Dreaming of Dreamworks – Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002) Review

Plot: In the gorgeous plains of the old west, a stallion named Spirit roams free with his herd. He loves and protects his herd day in and day out. One day, a group of humans kidnap Spirit and bring him to an army outpost where they aim to break him into an army horse. Spirit allies with a fellow captive, a Lakota boy named Little Creek, and they manage to escape. However, Spirit is just as quickly wrangled up by the village’s tribesmen. While they’re much more kind to Spirit, he wrestles with trusting them and wants nothing more than to be set free and go back home.

Breakdown: Before I get to the actual movie, let’s talk about movies that have or were meant to have “silent” characters. It takes a lot of talent to pull off silent characters, because we have to gauge how they’re reacting, what they’re thinking and what they’re trying to ‘say’ all through body language. (Unless the character can/does write down their dialogue, which is a different pool to swim in.) You have an amazing opportunity in animation with this because you can manipulate the facial expressions, motions and environments as much as you want.

Take Disney’s Dinosaur, for example. While the film is praised for its imagery and animation, it is largely criticized for its lackluster and dull story with forgettable characters. Several other critics noted that the characters sounded way too modern. As one critic mentioned, they sounded like “mallrats,” and the way the dinosaurs spoke and interacted with each other took what was originally a promising movie and made it take a “nose-dive.” I found the movie a bit more tolerable, but I can definitely see why that movie gets such flak in that regard.

Originally, Dinosaur was meant to be darker, more documentary-like and have no dialogue. According to the Wiki,

“The film was originally supposed to have no dialogue at all, in part to differentiate the film from Universal Pictures’ The Land Before Time (1988) with which Dinosaur shares plot similarities. Eisner insisted that the film have dialogue in order to make it more “commercially viable.” A similar change was also made early in the production of The Land Before Time, which was originally intended to feature only the voice of a narrator.”

It seems Eisner wasn’t really wrong, because the movie made back twice its budget. However, would the movie be more fondly remembered as a classic if we got the darker, more serious dialogue-free movie? Land Before Time was good with dialogue – would it have been better or worse without it? Does it moreso depend on the story and if it lends itself to being dialogue-free?

“But Twix, children are too stupid to understand the subtle nuances of mostly dialogue-free movies. They need constant jibber jabber in order to keep their attention and understand what’s happening.”

To which I respond, “What the hell is 4Kids doing here?”

This argument baffles my mind. Kids are too stupid to understand stories told without dialogue? Children, who are very underdeveloped verbally and start out learning things about life and people through body language and expressions since they can’t understand language (well), are too stupid to get movies that don’t have dialogue or barely have dialogue? Just…what?

I can understand that keeping a child’s attention through a mostly dialogue-free movie would be a challenge anyway, but….well, that’s the challenge. Isn’t it the sign of a true piece of quality when you can have something that both keeps a kid’s attention and tells a good story without needing to shovel a bunch of dialogue into their ears?

Take Wall-E, which, while not being dialogue-free, is very minimal on the dialogue, especially when compared to other animated movies. There are many scenes of silence and allowing the scenery and expressions to convey the story to us.

Ironically, while this decision was largely an artistic one, it was noted by Roger Ebert that, due to Wall-E’s use of silence and lack of dialogue, it would actually appeal to a wider audience because it would cross language barriers and appeal to adults and children alike.

Wall-E is considered a modern masterpiece in sci-fi and animation, and made nearly three times its budget in the box office.

The reason I’m talking about all this is because 1) It’s really interesting and 2) Spirit was always described to me as a mostly dialogue-less movie, and I’ve seen it praised critically for the fact that the horses don’t talk.

However, while the horses don’t talk, the humans do, which I’m perfectly fine with, to be honest, because it’s more realistic for them to talk. What I’m not so fine with is the fact that Spirit has narration running throughout the entire movie, which basically means he’s both ‘talking’ to us anyway, and the movie’s kinda cheating. Plus, his narration is not very well written and points out the obvious a lot.

For instance, midway through the movie, Spirit has grown to dislike humans because the colonel of the local US army unit essentially tortured him in order to ‘break’ him so he could be used as an army horse. He manages to escape with the help of a captive Lakota man named Little Creek, who takes Spirit in.

Lakota has his own horse, a mare named Rain, who loves him and plays around with him. Spirit makes a lot of surprised and confused expressions as he stares at them playing, which conveys to the audience that Spirit doesn’t understand why a horse would be so welcoming, playful and loving to a human – considering his experiences with humans to this point has been entirely terrible.

However, narration from Spirit verbally conveys what we can easily see in the animation. It ruins the scene because it has to dumb it down by outright telling us what Spirit’s thinking at the time, which is weird, because I can guarantee if this was a talking horse movie, this scene would probably be kept silent so that Spirit could later question this situation outright to Rain, which can also be done without dialogue.

The narration can simultaneously be pretentious and intrusive. The first night after Spirit’s capture, he looks up to the stars and quietly stares. We then fade to where his herd is and see his mother staring at the same sky. We can interpret this as meaning that Spirit misses his herd, his freedom and his mother. Likewise, his mother misses him as well and is worried about his safety, all the while they’re connected and separated by the wide night sky. However, before the fade transition, we get narration stating “My heart galloped through the skies that night. Back to my herd, where I belonged. And I wondered if they missed me as much as I missed them.”

I nearly had to pause when I heard the line “My heart galloped through the skies that night.” I really can’t decide if it’s pretentious in a juvenile way or just corny.

A nearly great scene is when Spirit is getting captured. His mother starts to scale a rock face to help him out, but Spirit whinnies in desperation, clearly telling his mother to take the herd and leave. The camera is close to Spirit’s face as he pleads with his mother, who is clearly devastated, but realizes that he’s right. His sacrifice will be for nothing if they all get caught.

This works perfectly, until narration, again, has to dumb it down and straight out say “I was scared, and I had no idea what was going to happen to me, but at least the herd was safe.” I only give this scene props because the narration comes immediately after his mother has already left, so the scene is almost undamaged.

Not to mention that the narration is done by Matt Damon, and you can’t not hear Matt Damon. I’m perfectly fine with Matt Damon as an actor, in fact I quite like his work, but I find him to be a terrible voice actor. His voice is fine – it’s the fact that Matt Damon doesn’t seem to be good at acting through his voice alone, which is much more common than you’d think.

That’s why a lot of big-time animated movies with cast lists loaded down with celebrities tend to falter in the voice acting department. I can’t stress how different voice acting is from stage acting. It’s the same concept, but an entirely different world.

Damon just sounds bored throughout his entire narration. He’s missing his herd – bored. He’s charmed by Love Interest – bored. He’s scared after getting captured – bored. He can put so much more charm and emotion into his voice, he’s just choosing not to.

I’m very tempted to edit this movie from start to finish and mute any moments where there’s narration besides the very start and the ending. I can tell just from the way the movie is directed and animated that this could work much better if the narration was gone.

Movies with minimal dialogue don’t just rely on body language, facial expressions and the environments to convey tones and messages, however – they also rely on music. Who do we have for Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron? Hans Zimmer for the orchestral score, and several songs by….Bryan Adams. I see someone spun the ‘Random 80’s Pop Musicians we can use in our soundtrack’ wheel animated movies love to use.

I like a few Bryan Adams songs, and I find his voice to be good, but his music here is, for lack of a better term, distracting. It’s not bad, it’s just that it doesn’t add to scenes most of the time – it takes things away.

We got our first taste of one of his songs for this soundtrack when Spirit is free and growing up, enjoying life with his herd. This song, like a lot of grand ‘whoo life is great’ scenes, is fine, but forgettable.

Then we get another song when Spirit is being hauled back to the army camp, which comes off like a poorly edited fanvid. That’s not Bryan Adams’ fault and moreso the fault of the editors and director, but it’s still distracting.

Then we get ‘Get Off My Back’ when Spirit is being ‘broken’ by the soldiers in the corral, and that song just left me feeling pulled in two directions in regards to tone. One minute you want me to feel all sad and worried about Spirit’s situation, then you have this scene with music meant to convey that Spirit’s being kickass and not allowing anyone to ride him. It’s supposed to be triumphant, but then it’s immediately followed by Spirit tied to a post and starved and deprived of water for three days before finally fully being ‘broken’ by the colonel.

This scene would’ve worked a lot better if you had a song that was more about determination and never giving up rather than aiming for being kickass and cocky to all those who dare challenge Spirit. You’d have a scene about a brave, determined being finally wavering in his resolve and faltering rather than a cocky hothead running out of steam.

If they needed comic relief at that point in the movie, they had it just a scene prior where Spirit was being groomed by the blacksmith. They weren’t aiming for breaking him at that point. He was just being trimmed and shoed. Spirit was rather funny in how he was able to keep weaseling his way out of constraints to hit the blacksmith. They even had him basically suspended with ropes by all four of his legs and he still managed to clock him.

Even that scene has a drastic tonal shift because we go from Spirit beating the blacksmith again to the colonel commanding Spirit be broken in the corral.

One of the notes that a critic had that was listed in the Wiki page said the movie would have benefited from a comic relief character, and uh, I have to say, no. Just…no. Comic relief characters are already difficult enough to do properly without making them just obnoxious intrusions into an otherwise good story, but I feel like this movie in particular would suffer from a comic relief character. The main characters already have it in them to do mild comedy scenes, just be better at it.

The next Adams song is at the tail end of the second act when Spirit gets captured again and believes his love interest is dead. On a long, somber train ride through the snow, we get a long, somber song. It’s very hard to me to tell if this scene works. The animation is all very overly dramatic, and the song is also overly melancholy. It’s one of those scenes where the movie is obviously doing its damnedest to make you feel bad. He even starts hallucinating his herd as snow horses.

The final song is the finale song, and it’s triumphant song. I honestly can’t even remember how it goes, but I remember it’s triumphant.

As for Zimmer’s score, it’s alright. It’s fitting and decent, but it’s also completely forgettable, which is a damn shame. This is Hans Zimmer, the same guy who scored The Lion King, The Dark Knight and even The Prince of Egypt. ‘Alright’ is incredibly disappointing coming from him.

I’ve been awfully negative during this whole review, but I want to emphasize that this movie’s not a complete wash. There are numerous things to like. The art and animation more than deserve the praise they’ve been given. These are some of the most realistic animated horses I’ve seen in a major motion picture. They look, sound and move in an incredibly realistic manner. Even the humans have good designs and move fluidly. The backgrounds are also extremely well detailed and nice to look at.

The scenes in which the narration takes a break work pretty well. The characters, while being extremely textbook and dull are likable and believable enough.

I hate that, outside of Spirit, we don’t get a backstory on any of them. Little Creek’s…nice. Rain’s…..nice. If I had to write a character synopsis on either, I’d be lost. I don’t even have much to say about Spirit, in that regard. He’s rebellious, he’s responsible, he’s a bit of a troublemaker. He’s nice. Even the horrible, terrible colonel is alright as an antagonist, even if it is a bit silly how personal his vendetta with Spirit gets. I couldn’t count how many times those two eyed each other.

There is also that Pocahontas-esque racist-ish veil over this movie. The white men are all horrible and all the Native Americans have a damn near magical connection with the land and animals. They don’t learn English through magic wind or anything, but that kind of vibe is there. I’m not ignoring the atrocities that occurred in the Old West, particularly the American Indian Wars – by all means, tell it how it is – but….that’s just it, tell it how it is. You can have a clear line between who the enemies are and who the good guys are without going overboard.

Even his horse is angry.

Not to mention the fact that shoving both sides into those very specific corners basically waters down every human character into boring archetypes. The bad guys are bad guys because they’re mean and don’t respect the land or animals. They don’t have character – they’re less entertaining Captain Planet villains. The good guys are good guys because they’re nice and love the land and animals. They don’t have character – they’re less cheesy Planeteers.

Also, Spirit seems to bring down the whole Transcontinental Railroad by freeing some horses. Oh and, yeah, he sets the forest on fire and probably kills many people, but this is a triumphant moment because he saved his homeland from being impeded upon by a train…..for a few months, I guess, because they’re just gonna, ya know….rebuild.

Then, after a brief chase, Spirit heroically defeats the colonel by……jumping over a very wide chasm. This earns his respect, I guess, they nod at each other and then the army leaves, never to bother the kind Native American people ever again. Talk about a neck-snapping 180. He went from mustache-twirling villain to very reasonable gentleman in about a minute.

Yeah, enduring several days of torture without Spirit breaking, managing to escape as well as help another (human) prisoner escape, and pulling off every ridiculous thing in the finale – that wasn’t enough to get the colonel to respect Spirit and back off. Nah. But that was one sick jump, horse. I tip my hat to you.

Spirit: “I’ll never forget that boy, and how we won back our freedom together.”

Seriously, Dreamworks? After you decide to keep in the part of the story of Exodus about mass baby slaughter, you decide to imply that the American Indian Wars were settled and the white man left the lands and the Native Americans alone because a horse crashed a train, caused a fire, and made a big jump? Was this movie meant to be realistic or not? It seems like they were trying their best for realism until the ending.

Happy endings all around. Spirit gets the girl, he and Rain go free, reunite with his herd and that’s about it.

I went from positive back to negative again, didn’t I? I’m sorry.

This movie just didn’t hit with me much. Truth be told, it’s one of the more boring movies I’ve watched in a long time. It’s like they said ‘Let’s make a movie about a horse’ and filled in the blanks from there. I don’t even feel like saying this movie was wasted potential, but I can’t see what could’ve been there.

The movie’s not funny, the action’s alright, but it’s also not all that great, the characters are all flat and not memorable. They try their damnedest to make some heartwarming moments, but I was left feeling rather cold. I only felt a little heartwarmed when Spirit hugged Little Creek, and that’s only because it’s a horse giving a hug. That, by default, is insanely adorable.

The conflict is serious, but never goes far enough. They starve Spirit and deprive him of water for three days, which would be life-threatening for humans, though I’m not sure if the same could be said of horses. And what are the effects of that that we see? He licks his lips when he sees the colonel drink water. That’s it. They try to break him by riding him, but he kicks their asses. When he finally is kinda broken, it’s not impacting enough, and it only lasts all of two minutes before he’s back to throwing people around and escaping.

Yes, he’s ‘the spirit that could not be broken,’ I get it, but when you give someone that moniker and make it his defining trait, you have to get him as close to broken as humanly possible so we can cheer when he rises back up. Make us truly believe that his spirit can’t be broken no matter what. Even when he believed Rain was dead, it wasn’t as impacting as it should have been because we, as an audience, knew she’d live and that they’d reunite.

I can see how some people would enjoy this movie purely for being an easy-to-watch, pretty movie about horses, and I can definitely see the appeal to children, but it missed the mark for me. Would it have actually been much better if it had no dialogue, or at least had no dialogue/narration on the horses? Maybe. I don’t really know for certain. Maybe I have no idea what I’m talking about. Wouldn’t be the first time.

It’s a shame, really, because I wanted to like this movie. I remember seeing fanvids of it back in the day and it seemed cool. Plus, I love horses, so this should have been my bread and butter, but it just wasn’t.

I feel like I’m going to get some flak for this one because I know that, despite the fact that this movie isn’t really discussed much in animation circles, it’s still near and dear to the hearts of many people. I looked up a handful of reviews of the movie right before posting this, and yeah, all of them were mostly positive. Worst rating I saw was 3.5/5 and even that review barely had anything actually bad to say about it.

If you were able to connect with this movie in a manner in which I wasn’t and saw something there that I couldn’t, more power to you. I’m not criticizing you for liking it, I’m just stating my own opinion.

Recommended Audience: A horse gets shot, but there’s absolutely no blood. There are guns, but they rarely fire. There’s horse ‘torture’ but half of it’s played for laughs and the other half barely qualifies. You don’t even hear anything when they’re destroying their village. No nudity, sex or anything. 6+

Final Notes: In 2017, Spirit earned a spin-off Netflix series…15 years after movie debuted. It’s called Spirit: Riding Free, and from what I’ve read and heard about it, outside of the main character’s parents being Spirit and Rain, the series has nothing to do with this movie and rarely, if ever, shows Spirit. It seems to be successful with four seasons already under its belt, even though it’s barely been a year since it premiered. So if you liked this movie or even if you didn’t, maybe go give that a watch. I might watch it sometime in the future, as I also intend on watching the Disney movie spin-off TV series.

Update: Hey, so I wrote this review five years ago (yeah my uploading practices bite) but a little update on the show. It’s been eight years now and it’s STILL going. (What the heck was I on when I wrote that? It’s been five years since I wrote the review, but the three years since the series came out (when I added the notes), and it has eight seasons. Back to your regularly scheduled jibber jabber.) Which shocked the hell out of me because Netflix drools over that cancellation button.

Not only is the main series still running, but there are apparently now two spin-off series of the main series, a 45 minute long Christmas special AND Dreamworks is releasing a movie version of the TV spin-off in 2021. (Supposedly, there’s even a mobile game of it?)

I couldn’t resist and decided to finally take a peek at the TV series. Apparently, it’s not what I thought it was. I thought this would be a show about a foal or a young horse that kinda took a beat from Disquels and had the original main characters, in this case Spirit and Rain, kinda being side characters as they parent their kid…..but…nope. Spirit and Rain don’t seem to appear (Granted, I only looked at the first episode) because they’re acting like this new horse both is Spirit, but isn’t.

It’s a horse that looks and acts exactly like Spirit originally did. The main character human girl, Lucky, even names him Spirit without knowing who his parents are, and Spirit is just a wild horse who isn’t with Adult!Spirit or Rain. It’s not even implied that this horse even is the child of Spirit and Rain – I got that from a blurb in the Wiki for the movie. The Wiki page for the series itself doesn’t even mention this.

The show focuses a LOT more on the human characters (of which we have an entirely new cast – no Little Creek or child of Little Creek or anything) than the horses, and the horses are not given voices or narration, which I think works in the show’s favor. This was the second theory I had in speculation of what the show would be with the first being a My Little Pony-esque show where the focus is entirely on the horses and the horses just talk naturally.

So, yeah….this show seems to be just a series about a girl and her horse with the only string tying the two together being that they reused the character model and name of the main character from the movie.

I’m not critiquing the show quite yet, that’ll probably come eventually, but that’s what it appears like to me. Feel free to correct me. Being fair, the quality of the show looks fine, but we’ll have to see how good it is sometime in the future.

Screenshots courtesy of AnimationScreencaps.com

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Dreaming of Dreamworks: Shrek (2001) Review

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 also absolutely love ‘It is You I Have Loved (All Along)’ and it’s a song I still listen to frequently.

The voice acting is fantastic. Mike Myers as Shrek is a perfect example of a character brought to life through their 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+

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Aardman’s Clay: Flushed Away (2006) Review

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. 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. 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 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 are unclear, 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.

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Aardman’s Clay: Wallace and Gromit – Curse of the Were-Rabbit Review

Plot: Wallace and his dog, Gromit, live in a town where vegetables are everything. They live to grow, care for, eat, and display their veggies, all building up to an annual vegetable competition. Wallace and Gromit run an anti-pest (though mostly bunny) company that humanely captures pests and protects the vegetables of the town.

One night, Wallace gets the idea to stop the bunny plague once and for all by using a mind-altering device to eliminate obsessive thoughts about veggies from their minds. It seems to work, but, in the process, they created a monster….a veggie destroying were-rabbit.

Breakdown: Okay, so yes, the plot does sound very silly, but it’s supposed to.

This was my first ever venture into the Wallace and Gromit series. I’ve heard about it several times in the past, but never actually watched the movie, TV series or played the game….Even though I have the game (from a Humble Bundle).

Curse of the Were-Rabbit is a very entertaining and fun movie that, while not making me bust a gut, did have me smiling and laughing out loud numerous times. It has a very unique style and sense of humor that I thoroughly enjoyed, even if some things about the movie irked me.

For example, I think Gromit deserved a bit more of a hurrah for all the stuff he did over the course of the movie, which is damn near everything. While Wallace is certainly useful as an inventor and bunny catcher, there’s no denying that Gromit does a hell of a lot more in this movie. In addition to being the only one who is effective against the were-rabbit, he also basically waits on Wallace hand and foot with Wallace only barely giving Gromit his props here and there. Not to mention it was Wallace’s invention that started the were-rabbit fiasco in the first place.

Also, I get that he had good intentions, but if the rabbits stopped being a problem, wouldn’t they be out of a job?

The overall unraveling of events were fairly predictable. I knew from the instant they used that machine what the ‘plot twist’ would be.

Ending spoilers. Finally, they give no explanation as to why Wallace turns back at the end. He saves Gromit from falling to his death, turns back into a human and the curse just seems to go away. He didn’t get shot with the golden carrot, so I just have no clue how or why Wallace was cured of this problem…..because he ‘died’ and was seemingly revived by the smell of cheese?….If so, that is really silly.

End of spoilers.

All in all, I really enjoyed this movie and I look forward to playing the game seeing as how I’ve had it on Steam for like three years and never got around to playing it. *cough*

Recommended Audience: There is quite a bit if innuendo, though some of it might be my filthy mind playing tricks on me. Like that scene where Totty is showing Wallace her giant carrot. Dear God, the things she says can easily be turned into dirty talk. Other than that, though, really nothing to bother with. 6+

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Dreaming of Dreamworks: The Road to El Dorado

Plot: Miguel and Tulio are two con men who swindle a guy on the street out of his map to the legendary El Dorado: the city of gold. However, they end up getting trapped on a ship before they can head off on their adventure.

While escaping the ship on a lifeboat, they, as well as the horse, Altivo, end up lost at sea. They get lifeboat-wrecked on a random island that just happens to be the place to start looking for El Dorado. They find the city, but are mistaken for gods by the natives. Being good con men, they intend to keep up the lie just long enough to get a whole bunch of gold and run back to Spain with the help of Chel, a local who wants to go back to Spain with them. Their lie is not easy to keep up, and with an evil high priest wishing to constantly give a blood tribute, they have to get out of El Dorado as soon as possible.

Breakdown: Hmph, I really wanted to enjoy this more than I did. Don’t get me wrong, it’s by no means a bad movie. It’s just that I had hoped that this was one of those lesser known gems I could discover. Alas, no. Just above average. Dammit Dreamworks, you got my hopes up with Prince of Egypt!

To start off on a good note, the movie does have quite a few funny moments. Miguel and Tulio work well off of each other as best friends, even if they do have the typical dynamic of responsible one and goof off.

The art and animation can be simply amazing sometimes, and the Aztec feel was a welcome change of pace.

The title is almost entirely an outright lie. If you were expecting this movie to be like a road trip/treasure hunt movie, you’ll be sorely disappointed because it takes them less than 25 minutes to reach the place. All of the steps of the map are even done in a montage.

To make matters worse, they did the one plot I really hate – trying to pull off a lie. I hate feeling awkward. This type of plot brings nothing but awkwardness, and it just makes the movie more predictable. We know it all leads to one end – at least one important person finding out and crap hitting the fan because of it.

Another plot device they included was the one best friend overhearing something that insults him so he stays mad at the other until he saves his life thing.

One thing that bugged me in particular was the seemingly forced relationship between Tulio and Chel. They don’t connect on really anything – they just flirt. We don’t learn anything about Tulio, and we know even less of Chel besides the fact that she wants to go to Spain and likes stealing. Yet there’s some flirting, some sex-ish activity on a pile of gold (which is the best sex, of course) and then, boom, they basically want to start a life together. She served no real purpose in the entire movie besides to be fanservice and/or to have a girl among this sausage-fest.

The ending was also fairly disappointing. Considering how blood-hungry the high priest guy was, I was expecting him to be a real threat at the end, but no. He does learn of the non-divinity of the boys and decides to work some mojo to get rid of them, but it was a short and disappointing battle that had a short and disappointing end. You think he’ll reprise when he joins up with some Spanish soldiers and wishes to lead them to El Dorado to take it over, but the final climax is to crash the boat into the entrance of El Dorado so they can never enter (and supposedly the citizens of El Dorado can now never leave.) and then he’s easily dragged away by the soldiers who believe he was lying all along. It’s ridiculous that a guy who could possess or control a giant stone jaguar and do all sorts of freaky magic could be contained by Spanish soldiers.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who was disappointed with this because the movie was a box office failure losing over $20 million and receiving negative to moderate ratings across the board by critics. However, it was nominated for numerous awards.

The music was just okay. It seemed weird to have only one song that the characters sing like it’s a musical number while everything else is in the background. Besides that song, all of the vocal songs were done by Tim Rice and Elton John, whom I haven’t seen work on an animated movie since The freakin’ Lion King. However, I found the songs to just be mediocre at best.

Bottom Line: It’s a perfectly fine movie to kill time, and it’s pretty funny and nice to look at sometimes. However, it’s still basically an awkward, predictable movie with no backstory for any of the characters and a pretty flat ending.

Recommended Audience: Dreamworks likes to swear here and there but nothing worse than ass, crap or hell. One sex-ish scene, but it’s honestly just an off-screen heavy make out. No nudity. A little blood. 10+

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Dreaming of Dreamworks: The Prince of Egypt

Plot: In a telling of the Exodus story, a pharaoh named Seti has ordered the slaughter of many Hebrew babies. However, one baby is saved from the killing when his mother places him in a basket and sends him down the river in hopes of his survival in a better place. In a weird twist of fate, the baby is recovered from the river by the queen and her son, Rameses. He is adopted by the royal family and raised as their son, Moses. He remains ignorant of his past until he runs into his blood sister, Miriam, and brother, Aaron. As the truth of his past and his adoptive father come to light, Moses leaves the kingdom behind and later finds that he is destined for much greater things.

Breakdown: I am forever saddened that it has taken me this long to watch this movie. Welcome to The Prince of Egypt, Dreamworks second movie and a rare non-CGI movie from them. Well, okay, it’s not non-CGI. There’s plenty of CGI, but for the most part it’s regular cel-shaded animation. What is CGI is really well-done and cleverly integrated with the other animation. I’m almost shocked this came from Dreamworks because they always stay pretty clear behind Pixar in animation and art quality, but they did wonders with this. It is a visual treat to say the least, and this was made in 1998! The character art, animation and backgrounds still stand up extremely well to this day. Another movie I’d gladly rewatch for the art alone.

As stated, the story is the biblical telling of Moses and follows him all the way from him being a baby to his freeing of the Hebrew slaves. And it does not really screw around and make it all kiddie either. This is a pretty heavy movie. Granted, they still do a butt joke or two, but most of the goofy scenes are gone by the end of the first act.

You can sympathize with all of the characters, even Rameses, and you feel the emotional struggle between the two of them to go from brothers to basically mortal enemies in only the course of a couple of years. In a way, neither of them can sympathize very much with each other. Moses was not the blood son of Seti nor was he the eldest son, so he never had a lot of weight on his shoulders like Rameses did, and Rameses was never a slave nor did he wish to see the slaves as people who were worth anything. Doing so, in his eyes, would tarnish the ancient traditions which he was born to uphold.

The time skip is a little jarring, but mostly just because Seti, the Queen (I think she’s the queen anyway. Moses is raised as Seti’s son so….*shrug*) and Moses’ mother, Jochebed, all seemingly die in that time when it seems like only a few years or so went by between Moses leaving and him getting the message from God. It’s understandable that Seti died because he was so old, but I have no clue what claimed the lives of the Queen and Moses’ mother. We also learn nothing of Rameses’ son.

The movie obviously takes some liberties with the story both with its religious historical roots and its Egyptian historical roots. To its credit, the movie admits that straight out of the gate, but it doesn’t stray too far from the path and is a pretty loyal adaptation of the story. I should also mention that the movie doesn’t cover the entire book of Exodus, just up to leading the Hebrews out of Egypt and a short glimpse of the Ten Commandments.

The music is phenomenal. It’s commonly set up much like a Broadway musical…I assume anyway, I’ve never seen one. But the music is epic. I’d say the only weak-ish link in the music section is ‘You’re Playing with the Big Boys Now’ which just seems out of place considering how epic and serious the other songs are.

The point of that song is to show Moses that, despite the fact that he has the Hebrew God on his side, they have the various gods of Egypt on theirs, and if he wants a fight, he’ll get one. However, the chorus of ‘You’re playing with the big boys now’ just makes me feel like it’s a cheesy bully line.

Bottom Line: Whether you’re religious or not, this is still a fantastic movie with amazing visuals, amazing music, memorable characters, an exciting story and more. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend you check it out. I wish Dreamworks did more stuff like this. Instead we got a billion Shrek movies…Also, Rotten Tomatoes gave Antz a 95 but this a 79? *huff*

Recommended Audience: No sex or nudity, but there is a scene where a woman is being given as a gift to Rameses. Mentions of baby slaughter, to alligators no less. No visuals, really, but there is a mural of the scene. Various deaths, but nothing terribly graphic. Heavy overtones that might put off the youngins…..10+?

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Dreaming of Dreamworks: Antz Review


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

Breakdown: Going through all of Dreamworks’ productions this time, and Antz is first on the list.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Yeah that.

Not that he doesn’t have a point – they don’t do anything but what they’re told. But it’s just thrown in your face so blatantly. And of course Z setting one example causes a huge shift in everyone’s mindsets and makes everyone revolt against their work.

Thing is, the scene where they showcase this makes it seem like individualism=laziness. They were told to do nothing but work, but their work had a point – to help the colony. Yet the instant they’re like ‘Hey we can think for ourselves.’ no one wants to work or help at all anymore.

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

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

The ants here have a much less cartoony design than Pixar’s, and they’re colored in a more realistic brown color. It works okay, but that art, especially where Weaver was involved, looked claymation-ish (no offense to claymation), or almost unfinished. I get that Dreamworks was just starting out with this but still, not grade A work. The animation is good, though. A little on the stiff side. There never seemed to be any moments where it seemed funny or unnatural….Well, okay, the human scene was weird. You never see his/her torso and the walking just seems so slow.

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

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

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Aardman’s Clay: Chicken Run


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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