Taking A Shot At Play To Streaming, Hamilton’s Fervor Will Get You Going This Weekend

Hamilton Poster

            The world of the playwright is a fascinating one, where the dark aspects of the classical theater are still able to take stage without so much as batting an eye.  It’s created stories that have been unique, often making staple works of art that not only show for months to years, but often remain in the memories of many.  So given the state of COVID, as well as the limited runs with original cast and locations you can view it, I’ll admit I’ve not been much into this venue.  Disney + is trying to fix this by putting out the legendary Hamilton this weekend to let me check out.  So I have, and thus I’m getting another practice review out to determine if this craze is worth the hype, or just another entry into the continued world of entertainment.  Let’s get started

Movie/Play:  Hamilton (originally 2016 but 2020 release)

Cast:  

Director:

 Thomas Kail

Writers:

 Lin-Manuel Miranda (book), Ron Chernow (inspired by the book Alexander Hamilton by) 

Stars:

 Lin-Manuel MirandaPhillipa SooLeslie Odom Jr. 

LIKES:

Makes History Entertaining

Clever

Powerful Messages

Some Extraordinarily Good Numbers

Fantastic Costumes

Talented Cast

A dynamic Stage for numbers 

The First Act Over The Second 

The ending Monologue Powerful 

DISLIKES: 

Underutilized characters for me

Constant Singing vs. Breaks with Dialog

Sound quality for Disney Plus not as Good 

I Felt Could use More Stage Changes

Dropped Story Elements

The Ending number

If You know History, You know The end

Does it Capture the Spirit Of The Theater?

SUMMARY:

            As I said above, the theater world allows so many stories to be told and in Hamilton, the lesser known founding father gets a nice entertaining twist and is certainly the fun experience you would think.  Miranda’s play has poise, charm, edge, and so many other factors that make the history of the revolution fun to watch/live in once again.  Much of it has to do with clever writing, jabbing at the faults of the traditional life of history, but managing to not rub its name in the mud.  The asides and breaking the fourth wall made me laugh the most, especially at how well most of it flows into the lyrics of the strong music that is heavy in this film.  Miranda shows how you can be political without getting too far away from the point, writing power messages into the dialogue naturally and having the performance speak as opposed to making everything about the message (see modern Hollywood/life today).  Hamilton takes all this cleverness and works it into its own style of poetry using the music style to emphasize so much I think he wanted and keeping the story moving through the decade or so of major historical moments and trying to develop the title character considerably.  And all of this power is brought about talented production values that help pull you back in time to the founding of our country.  A talented cast with names too extensive to include, brings up the various historical legends to new heights, attitudes and the spirit of revolution oozing out of their deliveries in the first act to inspire your own movement for change.  While a second act opens up more of the devious side in a spoof/magnification of the temptation political power brings.  All the costumes that reflect historical Colonial upbringing are there ready to help your eyes further accept the spectacle on stage so that you again put interest into the film.  

Let’s face it though it’s going to be the numbers that will show up on the walls of social media soon enough.  Hamilton’s numbers are all about that attitude and inspiration that the modern times love, and it’s those empowering performances that make up the meat of this play.  The emotional fervor of both acts is in almost every word of the dialogue and it does not hesitate to show the attitude that the cast wanted to bring in this time period.  Using the stage’s confinement to the advantage, alongside the costumes, the dance numbers have a choreographed splendor that feels organic as movements turn back into characters just going back to normal movements.  It works so well in seeing the fluid transitions from duels to dance and back again, and seeing a unique approach to the performance execution.  The first act in particular does this well for me, and was the better act because of the energy, fervor, and coordination the revolutionary war got in the confined 1-hour time limit.  Though the second act does accomplish a similar feel and certainly has less dancing, more coordination and the likes, I particularly think the first act is Miranda’s shining achievement.  However, that ending monologue is powerful, with words that struck home and broke the mold of the rest of the play’s fervor, a nice sendoff that leave one thinking. 

Now here is the tricky part of talking about the dislikes, partly because I don’t see many plays, part because of the hybrid movie/play, and partly due to the limitations of stage shows being streamed.  Doing my best to be fair though, I can say that one of the big disappointments were some of the underutilized characters for me.  Hamilton does a nice job working so many pieces through the set up, but there are several characters that held potential and showed promise that got dropped into the winds of a few songs before being lost to book footnotes.  I had hoped for a little more integration and references, but understanding time constraints it’s only a marginal dislike for me.  What hit harder for me was more so dropping some of the plots they were working on, or perhaps rushing through them and keeping them merely one to two lines in the story.  The development of Hamilton’s child, the third sister, heck even some of the soldiers are all lost in quick tidbits through this rush through history.  While it works in the rhyme scheme, I’m about stating if you are going to build up deliver on the end and I felt some of this was lost to the political prowess of the play.  I guess if you know history well enough, you know the ending, and Miranda might have taken that into consideration when he wrote the book, focusing again on a Spark Notes version of Hamilton’s life and accomplishments.  This is why Hamilton has the focus, so you can try to get into his mind, while also driving the audience to do the changes that our forefathers did long ago before technology took over.  

In regards to execution of the numbers well you’ve read I enjoyed much of the numbers.  However, something this play failed to do for me was take breaks from the music and go back into dialogue to sort of give the actors time to flesh out the characters more.  While good, I got tired of everything in a musical/poetry lyric, again missing key moments of tension and character building so that we can get more emotional music instead.  Again, I’m unsure how other musicals work, something I have to study, but the plays I have seen have far more breaks between their performances instead of nearly just one giant musical delivery.  Throw that in with if you are watching it on Disney+, the sound quality is kind of lacking thanks to the compressed file format the server uses.  I found myself having to turn my speakers up more for the quiet phrases than I wanted to, only for having to turn it down again when the more energetic numbers came.  Convenient as it is, I have to say that other streaming sites have got it down a little better in terms of sound balance, so I’ll mention in hopes that Disney will improve upon their sound quality.  Something else I as well would have liked, as I see in many musical numbers, is a more diverse soundtrack.  Wicked, Avenue Q, Book Of Mormons are great examples where a genre can be seen in the musical styles, but there are slight changes and performance tweaks to make the numbers stand out.  Not the case for on Hamilton.  Outside of when Eliza’s numbers came on, and a few moments where Hamilton’s darker thoughts hit the scene, much of the numbers is the same sort of rap beat with a slight change in tempo to boot.  Again, I get this was the focus of the play to have a rap play presentation, but doing it that way takes away from the originality of each track.  Fortunately, King George’s interventions stood out to me as comedic, a change in style to the show tune that stands aside from the rap.  If your style of music choice is the rap, then this will not be an issue, because it’s the perfect genre to get the emotions out and thanks to its ability to take poetry and spin it in new pieces.  For me though, many of the numbers feel every much the same, and without bigger dance numbers or the usual grandiose manner I’ve seen in the few shows I’ve watched.  In addition not changing up the backdrops, and relying on the one stage prop alone was again a dynamic I did not intend to watch.  Lighting guys get the props for making the stage versatile, but again, Hamilton’s journey through colonial times should have had more settings, but the reliance on a tiered stage means you use your imagination more than I had hoped.  Finally, the ending number may have an amazing message to convey and does so well for mopping up the remains of the story, but it pales in comparison to the final numbers you usually see.  Blasphemy I know, but after all the poetic majesty, after all the dynamic interactions, the last number I felt should have had pulled all the stops out to finish it strong.  

The VERDICT: 

            I’ve rambled long enough so let’s wrap this up for those looking for a quick summary.  Hamilton is certainly an impressive display of creativity, wit, and entertainment that proves that you can find some great balance if you do your research and work.  All the numbers hold such heart and fire, that the rap genre is perfect for helping maximize the wonderful messages I think Hamilton’s life makes for.  Amazing displays of acting, dancing, and singing blend beautifully to make engaging characters, that though are not fully developed have the engaging qualities you will certainly enjoy.  The wit and use of the limited stage fully is enjoyable, and rest of the play magic is super to bring out the masterpiece that Hamilton is known to be.  However, despite the epic, politically charged, poetry it is, I won’t lie that I wanted more variety for the masterpiece it was.  Some breaks from the music, a little change in the tone, some focus and inclusion of other characters, and set changes could have gone a long way.  It’s not perfect, but Disney+ has helped bridge the gap in play at home experience, but I don’t think it captures the full spectacle of the theater that streaming claims it can.  Still, I’d give it a shot if you like plays, more important like political jabbing rap, where the talent shines.  However, if you need a little more magic, a little more entertainment, and some less dense material, you need to hold out on this and pick another play to enjoy given the nearly 3 hour run time.  Overall, my scores are still going to be from a movie aspect, so here we go.  

Scores:  

Musical/Drama/Historical/Comedy:   8.5

Movie Overall:  7.0

Scooby Dooby Doo You In For A Fun Kids Flick

Scoob! Poster

 

The World of Hanna-Barbera changed the lives of many with its dive into cartoons that would become cultural icons.  Zany antics of the Flintstones, the futuristic mishaps of the Jetsons, and the exotic worlds explored by Johnny Quest, all painted the landscapes for many cartoons to venture down.  Yet one of the most beloved was beloved dog and his best friends solving the supernatural crimes that plagued the world.  Yes I’m talking about Scooby Doo, the loveable canine who over the years has taken on many forms, some great, and some not quite as epic.  This weekend the Corona Virus has allowed his latest adventure to come directly to home and hopefully inspire a new bunch with a new style.  Robbie K back for another limited review as he scopes out:

 

Movie: Scoob (2020)

Director:

Tony Cervone

Writers:

Matt Lieberman (screenplay), Adam Sztykiel (screenplay)  | 7 more credits »

Stars:

Will ForteMark WahlbergJason Isaacs

 

LIKES:

  • Fun
  • Cute
  • Like the New Animation Style
  • The Nostalgia
  • The Music
  • The Heart At Times

 

DISLIKES:

  • Treaded A little off the Path
  • Caught Up On a Few Ideas
  • Some Toxic Politics
  • Predictable
  • New Twist Took Away From The Scooby Antics

 

SUMMARY:

 

From talking with my parent friends they go to a kids movie to get their kids laughing and enjoying the adventure with them as they form memories.  That’s going to be accomplished in this film as young and older join together to take part in the antics of our animated characters.  The gang still has plenty of zany tricks up their sleeves with the leading duo taking lead in most of the phone of klutzy falls, cute one liners, and slapstick that the cartoon made famous.  It’s new adventure tone is family friendly, more cute than scary, as the comedy tries to remain on that G- PG level that many modern guardians will want in the kids flick.  The new animation style manages to pop the crew out, blazing colors, full of energy that manages to accent the scene and try to bring the environment out to full effect much like the drawings of the past.  Yet the driving factor of the movie is certainly the nostalgia, as the famous techniques of the classic cartoon brigade come out in full force to help immerse those who grew up with Scooby into the new style, while still pleasing the young.  The snack jokes, the sites they visit, background shots of famous monsters, and even the opening credits are all about taking you back into the past of the famous Scooby adventures.  However, the new twist goes a step ahead and potentially hints at a connected Hanna-Barbera universe where all sorts of classic characters may try to stay relevant in the modern universe.  I guess time and profits will tell right?  Still all the fun cute visuals and nostalgic themes get a hand with great music, compilations and covers of famous tracks that are sometimes used super creatively, and other times meant to make people just get up and dance. It’s simplistic sure, but it helped up the energy of some of the scenes again.  Then comes the heart of the show.  While most of the cartoons in the past are meant more for laughs and simple humorous adventures, Scoob decides to add a little more heart to mixture.  Themes like being best friends, courage, and empathy are just some of the strong components that drive this movie to heart string pulling levels that will make the sensitive cry and those with big hearts relate.  A few scenes in the middle to end are surprisingly deeper than expected and I give them props for expanding these simpler characters to some more fulfilling roles. 

 

For all the good though, there can potentially be a lot of bad and Scoob is not able to run away from some of these problems.  It starts off with treading off the beaten path for an attempt at something new.  While, the movie gets points for originality, the movie’s dive from comedic mystery to comedic adventure with a super hero twist is not the world I was hoping to start my journey in.  The focus of comedy, kid friendly ideas, and this quick opening into the universe made for a bit of a jumbled plot that was entertaining at times but just not the quality of the classics.  Some of the characters were reduce to political pieces, others block headed pieces meant to make potential statements or get cheap laughs, and others getting a decent dose of character development.  It’s this inconsistency that makes the movie feel a little sloppily put together, and being unable to blend all these directions together was a big limiting factor.  As such, the movie also got lost in some toxic motives again, political trends being interjected into the dialogue at times once again turning the characters into new agenda pawns.  Because of these agendas and some dialogue heavy in foreshadowing thanks to sappy, clichéd writing, the plot’s mystery and originality was diluted to a predictable film that some kids movies tend to fall into these days.   As for the voice acting… it’s okay, Frank Welker wins the best voice acting cast for me and of the adults, Ken Jeong and Mark Wahlberg are close seconds in terms of bringing their characters to life.  Others though felt sort of forced on them, choosing to really sell the political moments, while other times seeming bored with the fun dialogue.  Given all the directions they were taking though, it sort of diverted away from that spirit of Scooby that we all loved in his first adventures long ago, something I think of lot of people were looking for.

 

The VERDICT:

            For a kids film Scoob accomplishes the victory of being a cute bout of fun that the modern audience will adore with their younger audience members.  It’s new animation is fluid and fun and the use of color and music will really bring the energy of youth that we all look for in these films.  However, the heart and the nostalgia are going to be the key factors for many older audience members to look forward to in order to better buffer into the new twists.  Sadly, the movie’s lack of focus, splitting of agenda and forced character development took away from the film, and the mystery we so love turned into a comic like adventure with loads of simplicity.  Scoob’s overall presentation feels rushed, potentially thanks to COVID, and did not quite deliver on the full potential I was hoping they would.  Depending on the success though, a new universe could be born to the modern era… again, and we may see more team ups coming in the new future.  At that point, this story will start fitting in better. 

 

My scores for the movie are:

 

Animation/Adventure/Comedy:  7.0

Movie Overall: 6.0 

This Tour is a World Of Fun, Energy, and Morals, but Trolls 2 Still Missing Potential

Trolls World Tour Poster

 

It’s been a long time my friend, but fortunately a nice opportunity for a review came up in the form of a home release.  While not the arena I prefer to watch my movies in, it’s better than nothing and so tonight I take on the world release of the latest animated film that is hoping to make some money by feeding on youth’s ability for rewatching for the musical experience.  Tonight’s film is that musical melody of animated characters that was charming, kooky, and super fun when they debuted a few years ago.  And after a fun Christmas special, many wondered what would be the fate of the colorful band of trolls?  We get that answer tonight, as more genres join our pop theme in:

 

Movie: Trolls: World Tour (2020)

 

Directors:

Walt DohrnDavid P. Smith (co-director)

Writers:

Jonathan Aibel (screenplay by), Glenn Berger(screenplay by)  | 5 more credits »

Stars:

Anna KendrickJustin TimberlakeRachel Bloom

 

 

LIKES:

  • Cute
  • Funny
  • Many Song References and Cultures
  • Great Pace
  • Good Morals
  • Better Use of Characters
  • The Songs

 

Dislikes:

  • Not as Good Character Developing
  • Story has potential, but misses the mark
  • Lack of Real Impasse/Obstacles
  • More Songs or Complete Numbers
  • Almost Felt Too Short

 

Summary:

 

Much like the first film, I expected the trolls next tour to be cute and fun, and I was not disappointed.  The youthful vibe of the world somehow awakened the happy side of life for me, and got me into the spirit to dive back into the simplistic imagination of the world.  It’s ridiculous concepts, well developed dialogue, and good comedic timing held much of the essence of the film and was a great anchor point for older audience members.  Some of the fun also is held in the song references that they covered, new twists to fan favorites that though had a nice twist, kept much of the core elements of the song to still hold what entranced me to the song itself.  As the trailers highlight, the movie is all about exploring the musical culture of these genres, and I give them props for creativity and exploring the levels of the big genres, which I like again being the geek I am.  All of this exploration happens at a good pace, with little slowness present as the Trolls hope effortlessly between kingdoms in search of the sacred strings.  Amidst the journey are of course fun life lessons, which with an open mind/heart and a little luck will help motivate and teach you some good lessons, or at least the young ones accompany you.  Further review made me happy that the developers actually took time to spend some focus on the other trolls, managing to deviate from the two protagonists and integrate them more into the story.  While not perfect, it’s a step in the right direction and with a little time and focus… we might end up getting that perfect balance.  So if that troll merchandise feels like it went to waste years ago, you can rest assured those dolls may get new life.  Let’s face it though… Trolls is a big soundtrack and the new tracks are there ready to storm their way into your ear drums and leave you with massive ear worm.  World Tour’s tracks are catchy, fun twists that hit most of the genres and bring that essence I mentioned earlier, to bring out the feeling and energy of the scene.  I appreciated the variety they had to offer and fully enjoyed the magic this movie had.

 

Yet for all the fun I have, I won’t lie there are some major limitations to this film that still have not been mastered.  First off, character development is much weaker for me in this film.  A sacrifice of including so many characters means their depth sort of suffers and World Tour has no problem dropping deep dives into psyche for the superficial succulence to come.  Poppy and Branch have some expansion, but pales to many, and even the new characters hold little in the ways of diversity and deep stories, including the antagonist that had so much to give. The result is a bland story, where potential lies in every note and scene, but then falls flat in terms of really expanding the world that we were baited with back in 2016.  What also does not help is the movie is that the challenge and threat in this movie is… well missing.  We’ve seen animated films that bring the hammer with antagonists who are threatening, massive, and push our heroes to the limits to fulfill the quests.  Not the case with this one, Barb’s got edge, skills, and a wickedly designed arsenal, but it’s a little too one sided and boring in terms of an animated adventure.  In addition, the time in each world is rather limited, and that potential for creativity is lost to rapid passthroughs most of the towns.  Even more bizarre is that the heart and soul of the movie, the music, is reduced too sound bites, quickly dropped just as the number is reaching its crescendo.  Sure the numbers at the end do their job, and others are entertaining due to the vibe and twist, but it’s not feeling quite complete compared to its predecessor. Overall, the movie almost felt too short and needed another 1.5 hours to really get everything I wanted in this sequel.  Yes, I’m saying a longer movie, or maybe another movie that held that fire and balance I love.

 

The VERDICT: 

            Overall Trolls 2 comes back with the fun, cute, wonderful energy that made the first one so exciting.  If you are like me and have the pleasure and luck of texting a friend with references, you get more enjoyment out of the film.  Kids will love it alongside the young at heart, with silliness, laughs, and morals entangled together to give that satisfactory kids flick you love, plus the music does not hurt either as long as you are not a purist.   Yet, the movie still has not found the art of balance for reviewers like me.  All the new characters are great for merchandising, but miss the mark in terms of emotional investment, and the story is okay but again had so much more it could have given.  Even the things I was enjoying the most like the adventure and music got edited down and while they are fun during their moments, they could have been so much more.  Still being at home and looking for something to break the ice of Frozen 2, this is a fine rental to have at home and probably the best place to watch outside of the effects.  Thus, my recommendation is give it a shot this weekend when you can. 

 

My scores for this film are:

 

Animation/Adventure/Comedy:  7.0

Movie Overall:  6.0

And It’s All Downhill For This Remake

 

Downhill Poster

            The age of remakes and rebranding continues to reign supreme in the modern Hollywood days, and this weekend we have several movies falling into this category.  Today my first review is on a movie that looks to hold some semi-promise upon viewing of the trailer, as a potential comedy or drama with an interesting cast.  Based on the film Force Majeure, today’s reskin attempts to add a Western twist to the mixing the culture of European films with the energy of American cinema.  Will it work?  That’s where I come in to give my thoughts as I review:

 

Movie: Downhill (2020)

 

Directors:

Nat FaxonJim Rash

Writers:

Jesse Armstrong (screenplay by), Nat Faxon (screenplay by)  | 2 more credits »

Stars:

Julia Louis-DreyfusWill FerrellMiranda Otto

 

 

LIKES:

  • Beautiful Setting
  • Orchestra Music
  • Deep Morals and Meaning
  • Occasionally Funny

 

DISLIKES:

  • The Acting Is A Touch Overdone
  • The Kids Involvement In the Film
  • Focus On the Awkward
  • The Banter That Is Not Fun
  • Feels Both Lows and Truncated
  • Attempts to insert Culture With Art
  • Could Not Pick Drama Vs. Comedy

 

I guess it’s not a good thing when the setting is one of the highlights of the film.  Well Downhill accomplishes capturing the European mountain setting in all its splendor and lights the fire to want to go participate in the winter wonderland of the Alps.  All the snow, culture, and promises of a good vacation are very appealing in this movie and made for a wonderful landscape to play this remake in.  When the orchestra music cues, the ambience only grows and helps immerse you into the world a little more, helping again expand into the cultural territory that the film is trying to capture in this repaint.  Then comes the actual story, one thing about European films is their focus on strong morals told in artistic ways, and Downhill manages to do this decently from my perspective.  The art of loving a family, but trying to love yourself is something I think many people this day and age don’t realize is important to balance and the film tries to show that balance in a rather odd manner.  It’s not perfect, but there are several moments of dialogue that are well written or at least adapted, that I think can be used in schools and youth groups to educate.  Finally, this does have two comedians in it, and there are some funny moments in here that have a fine timing to relieve the more somber tone of the film, so points for trying to balance the American comedy style into the mix.

 

Yet the film’s likes fall off from those points and begins to tumble into the tundra of incomplete or odd for me in terms of this movie’s presentation.  The acting, a staple in a movie like this, is not quite fitting for me on most levels. Ferrell himself seems to struggle with being serious and in this position, grabbing any rope he can to come off suffering and filled with drama. Much of his acting with suffering involved looking hungover, and I felt the struggle was only presented a few times well.  Dreyfus succeeds better, but her character’s direction for this film was a little more complaining and whining, rather than balanced suffering.  I enjoyed her scenes more, but even her performance did not rope me into the film.  When the kids come into play, again they are annoying characters who seem to portray a particular generational stigmatism to the film, but do little to actually contribute to the story.  As such, the tools they became were almost not needed and I can’t say I enjoyed their inclusion in the film, not due to the acting but just the character development.

Instead the film seems to focus on the awkward atmosphere of the topic of divorce, especially in a unique circumstance involving an avalanche.  Unlike Marriage Story, this film seems to dive deep into how a couple can turn a conversation into a war, and make life difficult for all who get roped in.  Comedic moments with friends getting pulled in do little to alleviate the monotonous banter that fills this movie, with the two lead actors doing nothing but having these either prolonged shouting matches with the same dialogue, or short quips cutting each other off.  Most of this was not fun for me and thus having to watch the sadness that follows these fights, left me fighting sleep, and a cold. It almost feels that this movie ran out of time when I got to the end of the (mercifully) short run time, where they were trying to find a balance between artistic presentation and entertainment.  I appreciate trying to adapt the European presentation, but with the cast assembled and the trailers presentation, it seems this reskin should have focused more on the comedy given how many people walked out of the theater during my presentation.  However, the truncated character development moments, alongside a rather quick finale, let me feeling robbed of a true spectacle.  In addition, the inability to pick a lane of comedy vs. drama did not help as well, for many times the movie flipped its approach like a car sidewinding through morning traffic.  These jerky, quick transitions messed up the atmosphere of the movie and by the time they stopped making this transition, it was time to wrap things up.

 

The VERDICT:

            This reskin was not the best face lift Hollywood has given in my opinion.  Though cinematography has revealed a wonderful setting and the artistic approach sells the lessons at hand, the film itself is rather boring.  This is primarily due to the presentation having difficulty choosing a lane to present the film, with artistic display vs American entertainment battling it out for first.  Ferrell and Louis-Dreyfus can’t seem to find the chemistry for an award-winning performance and the other characters do little to enhance the experience outside of awkward banter and some forced comedy.  It goes to show that a movie like this can keep an original skin and be appreciated, like we saw in the Academy Awards, but for this reviewer, the remake is not worth the trip to the theater.  I would suggest this is at best a free stream or watching on cable to get your best investment. 

 

My scores are:

 

Comedy/Drama:  5.0

Movie Overall: 3.0

A Family Adventure that Does Little To Excite

Dolittle Poster

 

 

Another night, another time at the movies and with that we set forth on an adventure that will hopefully be worth the time investment.  Former Iron Man runner, has changed into a new set of duds as he goes into exploring a new universe.  The trailers paint this one as a fun, adventurous movie, that looks to have mystery, comedy, and a little excitement in search of the next big thing.  However, we all know trailers can make things look more golden than they actually are.  Well yours truly is back and ready to give some thoughts as he sets sail with Robert Downey Jr.in the film:

 

Film:  Dolittle (2020)

 

Director:

Stephen Gaghan

Writers:

Stephen Gaghan (screenplay by), Dan Gregor(screenplay by)  | 3 more credits »

Stars:

Robert Downey Jr.Antonio BanderasMichael Sheen

 

LIKES:

  • Great Voice Acting
  • Decent Balance Of Characters
  • Okay CGI
  • Some Meaningful Moments
  • Funny At Times
  • The Ending Credits
  • Cute Family Movie

 

DISLIKES:

  • The Direction Of Dolittle
  • A Little Too Forced Humor
  • The Adventure Is Boring
  • Villain Doesn’t Deliver
  • Action is Simplistic
  • The Story Predictable
  • Low Impact Impasses that Are Too Easy To Overcome

 

Summary:

 

The story of Dolittle has come in many packages, but this one held promise as Pirates meeting cute animal stories.  The digitally created cast has fantastic voice acting, with many creatures being a dead ringer for the people embodying them.  It’s not the most emotionally distraught or tight performance, but it works for the funny characters at hand and should delight the young and young at heart.  With a star-studded cast and plenty of animals, I have to say they accomplish their task of getting as much of the participation of the characters as they could.  I enjoyed the contributions they had to the adventure and found their comedy a selling point for most audience members.  The CGI work is not the most impressive at times, but it worked for me and helped get the animal movements down well, and making this odd cast come to life.  The animation is fluid, and the ability to anthropomorphize these cast of creatures.  While most of this works is to bring comedy to the film, presented in slapstick, goofy delivery, and a few ridiculous sequences designed for the young, it somehow also adds some other level of connection to the movie as you root for the safety of our crew.  Most of the film is about that level of comedy, but at its core lies some of those heartwarming moments that we love to see in these types of films.  Some of these moments are fully appreciated at the end, primarily in the closing moments and end credits that bring yet another art style to the mix that was interesting and fun to watch.  The result is that the movie is all about the classic family movie that has sort of been missing for some time, and will be perfect to take the grandkids too. 

 

However, the reviews coming in make some valid points and I believe these areas could have been improved upon to make this a better movie.  For one the direction of Dolittle himself is odd, a man broken by events, the eccentric genius approach is one part interesting and two parts odd.  A complicated history awaits, but yet the movie never goes with it, lost in him being too silly, isolated, and single track minded to really expand upon this complex character.  And much like the other animals, the comedy is sometimes a little too forced for me, jokes jammed into awkward moments and banter that took the adventure from exciting to corny at times for me, as it became a quest for the next joke.  For me, the adventure became boring very quickly, too simplified and linear with little challenge to stand in our crew’s way.  Where were the exciting ship to ship battles that made our crew face their fears?  What mysteries and challenges await in the palace halls we saw in that trailer?  What about that dragon?  Well… the trailers deceive you into thinking these are real threats, but the truth is that the watered-down action and the challenges just don’t really deliver much outside of a G rated starter movie.  Even the villain is kind of lame, an eccentric looking doctor is about all the threats he has got, as the former leader of vampires/werewolves has taken on the role of one liners and being kind of a nimrod, who poses little threats.  Again this makes for a cute, family friendly film adventure, but in terms of exciting story that could start a series, that’s where it fails for me.

 

The VERDICT:

            I did not hate this movie, but I was disappointed in the direction it chose to take in this rendition for this story.  The trailers painted this as an epic adventure with CGI animals, but instead we got a much kid friendlier adventure that was more about the laughs, slapstick, and cramming of animals than anything else.  It’s positives for me are all about how cute this adventure is with them capitalizing on the CGI animals as the main anchor point the target audience will love.  This film sort of felt like the films I watched as an introduction adventure growing up, simple and wholesome, with just enough added spunk to be above a nick junior movie.  However, where I think the movie fails as the reviewers have said is the missed potential they had suggested to me with the trailers.  The central character is loveable,  but not really a detailed RDJ character that we’ve seen him master like his other films.  The animals are fun, but again they seem so simplified and prop like that I have a hard time investing in most of them.  And worst of all, the atmosphere is so kiddy that the adventure aspect is diluted down to lackluster levels, which may not please the parents or older siblings that are accompanying them.  Therefore, all the conveniences and incomplete story for me are going to be the hardest blows to the quality of this film. 

 

My scores for the film are:

Adventure/Family/Comedy:  6.5

Movie Overall:  5.0

Whatcha Gonna Do? Hopefully See This Movie

Bad Boys for Life Poster

 

Legacy films are always difficult to pick up after retiring them from so long.  This is especially true for movies made in the decades of the 90s and 2000s, hard hitting films that leave an imprint in form or another.  Hollywood’s dive into the past though, does not fear going back into the past though to bring into the present, especially in the ever-maddening drive for money.  So tonight, another relic attempts to handle the modern times, as our resident buddy cops come out of retirement to try to bust our guts and the bad guys once more. Are you ready to Ride Or Die?  I know I am as I review:

 

Film:  Bad Boys For Life (2020)

 

Directors:

Adil El Arbi (as Adil), Bilall Fallah (as Bilall)

Writers:

Chris Bremner (screenplay), Peter Craig (screenplay)

Stars:

Will SmithAlexander LudwigVanessa Hudgens

 

LIKES:

  • Nostalgia
  • The Feel Of Nineties In A Modern Package
  • Good Character Use
  • Fast Pace
  • Decent Character Development
  • Balance Of Comedy With Action
  • Comedy Itself
  • The Chemistry Of Smith And Martin Lawrence

 

DISLIKES:

  • Predictable For Much Of Film
  • A Few Action Scenes Are Over the Top Or Too Quick
  • A Few Comedic Moments Dropped Too Soon
  • One Of The Main Antagonists Is Okay

 

 

SUMMARY:

 

If it’s a revival of a series, we need those moments we fell in love  with or it’s crap, at least that’s the mindset many on the reviews state.  Well good news guys, the Bad Boys are equipped with some of their old tricks and it works beautifully to restoke the flames of fun we had in the past.  The banter, the comedy, a few references all take you back and anchor you to the adventure at hand. Yet, the film is not just about blowing you up with blasts to the pasts, but also working on modernizing the system and blowing off the cobwebs.  Bad Boys 3 manages to rejuvenate the old as it works to pass on the franchise to a more modern audience, but never loses sight of keeping the two times balanced.  The film has plenty of new characters, yet manages to keep all of them decently integrated into the plot, seldom losing someone to the background (quite a shock I know).  Even more impressive is that there is decent character development for most, with the Bad Boys taking center stage, but still opening up hints for other characters to follow for later.  It’s this type of storytelling I like to see and makes this film all the more impressive for being a sequel and this amount of time that has lapsed.

Still you might be wondering what else this film has in store.  For first off it’s fast, the same as the two precursors, these Bad Boys continue to speed through crime without missing too many details.  It works well given this is an action movie, helping amp up the coordinated scenes that have a combination of chases, gun play, and a little fist fight to go with it.  Like the story, the movie also manages to evolve the action style and again show old school and new school moves that works with the theme of the movie.  Those looking for comedy though are going to get their wish as well, for the laughs are trained into the scenes, with most coming off natural and seldom too forced for me.  If you like the banter, it’s got the banter.  You want slapstick and insults?  You get the same spiteful blows that two brothers can share with each other.  Want to try something new and modernize comedy?  Mission accomplished on this as well.  Bad Boys 3 is all about bringing these styles and mixing them together and the chemistry of Lawrence and Smith is the thing to tether everything together.  Strong brotherhood, natural reactions to each other, and the practiced talent they have continues to shine through this film and really bring everything home. 

 

Still, the movie is not shy of a few limitations for this reviewer that took away from the experience.  One is that the film is predictable, a combination of trailer syndrome, foreshadowing with lines, and me seeing too many movies, these moments all predict most of the film’s surprises.  A few twists manage to sneak in, but I can’t say they were my favorite and given the soap opera themes that go with it.  I wish they had gone another route, but points for originality and I can’t say much more.  I’ll say there were times that the action got a little too ridiculous for me, more so in that they were very choreographed stunts, or drawn out effects that took away from the fluidity.  In addition, some of the fights sort of stopped quickly, and I missed the drawn-out fights that the past decades perfected long ago.  The same can be said for a few comedic moments, which like the action, starts to hit its stride and then petered out too soon, though there are so many laughs in store it’s not as prominent.  Finally, the movie’s antagonist, or at least one of them, is only okay.  So much potential shown only to be diluted for another story development, this antagonist really could have been something more as well if they had learned to balance the two primary antagonists together.  I guess given the difficulty to juggle everything, it had to take a hit, but again there are elements to cushion this blow as well.  Sure there is some cursing that gets me and a few times the jokes go a little long, but the truth is that the movie manages to help make up these limitations with how much fun it is.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            How can this movie live up to the legacy before it?  Truth is… it really can’t, but to go so long and be this put together, I give it applause.  Bad Boys For Life is a lot of fun, and full of the rush we fell in love with a long time ago.  It brings the past and present together in a manner that should help rope fans in, while never losing sight of the goals and story it set forth.  Good use of characters, balancing the comedy with a special effects ridden action set, and tying everything together with that champion acting leads to one of the best reboots I’ve seen in a while.  Yes, it still has some balance issues that have not been perfected, primarily in getting the right time for some action moments, some comedy elements more fine tuning, and most importantly working out their bad guys a little more.  Still, this is one for the theaters for me and I encourage most to pay the trip to enjoy it in surround sound.  From all this my scores are:

 

Action/Comedy/Crime:  8.5

Movie Overall: 7.5

Is This Movie Boss?

Like a Boss Poster

 

The realm of comedy is interesting these days, as the genre has opened up avenues that have expanded the variety of styles available. With subgenre classes like stoner, dark, slapstick, classy, and more, the movies falling in this realm are enjoyed by the a wide variety of people.  However, as the studios continue to churn them out, the quality starts to waiver and the audience making a big impact as to how it will succeed.  Tonight, another one of these films comes on stage in hopes of making a lasting impact on the world.  Will it succeed?  As always I’m happy to share my opinions on this matter as I review:

 

Movie:  Like a Boss (2019)

Director:

Miguel Arteta

Writers:

Sam Pitman (screenplay by), Adam Cole-Kelly(screenplay by)

Stars:

Rose ByrneTiffany HaddishSalma Hayek

 

 

LIKES:

  • Short Run Time
  • Comedic Gold At Times
  • Great Chemistry Between Cast
  • Nifty Ideas
  • Good Morals
  • Billy Porter

 

DISLIKES:

  • Predictable Story
  • Surprisingly feels slow
  • Sometimes Too Much Comedic Insight
  • Joke Barrage
  • Some of the Language
  • The Pointless Side Stories/Characters
  • Antagonists And Stupidly Accepting Them
  • Time Skips that did not make sense
  • Nearly Half the Movie Ruined By Trailers

 

 

SUMMARY:

When looking at the trailers, it’s hard to expect the movie will have anything more than what is presented and in this case Like a Boss fits that cut pretty well.  The first like of mine is the short run time, because of all the things I’m about to mention, it’s nice to have it compressed into 90 minutes, but I’m getting ahead of myself.  Like many movies, Like a Boss is able to strike oil in the comedy realm, hitting those fantastic and unique lines that had me bursting out laughing several times.  This dialogue is brought forth by a fantastic chemistry between the two leads with Byrne and Haddish having that sister like buddy comedy style that works on so many levels.  They complement each other through the movie, the styles like yin and yang bringing a balance that I believe will please the fans of their styles.  Hayek does well too, but based on the direction her integration is not quite the buddy duo that the stars have, so I can’t integrate her into the mix. Nevertheless, the movie has a few other nifty ideas in store, this time using makeup as the canvas to get some creative comedy, merchandising, and potential inspiration to entrepreneurs everywhere. And to my surprise, the movie shows the beauty of human character beneath the shallow comedy styles, with a few good (and relevant) morals that I believe the target audience can always use a reminder on.  These heartwarming moments not only ground the story, but somehow add that layer of character interest I strive to see.  My favorite aspect though is Porter, who somehow has the comedy, the sass, and the heart all wrapped up into one supporting character.  I really wished they had used him more, but some of my favorite moments came from the secondary character whose imagination and heart outshone most of the rest of the movie.

 

But that’s where most of my likes stop and my personal dislikes start to take over, because seldom is a movie perfect in terms of film overall.  No surprise, the movie is predictable, with the traditional friendship vs. business motif being the star and all the awkward comedy to follow.  It’s predictable flow leads to you hoping for some fun sequences to help add diversity, but it missed it’s mark for most of the time and surprisingly made the film feel slow.  It’s pacing is uneven and that leads to things sort of going in peaks and troughs that are okay at best.  For the highlights, they often involve a lot of comedy stuffed into a short time frame with a joke barrage hitting you that is all about how ridiculous or out of touch awkward our characters are.  Other times it’s clever, but sort of steps over the line between funny and obnoxious that it’s more uncomfortable than fun for me.  Fans know that when it comes to language I’m not the biggest on straight up slang or cursing, and while this movie is better than others, the sexual descriptions are still a little too centered for my tastes.

In regards to the last three points though, well these are the elements that made the limited foundation resulting in the unbalanced movie.  For one thing the side characters and stories are almost not needed. Reduced to one the two lines or a small sequence that is dropped, the opening arc with the supporting friends and moral questions is easily dropped for the comedy antics.  Throw in some other build ups and mentions occurring through the movie and you find the typical approach of trying to fluff characters but not give enriching profiles to cast at hand.  It’s half-finished story telling that drops the potential of these characters, even the antagonist, who could have potentially had some more things to uncover.  The antagonists in addition are incredibly shallow, gross examples of weak characters, only designed to instill hate the way modern movies do.  While the characters achieve this, it’s the stupidity of most other characters accepting these gross flaws that turns me away from the characters, hoping that someone will finally turn the switch off.  Throw in these odd time skips of weeks to a month at a time, where background details are lost, and time starts to not make sense anymore.  I believe this is why I felt the movie seemed to drag was this ignoring of the time and sort of shoving everything together at once.  Finally, nearly half of the movie has been beaten to death in the trailers and to me that adds to the predictability and staleness of the film.  One maybe two trailers should be able to give enough without ruining the movie, but in this case Like a Boss has mapped out most of the tale, and the scenes that try to support it are limited at best, such as one karaoke scene.

 

The VERDICT:

    Comedy is tough in this age of politics and changing acceptance of rude vs. crude, and Like A Boss tries to succeed in finding the balance.  The actors chemistry, alongside some fun writing moments and good morals are the selling points for this film, with fans of Haddish and Byrne comedy being the target audience to see this work.  However, this girl’s night out flick, as described in the trailers is still missing the balance and art that other comedies have achieved.  It’s catered to the modern attention span and presentation and while it works, it’s not something that has to be seen in theaters.  I encourage this one for a home viewing or group night out to get your bang for your buck, but the potential for these two I look forward to seeing with some more complete writing in the future. 

 

My scores are:

            Comedy:  6.0-6.5

            Movie Overall:  5.0

 

Do You Come To Play In This Film?

Playmobil: The Movie Poster

 

The Lego Movie shattered the expectations of toy-based movies with a dynamic story, great comedy, decent sequences of actions, and a balance of kids to adult audiences.  While the sequels that followed took stride in their own remark, the first one really opened our eyes to quality kids animation.  Enter tonight’s movie, in the form of Playmobile, a similar design to the classic pegs, but with a little more movement and cost-effective price to appease the younger crowd.  Tonight’s movie offers the same sort of approach, hoping to get the animated holiday feature in before Oscar season swoops in.  What is the verdict?  Robbie K coming in, to give you insight into the next movie and determine if it’s worth a trip to the theater.

 

Movie:  Playmobil: The Movie (2019)

 

Director:

Lino DiSalvo

Writers:

Blaise Hemingway (screenplay by), Greg Erb (screenplay by)

Stars:

Anya Taylor-JoyGabriel BatemanJim Gaffigan

 

 

LIKES:

 

Animation Is Decent

Cute

Heartwarming Story

Short Run Time

Fun Music

 

DISLIKES:

 

Acting Is Mixed

Predictable and Linear

Jokes Sort Of Forced Into The Movie

Action Is Rather Dull

Music Numbers Are Sometime forced

Lame Villain For Me

Not As Well Balanced

 

SUMMARY:

 

Like many animated movies, Playmobil is very nicely designed to bring the family fun atmosphere to the forefront of the show.  Smooth movement, cute design, and nod back to the days of creating worlds with the simple figure, this movie manages to bring imagination back on the big screen.  Like many of my fellow reviewers have stated, this film is certainly cute, with the short run time of about 80 minutes (not counting credits) being focused on heartwarming, moral filled lessons in a nice dynamic package. It’s a great lesson for the ideal audience of kids, which should bring smiles to the young faces and the parents that accompany them.  Finally, like most kids films, Playmobil is ready to pump the speakers up with original music, that is toe tapping selection of catchy tunes about the morals we need in our lives.

 

Yet the other side of the coins have valid points for me in regards to this film, especially when one sees what was accomplished in other animation films.  For one thing the voice acting is okay, which can either be due to performance or direction of the character.  Anya Taylor-Joy does a decent job, and young actor Gabriel Bateman accomplishes the vulnerable child in over his head role well as he starts discovering himself.  My champions are Gaffigan and Daniel Radcliffe whose characters are probably the most engaging of the supporting characters and bringing the dynamic cast to a rather one-note movie.  Unlike other films, the movie falls short of the dynamic storytelling that other company productions have excelled in.  It’s plot is thin and very predictable, a linear tale with few bumps or surprises to amazing and wow as the writing continues to favor the younger generations filled with jokes and preachy speeches crammed on in.  Sure the humor is cute, but the movie needed better balance for this reviewer and working on making a more exciting tale that utilized the humor and lessons as a supporting role instead of the central pillar.  The action scenes are rather limited, mostly due to the G rating, but also because the villain is another example of a grandiose, pompous, speech expert who does little else.  Because of these two factors, alongside the linear telling, just results in a bland adventure that might not be as entertaining to the older crowd, which is a shame given what they can do in these movies.

 

 

The VERDICT:

 

Playmobil is not an awful movies, it just doesn’t have the same balance or execution that the Lego movie, or other films for kids have been able to pull off.  Certainly, the animation, story, and cute atmosphere will certainly impress the target audience of youngsters.  Sadly, the fact that the film struggles to find balance in the presentation to the audience with its predictable, G rate film is going to be the biggest obstacle to see this movie.  With a feel much more fitting of a Nick Jr. or Playhouse Disney feel, Playmobil is much better suited to a home viewing where the little ones can corral into the living room and watch it for the short run time.  Overall, the movie will deliver to the young generation, but given Frozen is out, Spy in Disguise is on its way, and Star Wars, this film is going to be out of the theater quickly unfortunately.  Therefore, my scores are:

 

Animation/Adventure/Comedy:   6.5

Movie Overall:  5.0

 

Unsheathing the Comedy And Drama, Knives Out’s Tale Is Sharp!

Knives Out Poster

Mystery movies can certainly be fun, but the refined art of mapping out a crime can be a challenge in this world with ever shrinking attention spans.  However, there are still writers and directors out there ready to give it a try in hopes of bringing thought out plots back into the popular trend.  Tonight’s review holds such a promise and even more so it holds another redeeming trial for a director whose involvement in Star Wars was not the best received.  With lots of advertising, I’m sure you have seen the trailers so let’s get going as I review:

 

Film: Knives Out (2019)

 

Director:

Rian Johnson

Writer:

Rian Johnson

Stars:

Daniel CraigChris EvansAna de Armas

 

 

LIKES:

  • Acting
  • The Cinematography
  • The Plot Is A Good Mystery
  • Better Twists Than Anticipated
  • Involvement With Most Of The Cast
  • The Comedy

 

DISLIKES:

  • Some rather worthless characters
  • The Run Time
  • The Pace
  • Perhaps A Little More Murder

 

The VERDICT:

With an assembled cast such as this, you can best bet the acting will be at least moderate, and for me it was a fantastic display of work.  All parties assembled really play the dysfunctional role well, portraying the motive filled shouts and complaints to an art that did not annoy or go overboard.  Too many names to place, I’ll say that Craig was entertaining in his role of Colonel Saunders (a running joke) meeting James Bond as the detective, primarily in his interactions with Marta.  Ana de Armas was the star for me not only because of her character, but more so in the way she played the levels of emotion perfectly and interacted with the squad the most to balance this art.  Past the acting, the movie really picks up in terms of the visual presentation, feeling much like a detective movie from the 50s-80s, but modernizing it to the present day.  It should captivate many mystery lovers, but more so generic fans who can point out a lot of devices and nods to famous detective sagas.  However, the movie’s main selling point is the presentation of the story that let’s face it has been told time and time again in a Hallmark like fashion.  Johnson, for me, accomplished the role of bringing out a good mystery, not only in the classic hunt for clues and mapping out suspects, but adding some nice twists to the mix.  If you are paying attention to time and some info, you’ll start getting an idea, but this film’s twists (no matter how convoluted) do manage to spruce up the dusty manor of detective works.  An even better angle for me, is the character utilization, while not perfect, every character has a purpose in some form or angle, with few sitting off to the sides as just mere bodies to fill a convenient hole or bridge.  If not for the sake of the plot, then the character was used for comedy and that may be my favorite part of this movie.  Knives Out manages to be very humorous in the regards of the comedy aspect, with well written dialogue, delivery of those lines, and timing wrapping up nicely to leave many laughing during my showing.  That I feel will be a pull for many audience members, though don’t expect usual slapstick, banter, and ridiculous, logic defying stunts to be pulled here, or you’ll be disappointed.

 

For such an artistic film though, there are still a few things I would have liked tightened up.  Though all characters were utilized in some form, I can’t lie at least three could have had more involvement than what they did.  Hinting at being a part of the plot, these characters were left to the passing comments or joke props until that one moment a clue contributed.  That family engagement they sold in the trailers, needed some more development for me to keep everyone entangled in the mess as opposed to on the side.  In addition, the plot could have used a little more murder and threats to help spice up the drama/mystery, as I am partial to the deadly games of hunting in my movies, than anything else.  For a movie selling that murder, I had kind of expected something else, but it’s a mere trinket.  I can say the thing I had the hardest time with was the run time and the pace.  Knowing it’s a Johnson movie, I expect it to be long, and for the most part the movie ran at a good enough pace that it did not feel super long, but other times did show the dragging I dreaded.  I can say that there were parts that could have been cut out to shorten the length, or at least rewritten to include the character interaction I mentioned above.

 

So in conclusion, what are the thoughts on this controversial movie/tale.  To be honest, I do think it is a reimagining of Clue, and took a step into the modern world to help reach out to the new audiences.  It’s got the presentation of a mystery, with twists to help bring our well-acted characters together and entertain us with their drama. Comedy is also pulled out of the sheath and I think these two elements are the biggest selling factors to brave the nearly 2.5 hour run time Johnson has put forth.  As such, I feel this movie is worth a shot at hitting the theaters for those looking for a drama/mystery/comedy, while others will most likely enjoy from the comfort of their homes.

 

My scores for Knives Out are:

 

Comedy/Crime/Drama:   9.0

Movie Overall:  8.0

The Movie Storm Is Strong In Showmanship, But Brittle In Storytelling

          Frozen II Poster

 

Years ago, Disney unleashed a movie that stormed its way across the theaters and bringing with it a blizzard of merchandising in the form of Frozen. This empire would span across the years, allowing Anna and Elsa to find their way into many avenues, including the shorts that were mixed in reception.  While a little overrated in regards to avenues, the movie proved a soundtrack could flourish when putting just the right touches to it.  After reading the bridging book and seeing the trailers, the inevitable Frozen II looked to be promising for breaking away from the song and dance, love musical and push towards a more fantasy lore, a direction I so looked forward to it.  Robbie K is back to give you another look at the movies, and help guide your movie going preferences. So let’s get cracking at:

 

Movie:

 

Frozen II (2019)

 

Directors:

Chris BuckJennifer Lee

Writers:

Jennifer Lee (screenplay by), Jennifer Lee (story by)

Stars:

Kristen BellIdina MenzelJosh Gad

 

LIKES:

  • Voice Acting/Vocals
  • World Design
  • Pace Moves
  • Beautiful Animation
  • Touching At Times
  • Olaf’s comedy at times

 

DISLiKES:

  • Predictable (majorly)
  • Spirit design/usage
  • The Story Is Weaker
  • Under Utilized Characters… majorly
  • The Twist
  • The Lack Of Impasse
  • The Preachiness/Politics
  • The Overdone Humor
  • The Forced Singing… again

 

SUMMARY:

Animated movies rely on the art of voice work, and for a Disney animated film that often requires the ability to sing as well.  Fortunately, the cast is able to bring both in a variety of styles to bring the atmosphere of Frozen back in full form Menzel’s ability to blow us a way with bellows was mesmerizing and certainly my favorite of the songs in terms of style and storytelling, while Bell’s work leaned more towards the regular conversations and bringing emotional punches.  The chemistry between them is certainly decent, and the bonding of sisterhood comes out with every performance.  As for Gad, well he reprises his goofy side kick role with that childlike voice that works so well for the naïve collection of ice crystals, sticks, and coal.  Past the voice acting though, Frozen II is a beautiful display of animation pushing the boundaries, bringing more realistic edges, the contrasting colors to add spice, and fluid movements that continue to bring the magic of these movies.  It’s a stunning display of time commitment to details, bringing nature and Nordic culture to new levels and yet wishing you could make that light show come to life.

Moving past the vocals and animation though, the movie’s content continues to be awesome depending on who you are and what you are looking for.  For parents and guys like me, the pace moves better than the first in terms of getting the plot moving and keeping the adventure spirit alive.  Kids should like the fact of not diving too big into the details of fantasy, while adults can take a breath in not getting stuck in a drawn-out film that is boring.  In regards to an older audience, Frozen II continues to find moments to be touching, still kicking to its roots of promoting Princess power and sisterhood, and finding other avenues to pull at heart strings in a better way than the first film.  There were scenes that gave me goosebumps and that’s powerful in my book.  Finally, the silliness of the franchise is still ready to come out and entertain both groups, primarily in Olaf who has matured into new avenues of comedy that are charming, funny, and somehow innocent all at the same time.  A step up from the last film, the loveable snow man serves as comedic relief and supporting actor, a nice job as always.

 

Now comes the things I feel the movie took hits on in terms of quality. In regards to the design elements the movie does not have many flaws with only one maybe two things that could have used some updating.  Mainly, the spirit design was what got me, a potential to really unleash some Nordic creativity and make some truly wicked designs.  Two of these succeeded for me, one was cute and a nice change, and one, the wind spirit, failed to impress me.  I understand the elements they used it for, but it missed the mark in terms of creativity and ingenuity compared to its fellow spirits.

Plot wise however, the movie starts fizzling out and showing Disney’s vulnerabilities sometimes in their creations.  For one thing this is one of those films that is super predictable.  Within the first 10-15 minutes of the film, many of the story elements had been super foreshadowed and it did not get better from there as one predicted just about everything by midway.  Combine this with the pacing, and well you start seeing the weaker story that like first freeze is shaky in terms of supportParts of this are at fault for the poor character usage, as both old and new characters are tossed to the backburner in favor of the dynamic sister duo and their frozen side kick.  Fans of Sphen and Christoph, or looking for new characters to really be involved need to tone down the expectations now, for they have become diluted in this installment and are there to serve only small plot advancements or comedic sticks. The twist that comes at the end, well it was not much of a twist if you are paying attention, and instead one of those plot devices there to be inspiring to a key demographic, in that oh so preachy, political way that modern story telling loves to go.  If you were a fan of the first movie’s presentation, then you will love this one, but for those like me looking for balance, head in with a grain of salt to help stomach the very dramatic moments.  Something else for this reviewer is that impasses are also very brittle, with much of the conflict very shallow, one-sided and quickly resolved without much of a challenge.  If you remember the first one where things got pretty tense, where hunting, deceit and manipulation danced with our characters to cause deeper dives into the character psyche was very memorable.  This one tried to go a little more adventure like, but those moments blew over in minutes and seemed simplified which was disappointing for me.

I think the biggest contributor to the weaker story is the fact of Disney’s focus in jamming humor and singing where it is not needed, or in the amounts they do it in.  Olaf’s humor may be cute at all points, but the gags start to get old when they are force in there, which are obvious at times.  That pales in comparison to the songs though, which once more are trying to get the soundtracks selling like last time.  The second go round has some more emotional songs that are less gimmicky, fun, and dorky, but the problem for me is the volume they come in.  Once more i found many of the tracks to be sort of random moments to sing about emotions, and even worse the fact that the plot seems built around the songs again.  Frozen II also lost points for me at not utilizing the awesome musical pieces they used in the trailer and blowing me away with the symphony work, though they redeem with the covers at the end.

 

The Verdict:

 

            With a movie like this that has been too blown up, the expectations are high to be just as good as the original.  Frozen II casts a magic spell that was incredible in regards to animation, utilizing the elements well, and really bringing the elements of the first movie back for fun and trying to evolve on them.  It moves well, has humor that lightens up the mood, and yet very touching at others with its inspirational moments.  The movie certainly feels like a slightly beefed up version of the first  in terms of gimmicks of presentation of non-story elements, which in this day and age is often more important.  Yet, the story feels very deprived of the richness the book promised, not utilizing its characters well, getting a bit preachy at the end, and for me forcing songs in again rather than finding that balance.  When looking at this for recommendations… it works for a theater visit for many reasons and I really think fans of the first one will be spelled by the things its brings.  However, the sequel needs some tinkering for me to be the next best Disney film, and hope it’s not as overrated as the first one. 

Also stick around as there is a post credits scene following the covers at the end of the credits

My scores are:

 

Animation/Adventure/Comedy:  7.5

Movie Overall:  6.5-7.0