“Never Forget How Much Your Family Cares For You…”
With Disney currently monopolising the entire cinematic landscape with the likes of Star Wars, Marvel and live-action adaptations of classic animated tales being released on what seems a bi-monthly basis, one could argue that Pixar has somewhat been backtracked to a much lower priority when placed up against its’ behemoth, franchise existing brothers, yet with the likes of Inside Out and Zootropolis holding the torch of excellence for the studio it recent years, it comes at no surprise that from an audience perspective, the art of animation has arguably never been better. With the release of Coco therefore, Pixar’s hot streak successfully continues with a musically infused, heartbreaking tale of one boy’s quest for ancestral discovery during Mexico’s world famous Day of the Dead festival in a stunningly designed animated fashion. With an underlying narrative which bears more than a similarity to a few Disney Pixar predecessors, Coco thrives in a wide range of areas elsewhere, and with a beautiful acoustic-based soundtrack to make even the sternest of audience members shed a well-hidden tear, Disney’s first release of the year is a well-meaning and pleasantly played family adventure which can be admired and enjoyed by all.
Boasting arguably the most impressive and jaw-droppingly beautiful animation offered up by Pixar so far, Coco revels in its’ ability to add layers and layers of elements both comedic and emotive to prop up a underlying story which undeniably has an uncanny link to Inside Out, with both features primarily focused on their respective leading characters’ journey back home from an uncharted and unknown world, all the while learning a bit more about their purpose in life, but with a handful of stunningly designed props, including sparkling, rainbow coloured spirit animals and on-screen guitar work which relievingly looks genuinely authentic, Coco is much much more than just a continuation of a story many are well versed in already. With a Mexican Mariachi infused, guitar based soundtrack at the centre of the narrative and a genuinely startling twist to set up a rivetingly exciting concluding act, Coco is everything you would expect from a classic Disney outing, and by examining darker themes including the afterlife and the importance of family remembrance, Coco is an ideas laden animation which brings more to the table than one might expect, and for a movie to successfully connect with an audience filled with both adults and children, you can’t really ask for much more. The golden age of animated works joyously continues.
Overall Score: 8/10
“My Feelings Are Huge. Maybe I’m Meant To Have More Than Just One Emotion…”
Yes, you read the title correct, The Emoji Movie is indeed a real thing. Whilst films such as Dunkirk and The Big Sick recently showcase the real wonder of what cinema can offer to a wide array of audiences, sometimes you just gotta take the dark with the light and understand that for every Apocalypse Now there is unfortunately a Gods of Egypt, and whilst it’s never healthy to enter an auditorium with preconceived notions about the overall quality of a particular movie, a film entirely based on the existence of Emoji’s does inherently and fundamentally lead you to hold your head heavily in your hands and await your fate. So, enter the foyer and grab your ticket as you grip tightly the cold, smooth surface of your overly priced fizzy pop which aids you in your journey through the passages of hell as you grace your sticky, oversized seat and watch a movie about cartoon faeces and gigantic thumbs. And breathe. One could argue that with The Emoji Movie undoubtedly being a movie aimed at the younger variety of audiences in its’ creation, the thought of a 23 year old coffee maniac sitting down and reviewing it does seem rather disjointed, yet after managing to survive one of the most painful 85 minutes of my entire cinematic life, the horror and sheer toxicity of a film such as The Emoji Movie doesn’t deserve just to be reviewed, it deserves to be stripped down from top to bottom and dissected in hope that the many, many troubling issues at the heart of it can be highlighted to as many as possible in the hope that it simply fades away from cinema entirely.
As mentioned by many already, the overall narrative of The Emoji Movie rather unfortunately bears a sickening similarity to the masterpiece of animation which is Inside Out, a film which effectively highlighted the complications of an emotion-ridden child and built a world within which was both intelligent and fluffy enough to serve both a young and elder audience. With The Emoji Movie however, the key message of the film is for young children to simply use their mobile devices as a way of living your life from beginning to end, where instead of socialising through conversation and active involvement with others, apps such as Facebook, Instagram and Just Dance should be bought and used instead in order to really succeed in life at such an early stage, and whilst such a narrative is inherently toxic and vulgar, the film is made worse by the straight-faced manner in which such a message is played rather than there being any air of irony or satire to accept it. Amidst awful dialogue consisting of conversations regarding piracy, hackers and internet trolls, the evoking of swear words and sexual references make The Emoji Movie one of the most misjudged U certificate films I have ever seen, and with enough saccharin sweet awfulness and ear-piercing musical pieces to make you want to throw up in the aisle, animation has never hit levels so desperately low. In the 1990’s growing up, my generation had The Lion King. In 2017, the animation of the summer is The Emoji Movie, a hate-filled barrel of toxic slumber which deserves to be derided by everyone who pays to see it. What prevents it from being one star you ask? It’s only 80 minutes of your life you will never, ever get back.
Overall Score: 2/10
“You’ll Never Be The Racer You Once Were. You Can’t Turn Back The Clock, Kid, But You Can Wind It Up, Again…”
With the likes of Inside Out and Zootropolis being superb recent examples of when Disney get it bang on in regards to releases from their animation platform, with the latter managing to proclaim itself as one of the few top marked films on this particular film review site, a healthy title if ever there was one, the release of Cars 3 is ultimately a bit of a downer, a sequel to one of Disney’s more middling franchises but too a film which undoubtedly will surpass many releases at the box office due to the nature of the prolonged six weeks summer holidays in which sweet-addicted children swarm your local cinema screening and make you cringe at their unwanted immaturity and annoying little booster seats. Bit harsh I know, but what we have with Cars 3 is ironically a solid entry into the ever-expanding Disney canon, a film which takes no time at all in laying the groundwork for the narrative ahead, with its’ sweet, harmless tone offering more than enough spectacle for the young at heart. whilst an effective array of jokes prove that there is more enough chewy material to satisfy the adults, even when the plot does fall into the realm of cliche and over-sentimentality at times.
Suffering from the inevitability of old age and facing the threat of newer, faster racing vehicles including the likes of the Armie Hammer voiced, Jackson Storm, Owen Wilson’s Lightning McQueen begins to question his suitability on the race track, and with the legendary racer potentially facing the unwanted exposure of falling into past history, McQueen teams up with Cristela Alonzo’s wannabe-racer Cruz Ramirez and Chris Cooper’s legendary racing trainer, Smokey, in order to get back on track and finally overcome the presence of the egotistic Storm. With flashy colours and an explosion of jet-waxed colours from beginning to end, Cars 3 ticks all the boxes in what you would expect from a Disney animation sequel aimed primarily at kids, and whilst the narrative is somewhat obvious and cringey at times from an adult point of view, the smart-witted dialogue and joyous concluding act proves that the film’s existence does hold more than just being that film that you take your kids to see. Whilst the money will keep on rolling and the spin-off merchandise will keep on selling, the concluding edge of the narrative does suggest we have seen the last of the Cars franchise for good, but with Disney not exactly shying away from a quick buck at times, you can’t take anything at face value these days.
Overall Score: 6/10
“Face It, Gru. Villainy Is In Your Blood..!”
Much like Transformers and even the MCU, Illumination Entertainment is the kind of film company that know the key to success in terms of financial revenue, and whilst expansive items such as The Secret Life of Pets wasn’t exactly received perfectly by the likes of myself and other, more famous film critics, the company know which one of their little darlings will always attract the younger generation and their parents’ hard-earned dollar. MINIONS! Returning in their animated form with Despicable Me 3, the famous yellow coloured dumplings take the backseat somewhat after their success within the standalone entry Minions in 2015, paving way for the return of the Steve Carell voiced Gru, the bad-guy-turned-good who this time faces up against the long lost presence of twin brother, Dru Gru in a reunion which sets the basis for a movie which knows what to do in order to make most of its’ animation-loving audience happy. With slapstick galore and some rather hilarious characterisation of the film’s leading villain, Despicable Me 3 is a solid enough threequel, and a movie which uses the appeal of the Minions to undeniable effect.
Released side by side with the likes of The House, the comedic arsenal of Despicable Me 3 makes the film look like an animated Annie Hall in comparison to Will Ferrell’s woeful excuse for a mainstream comedy, and whilst it is true that watching minions read out the yellow pages would probably be an entertaining pastime in itself, the unparalleled addiction of admiring the existence of their particular race is undeniably the best element about the Despicable Me series and whilst they somewhat play second fiddle in this particular entry, the moments they are on-screen are definitely the strongest. Add into the mix a villain with a penchant for shoulder pads, disco balls and a jukebox soundtrack which features everything from Madonna to Dire Straits, DM3 is a surrealist bag of kooky wackiness, using the animated platform to construct characters and sets which I couldn’t help but laugh at, with the best being the inclusion of a pig-infested Freedonia in which cheese is supplied and eaten between moments of courting. DM3 is actively funny enough to warrant its’ existence in the Despicable Me franchise and whilst the narrative is somewhat predictable and uninspiring at times, sometimes you have just got to leave your brain at the door and admire the madness on-screen. BANANA.
Overall Score: 6/10
“When You’ve Reached Rock Bottom, There’s Only One Way To Go, And That’s Up..!”
As we are all well aware, the golden age of animation is well and truly upon us, with the contemporary battle between Universal and Disney for the right to declare themselves masters of the animated art a mouth-watering proposition, resulting in a wide array of superb movies such as the Minion franchise from Universal and the likes of Inside Out and Zootropolis from those crafty devils up in Disneyland, whilst the likes of films such as Song of the Sea and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya prove that gems are being formed from all areas of the globe. Following on from the success of Minions last year, a film which took a staggering one billion plus at the box office, Illumination Entertainment boast an early return with Sing, an animated swing at the tedium of modern-day talent shows featuring Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon and Seth Macfarlane who each lend their voice to an animation which could have been better served by being one of those five minute shorts that precede films that are worthy of being a full-length feature. Sing isn’t necessarily a bad movie in any sense, it’s just a fine example of a film which runs out of steam just under half way through and fails to grasp any effective reason to continue into a staggering 110 minutes of a jukebox style cheese-fest.
Featuring a endless swarm of overplayed chart sewage from the past couple of years or so for the majority of the soundtrack, the film does offer rare snippets of a relieving sense of juxtaposition with half-decent attempts to cover good classic tunes including Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing”, but with all the voice talent and Son of Rambow’s Garth Jennings on directorial duty, Sing follows in the footsteps of last years’ The Secret Life of Pets by being a film which ultimately is a resounding disappointment and a movie which completely lacks a punchy and durable narrative amidst semi-laughable set pieces which were used so heavily in trailers and advertisement for the movie. Whilst the plot is somewhat obviously played, Sing suffers too from a rafter of characters which although tick the checkbox in attempting to grab a vivid selection of cultures and societal traits, still resort to singing corporate crap which most of the world is sick and tired of by now and belongs nowhere other than the next version of Now That’s What I Call Music! Forgettable and mediocre, Sing serves to be nothing more than an animated version of season 43 of The X-Factor, just without Simon Cowell’s sarcastic banter.
Overall Score: 4/10
“I’m So Happy The Gods Put Our Packages Together…”
Judging from the trailers alone, everyone knew what to expect with Sausage Party, the latest comedy venture from the Seth Rogen rubble, directed by Conrad Vermon and Greg Tiernan, with crude and vulgar humour set to being seeped throughout an animation which attempts to poke holes in the family-friendly works of Disney and Pixar by following in the footsteps of a supermarket-based sausage named Frank (Seth Rogen) who like every other food item in the store, believes being “chosen” by the “gods” results in a swift and joyous journey into heaven. Of course the reality of the situation is a closely-hidden secret, a secret in which Frank and his merry band of faithful food friends including Frank’s girlfriend, Brenda (Kristen Wiig) attempt to bring to light.
Although strangely hypnotic for the first ten minutes or so, Sausage Party does swiftly descend into plights of sheer boredom, with the one-note shine of relying on vulgarity and ridiculous levels of swearing not exactly managing to survive the full 90 minutes in which subplots aplenty attempt to hold up the animation into earning its’ reason to be on the big screen. Although the final act is one in which all involved must have been patting themselves firmly on the back after creating, its’ ludicrousness as a whole confirms that if made as a 30 minute sketch, perhaps the idea of Sausage Party may have been a successful one. Instead, the film is just another excuse for Seth Rogen to make penis jokes, and although occasional laughter can be created by such, Sausage Party isn’t the comedy I was hoping for. The animation is good though so you know, not all bad. Peace.
Overall Score: 4/10
“Get Ready To Dance… With Danger!”
Where last year offered some real quality additions to the genre of animation with films such as Inside Out already solidifying itself as a Disney classic whilst The Tale of the Princess Kaguya all but continued the riveting success of Studio Ghibli, this year has only succeeded in adhering to the well-established notion that animation is on the rise with last week’s Anomalisa being yet another wonderful piece of animated-driven cinema. Rivalling the success of both Disney and Studio Ghibli is that of DreamWorks Animation, with their latest venture, Kung Fu Panda 3 being a solid, highly entertaining continuation of the highly successful series in which a wholly impressive voicing cast lead the way to a variety of laugh-out-loud set pieces in which all family members can take something away from. In terms of the film’s plot, after being reunited with his long, lost father Li Shan (Bryan Cranston), Dragon Warrior Po (Jack Black) is required to take over the reigns of Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) and become the role of teacher, much to Po’s and and the Furious Five member’s bemusement. After coming under attack from the spirit warrior Kai (J.K. Simmons), Po must train under the wing of his father in order to defeat this legendary foe once and for all, training to become the teacher his master believes he can be all the way.
Of course, as with most DreamWorks Animation pictures, Kung Fu Panda is a delight to take in and admire visually, with fluorescent and vivid animation filling the screen in almost every section of the film’s incredibly family-friendly runtime. Wherein it may suitably pass the time and do wonders for the younger generation, in terms of its’ overall longevity and originality, it does seemingly go in one ear and come swiftly out the other, with the formula of the Kung Fu Panda franchise not exactly being broken to an extent that its’ third instalment could be classed as something excellent, yet for the time it is on-screen, Kung Fu Panda 3 is ridiculously enjoyable, with laughs and sniggers being constant throughout. That’s right, Kung Fu Panda is much funnier than Hail, Caesar! The kid inside me has been truly awoken. Kung Fu Panda is no mere masterpiece, but it does what it needs to and does it well. Pandas… ASSEMBLE!
Overall Score: 7/10
Life of Riley
When it comes to my final countdown of this years’ best and brightest movies, at least two films within that list will be that of an animated pedigree, with the first being the wonderful Song of the Sea, released only two weeks ago, which proved to be one of the most blissfully entertaining and emotion rattling films that I had seen so far this year with gorgeous visuals, a simply gorgeous design and a soundtrack that rivals any classic musical companion to date. The second on that list however, without a doubt, will be this weeks’ new Disney Pixar release, Inside Out, a film so masterful in reaching all its’ cinematic targets and avenues that it begs the question whether Disney can ever outdo itself ever again in creating a film that not only touches the heart, but touches the mind too with concepts and ideas that are set to bring a overarching sense of joy out in everyone, even if they are too stubborn to admit it.
The story of Inside Out focuses on the life of young Riley Anderson and her five manifestations of emotions that reside within her mind who control the way in which her life is run, whether it be saving memories of joy and happiness, creating islands of Riley’s personality or just finding solutions to day-to-day problems and situations young Riley finds herself in. Of these emotions, Joy (Voiced by Amy Poehler) believes the best way for Riley to live her life is to constantly be happy and only resort to the other emotions of either Disgust, Fear, Anger and Sadness if completely necessary, yet Riley and her emotions are turned upside down when she is forced to relocate from Minnesota to San Francisco, resulting in a range of stark changes that set Joy and co. on a wild quest to adapt to their inhabitants sudden and relentless changes. From the plot synopsis alone, it is obvious that Inside Out is a movie that can be related with by almost everyone and anyone, regardless of age, with the youngest audience being there for the gorgeous visuals and design, the high comedic and slapstick output and relationship to the character of Riley, whilst the older audience being there to enjoy the relationship between Riley and her parents, helped by a deep understanding of the films’ main idea that growing up brings with it a rafter of changes, both physically and mentally.
Of the many positives within the film, the simple, yet brilliant concepts that continued to pop up were astounding to behold, with trains of thought, islands of personality, imaginary friends and subconscious fears all being expertly designed, resulting in a roller-coaster ride of emotions with moments of sheer sadness, uplifting joy, and an overall sense of wonder that the film willingly creates. For example, one young girl in the cinema showing I was in actually broke down in tears during the film and although I was never going to follow suit, I have to admit, there were times my tongue was being well and truly bit, particularly in regards to the final scene of Riley’s imaginary friend, Bing Bong. I’m such an emotional wreck. These collage of magical elements that encompassed Inside Out throughout its’ runtime results in making the film not only one of the best of the year, but a true Disney Classic, one of which will live long in the memory of all that choose to watch it.
Overall Score: 10/10