Hey guys! Quick post today but just wanted to wish you all a Happy Valentines Day. Each year I create a custom valentine to make the holiday a little bit more fun. My friend Joan at Bitsy Creations does the design work but it is my concept. I hope you all have a wonderful day and feel loved!
I also got to do a podcast today with my friend Eli on both The Lego Movie and The Lego Batman Movie. We had a lot of fun talking about both films and would love your thoughts on what we have to say.
Back in 2014 there was a surprise little movie that took the world by storm called The Lego Movie. Going into it I thought it would be a pun-filled toy movie but it actually was a visually gorgeous, funny, heartfelt treatise on the way children play and think. The Lego Movie showed the randomness of a child’s brain and it had an emotional story between a father and a son that nobody was expecting. It was also so beautiful the way everything flowed like a world of legos really would. In my opinion, The Lego Movie is one of the best animated films of the last 5 years.
So, it was with great anticipation that I went to see the spin-off film The Lego Batman Movie today. The trailers have been hilarious and as I am not the biggest Batman fan I was looking forward to seeing everyone else’s sacred franchise taken down a few pegs. And the result? While I do not think it is as good as The Lego Movie, it is still an entertaining spoof comedy movie that I think any animation or comic book movie fan will enjoy.
The best thing about Lego Batman Movie is the pacing. The jokes start literally before the WB logo and they never stop. This version of Batman is dry, sarcastic and lonely. Most of the movie is various characters like Robin, Barbara Gordon and Alfred trying to get through to him and make him lower his pride to admit he needs help. Robin voiced by Michael Cera is Bruce Wayne’s ward Dick Grayson and is energetic and clingy. Of course, this rubs Batman the wrong way!
But the main thrust of the film is from Zach Galifianakis’ Joker who is upset with Batman because he won’t admit they are arch-rivals and need each other. You get some especially good jokes about Batman v Superman and other Batman versions within the interactions with Joker.
The jokes come quick in Lego Batman Movie and Will Arnett is amazing in the role but they also pack in quite a bit of story into the 104 minute run time. There’s a lot of action and literally every Warner Bros character I could think of.
The animation was also bright and colorful and a lot of fun to watch. The only problem is it lacked the flow of legos that we had in the Lego Movie. When Emmet in Lego Movie would dive into water the waves looked like legos. You don’t really get that here. I guess that’s fine because it is a comic book world where Lego Movie was more of a fantasy world, but I was more dazzled by Lego Movie’s animation.
Also, there’s something about The Lego Movie that felt more memorable. Maybe it’s partly me not being that big of a Batman fan. It felt enjoyable but not something that will stick with me for years to come like Lego Movie did. It’s more of a solid entertaining animated comedy rather than a game changer.
But those are a small criticisms to a very good film. Your entire family will like it and it was certainly nice to see something self-aware and humorous from the world of comic book films and DC.
If you see it let me know what you think. How does it compare with Lego Movie to you?
I can hardly believe it but this marks the last of my Pixar series! (Well, until Good Dinosaur comes out that is). Today we will talk about Pixar’s 2013 effort Monsters University. It is of course a prequel to the beloved Monsters Inc.
Pixar has a philosophy with sequels that in an effort to not repeat the same movie over again they try to not only tell a different story but put it in a completely different genre. If you think of the Toy Story movies all 3 are different genres (buddy movie, action adventure, prison escape). The same is true for the Cars movies (nostalgia small town story, spy movie). They followed this tradition with Monsters University creating a college comedy instead of the mixture of themes we get in original film.
But right out of the gate they make an interesting choice. Instead of focusing on the hero and in many ways lead of Monsters Inc, Sulley, (he is the one with the relationship with Boo after all) they focus on the sidekick Mike. So how do you tell the sidekicks story? It’s a tricky thing.
They start out with Mike as a little one going on a field trip to Monsters Inc. He is inspired by the scarers and decides that is going to be his dream job. He works hard and gets into Monsters University. He follows the mantra we’ve seen in a thousand other movies- if you work hard at something you will succeed.
But wait! Pixar decides to subvert this narrative and give us something very unique for a kids film. The head of the school is named Dean Hardscrabble voiced by Helen Mirren. She tells Mike he is not scary. She knows no matter how hard he works he will never be scary. In some ways she is the villain of the picture but in others there is no villain. There are just people being honest with Mike about who he is.
They also show an interesting dynamic between Sulley and Mike. Sulley is in many ways the exact opposite of Mike. Everything is easy for him. He is naturally scary and doesn’t have to work hard to be successful. Mike has his head in books while Sulley doesn’t even bring a pencil to class. This causes animosity between the two at the start of the film.
But then the annual Scare Games are announced and Mike see’s it as his opportunity to prove he can be a great scarer and be allowed into the scare program. In order to enter though he needs a fraternity and team. Sulley needs a team so he ends up joining Mike’s fraternity which he assembles from castaways and nerds.
The opponents in the Scare Games is a fraternity called Roar Omega Roar. Nathan Fillion voices the leader of Roar frat.
We also get to meet some of the other frats and sororities competing in the Scare Games.
And that’s where we get into the goings-on of the Scare Games and the movie starts to lose me a little bit. The various obstacles and challenges (cheating and sabotages included) aren’t that compelling for me. And unfortunately it is a large part of the movie.
Without spoiling it certain events happen that show Mike he is just not scary. His dream was wrong. That is a bold concept for a children’s movie to address. But what he does realize is he is a great coach, a great leader. He motivates everyone on his team to do better including Sulley. That is his true gift. In the end he is sad to give up the dream of scaring but he also seems happy to have found his true calling. I love that message and I think it makes Mike one of the most complex characters in all of Pixar.
Mike and Sulley also realize they can get where they want by working through the company of Monsters Inc- starting in the mail room and eventually hitting the scare floor. That’s another very subversive message for a kids movie. You don’t necessarily need to go to college to get where you want to go. I love that!
Monsters University also has a bright color palate that I find very pleasing. Animation-wise it is a joy to watch. All the voice cast is great including Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Helen Mirren, Nathan Fillion, Charlie Day, Aubrey Plaza, Julia Sweeney, Bonnie Hunt and more.
Overall, Monsters University is a very pleasant Pixar movie and one, like I said, that subverts traditional narrative quite a bit for the kind of story it is telling. I really enjoyed that aspect of it. It is creative, beautiful and I loved seeing Mike and Sulley’s back story.
However, it is far from perfect. The Scare Games go on too long and I didn’t care much about them except for when the winners are declared. At 104 minutes it is a pretty long film and I think 15 minutes could have been cut without missing much of anything.
Also the side characters aren’t that memorable or interesting. I didn’t hate them but just find them kind of forgettable.
That said, I do like Monsters University. It challenges the traditional narrative just enough to keep my interest. I think if you watch it with your kids they will have a good time.
There is some college partying gong on which some parents may be uncomfortable with and some tense moments to be aware of. Also I don’t know how interested little kids will be with Mike’s job struggles? Maybe I don’t know.
Randy Newman returns with a lovely score. I was really impressed with how it sounded like a fight song from a University. It had that big band collegiate fight song feel to it.
So Monsters University has it’s flaws but the uniqueness of Mike’s journey really rewards the viewer and makes you think about your dreams and life. Maybe there is something better for you instead of settling for mediocrity just because it is your dream? We are all good at different things but sometimes those talents take a little more digging for some than others. Mike discovers what makes him special and I love seeing that take place.
Today the Annie Award Nominees were released. These awards celebrate the best in animated films. I still say this has been an amazing year for animation. It’s certainly been one of my favorites that’s for sure. I have seen all of the nominees but 2- Song of the Sea comes out Dec 19th, and I will hopefully see it, and Cheatin I must admit I hadn’t heard of but it looks awesome.
Cheatin trailer (this is clearly an animated feature for adults but I’m ok with that. In fact, sometimes I prefer they go all adult instead of trying to make it appeal to kids and adults (ala Hunchback):
What an impressive list. I LOVED Big Hero 6, How to Train Your Dragon 2 (even more than original), Lego Movie, Boxtrolls and Kaguya (gave A’s to all 5 of those!). Book of Life I really liked despite some problems (got a B). They are all so different it is tough to compare. But again what a great year especially when you consider no Pixar and some highly entertaining films didn’t even make the list (Mr Peabody and Sherman and Penguins of Madagascar were really fun comedies).
Well, what would you pick to win? I’d be happy with any of them winning but if I had to pick I’d go with The Lego Movie. I know all of you weren’t as crazy about it as I was but this is my blog and my opinion so for me it was the most creative, visually inventive, had heart, showed how kids play, their randomness and fun, and it made me laugh a lot. But I was really moved and dazzled by Big Hero 6 also, so I would love to see it win. Same with Kaguya, which was so beautiful, and The Boxtrolls, which had a great look, and a story that makes kids (and me!) think while charming them. How to Train Your Dragon was an epic adventure and dazzled me from beginning to end. Plus, I loved the flying sequences.
But push come to shove I would still pick Lego Movie. What was your favorite? (And remember there are no wrong answers it’s just an opinion)