Is This Fire Burning In The Right Way?

Playing with Fire Poster

 

In the age of modern movie goers, no idea is to silly, wacky, or ridiculous to warrant a trial on the big or small screen.  With celebrities jumping all over the place, one never knows what role they will dive into next.  Today, one of the popular stars and master of theatrics (at least in terms of sporting events) is diving back into the kiddy pool in hopes to bring an early season comedy.  Can Mr.  John Cena  make the latest kid flick be awesome or is it going to be lost to the cascade of cinema pieces this weekend. Robbie K back in for another review as we check out.

 

Movie: Playing With Fire (2019)

 

Director:

Andy Fickman

Writers:

Dan EwenMatt Lieberman

Stars:

Judy GreerKeegan-Michael KeyJohn Cena

 

LIKES:

 

  • Funny
  • Fast Paced
  • Good Writing
  • Lots of Comedy Styles
  • Cute/Adorable
  • Touching

 

DISIKES:

 

  • Predictable
  • Seems A Bit Rushed
  • Imbalance Of Styles
  • The Trailers Have Touched A Lot

 

SUMMARY:

 

Playing with fire brings the heat in terms of just being a fun, family geared movie that is charming on many levels.  The funny nature of the film is not the most original, but brings a happy energy to the theater and makes it enjoyable to watch.  Throw in lots of comedy styles like slapstick, misquotes, and bathroom humor, well you get a concoction that is going to entertain the young and young at heart.  Fortunately for those with short attention spans, the film does not smolder too long, but rather unleashes the torrent in a fast-paced tale that should keep most engaged in the short run time, so again great for the kids.  While not the most unique writing, this reviewer enjoyed the writing of this family film and felt that it balanced cute and touching moments in that same wrapping that is shiny to watch.  Playing With Fire is going to burn its way to the heart of many, utilizing those perfect angles, piano lead songs, and cliché writing to really warm the core of its viewers.  Is it cheesy?  Absolutely!  Yet, it works when looking at the cute package the film as a whole is.

 

Despite all this though, here are some of the things I usually dock in terms of points.  One, the movie is predictable, which I’m guessing most of you predicted.  Playing With Fire is not really into pulling punches, and from start to finish you know where the film is heading, with my only hopes of a comedic joke sending me crunched over laughing so hard.  As I said earlier, the film moves at a brisk pace, which while entertaining also cost the movie some time on telling a fleshed-out story.  Cena and squad’s stories could have had a lot more time to push characters further, give them some layers, and still mix with the cute atmosphere.  I think it’s going to appease most audience members, but given that other kids movies have found the balance of pace and telling, I feel this movie could have tried a little harder.  Something else imbalanced is the styles of comedy, or perhaps more so the audience this movie will appeal to.  Playing With Fire is all about families with young kids, so don’t expect those looking for a raunchy comedy or clever comedy to potentially love this film.  Finally, the biggest thing I’m always worried about is trailers ruining a movie, and Playing With Fire has burned the avenue down with how much has been shown in the numerous trailers.  If you’ve seen the trailers repetitively, as I have, then you’ll have many of the funny moments and story elements ingrained in your brain, which means less bang for the buck and even fewer surprises in this already surprise limited movie.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            If you’ve seen the trailers, you can pretty much expect what the trailers promised for this film.  Playing With Fire is all about being a cute, straightforward film that will tickle the fancy of the young and young at heart.  Within its family friendly environment comes writing that feels like a 90s sitcom/drama, filled with diverse comedy styles and touching moments to get the warmth of the holidays in. While this is all expected though, for movie scoring it would have been nice if the film could have burst out of the straight track and twisted into something better.  It’s predictably and rushed storytelling sort of cheated me out of a complete picture, while the lack of more adult based humor will potentially bore others who have outgrown the family friendly humor.  Finally, the fact this movie falls victim to trailer syndrome will further dilute the experience.  This film is worth a trip for the families, but in terms of special effects and overall picture, this could have done well on straight to cable release. 

 

My scores are:

 

Comedy/Family:  7.0

Movie Overall:  5.0

Don’t Ruin My Movie! Is Maleficent’s Next Spell Worth Falling Under?

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil Poster

 

This weekend seems to be the one for sequels, as two big hits come out this weekend in hopes of making off with a lot of cash this Halloween season.  Tonight we start this review with none other than a big Disney smash that is hoping to cast a magical spell on us.  The first of the new age live actions, tonight’s sequel is following up with perhaps my favorite of the studio’s reimaginations of beloved classics.  Yet, can the vile dark fairy accomplish the task of charming us once more, or have we fallen into the moors of crappy sequel.  Robbie K here to cast his thoughts on:

 

Film: Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (2019)

 

Director:

Joachim Rønning

Writers:

Micah Fitzerman-Blue (screenplay by), Noah Harpster (screenplay by)

Stars:

Angelina JolieElle FanningHarris Dickinson

 

 

Likes:

  • World Building
  • Animation
  • Designs
  • Costumes
  • Musical Score
  • Story Continuation
  • Darker Elements Integrated yet controlled
  • Angelina Jolie

 

DISLIKES:

 

  • Predictable
  • Contained at the Wrong Parts
  • Under Utilized Characters
  • The Twist
  • The Final Battle

 

Summary:

 

Say what you want about the politics of the studio, but Disney certainly knows how to make their imagination come to life.  Maleficent 2 is a beautiful display of the power of their animation studios making the fantasy world of Sleeping Beauty shine in all its magical splendor.  While last time accomplished this task, part two manages to expand upon the inner dwelling of Aurora’s world and bring new attitude to the mix, impressing those who love to see fake worlds become reality.  The animation of all the creatures, alongside their designs, are something best captured in comic book form, and yet blend well into the dark dizzy dreams of the dark fairy.  All the creatures you love are back, with a few more to take their place as all of the worlds magic begins to unfold in a new light.  For those not requiring full on CGI, their costumes are nice to look at too, not quite as stupendous, but certainly elegant and fitting of the world.  Okay, past the visuals, Maleficent’s sound and musical elements really pack the punch in terms of adding to a scene as blaring orchestras drive a thunderous boom into the theater only to give way to the sad soliloquies of more somber moments.  It really adds to every sequence and gave me goosebumps at times.  When it comes to the story, again the movie succeeds, managing to continue five years from last time to explain the age gaps and offer a reminder of the events that transpired.  Maleficent’s tale then further expands, pushing all characters to new levels, but never dropping their core foundations for sudden changes.  It works and shows character development is not dead, not only for the dark fae herself, but for just about every character in the cadre as well.  An added bonus is the darker themes of the tale.  We know Maleficent’s tale is not the lightest one in the bunch, but Disney accomplishes the balance in this film bringing looming threats without dropping into nightmare territories.  I can’t say much more to avoid spoiling, but let’s just say the added edge of bad outcomes makes this movie more suspenseful.  Hands down though the centerpiece to this movie is Jolie herself.  She seems born for this part, mastering look, attitude, and delivery in this character whose spectrum expanded past the usual scale.  Jolie’s beauty is utilized well to bring new style to the dark queen, but never exploited or too focused to take away from her acting.  Bravo Angelina, Bravo!

 

For all its worth though, Disney is still not able to trick me much or throw too many curveballs to shake it up.  Maleficent 2 is certainly a rather linear tale, whose predictable nature is only overshadowed by the some hasty development of other character and containing the movie too much at the wrong parts.  This is especially true for several henchman, and even the prince himself, who have enough bang to their roles, but not quite utilized to the fullest potential that they could have done.  While certainly not the worst drop of characters I’ve seen, the movie could have scored more points for mixing these secondary characters into the brew to add their own glow.  Past that though, the twist they got me on was okay, it’s utilized well to allow for other plot devices, but it also kind of does not fit into the lore for me given the hasty explanation.  More time, or perhaps a book, will explain this connection, but I can’t say I was impressed with the turn.  Finally, the final battle.  Truth is, it is a fine spectacle of technology, integrates many characters well, and more importantly is an awesome display of action-based story telling.  However, it missed the mark on suspenseful battling because of the one-sided approached they took.  I can’t say much, but despite the battle having fine length, it was the biggest containment I had issues with and I would have liked to see more battle involvement, despite the added violence it might have brought.  This could have been the perfect climax for me had they done so.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Sequels are hard to make worthwhile, but I feel Disney corrected the mistakes from the other live action and delivered a fantastic addition to the Maleficent world.  Maleficent 2 accomplishes the storytelling aspect quite well, expanding upon its characters and adding darker elements that give this movie more bit and suspense.  Throw in beautiful world building and I can only say I was further impressed by what they brought to the big screen.  However, the movie did not unleash the full might of the magic spell they can, still suffering from predictability and containment to keep it kid friendly.  A little more expansion on battles, characters, and even the twist and this movie would have been another top sequel of mine.  Still, there is enough bang for buck to catch this in theaters, though I will exercise slight caution in taking children who scare easily, they might get spooked. 

 

My scores are:

 

Adventure/Family/Fantasy:  8.5

Movie Overall:  7.5

Joining the Family For Toned Down, Cute Fun

The Addams Family Poster

 

They’re Creepy And There Kooky, Mysterious and Spooky, They’re altogether Ookie, the Addams Family!  It’s a series that has had multiple face lifts, unafraid to push the weirdness into different decades and media to bring creator Charles Addams’ vision to life.  Despite the quirky band of ghouls and creatures making their mark on various generations, it has been left in the vault to collect the dust and cobwebs they love, mainly staking a claim on 31 night of Halloween on freeform.  Still, this legendary flick is ready to try a step into the modern audience and perhaps get some new blood in this undead franchise.  Will it work?  As always I’m happy to give my thoughts as we dive into reviewing:

 

 

 

Film:  The Addams Family (2019)

 

Directors:

Greg TiernanConrad Vernon

Writers:

Matt Lieberman (screenplay by), Charles Addams (based on characters created by)

 

Stars:

Oscar IsaacCharlize TheronChloë Grace Moretz

 

LIKES:

  • Animation/Design
  • Nostalgic
  • Cute
  • Chuckle Fest
  • Good Voice Acting
  • Morals Baked Right In
  • Kids Movie Dream

DISLIKES

  • A Little Contained
  • Semi Preachy
  • Missed Characters
  • Very Simplistic Story
  • Missing the Semi-Disturbed approach this series is famous for

 

Summary:

 

I always love animation movies to see the interpretation of art and imagination in the way they create their character.  This film manages to put the unique spin on the characters, while maintaining the same charm of the characters we have always known.  It’s a style that is very welcoming to the younger audience, while still pleasing older fans.  This cute approach holds a lot of punch and the toned-down jokes, slapstick humor, and simpler writing are key choices for the key demographic audience.  Yet, it does not dilute the nostalgia you will fell when watching.  While knowing the history makes it more enjoyable, it’s not needed, but older fans will love catching references to the classic antics as I did, all while chuckling at the newness of this film.  The new voice acting works for me, primarily Ms. Theron and Mr. Isaac being my favorites as they capture the ambience of their grandiose counterparts.  They deliver the usual vocal patterns of the group, and while not a perfect match, certainly bring the atmosphere of those characters from long ago and still maximize the laughs (the latter being Nick Kroll as Uncle Fester).  Nevertheless, the morals are baked right into this film to instill some important examples for the audience and base the story on, leading to yet another movie dream for adolescents around the room.

 

Yet, my fellow reviewers have valid points that may not be the best match for the audience members.  For one thing the movie is a little contained compared to the empire that Disney has builtIt’s missing the excitement and the detailed plots that Disney has made famous in their works with Pixar and Animation studios.  A little too cartoony, and preachy moral driven, the movie again falls towards the kid spectrum which is going to make it sheltered and potentially boring for some viewers.  One part of this limitation is because the story is so simplified, again diluted to the kids perspective to not be too traumatizing for today’s raising kid approach.  In addition, there are plenty of characters that they introduced and then did very little with from the rival cheerleader who has so much that needs to happen to her, to the loveable Cousin It who is a personal favorite.  Maybe a potential sequel will open that can of worms, but for this one, huge missed opportunities to bring out a few character developing potential and good fashioned fun.  Yet the main thing I think will disappoint people comes in the form of how the disturbing elements have been curtailed.  If you go back and watch the cartoons from the 90s or the movies on Freeform, you’ll know there is that darker side that gets people hooked on this family.  This version had that somewhat, but really toned things down for the animated realm, leading to the lackluster presentation of the themes.  Had this been added into the theme, you might have made a more engaging tale. 

 

The VERDICT:

 

            The Addams Family 2019 version is a great display of the variability of interpretation and it works well for a family film for the modern audience.  A cute theme is the element of this movie, with nonthreatening animation/design to herald the fun chuckle fest that the dialogue and film are about.  It’s got appropriate voice acting, a nice sense of comedy that makes the world fun, nostalgia that is not overwhelming, and morals baked right in to get the message of acceptance out in the world.  Yet, the containment that they took steals away the intensity, edge, and energy that this series is famous for.  It’s meant to be quirky and slightly disturbing and that element missing, alongside some dropped story elements may not impress the classic fans like they are hoping.  While this movie probably would have been better released on nickelodeon or a fan service, it’s got enough elements for a family outing, but hold this one for the home viewing for your maximum buck. 

 

My scores are:

 

Animation/Comedy/Family:  7.5-8.0

Movie Overall:  6.5-7.0

Was Not Angry With This Sequel

The Angry Birds Movie 2 Poster

 

Sequels to animated films are seldom as good as the first movie.  Many times the story was not needed, or the masterpiece is diluted for a gimmick that just doesn’t work.  Fortunately, there are some that have paved the way for the potential to add to the story, continuing the world we love, but at the same time making a movie stand on its own.  Tonight, Sony Pictures continues to try the luck with their surprise success of Angry Birds and see if they can get another round of bills to line the pockets.  And for reviewers like me, we are back in the trenches to see how it fairs and do our best to highlight the observations. So let’s get in there and review once more as I take o:

 

Movie: Angry Birds Movie 2 (2019)

Director:

Thurop Van Orman

Writers:

Peter Ackerman (screenplay by), Eyal Podell

Stars:

Jason SudeikisJosh GadLeslie Jones

 

 

LIKES:

Voice Acting

Fun

Funny

Stories Intertwining

Good Morals

Cute

Good Use of Characters

Quick

 

DISLIKES:

Predictable

A Little too political at times

Not Quite As Unique

A Little Too simplified

Trailers Ruined Much

 

SUMMARY:

  Like the first film, the movie’s cast really shines taking the pun filled writing, simplistic dialogue, and joke filled lines and making it work.  Sudeikis as Red is still the sarcastic champion we loved, Josh Gad comes back in all his adorable energy and opera like singing, and Danny McBride is still the same loud, gruff voice that often fools people into thinking he is Seth Rogen. But the new gang to join adds their own spice to the feathery/leathery cast.  Jones has got her usual energetic motions, Sterling K brown is posh and yet funny, and Awkwafina is the same carefree slacker that somehow works in a variety of settings.  It’s an awesome blend of talent that manages to add some dynamic flow to bring the characters to life.  Past the acting, the story is along the same lines as the last one, a very fun, straightforward adventures with a few good moral lessons baked in to give it another layer.  Taking two stories to try the break up the linearity, the movie should move enough to keep everyone’s attentions, all while jamming in enough fun and laughter to have you rolling in the seats.  Yes, like the first installment the film is all about captivating on the cuteness and jokes to get its gimmicks out and enjoyment.  Yet, the smartest component for me, is that the movie manages to utilize most of its characters very well.  Red and the squad still get adequate screen time despite how many characters they introduced.  And the new characters still get used well, allowing for maximum merchandising.

  In regards to some areas of improvements for me, well it starts with the predictability of the film.  The movie suffers from the simplicity they strived for, not doing well with pushing the boundaries of unique or creativity.  Sure, the app to movie transition gets props, but unlike the Disney and DreamWorks group, they have not quite adapted well in the earth-shattering stories or worlds that the bigger studios dream up.  Instead, the movie tries to push a few political boundaries, which is a noble challenge, but got a little too extreme for this reviewer as the various movements we hear about get their own skin in this movie. It still fits well, but it just wasn’t necessary and I would have liked to see the energy transferred into the creativity mode instead.  Yet, the biggest area that I did not enjoy was how much the trailers ruined the film for me.  Many parts have been not only revealed, but smeared in your face with the multiple airings. While still funny, I think there could have been a lot of surprise and kick to it had it not been so advertised. As such, if you and your kids have seen most of the trailers, you have seen much of the movie as there is not quite as much runtime as I had expected.

 

 

The VERDICT:

            The movie is a decent follow up to a movie that was surprisingly deep and fun.  It still has the same colorful energy, fun atmosphere and voice acting that just capitalizes on the silliness to be had.  The story, while layered, still is simple for most to follow and the characters are utilized beautifully for all fans to enjoy and get the most out of the characters in this world.  Yet, Angry Birds Universe is still a shell of some of the worlds built in the animation land, and struggles to break the creative barrier and expand upon its world. It’s a little too simple in terms of movie overall, and thanks to the trailer ruining much, the film holds little in coming to the theater outside of seeing the predictable ending.  Still, it’s a fun adventure to behold this weekend with your little tykes and smile wide at their delight in the film.  Otherwise, hold out for the home release my friends. 

 

 

My scores are:

Animation/Adventure/Comedy: 8.0

Movie Overall: 6.5

 

 

Can You Say: Fun, Family Friendly, Movie?

Dora and the Lost City of Gold Poster

 

Childhood television shows hold a special place in our hearts, bringing us back to the days where adventure lied in every episode. Eager minds waited for the next episode to come, fooling ourselves that something different was going to happen to our hero and push them to the edge, only until we realized it was predictably the same ending.  So movies that come out to potentially extend a hand back into the past and relive those moments are very intriguing and we may just find ourselves flocking to the movies to figure out what they writers could have in store for our heroes.  Well, today that movie trend tries once more, this time in a pop culture icon who had mixed reception depending on the age you started with her.  Robbie K here with another review on the former cartoon now brought to life in the trend of live action movies.  Yes, I review:

 

Movie:

 

Dora the Explorer And The Lost City Of Gold (2019)

 

Director:

James Bobin

Writers:

Chris Gifford (based on the series created by), Matthew Robinson (screenplay by)  | 5 more credits »

Stars:

Isabela MonerEugenio DerbezMichael Peña

 

LIKES:

Short

Fast Paced

Good for Kids

Funny

Feels Like A Dora Episode

Nostalgic

Boots

 

DISLIKES:

Predictable

Simplistic

Lackluster Ending

Under Utilized Cast

Still Too Kiddy

Preachy

 

Summary:

For a movie that is based on a kid’s program, the Nickelodeon studies managed to keep the kid-friendly atmosphere alive and appropriate for the younger audience members. Utilizing the young adult morale issues for the generation to latch onto and have a rapport with. Those who aren’t looking for the preteen dilemmas and high school shenanigans though will enjoy the humor in this film.  The director and writers knew that the older population would be looking for something more enjoyable and the movie hits that mark by making fun of itself and trying to rationalize how Dora had the adventures she did.  It’s this self-punching humor that had me laughing up a storm and if you get the references remain into the movie at what next piece of humor you would get.  And for fans like me who had younger relatives obsessed with the explorer, you pick up a few references that bring back the nostalgia of the animated adventures and the ridiculousness at hand.  As for Boots, the little monkey is adorable and funny, bringing a dynamic set of jokes to the mix and relieving some of the other plot devices.

 

Yet the movie fails on the story aspect, working too hard to hit itself with the absurdity of the whole story.  The adventure is predictable with lots of obvious foreshadowing laid out in the first third of the act.  Trekking through the jungle lacks the bite Indiana jones and others had, again diluting to simplistic sequences that were perfect for the little kids it targets.  The end of the path holds a rather disappointing, lackluster finale that leaves much to be desired in terms of wow factor, though it manages to nail that morale heavy lessons we all want in a Nickelodeon themed movie.  Much of the disappointment for me was the underutilized cast, many of Dora’s friends, rivals, and even other characters like Swiper were overshadowed by the fabulous explorer and her can do attitude.  In doing so, the supposedly threatening group to antagonize the trip were one-dimensional throw away that served mainly to give slight suspense to the film.  Yet, there was still plenty of time for them film to put those preachy lessons right at the end, with music, forced dialogue, and everything else to the delight of families. 

 

  Dora’s real-life adventure is a cute dive to help bridge a lot of audience members.  I concur with the rest of the reviewers that it is better than you expect, primarily in the humor, pacing, and fun references that are all contained in the short 100 minutes run-time.  Sadly, the humor and kid friendly atmosphere left much to be desired in the form of story, acting, suspense, and overall finale for the adventure.  I applaud them for making this thing short and fun though, and would say that this is a decent family film if you are looking for one to close the summer on.  Yet, if you need a more quality film overall, look elsewhere, as there are several other films that will assist your viewing pleasures. 

 

My scores are:

 

Adventure/Family:  7.0

Movie Overall:  5.0

A Carpet Ride Into Familiar, Rushed, World

Aladdin Poster

            Disney cartoons in the 90s were the stuff of magic, and the foundation of my love for their movies. The animated adventures and their accompanying soundtracks were able to permanently embed themselves in my mind, heart and soul defining what Walt’s imagination established years ago.  Then came the live action versions and things started getting mixed up in the modern day of representation, realism, and trying to spin these tales in a way of being new/yet familiar.  There have been plenty of ups and downs, but they have found their place and tonight they try another milestone with big shoes, or in this case sandals/moccasins to fill.  Can it work?  That’s where I come in to give my insights as we check out:

 

Movie:  Aladdin (2019)

Director:

Guy Ritchie

Writers:

John August (screenplay by), Guy Ritchie (screenplay by)

Stars:

Will SmithMena MassoudNaomi Scott

 

LIKES:

Nostalgic

  • Core Story Present
  • Funny
  • Cute
  • Recreated World
  • Nice Visual Effects
  • Acting
  • Take On Genie
  • Some Of The Songs

 

  • DISLIKES:
  • Not Enough Exploration Of The World
  • Rushed At times
  • Missing Some Of The Character Charm
  • Jafar’s Take
  • The Anticlimactic Jafar Fight
  • The political Messages
  • Some of the Other Songs

People Who Likes These May Like This One:

Beauty and The Beast Live Action Remake

Prince Of Persia

Dumbo

Fresh Prince Of Bel Air

Disney Channel Original Movies

SUMMARY:

Let’s put it out there, Aladdin cartoons have set much up for quality in many ways, and yours truly is a big fan of it.  Yet this spin on it managed in a way to accomplish the goal of appeasing many audience members.  Guy Ritchie’s take on it holds the core story with the nostalgia nicely baked in making sure to hit the highlights of each moment with a new visual style.  The reimagined world holds nice visual effects and some beautiful attention to detail in the infusion of cultures bringing the beloved cartoon to life and making it semi realistic. Yet, when some people recreated these wonders, the magic of the film is lost to the darker tale and grittier atmosphere, sort of draining the enchantments the cartoon films held.  Fortunately, Ritchie and his crew succeeded in keeping the funny and cute moments in tact primarily in the form of clever one liners, Will Smith’s take on the genie, and relationship of Abu and Carpet, the former of which you want to adopt.  Yet the film also succeeds in bringing those relationships we love to life and somehow putting some new charms to it, to help them stand out.  Mena Massoud has the charm, naivety and wonder that Aladdin held to be the adventurous lad.  Naomi Scott’s voice and strong attitude pave a new Jasmine that will speak to the modern female audience, yet also enchant others. As for Will Smith, he makes the Genie his own character familiar yet also different to not attempt to copy the late William’s work.  His take was fun, almost like Fresh Prince of Bel-Air meeting Disney and it worked beautifully for me, primarily in the chemistry between him and Massoud (very touching at times).  And as for the music, while not quite the same as the 90’s songs in terms of energy, some of the tracks have their new spin work out well that is a blend of old and new and having charisma, my favorite being a Whole New World and Friend Like Me. New Songs by Jasmine though might be my favorite though, a new addition that fits well, delivers the messages, and showcases the Scott’s wonderful voice.

Yet for all the good there are some things still lacking for me.  First the world that they made was not explored enough like the original version, reduced to feeling like a close set instead of the epic kingdom of Agrabah and the Arabian desert. In fact, the movie feels very rushed at times, with the opening ran very quickly, that in no time we are at the cave of wonders instead of the buildup I was expecting.  This pace sort of robs the charm of the world and characters, sometimes getting lost in the all the new political moves and new gimmicks in place of the story telling. For me this was especially true for the take on Jafar.  In terms of looks, it get realism, and ambitions it is there, but this Jafar did not quite have the devious nature of the traditional villain.  That suave, sophisticated and cunning air, was lost to grandiosity and whining rather than that meticulous planning of the wise wizard.  And when it came time to fight him, well the anticlimactic moments were lost again to new themes and takes, including the design of his genie form.  Much of these limitations came from shoving the political components into the mix that were both endearing and then forced/beaten over the head.  The Dream Big Princess movement is alive and while respectable did not feel like it should have been as large a focus. As for the other songs, many of the tracks did not have the same flow, energy, and agreement with the scene like the movie, the new take changing the pace and energy of the scene that did not fit as well with the scene.

Overall, Aladdin’s live remake is one of the better ones for me because it tried to accomplish blending nostalgia and yet being different to not compete with the classics.  I had fun with this film, loved the relationships and acting between groups, the dynamics with CGI and some of those songs that took me to a whole new world.  Yet, the movie just did not explore the Agrabah as much as I wanted, rushing through various moments to not be quite as complete or suspenseful of an adventures that the 90s version held.  It’s that lack of scenes, songs, and acting all working together that is probably the biggest miss for me, and while not awful, was not to the full extent it could have been.  Still, the film is worth a visit and appropriate for most little ones given much of the fear inducing scenes have been removed. Overall my scores are:

 

Adventure/Comedy/Family: 8

Movie Overall 7.0

 

Too Focused On Audience and Music Leads to “Ugly” Limitations

UglyDolls Poster

            The animated world brings many masterpieces, acting as a medium to bring imagination to life and craft impossible things that live action has not quite caught up to.  Given the intended audiences, new worlds and characters are crafted in hopes of delivering fun adventure, potential catchy soundtracks, and of course lessons that can help refresh the morals tarnished by time if left unchecked. This weekend, the latest adventure attempts to take the stage in the form of a band of misfit creations with the potential to change the world.  Will it be another blockbuster hit to withstand the test of time, or is it just more merchandising in a desperate plea to stand up to Disney.  Robbie K here giving his thoughts0. on:

 

Director:

Kelly Asbury

Writers:

Alison Peck (screenplay by), Sun-min Kim (based on characters by)

Stars:

Kelly ClarksonNick JonasJanelle Monáe

 

 

LIKES:

 

  • Creative Characters
  • Colorful Environment
  • Cute Atmosphere
  • Voice Cast
  • Messages
  • Music

 

SUMMARY:  As mentioned in the opening, the animated medium offers the ability to let imagination flourish and create some unique looking characters. Ugly Doll takes the concept of “mistakes” and turns them into oddly shaped combinations that hold much value for future action figures and dolls.  Moxy (Clarkson) and her crew are odd and not the most detailed, but their personalities are etched into the design which goes in time with the world crafted. This world may not be the most realistic or detail oriented, but it’s color, angles, and sort of Hodge podge approach lead to a mish-mash world of fun that would be beautiful as a theme park. Ugly Dolls manages to add personality into each of the two worlds, mirroring the approach to life each collective bunch represents.  Regardless of which place you prefer, the movie holds the cute factor that is intended for the key audience, creating the safe, family friendly environment that parents would like their young ones to see.

To help further bring the world to life, a talented voice cast has at least been recruited with singers, comedians, and sassy actresses to assist with bringing that last bit of spark to the characters needed. Clarkson, Jonas, and Monae are the ones who take point using their vocal talents to not only deliver the simplistic writing of the film and even more deliver the lines of the soundtrack this movie was focused on.  The variety of voice talents were marginally used well and balanced to make sure every character got some screen time.

Through whatever means though, the movie has two big selling points that are the selling points with this film.  The first are the morals about inner beauty, self-worth, and believing in yourself.  Cliché? Absolutely, but an important lesson for the young generation, and their chaperones to learn in hopes of establishing new grounds for self-confidence.  That emotional gimmick, touched my heart personally, but for many of the group it may not quite penetrate the cerebral cortex like they wanted.  Instead the morals will be lost to the toe tapping tunes that this movie is going to use.  Much like Frozen, the soundtrack is going to be more memorable than the movie, with a number of reprises used to expand the soundtrack ever so slightly.  Plenty of these songs have much emotion, but it’s going to be the bubble gum pop beat that gets your kids going, bump up sales, and potentially get overplayed

 

DISLIKES:

 

  • Very Simplistic Plot
  • Other Characters Only Scratched
  • Rushed Story
  • Little Impasse
  • Unremarkable Moments
  • Too geared on kids
  • Too much focus on the music

SUMMARY:  When it comes to animated kids films there is a balance that I look for in my reviews so that they may bring more people into the film.  Ugly Dolls struggled with this for me.  It starts with the simplistic plot, essentially a linear plot that holds very few curves to mix things up.  It’s simple story is cute and endearing, but lacks some of the fundamental moments that Disney does so well.  Most of the characters do contribute in the form of comedy, but the character development is lacking for the others, leading to merely colorful outlines that will be perfect for action figures.  Perhaps this could have been accomplished if the plot did not seem so rushed, trying to get from start to finish in the rapid time limit they set. In doing this, the impasses for our dolls were not that impressive and easily bypassed, the threat level essentially nullified by the cute antics of our group.  The result is that the movie does not quite have the most memorable moments that will stay with us until the end of time.

Why is this the case?  I believe the two sources of weakness that took away from this movie are the kid focused atmosphere and the fixation on music.  Ugly Dolls is perfect for the early aged viewers in terms of lacking any really scary or haunting features. Yet, in removing the threats the plot became a little too boring as the adventure just devolved into sort of an elementary school education lesson.  Taking the adventure out of this movie therefore limits it for older members who will need to focus on the occasional adult joke and watching their young ones smiles.  In addition, the music was too much the theme of this film.  With all the singers casted, it’s not surprising they wanted to turn out a soundtrack, and sure enough the studio has put a lot of investment in the toe tapping music to boost sales.  Despite the catchy music, that focus took away much from the story as mentioned above, all in the name of cramming as many songs as possible to again boost their sales. 

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Overall Ugly Dolls is cute and I loved the themes, world building and energy built into its design and the presentation.  Yet, the movie fails to find the balance and sense of adventure that others have held from other studios with bigger budgets. More story planning was needed, and less focus on limited audiences would have been nice, with a little more maturity ingrained to help out.  Yet, the movie really needed to steer away from the focus on merchandising to leave an imprint and be known as one of the greats.  It is not horrible at all, but the limited audience scope is going to be the main hesitation to go to the theaters for this.  Instead, you might be better off buying the sound track and waiting for this to hit home. 

Scores:

Animated/Family/Adventure/Comedy:  6.5

Movie Overall: 6.0