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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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

Movies I Saw Youtube Videos

Pictures12Today I tried something different and made 2 videos for my channel.  One that summarized the movies I saw in the theater in January and another the movies I saw at home.  If you read my reviews you already know my opinion but this is a summary.  I would love if you took a look and subscribed to my channel.

Thanks!

Strange Magic Review

strangeMagic-296x444Sometimes I feel sorry for George Lucas.  Then I remember what he did to Star Wars and I don’t feel so sorry but still what must it be like for one human being to be so high and then so low?  I can’t even imagine.  Well, he certainly hasn’t let failure get to his head because last week he released an animated film, Strange Magic, emblazoned with “from the mind of George Lucas” right on the poster for all to see.  I’m still baffled by that choice.  I can’t think of a single person who would see that tagline and think “George Lucas? I want to go to that”.

But I promised you I’d see every animated film in 2015 and I intend do so.  And no matter all the bad reviews I always try to go into every movie with an open mind and have been willing to go against popular opinion on more than one occasion (Atlantis: The Lost Emipre and Wreck-It Ralph anyone?).

The only theater I could find showing it (and just opened on Friday I will remind you) is this strange theater about 13 minutes from my house.  Everytime I’ve been there it is like a ghosttown and tonight was no exception.  Had the whole theater to myself which allowed me to take notes on my phone and not bother anyone.

So here’s the deal on Strange Magic.  It is bad but mainly because of the writing, annoying music and obvious story.  The animation is not half bad.  It is for that reason I would put it above last year’s stinkers Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return which didn’t look finished and the garish and unfunny Nut Job. If it was just a predictable fairy movie I might be able to place it with The Tinker Bell movies in animation quality but those movies are more clear, vibrant, better vocal performances and stories.

Evidently George Lucas made this movie “because nothing is made for girls any more”.  That was definitely true in the 70’s George but since Little Mermaid I think you’d have a hard time proving that at least with Disney (Pixar yes but plenty of movies made for girls).  I mean Frozen made over 1 billion!

The strangest thing about him making this for girls is a good chunk of the movie is about Sonny the elf finding the fairy Dawn (Meredith Anne Bull) with little scenes of Dawn and Marianne(Evan Rachel Wood) fairies usually thrown in to sing about love or how tough they are.

Sonny the elf
Sonny the elf

I think Lucas also thinks it will appeal to girls because there is lots of talk about love (it is Midsummer’s Night Dream in the same way Gnomeo and Juliet was about Romeo and Juliet).  And of course you have to throw in a wedding, a Spring Ball and an Elf Festival because girls love parties! (Groan…).

strange-magic-dawn strange magic marianneThe two faeries are sisters (of course) and one is free spirited and the other is bitter about love. There is also a Sugar Plum Fairy (Kristin Chenoweth) who is taken captive by the evil Bog King (Alan Cumming) who is known simply as Bog by his mother and followers.

bog king strange magicAll of this could be good in a corny kind of way but the music puts it over the top with each choice being so on the nose it is like playing a game of Name that Tune.  We know the moment we here the character is named Marianne we are going to hear “C’mon Marianne” by Frankie Valli.  As soon as a character is at the dance we hear “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” by Whitney Houston. It’s like Moulin Rouge but a decade too late and with an even more predictable plot.

The worst was at the end when a character breaks into Wild Thing by The Troggs. Couldn’t they have been a little more creative?  It’s like George Lucas downloaded his ipod, threw in a few modern songs like Kill You Makes You Stronger and Say Hey.

Strange-Magic-poster-banner

Even the songs would be passable if the script was better. We get lines like

“Looking for trouble? Well, you’ve come to the right place” says the Bog King and then we get Trouble by Elvis which has lines “Well, I’m evil so don’t you mess around withe me”.  Groan.   It’s like these guys learned to write scripts in kindergarten.

Another line “You’re one to talk with your magic recipe.  A recipe for failure”.

“See what happens when love is unleashed on the world”

“Even with a love potion I’m too hideous to love”

“Why would you think a beast like you could get a beauty like Marianne” (surprised Disney allowed that one.  Gaston should be offended!

“My life flashed before my eyes.  I was hot…”

“I’ve learned something.  Never judge someone or it by the way he, she or it looks”  Thank George for explaining the most obvious moral in the world to us in case we didn’t catch on…

And my favorite “Pull your head out of the clouds.  Clouds of boys…”.  Oh boy. Now I’m thinking the writers have never met a little girl. Do they think this is how they really talk?

george-lucas-wants-pop-songs-to-sell-you-toys-in-the-trailer-for-strange-magic_1Basically the story is a girl fairy is jilted on her wedding day by a jerk fairy.  She turns against love but her sister is still a believer.  The elf Sonny is in love with fairy Dawn and wants to get the potion for her from the Sugar Plum Fairy.  The jilted beau also wants the potion to force Marianne to love him (the antidote is so groan inducing).

Then they meet various obstacles but get the potion fairly easily which is not guarded well by the Bog King who wants to keep the fairy because the potion didn’t work on the girl he loved. (that darn antidote again!).

They all end up meeting in the forest and battling over the love potion and it is so predictable and full of terrible puns and one liners.

sugar plum fairy strange magicI can’t figure out why they wouldn’t have made Kristin Chenoweth Dawn?  The Sugar Plum Fairy isn’t in the movie that much and has only 1 song.

Lucas did get some decent singers in Alan Cumming, Chenoweth and Wood but it is all like a karaoke theme night on romantic songs.

Like I said the animation is tolerable and it isn’t going to harm your kids like something such as The Smurfs with all its obnoxious product placement.  This is just a predictable bland movie with a lot of music kids won’t have heard of like People are Strange by the Doors or Mistreated by Deep Purple.  What little kid knows those?

As far as content goes there is a scene where two male characters kiss for laughs which has gotten so tired a joke. Get over it! The Bog King might be scary to little children but it is tempered pretty quickly with songs and jokes (and the Bog King’s mother trying to set him up).

So it is not as bad as Nut Job or Legends of Oz but that’s really damning with faint praise. A definite skip.  (The things I do for you guys!).

Overall Grade D