Movie 46: Chicken Little

chicken little

I couldn’t sleep last night and so I put on Chicken Little. I’d love to say that it gave me less nightmares but holy freaking “are you kidding me Disney?”

There is literally one thing I liked in this movie- Chicken Little is kind of a cute design.

ChickenLittle

I hate doing negative reviews.  I’m not trying to dog on films.  I have done my best to be positive but I didn’t like this movie at all.  It makes me want to go back and be nicer to The Aristocats…

Chicken Little is Disney’s first 3D completely computer animated film.  They were trying to compete with Pixar and Dreamworks (especially Dreamworks with this one).

And boy did it fail.  It is the lowest rated movie on rotten tomatoes in the entire Disney Canon.

The Story-

I don’t want this review to be super mean spirited but that would be appropriate given the tone of this movie.

Basically the story is Chicken Little see’s the sky is falling and he warns the town.  They panic (why would a town panic if a little kid said something like that. Is he like the Dali Lama of the town?  Why not just ignore the brat?).

Everyone hates him for getting them worked up including his father.  And this father is an awful character.  He hates his son.  That’s his complete purpose in the story- to be embarrassed and ashamed of his son and to communicate the shame quite clearly repeatedly.

dadHe is the villain of the movie but it doesn’t seem to get that.  I guess it thinks the aliens are the villain or maybe the town? I have no idea.  But the father is so terrible to his son.  He literally hangs his head in shame and tries to deny knowledge of said son in front of the the whole town!  Why doesn’t he ask one question of his son?  Maybe try to see why he persists with stories that are causing him such harm?  Surely there is a reason.

So Chicken (I guess that’s his first name) goes to school and hopes to please his father.  There we get introduced to his troop of loser friends.

Disney-Chicken-Little-FriendsThey all have names that are supposed to be funny if you are 5 like the fish out of water is named Fish Out of Water, or the duckling is named Ugly Duckling.  Or this is really funny the giant pig is named Runt of the Litter…  Ha, ha, ha, ha…

There’s also scenes where we see supposed ‘sight gags’.  This is a joke in the background which is meant to be subtly funny and they can be. The Simpsons uses them all the time (a theater sign or name of a store could be funny in the background) . In chicken Little they have a guy using a goat to clip his lawn.  Ha, ha, ha, ha.  That’s not funny.

Or we get a fish driving around in a fish car.

fish carWhat will he do to get out of the fish car?  Roger Ebert once said  ‘a car has never made a movie funny’ and that is so true.  Props of any kind are not inherently funny.  It’s what the comic or movie does with said prop that makes (or doesn’t make) the joke.  When it doesn’t work it is just confusing.  Why are they doing that?

So we get a long painful dodge ball scene and then Chicken decides to join the baseball team (and we haven’t had any reference to the sky falling for some time) because his father was the big hero.  He trains and the big game comes with every tired big game cliche ever included in a baseball movie.  It makes Casey at Bat from Make Mine Music look subtle… And yet everything had been so awful for the poor cluck I wanted him to have his moment.  But even that is ruined and made more an achievement of luck than any kind of real accomplishment from Chicken Little.

ChickenLittle baseball

The other thing I wonder about is why aren’t there any other chickens?  I mean I assume they are all vegetarians in this movie so why aren’t there lots of chickens and they are roughly around the same size.  Surely there would be other chicken close to CL’s size but wouldn’t that be a problem given his name is Chicken?

But I’m way overthinking this movie, way overthinking…

So CL is the hero after the game, even to his dear old Dad.  But then he see’s the sky falling again.  Turns out they are aliens who can replicate the earth with the tiles of their spaceship.  Should CL risk telling the town again after his new found fame?  Again, why does anyone care about this one little kid in their town?  I mean for a character who is repeatedly ignored at school, the adults sure care what he thinks and says.

But the people panic and come but the aliens are invisible again with the tiles so Dad is shamed again and everyone hates CL but his 3 friends. I mean the people in this town are really mean.   But the aliens have left a stowaway baby alien.  The alien design is pretty unique.. I will give it that.

alienSo then we get our 3rd part of the movie where everyone realizes CL was telling the truth but the aliens are attacking to get their baby back.  People get zapped, Dad and CL reconcile way too easily and it turns out the aliens aren’t really bad guys but just misunderstood cool dudes (groan…).  Plus, the music during this scene is REM’s ‘It’s the End of the World as We Know It’.  Is that supposed to be funny? Don’t get me wrong.  I love the song but I HATE IT when movies tell you how to feel and nothing does that more than that kind of music cue.

So now CL is the hero and the story is over.

Movie Review/Conclusion-

Want a point by point 17 minute rehashing of why this movie is an ‘animated atrocity’ check out this video from Animation Atrocities youtube series. 

.   Major language warning but he is right!

I might be willing to give this movie a pass as junk but it is so mean-spirited.   It will do nothing for your kids imagination or creativity.  The story is awful and it will make them fear being alone not standing up for yourself.  Basically CL only gets love once he is proven right.  That’s a great lesson for kids.  The Dad says he loves him regardless- hogwash.  Say that when you were hiding your face in shame as your son tried to defend himself.  It teaches the opposite of acceptance.  That people will be judgmental unless you are 100% perfect.

But all of that wouldn’t matter much if it was clever.  Instead it is so lazy and didn’t even make me laugh.  Not one time and believe me it tries A LOT!

Roger Ebert once said about a film  “this movie was not preferable to 1 hour and 45 minutes of looking at a blank wall” 

There you go.  That’s Chicken Little.  I would rather stare at a blank wall for 81 minutes.  In fact, I may go and do that for a bit.

Overall Grade- F  I’m calling it.  Worse than Dinosaur.  I agree with Rotten Tomatoes.  Worst movie in Canon. 

Oh and I almost forgot- there is an entire verse of a Spice Girls song sung by a character which I guess is supposed to be funny?  Just cringe inducing to me.

Oh and a strange reference to Indiana Jones at the beginning.  Why have one image of a human in the movie?  And Indiana Jones?  It doesn’t make sense.

 

indiana jones

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Movie 45: Home on the Range

posterGather round kids.  Let me tell you a tale of the fearsome outlaw who almost took down Sheriff Disney and his entire 2D team…

Yes that’s right.  It’s time to talk about Home on the Range.  The movie which for 5 years would be blamed for shutting down the Disney 2D hand drawn animation department.  Then Princess and the Frog came out and all was right again in the world…

So, is it worthy of the hate?  Pretty much yes.  I liked some of the animation and the music was entertaining but the rest was a mess.

Production- 

There is basically no production information out there on this movie and sorry guys I was not about to watch it twice with audio commentary…I love you but not that much.

So, instead of talking about the process and ideas let me just make a couple comments.

First, this movie cost $110 million dollars to make.  That seems impossible.  Where did the money go?  As a point of contrast in 2002 an underrated film, The Wild Thornberry’s Movie, came out (which I should have featured in my non-Disney animation I like).   That movie is set in Africa, has great music, a cast as well-known as Home on the Range and it cost 35 million.  I defy anyone to make the argument Wild Thornberry’s Movie looks nearly 3 times cheaper to make  than Home on the Range . Seriously what the heck Disney?

35 million

110 million?

But I’m not critiquing the budget.  It just makes a girl wonder.  Could this be like the ‘we know it is going to be terrible movie’ like in The Producers?  I mean watch the movie and tell me that is not a possibility.  In any case, I find it very hard to believe anyone was actually trying to make a good movie here.

The other production point I’d like to bring up is another example of the complete ineptitude of the MPAA.  Home on the Range gets a PG rating!  And you want to know why?  Because a line Roseann cow says about her utters being ‘real, don’t stare’.   That line is somehow worthy of a PG when burning a family alive in a house and singing about lust, rape and murder gets a G for Hunchback?  That makes no sense. A cows utters are more offensive to the MPAA than a family almost being burned alive! Let that sink in…

I can’t say it enough don’t listen to the ratings.  They are worthless! Do your research and decide for yourself if the movie is for you and your children.

It’s what you get from having an organization police and rate itself.  Unbelievable.

The only other production note is it looks a lot like Pecos Bill from Melody Time (1948) which I gave a B+ to and enjoy much more than this). I even wonder if they used some of the red rock backgrounds from Pecos Bill for this movie.  It wouldn’t be above the Disney team to do so.  They certainly didn’t improve upon 1948 imagery.

From Pecos Bill

Pecosbill

From Home on the Range.

Home-on-the-Range-3

The Story-

As I describe this story I want to remind you- this is the studio who made turning into a llama funny and endearing.  Good writing can make any story, no matter how formulaic or strange good.  Look at Babe, one of my favorite children’s films of all time.  It is about a barnyard in peril but it has such heart and the script is so well written.  Here we get nothing new except for a little yodeling.

animals-are-shockedBasically a cow voiced by Roseann Barr (yes you read right…who thought that was a good idea?)  is sold to The Patch O’Heaven farm where all animals are treated like the family.  She is an award winning cow who’s master has to sell her because his entire 500 cow fleet has been stolen.  She joins 2 other cows, one a cliche of new age niceness voiced by the always great Jennifer Tilly, and proper prim hat wearing Mrs Calloway voiced by Judi Dench (yes Dame Judi Dench is in this thing).  Wouldn’t it make more sense for the show cow to be voiced by the Brit?  Wouldn’t it make sense for the new girl to be all prim and proper?

cowsWell, the farm owner is Mrs Pearl and she is completely forgettable.  (Again think of Babe and how much you love Farmer Hoggett by the end of that movie…).  She is behind on her payments and the sheriff is going to auction off the property (how many times have we seen that plot?  The whole ‘we have to save the farm, or the orphanage or civic center etc’…snoozefest).

pearl

And if things are so bad why does Pearl have the money to buy a prize winning cow and couldn’t she sell it?  I get she has attachments to the other animals but she literally just got Maggie (Roseanne Cow).  That makes no sense.

But here I am trying to apply sense to a movie about cows saving the day (again can be done well, look at Babe).

There is a nice song sung by KD Lang about the farm.

homeontherange-03

So off our cows go to save the farm and they have an embarrassing scene in a saloon and then meet Buck a high dreaming horse who wants to be a sheriff (think of Maximus in Tangled.  He does the Sheriff horse thing so much better without saying one word).   Buck is voiced by Cuba Gooding Jr in an annoying performance, which is obviously trying to be Chris Rock in Madagascar and Eddie Murphy in Shrek and Mulan.  It fails.  Plus, he is in the movie kind of erratically.

At least to me, it is not funny to have a horse ninja chop a bunch of outlaws.  How would he even know how to do that? Why not have him be great with a gun? In a world where horses can fight that makes more sense or a lasso would have been cool.  Again Maximus is so much more subtle and funny.

And there is Rico who Buck wants to work with who is an obvious parody of Clint Eastwood but do the kids even know who that is or what it is paying homage too? I hope not because Clint Eastwood westerns are really violent and why not get Clint to do the voice?  That would have been entertaining to the adults at least.

Rico

He is in the movie sporadically also.  Not enough to understand what he is doing or care.  Think in the Jungle Book we get very little time with Kaaa but it is enough to find him chilling and to understand who he is as a character.

I will add there are also a lot of toddler level jokes which have also been done with a lot more humor and effect in other films.  Things like burping pigs aren’t funny to me…

animals
My thoughts exactly…

So, the cows get given to a Chinese man in a strange scene with subtitles and our villain finally comes named  Alameda Slim who is obese- how hilarious he’s named slim and is fat! Ha, ha, ha…that’s what goes as humor in this movie!

HOME ON THE RANGE, Wesley, Alameda Slim, 2004, (c) Walt DisneyHe is voiced by Randy Quaid and he has the most unusal super power I’ve ever heard of.  He can hypnotize cows with his magic yodeling… Again, anything can be good with good writing but this is pushing it.

He has hypnotized herds all over the valley and then when the ranches are destitute like Roseann Cow’s ranch he buys them at auction using the most obvious disguise I’ve ever seen.

In order to buy this scheme you would have to assume that every ranch hand is a complete moron.  Plus, cows are big and yet he has them all in a cave.  500 bovines in a cave…that is some cave.

That said, the yodel song was animated pretty well.  It’s a copy of Pink Elephants on Parade and Heffalumps and Woozles but since that was a long time ago I’ll let it slide.

The music in general in the movie is pretty good.  Alan Menken did the melodies and then there are country/pop stars like KD Lang and Tim McGraw who sing.

I particularly liked Alan Menken’s Aaron Copelanish score.  That man can do anything

So basically the last half of Home on the Range is the cows chasing Slim around.  At one point they end up on a bad CGI train until they catch him, and spoiler alert win back the farm.  Oh and Rico is a double agent but we haven’t gotten to know him, so I really didn’t care.

Home-on-the-Range
I mean if this image looks like your cup of tea go for it

Movie Review/Conclusion-

home on the range 3
There is some nice southwest animation although the characters are rough to look at.

So, basically this one is a skip.  The humor is sophomoric and unoriginal.  The storyline is so predicable.  The yodeling was an interesting twist but aside from the one song nothing interesting is really done with it.

The backgrounds are pretty and I liked the music but that’s about it.  My advice get Melody TIme and watch Pecos Bill.  If you do, you will see Roy Rodgers and hear a Western Tale how it is supposed to be told.

Overall Grade- D-  (I give it a hair up on Brother Bear because at least I liked the music in this and I did think it was pretty at spots and thought the yodel song was marginally clever but they both suck)

Disney you are killing me here!!!! And just think this was the era of Pixar glory! The Incredibles came out this year for goodness sake! Sigh…

Movie 44: Brother Bear

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I’ll just give a warning before reading this review.  If you like Brother Bear you probably don’t want to read further because I did not.  It had such potential but everything about it was a failure.  So, if reading a review of someone who dislikes something you like is an unpleasant experience for you than STOP READING NOW!

Brother-bear-disneyscreencaps.com-8924

In 2003 I went on a mission for my church so for 2 years I didn’t see any movies and with new movies coming out when I came home I never really got to play catch up.  Sure I watched the 3rd Harry Potter movie, The Incredibles and Return of the King but that was about it in the 2003-2005 era.  If one had a bad reputation I skipped it and moved on.  Brother Bear was one of those films and I hate to say it but I’m glad I did.

I’m sorry guys but this movie stinks.

Literally every choice I would have advised them to reconsider.  Everything from the yogi bearish 2D characters on top of the deep canvas which looked strange, the odd voice cast, the underwhelming songs, the uber-predictable story,  the painful attempts at humor and the incredibly unlikable lead character made it a very unpleasant experience. Honestly I’m struggling to find anything I like about this one.

bears8
Just look at the way these characters look? It’s enough for me to know the movie is not for me. I would rather watch episodes of the Gummy Bears and notice our lead character scowling as he does the whole movie...

Unfortunately I’m not the most witty writer in the world (at least I can admit it unlike the writers of this movie…) but my friend over at Disney Movie Year wrote a very funny review of Brother Bear.  He liked it about as much I did…

https://disneymovieyear.wordpress.com/2014/09/29/week-44-brother-bear/

The Production-

It is obvious from the start of the movie Brother Bear tries to recycle themes, characters even whole scenes from Lion King, Pocahontas, Tarzan, Treasure Planet, and more.  One article I read (information was fairly sparse on this one) said

“Michael Eisner informed the animation department that he wanted a movie about bears. What about bears? The fact that they are readily marketable, in Stepakoff’s estimation. Various ideas were kicked around – “bear King Lear”, “bear Antigone”, none of which came to fruition, surprisingly.

I mean, by God, if “the CEO wants to sell teddy bears” isn’t going to inspire writers to do their best work, what on Earth possibly could? (http://antagonie.blogspot.com/2009/12/disney-animation-well-and-truly-im-on.html)

Well said but even a commercial cash grab can turn out interesting as Disney has proven many times (think Robin Hood) but the choices they made are so strange.

Movie Review/Conclusion

brother_bear_09-1
I wish I could get rid of the cartoonish bears and just look at pretty Alaska… I mean look at the bear with the bangs? It looks so strange

Everything in the movie looked odd to me.  The way the characters are designed on top of the Deep Canvas background always felt off.  Also the voice casting never seemed to fit.

The songs are super lame and who thinks ‘Intuit bear story’ and then ‘I’ll hire Tina Turner’?  I don’t get it?   That makes no sense?  There were so many strange choices like that.

The story is so predictable. Every time it took the obvious turn I groaned at the screen. And the sentimental moments are not earned by the characters.  I don’t believe the journey they are on or even understand why it is completely necessary.  I mean does every teenager who mouths off and acts in anger get turned into a bear in the world of this story?  Even if you accept his punishment, I saw no change or growth and the events on their road trip are so obvious and so predictable they bored me to the point I kept checking the time left on the netflix stream….It wouldn’t speed up but seemed to have a half an hour left for 3 hours….

Just bad choices all around.  The dialogue is awful.  The script feels childish and a lot of times we are introduced to characters and then we never hear form them again.  Something usually isn’t  funny if we have just met a character.  Honestly the script left me aghast at it’s stupidity.  I expect better from Disney! (No wonder this only has 32% on Rotten tomatoes…)

For example, there is a line in the movie where the two moose are playing ‘I spy’ and they go back and forth spying things and I kept waiting for the joke.  There was no joke!!  It was just a 2 minute bit of dialogue playing I spy and I guess that’s supposed to be funny?   And I guess talking ‘Canadian’ and saying hosier a lot is also supposed to be funny?  It certainly didn’t make me laugh.

bears11

There were so many befuddling moments like that?  Why attempt to treat the Intuit culture so carefully at the beginning and then have modern voices speaking the way modern teens would speak?  That was so distracting.  There’s one scene where some billygoats who are introduced and forgotten about in like 2 minutes, say shut up 7 times.  Is that supposed to be funny characters saying shut up a lot?

bears5
Again look at the banged bear. Doesn’t that just look so badly designed?

Aladdin could get away with modern voiced characters because there was no attempt to be authentic to Arabic culture.  Same with Hercules.

The other huge problem is the lead character is so unlikable.  I started to watch after a while (I was so bored) to see when we finally get a smile from Kenai.  Literally 1 hr 2 minutes before a smile.  He is so winy and for things that don’t seem so bad.  It’s not like they are stuck in terrible weather or life is miserable?  And at the beginning, so he got a love totem?  Is that really such a shameful thing?  What a cliche for the male character to hate love and kindness.  Groan…It seemed so immature for someone having been officially made a man to be continually harping on it.

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Kenai the most unlikable Disney hero I’ve seen so far that’s for sure. Get used to this facial expression you are going to see a lot of it.

He is either angry, bitter, or complaining the whole movie.  This made his transformation at the end completely unbelievable.  The relationship between Koda and Kenai doesn’t feel earned as he goes from hating him to loving him in literally one conversation and musical montage.   I realize Tarzan kind of does this but the montage shows weeks of interaction and sharing.  This is literally a song and them frolicking in the woods.  There’s no sense of time elapsing or growth of characters.  And even when he finally smiles he is still kind of a grump.  I don’t know when I’ve disliked a lead character more in any movie, Disney or not ..

bears3
look how weird these bears look especially the one on the left.  They all look very out of place and off putting

I could keep going but really this movie sucks. I think Bongo is a better bear movie…

I’m sorry if I offend people who like it but I thought every choice they made was wrong.  Even the pretty scenery was ruined by the Saturday morning cartoons they placed on top of it. And that’s an insult to Saturday morning cartoons…

I’ll say it again but I really thought this movie sucked and it had such potential, so I’m not inclined to be easy on it.  Badly done!

Overall Grade- F

Just to show I’m not alone on this one Rotten tomatoes bottom 2 is Brother Bear and Chicken Little of the Disney Canon.  They are the only 2 movies in the 30 percentages (which is pretty amazing when you think about it).  Nearly every other Disney movie is pretty close to being fresh.  I don’t think any other studio could say that.  http://www.rottentomatoes.com/guides/best_disney_animated_movies/