aardman is a company that works best when left to their own devices, and even though the details of what exactly went on behind the scenes, the tension between the companies was enough for this movie to be their final venture with each other. Aardman left Dreamworks and never looked back.

Aardman had a brief relationship with Sony Pictures Animation, but have been bouncing between studios for newer projects since 2012.