Archive for the ‘ Animation ’ Category

Puss in Boots

Puss in Boots, 2011, USA

By Jennifer Hanson

I avoided this film in theatres as I saw the Shrek franchise grow progressively worse.  I just didn’t trust this movie to be worth the price of admission and refreshments.  I was wrong.

Puss in Boots represents a new life for the Shrek film series.  It’s a prequel to the series that focuses on the early life of Puss (Antonio Banderas).  After years of living as an outlaw, Puss runs into Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek), who is trying to steal magic beans from the notorious Jack and Jill (Bill Bob Thorton and Amy Sedaris).  He discovers that Kitty’s partner in crime is Humpty (Zach Galifianakis), who was the childhood best friend of Puss.  This reunion is not a happy one, as Humpty betrayed Puss many years prior.  The three reluctantly team up to steal the magic beans, and plant them, in order to get their hands on the legendary golden eggs.

The movie was charming, and avoided the pop culture humour that doomed the Shrek franchise.  The film is a satire of the Zorro films, but it offers more of a timeless quality than the pop culture references of Shrek, which are already dated.  Several new fairy tale characters separate from the Shrek franchise are introduced in this movie, as well.  I’m not sure if any of the supporting characters will ever have the likability of Gingerbread Man (Conrad Vernon), who was always my favourite character in Shrek.

Banderas continued to bring charm to Puss, and both Hayek and Galifianakis are welcome additions to the series.  Banderas is an excellent voice actor.  I worried that I’d feel removed from the film, as Banderas has such a distinct voice, but he really got into character, and I was able to focus on the film, and not the fact that it was Banderas.  I did feel that Hayek was a bit underused and would have liked to know more about her character.  Galifianakis was excellent, though.  His character was written well, and had a great story arc.

The highlight of the movie (for me, at least) was seeing the early life of Puss.  The animators did an awesome job animating Puss as a kitten.  As a cat lover, I was on a cute induced high during the entire sequence.  I could never really imagine Puss as a kitten, and, while his origin may have been slightly cliché, satire works by mocking these sorts of clichés.  The animation as a whole was beautifully done.  I wish I’d rented the HD version of the film off of Apple TV.  When one contrasts the original Shrek with Puss in Boots, you can really see just how far computer animation has come in just over a decade.

I highly recommend this movie.  It was such a refreshing surprise.  It was exciting, heartfelt, and funny.  Too often in movies aimed more at children, adults find themselves bored by childish humour or overly simple plot lines.  Puss in Boots manages to appeal to both children and adults with a dynamic plot, powerful characters, and the occasional joke that may just go over the heads of young children!

4/5

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Megamind

Megamind, 2010, USA

By Jennifer Hanson

What would happen if Lex Luthor won and killed Superman?  And what would happen if Lois Lane developed feelings for Lex Luthor?  This film examines that dynamic, and features characters that parody modern superhero conventions.

Megamind (Will Ferrell) has always had a rivalry with Metro Man (Brad Pitt).  Megamind was unpopular in school, and Metro Man was beloved.  Eventually Megamind and his best friend and protector, Minion (David Cross) decide to go evil.  Years later, after many battles, Megamind manages to defeat and kill Metro Man.  At first, he is thrilled, but quickly becomes despondent after realizing he no longer has a purpose in life.  Using some of Metro Man’s DNA, Megamind creates a new superhero using the unsuspecting Hal Stewart (Jonah Hill).  During all of this, Megamind is trying to woo Roxanne (Tina Fey), his former kidnapping victim and love interest of Metro Man.

The primary focus of satire is Superman, but other superhero conventions are explored as well.  What I appreciated most was the DreamWorks did not turn to pop culture humour in order to tell the story, which is something they did quite liberally in their past efforts.  Pop culture humour becomes dated very quickly (often within two or three years), which means that there’s no longevity to the film.  As long as superhero stories (especially Superman) are being told, this movie will remain amusing.

The voice acting is generally really good.  Ferrell’s Megamind is very similar to some of the characters he’s played in the past.  I appreciate Ferrell, but he does have limited range when he’s playing an arrogant, eccentric sort of character.  It’s very much his shtick.  Hill was a nice surprise, and I did like his voice work.  Pitt’s role was relatively small, but it was obvious that he had quite a bit of fun with it.

I watched the film in HD, and the picture was smooth and crisp.  However, due to the nature of the plot line, there weren’t many opportunities for any overly beautiful shots.  The animation was well done, however.  It’s amazing how far computer animation has come in just under 15 years.  The technological advancements brought on by computers have done so much for the film industry.

This movie was decent and enjoyable, but I do get the feeling that it will ultimately be forgettable.  DreamWorks at its best can rival Pixar in terms of genius (How to Train Your Dragon is by far their best film), but at its worst, they’re intolerable (Shark Tale was a nightmare to watch).  I’d say that Megamind is middle of the road, as far as DreamWorks films go.

3/5 stars