Why Home is Worse than Strange Magic

Before I give my worst movies of the year list tomorrow I thought I would preemptively explain my choice of Home as the worst animated film of 2015.  Most people I feel will have Strange Magic at the bottom and it is not good by any stretch of the definition; However, I do think it is better than Home.  Here’s why:

Strange-Magic-poster-bannerThere is no doubt Strange Magic is a very flawed film. The script is the biggest problem with dopey dialogue that was extremely predictable and corny. For example, one of the girl characters says to another ‘get your head out of the clouds- a cloud of boys!”.   That’s just terrible writing… Strange Magic also has characters that are at best on a Saturday morning level of development.

George Lucas said he wanted it to be a ‘girl power’ film and yet the girls are so silly. I know there is love potion involved but they certainly fall for the idiot male characters easily.  They are pretty much vehicles in the story to fall in and out of love without any real personality or character development.

strange magic3The songs are performed fine but so on the nose and uncreative they became annoying. When the Bog King starts singing ‘wild thing’ I yearned for the good old days of Happy Feet, which was at least a little creative in the song selection…

bog king strange magicHowever, even with all that said, at least the story in Strange Magic is solid. It’s based on Shakespeare for goodness sake.  It may have been predictable but unlike Gnomeo and Juliet (yikes…) it stuck pretty true to Midsummer’s Night Dream. The animation and vocal performances are also good- certainly better than the movie deserved. If the script had been better and the song choices more original it would have been a pretty good film.

home23Home was worse for me because the story makes no sense. These aliens gather all the humans to one place, which is really stupid. I mean who wants to gather all their potential foes together? And they manage to build all these houses for the humans and yet they know nothing about them like even that they live in families.  And wouldn’t there have been a big conflict when all those homes were being built for the relocated humans?  They also don’t know how human items work like a hair dryer but they manage to run the cities after the humans have left. They know how to not only fix cars but make them super cars using a slushie machine but they don’t know about toilets (such a lame toilet joke would have been so much funnier if the aliens had a truly original take on the scene not just eating it).

The aliens basically use planets until resources die and then move on to the next planet.  This makes no sense to me and makes them all cuddly but very mean when you really think about it. And especially when you find out why they keep moving on it is so stupid.

home2Basically the whole story is based on the fact that Oh sends a reply all email to the entire galaxy.  I’m sorry but that’s just lame!  It’s not believable as a serious cause for conflict and the attempt to make Oh misunderstood only becomes frustrating.  They have all these ways of communicating (email, those orb things) and yet the entire plot could be solved by a phone call or an actual conversation but nobody will listen to poor Oh.

The villain motivation was also very murky and really doesn’t make sense when you think about it.So he just wanted to keep invading other planets with his essentially minions for what purpose? They give a reason but it defies credulity.  All I could see was to make puns and be a silly villain.  And then when we get the second villain it’s even worse. Another conflict that could have been solved by a couple conversations but the dastardly plan would have been foiled.  Groan!  The ending had me rolling my eyes out of the theater.

The character motivations were also extremely muddled and inconsistent. Tip for instance sometimes behaved like a teenager, sometimes like a little girl and she was voiced by a 35 year old woman which was strange.  There was never a moment where I felt like a girl had not only lost her mother but all of her species had been abducted!  I mean that’s some serious trauma, not just a bad grade on a test.  She seemed more upset by the way people treated her at school than the chaos that surrounds her.

home 1Oh was also inconsistent, sometimes smart, sometimes stupid, sometimes silly, other times somber, and badly voiced.  They basically take Sheldon Cooper from Big Bang Theory and make him an alien. And as much as I like BBT it did not work for me.  I found it a very grating character and performance that was again inconsistently written.

home18At the core it is a road trip movie we’ve seen a million times and the attempts at humor were so lame. The tone is really all over the place, which is exemplified by the music feeling like it belonged in another film. Home could have been a fun silly film for preschoolers but the somber moments ruined that appeal.  I left Home thinking ‘who was this made for?’. It’s pretty morose for small kids and definitely nothing new for adults.  And unlike sometimes morose movies such as Inside Out or Song of the Sea it didn’t give me anything new and like I said, the plot holes abound. It’s at best a generic road trip movie, nothing more.

HOME

So that’s why Home for me was worst animated film of the year. It had inconsistent characters, flawed story, terrible voice acting choices, and a poorly managed tone. It made for an overall big letdown and despite their somewhat mixed history, I still expect much better from Dreamworks.

I guess when it comes down to it if I had to watch Strange Magic or Home again I’d pick Strange Magic.  To me it at least has a good story, looks nice and has some well performed, if uncreative songs.

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Hotel Transylvania 2 Review

hotel trans2Can we all pass around a petition or something that will tell Adam Sandler he should only make animated films?  But then again there was 8 Crazy Nights a while back so he is by no means a homerun in animated films either.  Still, his best films by far of the last decade have been the Hotel Transylvania movies.  That’s definitely damning by faint praise but it is nonetheless true.

It’s weird trying to write a review of Hotel Transylvania 2 because I had a good time watching it but I can’t think of a whole lot to say in its defense.  Does that ever happen to you?  You like something almost in spite of itself?

Well, Hotel Transylvania 2 picks up where the fun but forgettable first installment left off with Dracula’s (Sandler) daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) getting married to Johnny (Andy Samburg) and then having a little boy named Dennis or Denisovich as the Count likes to call him.

hoteltrans2-2The Count is a doting grandfather and loves Dennis but is constantly preoccupied on whether he is a vampire or not.  He is a ‘late fanger’ as they like to say and has till he is 5 to get his vampire fangs.  If he doesn’t then he, Mavis and Johnny will have to move back to California where Dennis can be safe.

hotel trans2-3Leaving Dennis with Count Mavis and Johnny go to California to check it out and meet his parents (Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally who should be cast in more voice work.  She’s great!).  Mavis is thrilled with all the nighttime 24 hour options in California.

Back at the hotel Count has his friends from the first film Frankenstein (Kevin James), Invisible Man (David Spade), Blobby, and Mummy (Keegan-Michael Key who evidently is in every comedy of 2015).  They decide to try and scare the fangs out of Dennis and take him on a vacation of their greatest haunts much to Mavis’ anger.

They also end up involving Count’s old school father Vlad (Mel Brooks who is underused in the film)

hotel trans2-5That’s basically the plot.  It’s a silly comedy but it did make me laugh.  I particularly liked a repeated joke  with the Phantom of the Opera singing. The tangents with in California and on the scare quest take away from the humor and the ending drags on and is too maudlin.  But overall it is a pleasant amiable film that is aimed at kids with little to none of the adults only humor I didn’t care for in Minions.   I also laughed a lot more than in Minions from start to finish.

The animation is also nicely done led by the great GEnndy Tartakovsky.  The colors are bright and the characters are surprising and fun.

The voice talent all works but the cast is so large that some of my favorites are woefully underused such as Mel Brooks and Fran Drescher (who I know some hate but I’ve loved her ever since The Nanny).  She has maybe 3 lines in the entire movie. Dana Carvey, Jon Lovitz, Chris Parnell, Nick Offerman are hilarious actors and they are given very little to do.

FILM STILL - HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 2 - Frank (Kevin James and Jonathan (Andy Samberg) watch the birthday celebration of Dennis (Ashler Blinkoff, center) with Wanda (Molly Shannon), Dracula (Adam Sandler), Mavis (Selena Gomez), Mike (Nick Offerman) and Linda (Megan Mullally) in Columbia Pictures and Sony Picture Animation's HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 2.

And yet the running time is 89 minutes!  I told a friend of mine ‘if Bambi can tell its story in 70 minutes Hotel Transylvania 2 doesn’t need 89).  They could definitely cut out the animated dance number at the end- a trend in animation carried over from the 2000s that I really hate

Hotel Transylvania 2 is a movie made for kids without a ton of grown-up appeal but I did laugh a fair amount.  More than I did in Minions and definitely more than Dreamworks’ Home. It has better animation, writing and story than either of those films.

So take that review for what it is worth.  I would wait and get it from the redbox or rent it.  Have some laughs and enjoy a moderately entertaining animated film. Nothing more, nothing less.

Overall Grade- C

Here’s my video review

Home

Here’s a completely alternative point of view from my own on Dreamworks Home. Just trying to share a lot of different perspectives. Check out Movies, Books and Ramblings for some great content. My review go to post

End of Month Youtube Videos

I got some new videos up on the channel I think you will enjoy.  Definitely check them out.  If you haven’t already please subscribe to my channel and give me some thumbs up if you think they are any good.  Thanks!

Here’s one on movies I like to watch when I am sick.

Here’s the end of my blu-ray review series

Movies that I watched in theaters in March

Here’s one on why I think critics are particularly tough on Christian films but it would apply to any film with a narrow audience

Here’s my youtube review of Dreamworks Home

And finally here are the movies I watched at home in March.  Not my greatest viewing month but Akira was pretty cool.  I have to watch it a couple more times before doing a written review.

Again, thanks for giving them a watch and thumbs up.  I really appreciate it.  On to April!

Home: A Dreamworks Hit

home23So this weekend shows how little I know about the box office.  Dreamworks Home was a huge hit at theaters making 54 million and ending up 1 by a long shot over the comedy Get Hard that brought in 34.

To say I’m surprised would be an understatement.  To me Home was at best forgettable and the kids in my theater didn’t seem engaged at all.  It’s bright and colorful but saddled with a predictable story and inconsistent characters. Maybe I’ve just seen too many movies because everything felt like a retread of better films and I was left asking a lot of questions about how this world could possibly work.  If I’m thinking about all the plot holes than it is usually a bad sign.  Plus, the voicecasting I thought was way off.  Worst of all it didn’t make me laugh.  Not one laugh.

Most critics were a little kinder than me but even the positive reviews said it wasn’t a classic, kind of forgettable. The fact it made more than How to Train Your Dragon 2 opening weekend is a huge surprise.  But then again Maleficent was a huge hit and I thought that was total crap so what do I know?

That said, I’m thrilled for Dreamworks.  They definitely needed a hit so good for them.  It makes no sense to me but neither did Birdman winning Best Picture so who knows?

Why do you guys think Home did so well?  What did Dreamworks do right with this release? It still has a huge budget to overcome so it may not  help Dreamworks as much as it should but we will see.

Home Review

Dreamworks in Crisis

rip dreamworks

I hate to say it guys but I’m calling it- Dreamworks time of death, March 2015.  Let’s give a little bit of background. For years Dreamworks has been battling it out with Disney and Pixar scoring some hits with particularly the Shrek films being the apex of their financial success.  They’ve also had creative victories like the How to Train Your Dragon series, Kung Fu Panda and Prince of Egypt.  Unfortunately they have been unable to curtail costs so even seeming successes were actually studio failures.

Last year it all came to fruition with 3 releases.  Mr Peabody and Sherman with a budget of 145 mil (ridiculous for a comedy like that) made 272 million at box office.  This might seem pretty good but when you take into account theater shares and marketing they took a 57 million hit on it.  Then they had How to Train Your Dragon 2, a healthy success, with budget of 145 million (see Sherman should not have cost as much as HTTYD2!) making 618 million.  Most of these proceeds were overseas (over 400 million of it) and it was significantly less than its predecessor so on the whole a disappointment (total profit 107 million).

Then we had Penguins of Madagascar, a fun comedy which cost $132 million and made $367 million  Sounds pretty good right? Nope that 132 doesn’t include incentive based pay to the actors! So in the end they took another 57 million hit on Penguins.  This is after losing 87 million on Rise of the Guardians and 13.5 million for Turbo in 2013.  As you can see whatever good Dragon did is quickly evaporated.

Then at the end of last year they closed their PDI animation studio laying off 1/3rd of their artists.

That’s where we get to their latest release, Home.  I think many of us were hoping this could be a Frozen size savior for the studio but sadly it is far, far, from that. In fact, if I am honest it is closer to this years’ George Lucas offering Strange Magic than anything else. It cost $135 million to make and I have a hard time believing it will do better than Mr Peabody and Sherman which was actually pretty clever. So in other words another loss.

I’m grasping at straws to find things I liked about Home but there isn’t much.

Home Review-

home3The best thing I can say about home is that it is harmless.  Kind of like Strange Magic there is nothing offensive or off putting.  Your kids will be moderately entertained so if you need a babysitter you could do worse but that is about it.

Home is based on the book The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex, which my sister says is quite brilliant.  It is about an alien named Oh that is the ‘most special’ character in his entire race like we’ve seen in movies from Twilight to the Host to Harry Potter.  What makes him unique?  Well, he makes mistakes and likes to have friends and be happy. Not exactly defeating Lord Voldemort but we will go with it.oh home

He is part of a race called the boovs who run away from their nemesis and conquer other planets.  They have just conquered earth and sucked up all the humans relocating them all to Australia.  I suppose if I had been more engaged I wouldn’t have been left asking so many questions about this basic premise.  For example, why do the boov know enough about humans to build houses for every human family, evidently recreate hospitals, schools, and even an amusement park and yet they do not know something like ‘humans live in families and have a Mother and a Father’?

How do the boov know how to run everything in a city like New York and yet are eating paintings, footballs and using a hair dryer for an inhaler? How do they know how to work a power plant and yet the lights are always on?  How are they planning on getting food in this land they have conquered and wouldn’t gathering all of the human race in one place be a really bad idea?  Nothing like 6 billion humans that  have mastered interstellar flight and atomic warfare all together on an island…especially for  a race that is evidently so gun shy?

Also why does Oh drink gasoline, motor oil, eat plastic and yet is disgusted by a blue tablet  and urine from a restroom?  I think that is an attempt to be funny but it doesn’t really make sense so it didn’t make me laugh. It would have been more funny if he had loved the urine and blue tablet.  I mean if we are stooping to that level isn’t that  funnier?

home2

I know I’m overthinking it but again it just shows how disengaged I was with the story and characters that I started asking these questions.

So our misfit Oh tries to throw a party for his new neighbors but nobody in his race likes him or parties (which again makes me ask how does he even know what a party is? And yet he has a banner, appetizers, the whole works..).

Nobody comes to his party and so he goes outside to try and get people to go but his ‘friend’ doesn’t want to so he sends him an ‘e-vite’ (these aliens still use email and internet just like us) but the email to the party he is currently having goes to the entire galaxy including their sworn enemy, a woefully undeveloped ‘bad guys with spaceship’ called the vrogs I think.

The leaders of the boov’s try to arrest Oh with the captain played by Steve Martin who is actually only in 3 scenes of the movie.

home4But Oh runs off before he can give the boov his password to stop the email. (Always bad in a movie when the entire plot could be resolved by a 3 minute conversation…).  In his running he bumps into a girl named Tipp who was left behind by the human relocation and is trying to find her Mother.  She is far too calm and collected for someone who’s entire race and Mother has been sucked up by aliens. Plus, her car has been hidden by trash.  How did she know to do that? And why hasn’t the trash been sucked up by the unnecessary item balls?  They are sucking up bikes wouldn’t they suck up her car? And would she have been the only human to escape? Wouldn’t it have been more interesting to have had a few that band together with Oh?

home 1

She is voiced by Rhianna and it is a terrible piece of voice casting.  She sounds like a grown woman and I was never exactly sure how old she was supposed to be.  She sounds like a grown up, looks like a child but can drive and yet she talks about getting an A in 8th grade geometry.  At best it is completely bland.

Oh is voiced by Big Bang Theory’s Jim Parson and the two of them are the only characters in the movie for 90% of the film and he isn’t right for the part either.  It just sounds too much like Sheldon which was distracting.  But I have a hard time blaming him because the part was written a lot like Sheldon and didn’t give him much to work with.  He’s socially awkward and oblivious most of the time.  I like Big Bang Theory but I know it has its haters and they will definitely find the voicework very annoying but again I don’t think anything Parsons could have done would have saved the character.

Most of the movie is a road trip story full of road trip movie cliches.  Tipp and Oh must go to Paris to enter the password (I guess no cell phones in this world even though the Boov have these little tablet things) and then to Australia to find Tipp’s Mother voiced by Jennifer Lopez who has maybe 3 lines in the movie.

HOMEThere were about 6 kids in the theater with me and they laughed at a few bits of toilet humor but they seemed squirmy and disengaged.

A lot of people will want to compare this to Lilo and Stitch, a movie that grows on me the more I see it.  Lilo and Stitch is not a perfect film but it is far superior to this mess.  First of all Lilo is a much more complex character than we ever get from Tipp.  She is strange but in interesting ways.  We see her interacting with students and fighting with her sister.  We see her crying and mourning her parents before Stitch is even introduced.

Stitch is also a consistent character.  He is a wild creature and pretty mean throughout, to the point of frustrating me as a viewer.  Here Oh is sometimes smart when the plot needs to be and other times stupid.  He sometimes understands complex words and other times speaks in 2 word phrases. He’s whatever the plot needs him to be which makes it really boring and hard to root for.

I really did not care about Oh or Tipp’s journey because I knew exactly what was going to happen and the movie didn’t give me any reason except for telling us ‘people think I’m strange’… Lilo is pulling heads off of her dolls.  We know she is strange and we are rooting for her because of it.

home 19It’s also a little unclear if the Steve Martin character is intentionally lying to everyone about their enemy and the ‘shush stick’ or if he is just too stupid to know.  If he is lying on purpose than he is a really bad alien and that sense of evil is never laid out at all. I mean this is Darth Vader bad if he is conquering planets and relocating everyone.

The lesson of the story is that ‘everyone makes mistakes’ and that you should ‘run towards your fears’ not away from them (I don’t know if I agree with that last one…).  Again this is usually told to us not actually shown.  Lilo and Stitch conquers weighty themes of family, grief, loss and it does it with the gravitas perhaps only Disney can muster.  Plus, it looks so unique with the watercolors and the Hawaiian feel.  Home looks anything but unique.

A movie like Penguins of Madagascar works because it was funny.  The script was very clever that it could overcome a silly story.  I’m not saying it was a masterpiece but it made me laugh.  Same with Mr Peabody and Sherman.  Home did not make me laugh one time.

home18Like I said at the intro if you take your kids they won’t be miserable.  It’s harmless but I said the same thing for Strange Magic and that movie at least had voicework that made sense.

I’m sorry Dreamworks I want to help you out but I can’t in good conscience give this any higher than the D I gave Strange Magic.  It just doesn’t deserve it.  (This movie has 5 people listed in the voice cast.  Why on earth did it cost $135 million to make? In contrast, Pixar’s Bugs Life with a huge cast cost $120 million!).

The music is by Rihanna and it is nice but feels like it is written for a different movie.  It is dark and solemn when they are just flying across the ocean or walking around.  It’s not nearly fun enough for this kind of movie (think Happy by Pharrell for Despicable ME 2. That made sense.).  The whole Rihanna choice was just wrong all the way around.  What a disappointment and the absolute worst timing for a Dreamworks dud.

If any of you see it let me know what you think.

Overall Grade- D, Content Grade- A