Categories
4 Stars

Encanto (2021)

I am a sucker for many things in the movies, and one most definitely is when a film (animated or otherwise) has to do with a big family.

(Not to get too personal, but I have 6-8 siblings.)

Categories
4 Stars Movies

Luca (2021)

Dear Link,

From all the stories and photos you mom put on social media, it did not take me long to realize you and your younger brother Lenny had a blast during your first ever trip to Disney World.

This, of course, has been a bit of a family tradition going back long before you were even born. It’s been nearly two decades since I was last there: Pirates of the Caribbean was not even a movie yet. It was also brought to my attention that, before you guys left, you and Lenny watched most of the Disney classics to prepare you. Take it from me, that is a lot of movies for two brothers who are only five and four!

Categories
4 Stars Movies

The Mitchells vs the Machines (2021)

This time of year, we normally get some original Netflix films that are not worth mentioning (such as the atrocity that is Thunder Force, a movie I detested so much I keep forgetting it is not called Thunder Rush). That irrelevant film took the superhero premise and made a family film that was not fun for anyone in the family. Thankfully, that film will be forgotten once families discover a film that was made for any member of the family: The Mitchells vs the Machines.

Categories
4 1/2 Stars Movies

Remember the Titans (2000)

The first time I discovered Remember the Titans was not until a year after its release, but it was just at the perfect time.

I was in 8th grade, so I would always be sure to hang out at the Friday night high school (DGS Mustangs!) football games with my friends. As a senior who played center, my older brother Adam would normally have some of the players over on weekends . It also helped that it was the year the school won it’s first (and so far only) State Championship in football. The second to last game of that season is still the best football game I ever saw, professional or otherwise. It was also when a player on the team had died the previous summer in a road accident. There are a lot of parallels between that time and this film (other parallels to be mentioned later).

Categories
5 Stars Movies

Au Revoir les Enfants (1987)

As we reach our teen years, world events start to play a bigger part in our lives in the classroom.

When I entered middle school back in 2000 (!), more people were talking about the election, only to be followed a year later by the 9/11 attacks. I can only imagine what the talks will be like with young people now regarding the COVID-19 pandemic (especially those like my brother Jackson who are in the graduating class of 2020). These were evident in my mind as I was watching Louis Malle’s Au Revoir les Enfants, a reflection of his own childhood during World War II in France.

Malle’s film (which translated is “Goodbye, Children”) focuses on the new semester of a Catholic boarding school, told mainly through the eyes of young Julien Quentin (Gaspard Manesse). About the age of 12 or 13, Julien is one of the brighter students of his class, yet still prone to cracking jokes and causing mild mischief. As any child would be at that age (regardless of when they lived), he acts tough around his friends but is still vunerable around his mother (his father is always at work).

Things change in the semester when a new student arrives: Jean Bonnet (Raphael Fejto). As is the case in all schools in society, he is picked on from the get go. He becomes Julien’s bunk mate, and eventual academic rival. It is only when a secret begins to be revealed that the two become eventual friends.

As stated before, this is a reflection of writer/director Malle’s own childhood (he is the Julien character). It is therefore evident that all minor details are completely accurate. The trading with the kitchen assistant Joseph (Francois Negret) of his mother’s jam for stamps, talking about the latest books read, smoking in secret, deep conversations (“I’m the only one in this school that thinks about death.”, Julien says), and the countless times of not paying attention in class (admit it, we all are guilty of this at least once in our childhood).

I truly admire how Malle takes his time to even mention world events. Though it can be rather easy to guess what time the film takes place in (mainly due to the production and costume design), it is not until around the 40 minute mark when kids even mention Hitler. Why is that? Simple. The movie is not about what is happening outside the school, but what is happening inside.

Parents, it is rather somewhat surprising to learn the film is PG. I would say it is one of the more “hard” PG films I have seen. That is not to say there is visible nudity/sexuality or anything. The boys basically talk about it a lot (as many are prone to at that age), not to mention the casual swearing all boys that age tend to do. The whole subject matter of the film makes me feel it should have been PG-13.

All the events of the film lead to a brief moment where one of the boys makes one simple, fatal mistake. Some viewers may be prone to accusation, wondering how he could do such a thing. While that reaction to accuse is understandable, we need to stop and think: How many mistakes as kids did we make that we regretted afterward? I doubt anyone would be truthful if they did not say at least one.

Though the consequences may not be as severe as those in the film, we still remember them years later. To be clear, I am not talking about the ones we look back on and laugh (none of those “kids say the darndest things” moments and the like). I am talking about the ones that fill you with remorse and that, even years later, you are still not entirely sure if you have completely forgiven yourself.

When the film ends (and we are done dabbing our teary eyes), we eventually remember that to err is truly human. Now to the next part, where to forgive is utterly divine.

Overall:

Rating: 5 out of 5.
Categories
5 Stars Movies

The Searchers (1956)

At the 92nd Academy Awards, when Bong Joon Ho was accepting his Oscar for Best Director (for Parasite), he paid tributes to each of his fellow nominees. The first (and most memorable) was toward Martin Scorsese, which prompted an unexpected standing ovation. It was clear that Bong Joon Ho was paying tribute to a mentor.

In the filming industry, perhaps no other career is more vocal of paying tribute to mentors than that of a director. Most (if not all) have stated they have been in total admiration of a certain director that came before them, often rewatching their films almost to a degree of pure obsession. Certain names come to mind: Hitchcock, Kubrick, Welles, Kurosawa, Spielberg, Scorsese, Eastwood, Coppola, Lucas, Tarantino, and Spike Lee, to name a few. However, all the big named directors seem to have one person they all agree on that had influenced their career. That name is John Ford. Famously, when Orson Welles was asked the directors he admired most, he said, “John Ford, John Ford, and John Ford.”

The winner of four Best Director awards (not including two others for short films) and the first winner of the AFI lifetime achievement awards, directors around the world are in some way, shape, and form in debt to Ford. He is most associated with the western. When we envision the old west, it is most likely seen the way Ford saw it. A time long ago, a relic. In a way, it is a way we sometimes look at the bible.

Though I am still in the mist of seeing as many of his films as I can (he made over a hundred, so I got a way to go), The Searchers is more than likely his most well known, and certainty the most studied. David Lean watched it to prepare for Lawrence of Arabia (1962), and even a popular song from Buddy Holly was inspired by one of the film’s lines.

 Set in Texas, 1868, the door opens to the great outdoors of the west, as a returning Civil War Veteran visits his sister’s family. The man is Ethan Edwards (John Wayne, in perhaps his best role). He is tired and worn (as his face clearly shows), and wants nothing more than to take it easy. We learn his one main character trait: he is clearly racist. Not towards African Americans, but American Indians (mainly the Comanche).

Soon enough, the Comanche arrive, and kidnap his niece Debbie. He sets out to find her, only to realize that those accompanying him (especially the Reverend, played by the great character actor Ward Bond) are slowing him down. The only one truly able to stick his own with Ethan is Martin (Jeffrey Hunter), Debbie’s adopted brother, who Ethan is not fond of at all (Martin is part Indian). Undoubtedly, Ethan is not someone to mess with. There is a moment in the movie where he sees trouble, and just whips his gun out of the cover. That is one small moment when you realize that making this man mad is a death sentence.

Set just after the Civil War, first time viewers may find it strange to know that the quest for Debby indeed takes time. Five years in fact. This is shown in small touches, such as when Martin’s love interest Laurie (Vera Miles) is told she has been written by Martin. Not just one letter, but two letters in one year. It takes so much time that when Debbie is finally seen, she is no longer played by Lana Wood, but her older (and more popular) sister, Natalie Wood. Looking back, you realize that character development sometimes takes a while. How often have we heard (or experienced) times where God works on our character for months or even years?

In my view, there is a certain unique delicacy in a John Ford film. Each time you see how the camera is placed, you realize it could not be placed anywhere else. The shots can be put on pause, and you could study each one like you would a famous painting. In short, Ford was what all directors strive to be from the beginning: an artist.

While some directors are known for reshooting scenes until they are satisfied (most notably Stanley Kubrick), Ford was not one of them. He was a fan of getting the scene done on the first take (nowadays, this is especially attributed to Clint Eastwood, who has also stated his admiration of John Ford). Perhaps it was because he wanted the first impulse of the actor saying the line to be filmed, or because he was (reportedly) not a fan of dialogue, it is hard to say. The stories I have heard of working with him are, well, interesting, to say the least. The only person who seemed able to stand up to Ford was Katharine Hepurn (whom he became romantic with for a time). Regardless, the overall outcome seemed to work.

Even the comedy of the film is effective. For one reason or another, a vast majority of them involve the character of Martin: Just in the wrong place at the wrong time. My favorite is a fight scene between him and another man trying to win the affections of Laurie. The scene is not as over the top as the fight scene in Ford’s The Quiet Man (1952), but it still should make you feel unexpected uproars of laughter. The same can also be said of an very unwanted battle wound for the Ward Bond character in a very unfortunate place. How did he get that wound? If you have to ask, you were not paying attention.

Parents, I am all for kids getting a head start on old classics (especially westerns). Still, it should be noted that the racism of the film is apparent (although what the Comanche do is indeed reprehensible). Still, the film has maybe two or three minor swears, so middle school and up would be fine.

There are certain movies which are blessed to have a great opening shot, or a great closing one. Very few have both, especially when they compliment each other by being virtually the same, like bookends. Just some that come to mind include Saving Private Ryan (1998) with the American Flag, 1917 (2019) with a soldier resting under a tree, and Parasite (2019) looking out the window into the street. Then there is The Searchers. After characters have returned, there is only Ethan Edwards left in the doorway. While others have entered, he stands alone, isolated. As he walks away, the door closes on him. Closes on the story. Closes on the old west. Lost to history.

Thankfully, never forgotten.

If it were, well…that’ll be the day.

Overall:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Categories
2 1/2 Stars Movies

Onward (2020)

Coming up this November will be the quarter century mark of the release of Toy Story (1995), which was the birth of Disney/Pixar (though Pixar had done some of the animated shorts beforehand). Having seen all but two of their full length films (2015’s The Good Dinosaur and 2017’s Cars 3 got past my radar), the quality of the films of Disney/Pixar have nearly always been able to exceed all expectations, despite how high they may have been. With very few “duds” to their credit (most of the non-Toy Story sequels and Brave), the combined duo shows no sign of stopping, even if they make films of lesser quality. Which, sadly, brings us to Onward.

The brief history of magical creatures states that magic has been nearly lost and almost forgotten. While magic once thrived, scientific discovery had replaced it. Still, there are a few who still believe it exists, mainly the over eager Barley Lightfoot (Chris Pratt). After the death of his magic loving dad (because this is Disney, so the one parent rule is almost always in effect), he tries his darndest to be somewhat of an influence to his younger teenage brother Ian (Tom Holland).

As the film begins on his 16th birthday, the somewhat introverted Ian tries to stay somewhat distant from his much more extroverted older brother. That is, until his mom Laurel (Julia Louis-Dreyfus, in her second Disney/Pixar film since A Bug’s Life) reveals a present to be given to both her sons when they turned sixteen. It is a staff, which will be able to bring there dad back (with the help of a rare phoenix stone their dad gave them as well) for one day. Unfortunately, trouble with the spell brews (pun intended?), and only the legs of their dad appear. They must then set forth on a quest to find another phoenix stone if they wish to see their whole dad before the 24 hour spell is over. Along the way in his (somewhat) trusty van Gwinivere, Barley passes on his knowledge of magic to his brother (who we discover is the one with magical abilities).

Compared to other films in the Pixar canon, there seems to be fewer supporting characters that stick out. The ones that do include a manticore (Octavia Spencer), Laurel’s new boyfriend cop, Colt Bronco (Mel Rodriguez), and some hard headed (and often funny) motorcycle pixies. And yes, we still get the Disney/Pixar treasured voice of John Ratzenberger, but it was so brief I admit I missed it.

There is also one (very minor) character, Officer Spector (Lena Waithe), who is officially the first openly gay character in a Disney/Pixar film. Sadly, this is more politicized than memorable. If you are going to include a homosexual character (in general, not just in animation), make it needed in the story itself. If Spector had not mentioned she was gay (though she does not use those exact words), I doubt it would make any difference to the outcome of the film.

The idea of being able to spend time with a dead loved one is indeed moving, but the way they established it seems just…awkward. I can understand the filmmakers wanting to add a twist of some kind, but just the legs? Yes, they find a way to communicate (somewhat) with them, but it just seems not as original or daring an idea that would expect from the studio.

Speaking of originality, when Disney/Pixar is at the top of their game, they give us worlds of endless possibilities. They have created countless universes with toys, bugs, monsters, cars, superheroes (even before the MCU), robots, emotions (!), and rats in the kitchen. Very few studios can say they have done something like that (save for Studio Ghibli).

That said, the universe of the creatures of Onward seems like it is from the minor leagues. Through out the film, I seriously had to remind myself I was watching a Disney/Pixar film, and not something from a lesser quality studio (I won’t name examples, but even the heads of other studios have to admit they have to almost always compete with Disney/Pixar).

Parents, the film is okay for kids provided you plan to have a conversation about the lesbian character, but I do admit I think the humor for the adults will be harder to find than it was in other Disney/Pixar films.

The deeper issues with being able to talk to a deceased family member did hit me at times (having lost my own dad a little less than a decade ago), but not as much as it could have. Consider the other great touching moments in the history of Disney/Pixar: Andy saying goodbye to his toys, WALL-E not recognizing EVE, Boo realizing (at the time) she won’t see Sully again, Miguel singing to Coco, the goodbye at the end of Toy Story 4, and, of course, the first ten minutes of Up. I would argue these (as well as moments which would produce “happy tears”) are groundbreaking moments for a child’s life as a movie goer (and some adults as well).

Disney/Pixar will, I am confident, still produce classics in the years to come (they have another film this year called Soul, which does look promising), but they need to remember to go Onward before going upward.

Overall:

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Categories
5 Stars Movies

Apollo 13 (1995)

In the 2000s, one of my favorite review sites to go to was that of “Mr. Cranky”. It was a satirical site (now no longer available), in which the reviews would state how bad the film really was (the highest rated were for films deemed “almost tolerable”). Of the many reviews I had seen, my favorite header came from the review of Apollo 13, which read along the lines of “Spoiler: They survive.”

Yet the fact that we know what will happen does not at all take away from the suspense of the film. Released about a quarter century after the events occurred (and now a quarter of a century after the release), the film still works as a thrilling adventure for those like me who were not alive when three astronauts spent days in space with little to no hope of survival after an unexpected explosion.

The plot is well known to (mostly) every adult. After the success of the moon landing, astronaut Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks) captains a trip to the moon with fellow astronaut/friend Fred Haise (Bill Paxton) and the relatively young Jack Swigert (Kevin Bacon). Only a couple days into the mission do we get the troubling, immortal line by Hanks: “Houston, we have a problem.”

Upon my umpteenth time of seeing the film, I was surprised to realize how much I took the supporting cast for granted. Take, for example, those at mission control. While the head of the ground team is indeed Gene Kranz (the always irreplaceable Ed Harris), that does not not mean others are unimportant.

You have higher up men like former astronaut Deke Slayton (Chris Ellis) and Henry Hurt (Xander Berkley, one of those actors know for playing guys you always find yourself not liking), but other of the tech guys like that of Sy (played by the wonderfully underrated Clint Howard, brother of the films director Ron). Rounding them out, of course, is Ken (Gary Sinise), who was sidelined for Jack at the last minute due to the fear of him catching the measles.

The same is also applied to those in the astronauts’ personal life. Nowadays, the role of the supportive wife is somewhat mundane, but that does not at all take away from the affectiveness of Kathleen Quinlan as Jim’s wife Marilyn.

It is also worth noting that Ron Howard not only cast his brother Clint, but his late parents as well. His father (Rance Howard) makes a cameo as the Reverend (though I don’t remember him having any lines), yet it is his real life mother, Jean Speegle Howard, who steals the scenes she is in as Jim’s mother, Blanche. “If they could get a washing machine to fly, my Jimmy could land it.”

Though I have not done much of the research myself, it has been said that Apollo 13 is rather accurate to what actually happened. This is rather astounding, as many films are known for taking liberties for sometimes actually changing history (such as Braveheart, also released in 1995, and beat Apollo 13 for Best Picture at the Oscars). As I was rewatching, I was looking at someways the film could have taken liberties. In the film, Fred Haise’s wife Mary (Tracy Reiner) is pregnant with their next child (“I have thirty more days till this blast off.”) Imagine if the screenplay (which is based off of a book co written by the real Jim Lovell) decided to add some unneeded melodram, and have her giving birth while daddy was in space. Or if they decided to dive deeper into Jack’s mistake to file his tax return. The point is that they stick to the story and don’t leave room for any outside fluff.

Despite how many times you have seen the film (by now, you should know it is endlessly rewatchable), you may find it surprising at how many countless factors the crew has going against it. Lack of oxygen. Too much Carbon Dioxide (and trying to fit a square peg into a round hole). Lack of sleep. Endless cold. A Typhoon Warning. The angle of reentry. A broken heat shield. Minimal power supply. The problems seem truly endless, and are sprinkled throughout the mission that you really forget at times that they do make it in the end.

One of the lesser known little moments of the film comes in the final moments of the journey. Just as the crew is about to enter the earth’s atmosphere (with their backs to the surface, no less), after Hanks’ character chimes in with “Gentlemen, it’s been a privilege flying with you,” we see the three astronauts for what is the last time before they seem to be nearly engulfed in flames.

What always stuck out to me was we see each astronaut’s final facial expression before the flames surround them. While each character has had their own approach to the idea of space flight (Hanks as the vet, Bacon as the newbie, and Paxton as the “wow, am I lucky to be here, now I just want to go home” type), each of them clearly shows the sense of knowing they will probably die now. It is proof that each of us does react differently in the face of death.

I have always been one who is not a fan of some decisions made by the MPAA rating system. However, I remember being pleasantly surprised when I found out that Apollo 13 is rated PG. There is no sex in the film (one scene with two characters in the shower, but nothing is seen). Aside from the obvious intensity, it is mainly the language (a few S words). Middle school and above are fine with seeing this film (and arguably should).

Recently, I was listening to the Bruce Springsteen song “We take care of our own”. Much of the lyrics (let alone the title) were vibrant in my head when watching this film. Nowadays, we have sad times when those around the world (not just the country) offer support and love (mass shootings, terrorist attacks, etc). It is a clear reminder of the scripture in 1 Corinthians 12, which talks about the body of Christ.

“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” – 1 Corinthians 12:26

The film is a sheer reminder that, when we as a body are working together (alone with God, of course), we can encounter any problem.

Overall:

Rating: 5 out of 5.
Categories
3 Stars Movies

Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)

All of my interactions I had with Sonic as a 90s kid were from my friends.

After my older brother and I got the Super Nintendo (a landmark day in my life at the age of 4 or so), we would have to depend on friends to play on the Sega console and race with Sonic, Tails (being the little brother, I was always second player, so this was my character), and Knuckles. While the Nintendo library is undoubtedly more popular than that of Sega, it is clear the that Sega’s mascot would always be the blue furry Sonic going forward (even if some of his games, like the one in 2006, would come to a crashing halt). Sonic’s roller-coaster career in the gaming world is surpassed by the even more uneven history of movies based off video games, so mixing them together to make Sonic the Hedgehog definitely had me wary, to say the least.

Still, Sonic has a steady loyal fan club. When the first trailer of Sonic the Hedgehog came out, there was online protest that was heard by nearly all those on the internet: Sonic did not look right at all. This forced director Jeff Fowler and the rest of the needed crew to go back and change Sonic’s appearance to be more accurate to the games. As someone who only played one or two of the games, I cannot say how accurate Sonic’s “backstory” is. In the film, the baby hedgehog is born with incredible speedy legs, soon to only be matched by his speedy mouth. When his powers are discovered, he is told by his guardian Owl Longclaw (don’t ask) to use his magic rings to travel through the universe to Earth. He is ordered strictly not to be seen by anyone.

Flash forward ten years. Sonic is living in the outskirts of a small town in Montana called Green Hills. The town is looked after by the local sheriff (or “Donut Lord”, as Sonic calls him), Tom (James Marsden). He and his wife Maddie (Tika Sumpter) are in the process of moving to San Francisco. In the mean time, Sonic has caused an accidental black out of the whole town (if not more of the west coast), leading the government to (somewhat unwillingly) call in Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey). Tom and Sonic team up and are on their way to San Francisco where Sonic has lost his bag of rings he needs to get to his next safe haven: a mushroom planet (“I hate mushrooms” is perhaps Sega’s commentary towards a certain plumber in the Nintendo canon).

No doubt the plot of the film is rather fast paced, yet full of questions. Here is the main one: If Sonic (who is voiced well by Ben Schwartz) is able to run as fast as he can, you would think he could just run to San Francisco and get the rings (though to be fair, the rings have ended up on top of a building). The movie does have one moment where Sonic does in fact run to the West Coast, only to go straight into the Pacific. The movie does its best to show that Sonic is in desperate need of a GPS. Of course, if he could just run there and get the rings himself, not only would there not be a friendship between him and Tom, but there would be no movie.

While I was not the biggest fan of Sonic growing up, I was a very big fan of Jim Carrey. From Ace Ventura to The Mask to (mainly) Dumb and Dumber to Liar Liar, he was the first real movie star I knew by name. His work as Dr. Robotnik is far from his best work (comedic or dramatic), but I would be lying if I said it did not bring back some vibes I had long forgotten about these past two decades.

Though the film does not get as deep as other family films (like those in the Disney library), young kids can still learn a good lesson or two. Sure, the idea of not being cruel to animals is there (Tom’s wife is a veterinarian), but most kids won’t look at Sonic as some kind of pet. He is indeed as human as most CGI characters (the CGI is actually very well done). The real lesson for kids is how to help those in need, regardless of if you know them or not (Luke 6:31). There is also a secondary lesson on life decisions (as shown in whether Tom should take his new offer in San Francisco or not.)

Parents, the film is fine for kids. There is may one minor swear word or two, and light kissing. The action has virtually zero violence in it. Add in some lightly peppered humor the adults might get, and the film ends up being fine for anyone in the family.

Even with the flimsy plot, Sonic the Hedgehog worked on me mainly due to the fact that I am, as stated before, a child of the 90s. The film is like a boxing match of two different bits of 90s nostalgia. In one corner, you have video games (Sonic), and the other corner has Jim Carrey. It is a match of nearly equal amounts of quirky, bizarre energy (both Sonic and Dr. Robotnik seem to clearly have some amount of ADD). While most movies based on video games are genuinely bad, Sonic the Hedgehog has set a nice pace for those to follow.

Here is hoping they catch up.

Overall:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Categories
1 Star Movies

Dolittle (2020)

As I get older and see more movies, I realize that nostalgia cannot always work for movies I liked as a kid. Sure, some movies are classics and speak to the child in all of us (The Wizard of Oz, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, E.T., and a number of Disney films), but some are sadly ones we look back on and wonder, “What was I thinking?!?!”. I recently revisited the original first two Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies from the early 90s, and while the first one is still passable, the second one (the one with Vanilla Ice) is now just laughable. I predict kids who see Dolittle will say the same thing if they choose to revisit it as an adult, since any adults these days who are forced to see it will do what they can to forget it (even more so for the adults who were part of the film).

Back in 1967, the titular role of Doctor Dolittle (unseen by me) was played by theater great Rex Harrison. In the late 1990s, it was Eddie Murphy (the first was enjoyable to me as a kid, but I stopped caring after the second sequel). Now the role is in the hands of Robert Downey Jr. (in his first role after leaving the MCU). Set in the 19th century, we learn in an animated prelude (which was very well animated, and one of the few things of the film I actually was fine with) that his wife Lily (Kasia Smmutniak) is an adventurer who has died at sea. Understandably depressed, Dolittle has secluded himself in his mansion (that was once paid for by the Queen) in isolation. One day, a boy named Tommy Stubbins (Harry Collett) is out hunting with his family, though very unwillingly so. When he purposely misses shooting ducks, he hits a squirrel. Rather than put it out of its misery, he stumbles upon the Dolittle mansion.

At this point, we encounter one of the films many problems. We first see Dolittle talking to the animals as any human would: using animal sounds. We get a close up of him, and it changes to him speaking normally to the animals who now speak clear English to him as well. There is no consistancy in the communication between the doctor and the animals.

At the same time that Stubbins drops in, we meet Lady Rose (Carmel Laniado), who has been sent to deliver disturbing news: Queen Victoria (Jesse Buckley) has fallen ill. When the Doctor arrives, we discover the only known cure is from a mystical island that Dolittle’s late wife was looking for as she perished.

There is also a side plot involving Dolittle’s father in law, who blames the Doctor for Lily’s death. The father in law (named Rassouli, a name I don’t remember being uttered but it was on wiki so I guess it works) is played by the just recently Oscar nominated Antonio Banderas.

Wait, there is another side plot I forgot involving Dr. Blair Mudfly (Michael Sheen). A former classmate of Dolittle’s, Mudfly is summoned by Lord Thomas Badgley (Jim Broadbent, another wonderful actor who I had to find his character name on wiki) to make sure Dolittle & Company fail and that the Queen dies (not sure why they wanted the Queen to die, but whatever). There are no points given in finding out right away that Mudfly is the bad guy. In fact, points should be taken away if you did not know that.

If you thought the cast I have mentioned so far is a waste of talent, wait till you hear who the animals are voiced by. Emma Thompson is a wise parrot (as well as the films narrator). Rami Malek is a kind but not so confident Gorilla. Tom Holland is a loyal dog with glasses (for some reason). Octavia Spencer is a duck. Ralph Fiennes is a tiger. Selena Gomez is a giraffe. Marion Cotillard is a fox (with only a few lines). Finally, Kumail Nanjiani is the ostrich who becomes friends with Yoshi the Polar Bear, played by John Cena.

While none of these actors are untalented, they fail because of the script they are given (which is also mind boggling, when you remember that the film’s director and co-writer Stephen Gaghan wrote movies like Traffic and Syrianna, admittedly two vastly different films).

As stated, the film is set in the 19th Century, but the animals are all talking like they are from the 21st. I understand that it is to appeal more to children, but the theater I was in (which did not have many, thought it was a 5pm show on a thursday) had virtually zero laughs from the adults. As for the kids (maybe two or so in the audience), I think I heard three laughs tops.

There is actual detrimental material here for kids, because we have all encountered wild animals at one point or another in our lives. Whether it be a close pet we chat with or a squirrel we honk our horn at to move out of the way. We like to think we are talking with them.

When I get home from work, there is always a nice welcome for me from my dog, Molly (the newer dog, Charlie, is another matter). There is a weird sense of appreciation we get from pets that makes us want to talk to them. Animals (especially pets) help take us out of our daily lives and remember the natural elements of the world.

Parents, if all you are worried about is violence/sexuality/swearing, you are fine. There is none of that here (even the wounded squirrel, who took a shotgun blast to the chest, was not bleeding). The one exception is the post credit scene, where a character is surrounded by bats. While it is played for laughs, I think it would generally scare children.

Though I am not a parent, I would still argue that this movie is not engaging or smart enough for any child over the ages of 5-6. It is as if the filmmakers forgot that kids in a movie theater are actually smarter than they realize.

Dolittle also is unclear on its message. At first, I thought it would be on how to be kind to animals (after all, God did tell Noah to have two of every kind on the ark). The film just became about an adventure that no one asked for.

Somehow, Dolittle did give me a feeling I never expected.

A feeling of nostalgia.

…for the movie CATS.

Overall:

Rating: 1 out of 5.