[REVIEW] Arlo the Alligator Boy

One of the great things happening over at Netflix is the fostering of new and innovative animated talent. Whether it is I Lost My Body, Klaus or Over the Moon creative men and women are being given a place to explore and make beautiful films. The latest entry is basically a pilot for a new animated TV series called Arlo the Alligator Boy made by first time director and animator Ryan Crego. Honestly story and pacing-wise the film is a mixed bag but as a pilot for a 20-episode series it establishes the characters enough to make me want to tune in; therefore, it does its job.

In this film we are introduced to an alligator that is anthropomorphic and talks like a human boy (hence the title). Much like in the movie Elf, Arlo finds out he has a father in New York City and decides to go there in order to find his father and figure out who he is.

Along the way Arlo meets up with a rag-tag group of friends who help him on his journey. There’s a tiger, a pom-pom girl, a dinosaur and more. The further Arlo goes the more wisdom he adds to his team much in the same way that Dorothy adds to her team in The Wizard of Oz.

The animation in Arlo is also a lot of fun with whimsical details and beautiful watercolor-inspired backgrounds. It reminded me style-wise of something like Steven Universe or even Hilda.

The music by Alex Geringas and Crego doesn’t always fit the vibe of the scenes but it is still good music and some of the musical sequences especially at the beginning are catchy. It feels like a show that could have quality songs like Elena of Avalor.

Where the movie loses me is when Arlo gets to NYC and there is a back and forth between him and his Dad. It felt really long, and I struggled to stay invested. The ending is very predictable and it just wasn’t engaging me the way I wanted it to.

However, despite some script problems, Arlo the Alligator Boy has a big heart, enchanting animation and is a good start to a 20 episode series. The whole family will love it.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

[REVIEW] ‘Kim’s Convenience’ So Good I Binged Watched 4 Seasons This Week

I am not a binge watcher. It is probably my least favorite way to consume content. However, every once in a while I find a show where I just can’t help myself. I enjoy it so much I have to devour it! The CBC show available on Netflix Kim’s Convenience is such a show. There are currently 4 seasons with 2 more coming, and I can’t recommend it more highly. It’s funny, sweet, authentic and just great.

Kim’s Convenience is about a Korean Canadian family that owns a convenience store in Toronto and is based on a play of the same name by show creator Ins Choi. I’d love to see the play someday because it creates a setting for the show that feels authentic and true (it reminded me of Lin Manuel’s similar set up with his In the Heights musical).

Paul Sun-Hyung leads the cast as the father or Appa of the Kim family and owner of the store. What I appreciated about his character is he is a funny loveable curmudgeon who is set in his ways, but he also is a flawed character that is estranged from his son. This makes him more than just the butt of jokes but someone we can relate with and become invested in his journey.

Jean Yoon is equally strong as the matriarch of the family. She is famous for her pokes when people are frustrating her and her sneak attacks when she wants to get her way. But again she’s not a cliche character because the separation of her family is quite devastating for her throughout the show. I loved her character so much.

All the characters are great. Andrea Bang as Janet is fantastic as the daughter of the family. Simu Liu (who is about to blow up in Marvel’s Shang-Chi) is wonderful as the estranged son Jung who is trying to rebuild his life after a rebellious youth. I absolutely loved his relationship with his boss Shannon played by Nicole Power. She’s just weird enough to be charming and funny.

The supporting cast is wonderful with people like Jung’s best friend and roommate Kimchee (Andrew Phung) and the whole cast at the car rental place Handy that Jung, Shannon and Kimchee work at. You could honestly have an entire show just at Handy.

I think what’s most important about Kim’s Convenience is the writing. There honestly isn’t a bad episode. It’s so funny and it creates a family I cared deeply about. Sure it pokes fun at Korean stereotypes but that’s not the main source of the humor. Mostly it is about relationships and everyday problems anyone from a family can relate with.

The entire cast has chemistry together and even small roles like Amanda Bruget as Pastor Nina are so well executed. With weaker writing such a role could have been a bland overbearing religious figure but she’s not. She’s funny, flawed yet sincere and that’s the way all the characters are.

I can’t recommend Kim’s Convenience highly enough. It goes along with the recent Ted Lasso as a fantastic comedy with a big heart. I adored it and can’t wait for 2 more seasons!

Have you seen Kim’s Convenience? What did you think of it? What other hidden gems are out there I might have missed?

9 out of 10

[REVIEW] BRIDGERTON: Netflix Meets Dishy Regency Romance Novel

It’s interesting one would think with a new  female led action film coming to HBO Max this weekend in Wonder Woman 84 (which I did marginally recommend) I would not be looking to Netflix for pleasurable entertainment. Alas that is the case and fortunately they provided with the dishy new series from producer Shonda Rhimes called Bridgerton.

Based on the romance novels by Julia Quinn Bridgerton is set in a fantasy version of Regency London.  As such it has no interest in the plight of the working class or the yorkshire schools. It’s not interested in diving into racism or class problems. Such issues are for other shows and series to tell. This show is made for one reason and one reason alone: to bring pleasure to to the viewers, mainly women.

For example, if a Black woman will get more pleasure out of seeing the handsome Duke of Hastings be a Black man (Regé-Jean Page) than that’s what they are going to do. This isn’t about realism or historical accuracy. It doesn’t waste time explaining casting choices or the setting (it might as well be on another planet and timetable). It’s about eroticism, lust and luxury, which all has to be hid under the “rules’ of the time. That’s very sexy and fun!

The only real look into darker themes is a brief scene where Lady Featherington (Polly Walker) takes her distant cousin Marina Thompson (Ruby Barker) to show her where the working class lives and her response is something to the effect of ‘why are you taking me to see these hard working pleasant people?” Indeed, why? Some may take this as a bad thing, but I find it very entertaining and a welcome escape after a hard year.

I think what makes it work is they go all the way. Any aspect they can make more dishy they do. They have a mysterious gossip paper writer voiced by Julie Andrews narrate the show. They have Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) who seems to be from a different era with the powdered wigs and structured dresses of the 18th century not the empire dresses and white gloves of the Regency Era with the rest of the characters. We also have classical music versions of modern songs from the likes of Ariana Grande, Maroon 5 and Taylor Swift.

If this sounds awful to you than you will hate it. If it sounds like trashy romance novel fun than you will love it! It definitely leans into all the tropes of romance novels including strong sexual content so if you aren’t comfortable with erotica don’t watch this show. It’s all part of the fantasy and the fun.

The main focus  is on the Bridgerton family of 8 children with eldest daughter Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor) leading the cast. Then we also get Lady Featherington and her 3 daughters including the delightful Penelope (Nicola Coughlan) that will be a treat for any plus size female viewers looking to dive into the story.

My only quibble is I’m not sure why they have Daphne have 3 brothers. I did not care about their stories near as much as the female characters. At the very least they could have been combined into a single brother to follow and that would have been much better.

Earlier this year we had the supposed modern take on Jane Austen’s unfinished novel Sanditon, which was a huge misfire. The attempts to combine camp and gritty realism did not work (especially the terrible ending!). With Bridgerton it’s like they took notes and corrected everything I disliked in the earlier show. Thank goodness! Sanditon apologized for being a Regency story. Bridgerton revels in it!

Throughout the 8 episodes we follow our characters through all the tropes of romance novels. We get a fake relationship, a problematic pregnancy, a scandalous gambler (rakes make better husbands as the series tells us), a marriage of convenience that grows into more, and I could keep going. There is even a dramatic duel over honor at one point!

Just as we are moving out of the purity of the Hallmark season (which also uses all the same tropes to their fullest effect) Bridgerton provides a tantalizing and delicious entry for romance fans everywhere. It is just what this queen ordered!

8.5 out of 10 (This show is a Mature Rating and has strong sensuality. Buyer beware!)