[REVIEW] The Addams Family 2 or The Bland-dams Family

It’s always disappointing as a critic when you recommend a film and then the sequels don’t live up to the original film. I feel like saying ‘I was pulling for you!’. This year it happened with Bigfoot Family which was a lame follow-up to the surprise The Son of Bigfoot.  Now it has happened again with The Addams Family 2 which is a sequel to the first The Addams Family, which I actually enjoyed back in 2019.

The reason I liked the original The Addams Family is it kept me laughing throughout. I also felt the animation did a good job capturing the spirit of the Addams characters with a tremendous voice cast.

Unfortunately this sequel does nothing to improve upon the original (which wasn’t perfect despite my recommendation) and fails to provide the laughs needed to enjoy the film. They try but most of the jokes feel repetitive and lacking in any creativity. It all felt very bland.

Watch “The Addams Family 2” Full Movie: How to Watch “Addams Family 2021” Online Streaming at Home?

We still have the great voice cast with Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron, Chloe Grace Moretz, Bette Middler and more. The problem is they are trapped in a boring road trip movie with the overprotective father Gomez fixating on his rebellious daughter Wednesday. You have Bill Hader as Cyrus Strange who is a decent villain but it all feels like the same movie we just saw in Hotel Transylvania with Drac and Mavis or even Tim and Tabitha in the most recent The Boss Baby 2.

There’s nothing harmful about The Addams Family 2 but there are so many better animated films your kids will enjoy more and that you can watch as a family. I would honestly recommend the recent Paw Patrol: The Movie more or My Little Pony: A New Generation. Both of those films were much better as far as story, heart, and creativity. If you want to watch an Addams Family movie watch the films from the live action films from the 90s or the original from 2019. That will give you a much better experience than this bland laugh-less sequel.

3 out of 10

Frown Worthy

[REVIEW] ‘VIVO’ or Play That Guitar Kinkajou

For musical fans like myself 2021 has been a very exciting year. It’s like people finished 2020 and decided to sing! We’ve had everything from In the Heights in the theater to Schmigadoon on streaming. Now we have our first animated musical of the year in Vivo and it’s maybe not the top-tier film I hoped it would be but it’s still entertaining with some beautiful animation and music.

Vivo features the music of Lin-Manuel Miranda and is another solid offering from Sony Pictures Animation (the weakest was Wish Dragon which I found a little dull but still a great year for the studio). It’s also been a busy year for Miranda with this, In the Heights and Encanto coming up. I love that Miranda has embraced animation so fully since Moana and that studios are putting out diverse films that introduce children to different music and cultures.

The music for Vivo comes from the streets of Havana and in particular a kinkajou named Vivo. He loves performing with his owner Andrés in the town square. However, one day tragedy strikes and Vivo has to take a letter to Andrés’ love Marta who lives in Miami, Florida. All of the Vivo aspects worked well with outstanding animation and catchy music.

Sony Pictures Animation has once again shown their master skill at combining 2D and CGI animation in new and inventive ways. I loved in Vivo how the backgrounds moved and flowed and the characters burst forward out of the screen. I wish I could find an image to show you how great the animation looks in these sequences.

The downside to the movie is Vivo meets a little girl named Gabi who helps him on his journey to Miami. While she had her cute moments, I found her to be mostly pretty grating. I also don’t think she was needed. The story would have been perfectly sweet with just Vivo trying to help out his friend Andrés. Maybe give him another animal friend like a bird or a fish? That’s how I would have gone.

That said, there’s still a lot to like in this film and families will have a good time watching it together on Netflix. It’s got a sweet message about friendship and loyalty while celebrating Cuban culture with energy and pizazz. The good certainly outweighs any negative.

7 out of 10

[REVIEW] ‘The Boss Baby: Family Business’ or What Did I Just Watch?

Believe it or not there was a time when DreamWorks Animation was a prestige studio making gorgeous masterpieces like The Prince of Egypt and How to Train Your Dragon.

And now we have this…

How far DreamWorks has sunk. I didn’t understand the appeal of the first The Boss Baby film but now a sequel so obviously devoid of ideas it makes me both irritated and upset.

But hold on. Let me calm down so we can talk about the positives of The Boss Baby: Family Business…there are a few. First, I wish the movie had abandoned the baby nonsense and been about young Tabitha trying to fit in at the gifted and talented school. Those scenes were good and her character was compelling. I especially liked a musical dance sequence to Cat Stevens ‘If You Want to Sing Out’. It is unquestionably the highlight of the film.

The animation is also well done with some nice uses of 2D in dream sequences and the score by Hans Zimmer works well for the story.

And then there is all the baby nonsense with Ted (Alec Baldwin) and Tim (James Marsden replacing Tobey Maguire) all grown up getting turned back into babies to help the new boss Baby Tina (Amy Sedaris) defeat Jeff Goldblum baby from taking over the world.

To say I dislike this baby world and story would be an understatement. Evidently it appeals to others but not me. I hate the design of the characters especially the adults with the bulbous heads and giant eyes. I hate the story with the brothers fighting and then being turned back into babies. Groan.

Most of all I hate the humor. It’s for the most part crass, unappealing and lazy. For example, there’s a scene in this movie that has the 2 adult babies fighting and pulling each other’s nipples while ‘Time Warp’ from The Rocky Horror Picture Show accompanies them. You know for kids…

And there are so many jokes only adults will understand like references to Shawshank Redemption and other R rated films into the script. I can laugh at puerile humor when done well but this was so bland and didn’t get a chuckle out of me. If you liked the first one maybe you’ll enjoy this more than I did. I really can’t say but it is at best lukewarm versions of old jokes.

Watching The Boss Baby: Family Business was one of those moments where I think to myself ‘what am I doing with my life watching this?”. There is so much quality entertainment right now for kids that don’t waste your time with this terrible film (except for Tabitha. That was good)

3 out of 10

Frown Worthy

The Boss Baby: Family Business will be available in theaters and on Peacock July 2nd

[REVIEW] ‘Spirit Untamed’: For Little Girls Who Like Horses

In my career as a critic some movies presented before me are complex and challenging with different layers of meaning. Others are not. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. I believe there can be value in knowing what you are and executing it well. I enjoy simple well done Hallmark movies for example. The new film from DreamWorks Animation entitled Spirit Untamed is such a film. It is made for little girls who love horses and want to watch an adventure. On that level it succeeds and is an animated adventure.

This somewhat vanilla film may be disappointing to those of us who love the original Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. It was a film that took real risks in its storytelling combined with some of the most beautiful animation DreamWorks has ever produced. If you would like to hear me talk more about the original film my friend Stanford and I covered it last year for Obscure Animation:

Unfortunately DreamWorks has moved on from the original film and created a series called Spirit Riding Free, which I admit I have never seen an episode. This new movie, Spirit Untamed,is a spin off of that show, which given it has 12 seasons has its audience. That’s who this movie is made for.

The story of Spirit Untamed follows a young girl named Lucky who is moving to a frontier town and meets a wild mustang named Spirit while on the train. Her Mother road horses and Lucky dreams of doing the same. When Spirit is caught by ne’re do wells Lucky and her friends, the PALS, go on an adventure to rescue all the horses taken.

If you are wondering why this needed to get a theatrical release I would agree with you. On the story and animation quality it feels more like a direct to streaming feature. However, that doesn’t mean it is bad. It’s perfectly serviceable little movie. I just don’t know if I would pay the big prices at the theater for it. I would probably wait for its inevitable Netflix release along with the series.

It does have a more star-studded voice cast than the series (which again I’ve never seen). This features Jake Gyllenhaal as Lucky’s Dad and Julianne Moore, WalterGoggins and Andre Braugher. I don’t know that I needed these stars for the film but I guess they give it a little more gravitas as a theatrically released film.

I also appreciate the diversity in the film. Almost all young girls should be able to find someone to relate with amongst the PAL characters. The horses are also very beautiful although not nearly as beautiful as the original film. It does have a really nice message about never giving up, connecting with our ancestors, working together and being brave when things are challenging.

In the end, ones enjoyment of Spirit Untamed comes along with your expectations. If you are wanting something along the lines of the original you will be disappointed. If you want something cute for little girls who like horses you’ll enjoy it. It will win the heart of all who love horses.

I also appreciate Spirit Untamed has a female director Elaine Bogan. I hope we keep seeing more female directors in animation (something DreamWorks has been above the curve on with directors like Brenda Chapman and Jennifer Yuh Nelson)

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

[REVIEW] ‘The Mitchells vs the Machines’ Vacation Meets the End of the World

It’s funny to think not that long ago Sony Pictures Animation was the bottom of the animation totem pole. With the release of The Emoji Movie in 2017 they hit their proverbial low point and since then it’s been all uphill from there! The smartest choice they made was to hitch their wagon to producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller who had worked with them previously in the Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs films.

Then just a year later they produced (and Phil Lord wrote) the groundbreaking film Spider-man: Into the Spiderverse which blew me away and won the Academy Award for Best Best Animated Feature of 2018! What a turnaround!

Now Lord and Miller are back producing with Sony a film that was supposed to go to theaters in 2020 the family dramedy adventure The Mitchells vs the Machines and even though it is going to Netflix it is a gem and you don’t want to miss it.

I loved this film so much that I immediately bought the art book (ad) after watching it. It is such a special movie the whole family will love, and I will be shocked if it isn’t in my top 10 of 2021.

The Mitchells vs the Machines (formerly titled Connected) tells the story of the Mitchell family who are struggling to accept change as the oldest daughter Katie (Abbie Jacobson) is going off to college. She has always dreamed of going to film school and after getting into the school she most wanted to attend she is ready to ditch her family and move on. This is particularly tough for her Dad (Danny McBride) who decides to make a family trip of the event so he can spend a few more weeks with his daughter (much to her chagrin). The only problem is the cell phones revolt and the robots turn on the humans. All mayhem results.

On the surface family shenanigans can dip into sitcom territory rather quickly. However, here the characters are so charming including Mom (Maya Rudolph) and brother Aaron (Mike Rianda) who I loved so much. Even the dog Monchi is hilarious along with the 2 adopted robot Mitchell family members. The script is so good. It’s funny, sweet, heartfelt and surprising. Obviously we know the Mitchells will win but the journey is such a fun ride (forgive the pun).

One of my favorite parts of the script is the whole family learns and grows and forgives each other. I finished watching the movie thinking ‘who couldn’t relate to this film?’. I certainly could. I especially related to Katie because there was nothing I wanted more than to get out of my house when I was 17 and ready to go to college. My Mother had just had a baby and I wanted out of there!

I could also relate to all the trips we used to take with my Dad getting so excited about rocks and the rest of us thinking he was nuts LOL. That’s the dynamic here in The Mitchells vs the Machines. Again, who can’t relate to that?

The script isn’t the only strength to The Mitchells vs the Machines. The animation is absolutely spectacular. If you liked the hybrid CGI/2D feel of Spider-verse you’ll love the animation here. It’s obviously a little more grounded in style but the way it uses color and movement is brilliant. Like I said, I bought the art book after seeing it and I’m dying to learn more about how they created the stunning animation.

Most importantly The Mitchells vs the Machines is charming. The characters are great. The story is great. The music and animation are great. I loved it and I hope you will too. It’s funny and about the American family. I hope we get a whole series with the next film a story from Aaron’s perspective. Please more from the Mitchells!

9 out of 10

Smile Worthy