It’s the holiday season, and bad movies are the gifts that keep on giving. This year is no exception. As Awards Season reaches its peak, there are oh so many also-rans and downright pieces of shit out there that studios are hoping to make some money off of in the meantime, either by selling them as prestige, or by banking on audience fatigue and desire to watch something where they can turn their brains off.
A week ago, when I first started compiling the list for this month’s column, I was actually a touch worried that I wouldn’t have enough content. I had already seen 10 of the 19 trailers in theatres over the past few months, with an even split of passes and fails. Five movies is a relatively low number, though not the lowest I’ve ever done, even before the pandemic, but it does feel a bit thin. On top of that, I didn’t really have a viable candidate for the Redemption Reel, and none of the remaining nine titles stuck out as having that extra special something.
But the universe finds its ways to provide. As it turns out, one of the remaining films did qualify for Redemption, and when I finalized things this evening, I got an updated list of releases, adding four more to the main body of the column, giving us a whopping NINE for the month. It’s like Santa knows there’s plenty of coal to hand out.
So what do we have on display to wrap up 2021? Well, we’ve got remakes, unnecessary sequels, Christian propaganda, corporate sports league commercials, and the culmination of one of the more unfortunate trends of the year. Also, while not explicitly in the trailers, we have two, TWO, movie musicals branded as “The Greatest Love Story Ever Told,” and BOTH are wrong! So slip on your ugly sweater that you totally wear ironically, and get yourself a nice hot mug of cocoa, cause it’s on!
This is the December 2021 edition of This Film is Not Yet Watchable!
Back to the Outback – December 3
Hey, you know what would make the Madagascar movies even worse? Well, how about we throw in every Australian stereotype, make the animals WANT to go back into the wild, and have them all be dangerous predators who are nice with a koala who’s mean! That’s a recipe for success right there!
No, wait, it’s a recipe for shit. And seeing as how the trailer ends with a boy having his Steve Irwin parody father drink his unfiltered urine, I don’t think I’m that far off. Also, why is the platypus a Jewish caricature? What the hell purpose does that serve? I’m really looking forward to when the Academy releases the submission list for Animated Feature, because it is going to be slim goddam pickings for next year’s race.
West Side Story – December 10
People, we’ve been over this. We learned this lesson the hard way with All the King’s Men several years ago, and we learned it again just last year with Rebecca. YOU! DO! NOT! REMAKE! BEST! PICTURE! WINNERS!
But it’s even worse this time. You could at least make the argument that the previous two are extremely old films that may not have aged well, or that are not as well known amongst the Best Pictures. They’re certainly not the first ones anyone would name if you asked them to rattle off their personal favorites.
But West Side Story is universally beloved, and one of the absolute classics. It’s one of those rare films that’s almost perfect in every way, from the music to the staging, to Natalie Wood and Rita Moreno, it’s beyond reproach, and has remained in the collective consciousness for 60 years. There is absolutely no reason to ever touch this gorgeous piece of work, but of course, Steven Spielberg – you know, the guy who replaced guns in E.T. with walkie-talkies – thinks he can do better.
What could Spielberg possibly add to the proceedings? Based on the trailer, it’s a Maria with a thicker accent (YouTuber Rachel Zegler, who is also slated to be the live-action Snow White when Disney ruins your childhood yet again), and his trademark spotlight fetish, which floods practically every scene with distracting lens flare. Oh, and it looks like we’ll throw in even more identity politics, because the original movie apparently wasn’t explicit enough that racism exists. And just to try to seem legitimate, he casts Moreno as Valentina this time and gives her an Executive Producer credit.
But more than anything else, the cynicism with which this movie has been promoted sickens me. Back in April, the studio bought ad time to promote the film during the Oscars telecast. Oh, I don’t mean during the commercial breaks, I mean literally cutting into the ceremony to devote time for the first teaser. This is horrible, because you’re denigrating the Academy’s credibility by trying to preemptively bias the jury that would be voting for or against this film at the end of the year, spending money to tell the membership directly that they should endorse the film, and by accepting the money, the Academy tacitly does.
After that abomination, the trailers have been strewn across theatres nationwide, placed before just about every movie that wasn’t a hardcore slasher film, attempting to wear down any resistance by forcing audiences to endure the same 2:30 every time they come out to see something they wanted to watch, whether it has anything to do thematically with West Side Story or not. Hell, I saw this trailer before fucking Wrath of Man. What does an ill-advised Best Picture remake have to do with a Guy Ritchie action film?
And yet, despite all that inundation, 20th Century Studios (i.e. Disney) has not screened the film for critics. A week before its release, it has no score and no reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. That tells you all you need to know. Even the studio knows this film is terrible and should never have been made, but the strategy all along was to buy support from the Academy and bombard audiences so that they feel obligated to watch it. We’re talking about a campaign that’s lasted roughly eight months to convince you to shell out money for this crime against cinema without letting a single qualified, objective observer take a look at it.
Sadly, this barnstorming, monopolistic marketing ploy is likely going to work. This will probably dominate next weekend’s box office, as every other option is getting a simultaneous streaming release (except for National Champions and Red Rocket, but those are much smaller films), and it’ll still be another week until Spider-Man: No Way Home comes out. And while the Oscars have more integrity than the Golden Globes, I don’t doubt for a second that their strategy of prejudicing the voters will pay off and the film will get nominations, forcing me to watch it for the sake of the Blitz. But that doesn’t mean you have to suffer with me. And to be clear, I will give it an honest look if and when I have to watch it, but its very existence has already committed some cardinal sins, and the studio’s cynicism in the film’s campaign triggers my equally skeptical mind. I won’t say outright that it has no chance to win me over, but it’s starting from a huge disadvantage.
Don’t Look Up – December 10
Adam McKay struck gold with The Big Short, giving us a funny, insightful, and nuanced look at the collapse of the housing market and subsequent recession. He did it again with Vice, showing the man behind the monster that is Dick Cheney. Now he’s coming out with Don’t Look Up.
Well, two out of three ain’t bad.
It’s strange, because this has all the elements that makes for a great McKay political/social comedy. You have a stellar cast in Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Jonah Hill, and Meryl Streep. You have some clever writing in the form of Hill’s dismissive one-liners. You have commentary on the media culture, with a morning show host (played by Tyler Perry) asking if a killer comet is large enough to take out his ex-wife.
The elements are there, but this feels just, off somehow. I think it starts with the opening text of the trailer, which reads, “Based on real events… that haven’t happened… yet.” Well, that’s a messed up message, because if they haven’t happened yet, then they’re not real events. That’s just how words work. I think McKay’s going for an ironic joke making fun of the use of the “based on real/true story/events” cliché that really needs to go away, but it comes off as an unforced error on himself, because those last two films were unique and hilarious looks at real human tragedies that occurred in recent history, while this one – about scientists who discover a comet heading for Earth, so basically the plot of a golden-age Simpsons episode – takes the same satirical approach to a hypothetical, which robs the concept of its inherent honesty and credibility. I mean, when you see that text, how are you supposed to take anything after it seriously, either as a work of art or a sales pitch?
I guess it could serve as an allegory to the pandemic, but honestly, if you’re going to do that, just make a film about the pandemic. We’ve already had a couple this year that were quite good because they were character studies about human connection. A farcical rundown of the failures of American government and the American people in the face of death would probably work just as well. And it’s not like McKay has shown any fear of naming names and going after the people responsible, so I struggle to believe that he’s unwilling to just show Donald Trump et al fucking up.
Finally, any chance the trailer had of winning me over ended the moment Ariana Grande showed up to talk about a back tattoo. Maybe as a one-off joke this could work, like Margot Robbie in the bubble bath, but no, she’s actually listed in the cast billing, and fonted as “Grammy Winner” Ariana Grande. First, the Grammys are bullshit, and have been for the better part of the last 40 years. Second, putting her Grammy win alongside the Oscar wins of the cast is just as bad as last month, when House of Gucci billed Lady Gaga as an Oscar winner alongside her co-stars, even though her win was for Original Song, not an acting category. It’s dishonest and outright equates apples with oranges, to say nothing of making comparisons.
I’m not saying I won’t watch it, because if nothing else, McKay’s earned himself a mulligan or two over the years. But again, something doesn’t smell right.
Rumble – December 15
Hoo, boy. Where to start with this one. First things first, fuck the WWE and everything associated with the WWE. Fuck the pandering to rednecks, fuck the fact that it’s fake, fuck the McMahon family entirely, and fuck them for basically using an animated film as a commercial for itself.
Second, as much as I love Michael Buffer and his signature, “Let’s get ready to rumble!” line in the boxing ring, every time he shows up in a movie, I just cringe. I still haven’t gotten over his cameo in the live-action Dumbo remake.
Third, I refuse to believe in a world where giant monsters exist, and instead of ruling the planet, they wrestle for the amusement of humans. There was a lot of stupid shit in Godzilla vs. Kong earlier this year, but at least there were kaijus doing kaiju things. This idea is just monumentally stupid. I mean, what could a human possibly know about monster physiology to train one as a pro wrestler? None of this makes any sense, and by the time we’re reenacting the climax of Dirty Dancing, I can actively feel brain cells dying.
But if you somehow need more proof that this is not worth your time, just look at its release schedule. You might see in the thumbnail for the trailer video that the year 2022 is listed as the release date. Well, that was the case, for a little while anyway. This movie has been delayed multiple times. Originally it was going to come out last summer, but the COVID pandemic put the kibosh on that, as it did for hundreds of other films. But a July release still implies that the studio has faith in the movie to turn a profit. So when it was rescheduled to January of this year, that was a pretty strong indication that they realized they had a dud on their hands. Then it was moved to May of this year, which hints that it’s bad, but maybe it could sneak in at the beginning of Blockbuster Season and salvage something. But no, then it was pushed again until next February, the deepest part of the studio dumping ground. They can blame the pandemic all they want, but moving it from the summer to the winter TWICE tells you this is a piece of shit.
And then last week, just for good measure, Paramount scrapped the theatrical release altogether, opting for Paramount+ streaming instead. That’s the final nail in the coffin. When the studio throws up its hands and gives up on recouping the production budget entirely, you know this is trash.
And it’s not like Paramount+ is doing great right now, either. It’s taken some major backlash from Star Trek fans around the world for its decision to pull Discovery and other spinoffs from international streamers in favor of itself, literally the day before the new season was set to debut, so that people outside the U.S. and Canada – most of whom don’t even have Paramount+ as an option – were robbed of their content. Similarly, they pulled every Trek show except for The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine from Netflix, and made its Nickelodeon-branded new show, Star Trek: Prodigy, a streaming exclusive. The show literally has “Nickelodeon” in the title and all the promotional material, but you can’t watch it on Nickelodeon. What the actual fuck?
They’re trying to consolidate content ownership and restrict all access to those who don’t fork over their money, and the consumers aren’t having it. Honestly, we may be seeing the beginning of the end for the streaming boom, as Peacock posted a loss of nearly half a billion dollars in the third quarter this year, after losing nearly a billion last year. They may be the first major outlet to drop off if things don’t improve (Quibi doesn’t count; it never counted), and if Paramount doesn’t get their shit together, they could be next.
Cyrano – December 17
Last year we had an independent film that got a bit of buzz in the form of The Half of It, about a teenage lesbian using a dumb jock to confess her feelings for her high school crush. It was a new spin on the classic Cyrano de Bergerac story that had some good moments, but ultimately didn’t do all that much for me.
Well, here’s yet another new version of the story in the form of Cyrano. The twist this time? Instead of having a big nose, Cyrano is a little person, played by Peter Dinklage. Now, I absolutely love Dinklage, and I think that he’s one of the greatest actors alive. But this just reeks of him hitting the same beats he did as Tyrion Lannister on Game of Thrones. Only this time it’s a musical. Yay?
The film is directed by Joseph Wright, who’s had great success with Atonement and the 2012 adaptation of Anna Karenina, not to mention Darkest Hour. He’s also had some severe misses in the forms of Hanna, Pan, and a dud from earlier this year, The Woman in the Window.
Based on the trailer, I lean towards the latter. The musical numbers look drab (and one of the sets just looks like a giant dick), the writing – even the supposedly lyrical love letters written by Cyrano – seem cheesy in the extreme, and the scenes with Roxanne (Haley Bennett, coincidentally Wright’s girlfriend) come off as wooden and one-note. Hell, the final scene of the trailer has Cyrano and Christian (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.) saying that Roxanne should make the choice between the two of them rather than her asserting her own agency.
Finally, the taglines here are stupid. One, the trailer opens with, “Have you ever loved someone?” What the hell kind of slogan is that? Yes, I have loved many people, romantically, sexually, platonically, and in a familial sense. Literally every single person on this planet has, unless they’re a complete sociopath utterly incapable of human emotion. That doesn’t mean this movie is good for them, or good at all. What was this empty question supposed to do?
Two, as mentioned in the preamble, the trailer tells audiences to “Experience the greatest love story ever told.” And while it’s not in the trailer posted here, as I’ve been writing this, a TV spot for the West Side Story remake called it “the greatest love story ever told.” Well, which is it? It literally cannot be both! I’d argue that neither qualifies, because one is an adaptation of “Romeo & Juliet,” which is about two teenagers getting infatuated with one another unto quick death, and the other is a cautionary tale about dishonesty and obsession. But setting that aside, it is literally impossible for two stories to hold the same superlative title, so at minimum one movie is lying to you, and most likely both are. Who can I sue for false advertising? This bullshit has seriously got to stop!
The Matrix Resurrections – December 22
Right off the bat, stop using “Resurrection” in movie titles. It sucked for the Alien franchise, it sucked for Halloween, and it’ll suck this time, I assure you.
But more importantly, what need was there to bring back The Matrix? Keanu Reeves has the John Wick series to be a certified badass now, and the story, such as it was, wrapped up quite neatly at the end of the original trilogy. There’s no reason to bring the characters back – literally resurrecting them since most of the important ones died last time – unless you have a new story to tell. And judging by this trailer, Lana Wachowski does not have one. Need proof? How about the fact that basically every shot is a reference or callback to the original trilogy? Or how about the fact that all the stunts and effects just look like the same bits done last time, only with a more updated CGI sheen? Or how about the “Alice in Wonderland” metaphor that was over-the-top obvious last time just getting beaten upside your head this time, with the entirety of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” playing over the whole thing for good measure?
In the midst of all the fan service, what’s really noticeable is what’s not there rather than what is, namely Laurence Fishburne and Hugo Weaving. Instead we have Yahya Abdul-Mateen II playing Morpheus, even though he looks 30 years younger than Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss in this movie, and Fishburne himself in the original. What sort of mental gymnastics are we expected to do to have that make any sense? And instead of Agent Smith, we have Agent Johnson, played by Daniel Bernhardt. Now, you could say that Agent Smith was destroyed, but then I’ll whip right back and say that so were Neo and Trinity last time out, and they’re fucking back somehow!
But really, all of this is window dressing distracting us from addressing the giant, green, digital elephant in the room. The Wachowskis’ body of work isn’t all that good. The original Matrix is an all-time classic of sci-fi action, but the rest of the trilogy was god awful, save for two action sequences in Reloaded (the highway scene and the lobby fight scene). Even the brilliant Animatrix only succeeded because they basically had no involvement, aside from writing “Final Flight of the Osiris,” which was the worst of the shorts because its sole purpose was serving as context for one line of dialogue in Reloaded.
Apart from that, what have they done? They wrote V for Vendetta, which I honestly loved, but that now seems more like a fluke than a pattern, and the fact that they didn’t direct it is probably what saved it. Their other directorial projects since then have been Speed Racer (41% on Rotten Tomatoes), the frustratingly confusing Cloud Atlas (66%), and Jupiter Ascending (28%), which only served to prove that Eddie Redmayne should have never been given an Oscar.
As such, doing another Matrix movie 18 years after the last unwatchable sequel smacks more of desperation to regain lost mojo rather than an earnest attempt to tell a new story. No one was asking for this to happen, there’s nothing in the trailer that even hints at a reason for this to exist, and the whole thing reeks of banking entirely on your nostalgia to succeed.
Sing 2 – December 22
Oh God, not this again! Did we learn nothing last time?
Apparently not, because the animals nobody cares about are back to once again cram the Top 40 Pop Songs list from two years ago down your throat through piss-poor animation and paper-thin story motivations. This time they’re going to Not Las Vegas to do a stage show, and for some reason, the fucking porcupine is going to pull a lion played by Bono out of retirement to sing U2 songs even though he swore not to perform again after his wife died, or some such bullshit.
There is literally only one good thing about this trailer, and it’s the very first scene. Some creeped out rodent/monkey thing “sings” (air quotes) Billie Eilish’s “Bury a Friend,” and gets immediately buzzed out by a talent scout who is extremely put off by the unsolicited weirdness. If only that had happened to Billie Eilish for real…
The King’s Man – December 22
What made the Kingsman movies so much fun? The action, Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, the clever writing, and the unapologetic humor and ultraviolence.
So here’s a prequel that has none of that!
This is another trailer that I’ve basically had to watch for an entire year because COVID fucked up its original release date, but it’s telling that it’s just been this one trailer for all that time. Oh there are other trailers, nearly a dozen of them by this point, because the film has been delayed several times. But this is the one that plays in nearly every major theatre in America, which is ironic, because in order to find it on YouTube, I had to get the New Zealand cut that advertises the release date as New Year’s Day.
Whatever the reason, this is the loop that I’ve seen for months on end. Ralph Fiennes verbally spars with Rasputin (Rhys Ifans), then there’s a bunch of violence, along with narration about the founding of Kingsman, including the mantra that, “While governments wait for orders, our people take action,” implying that extrajudicial murder is totally justified if the laws of man are insufficiently expedient. Man, Matthew Vaughn picks the weirdest right-wing hills to die on, doesn’t he? First it was environmentalists being terrorists, then a crusade against the drug war being part of a campaign of genocide, and now this? Who hurt you, Matt? Who hurt you?
Nothing about this movie looks any different from the previous two, except that all the wit and good character work seems to have been replaced by period clothing and Fiennes sleepwalking through all of his lines. Oh, and Gemma Arterton is here to occasionally quip about boys being reckless to deflect from accusations of casual sexism from the earlier movies.
Honestly, at this point, can we just do away with prequels? Has there ever been a truly great one? I guess The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, but that was 55 years ago. Everything else since then has been passable at best and horrid at worst. Why do we keep going back to this concept?
American Underdog – December 25
I’m a bit forgiving of a Christian film coming out on Christmas Day, because if that’s not an appropriate time, then what is? But this is a bridge too far, not because of the story, but because of the people behind it.
American Underdog chronicles the career of former quarterback Kurt Warner, based on his memoir, “All Things Possible.” Warner is very religious, and credits his faith as part of the reason he was able to become a success in the National Football League – including winning a Super Bowl and making the Hall of Fame – despite going undrafted and being cut early on.
All that is perfectly fine. While I am not a faithful man, I fully recognize that it can be a source of strength and inspiration for those who are. Where I take issue is with the people making the film, and with the NFL for signing on to this.
The movie is written, produced, and directed by the Erwin Brothers, who I’ve discussed in this space before. They’re not as egregious with their propaganda as the domestic terrorists at Pure Flix, but it’s still going a bit too far to make a movie asserting that God has a will when it comes to football players, and that Warner only succeeded through his piety. Like many great athletes, Warner got lucky by being in the right place at the right time, and he made the most of his opportunity, showcasing his talent and rising to the occasion when given a chance to lead. That’s remarkable on its own, and while I believe a person should take some credit for their own achievement, it’s also okay to acknowledge your faith as well.
That said, there are some serious implications by making this all about God. For example, Warner got his chance to play for the Rams when their intended starter, Trent Green, suffered a torn ACL during a preseason game, and Warner, who had never even taken snaps with the first team, was the only viable option on the depth chart. Did God decide that Trent Green should have his knee snap in half just to get Warner to the forefront? If God’s in charge of everything, and it’s all in His hands, then yes. His plan was to grievously injure one man so that another may prosper. That’s fucked up. What did Green ever do to deserve such wrath?
That’s where you have to have some degree of nuance with your storytelling, even when – especially when – it’s religious. It’s one thing to believe in something greater than yourself, to take that leap of faith. It’s another to suggest divine intervention on your behalf, or that your faith has been rewarded in some way, when millions of others would never have that moment. This is why it’s okay to give yourself a little bit of credit. Because if you defer it all to the Almighty, what you’re really saying is that God chose you instead of someone else, that you’re holier and more deserving of His favor, and that’s more prideful and conceited than anything.
The trailer asserts in text that “Faith made him a champion.” Um, no, that’s just objectively, factually wrong. Mike Jones tackling Kevin Dyson one yard short of the goal line made Kurt Warner a champion. That was the final play of the game in that dramatic Super Bowl, not anything Warner did. He put them in a position to win, but the defense had to come through at the last moment. Apart from that, there were countless moving parts independent of Warner’s play that contributed not just to that win, but the entire 1999 Rams season. By saying that Warner’s faith made him the winner, you’re also stating that Dyson’s faith, and that of every player on the Tennessee Titans that day, was insufficient. God chose a side, and He chose Warner.
These films need to walk a very fine line, and consistently, they fail to do so. This one looks no different. Kurt Warner is a faithful man who had a happy ending, but there is nothing to suggest that the happy ending came as a direct result of his faith, because if that’s true, then he’s a prophet, not an “underdog,” and it would be wholly irresponsible to posit that on Christmas Day, especially since, you know, the only real goal of this or any mainstream movie, is to make money, something about which that book all these people are so fond of has a few choice things to say.
But even more than the questionable morality at play once you go beyond surface level praise, the involvement of the NFL itself is potentially quite problematic. Now I’ll admit, it’s very hard to tell this story without the league’s approval, if nothing else than for licensing the logos and other trademarks. However, the NFL is a business first and foremost, which means you know they had to sign off on the context for their usage in addition to simply endorsing the checks from Lionsgate. There is no universe where Roger Goodell et al didn’t get at least some veto power over the content of this film, because they would not allow anything to make it to the public if it made them look bad. This is a league that is still fighting lawsuits over concussion protocols and protecting owners who routinely harass their employees. There is no PR scandal that they won’t attempt to preempt.
So yeah, they almost certainly had a say in what went into this movie, which is troubling in itself, but also remember that just by putting their name on the project, they’re endorsing Kurt Warner as a positive image for a quarterback in the league. In a vacuum that’s fine, but we live in a 24/7 news cycle. This is the same league that blackballed a different Super Bowl QB for having the audacity to take a knee in protest of police brutality, a QB who has not gotten to play a single game in years because the league and its owners colluded to exclude him, because he was determined to be not the proper image. Gee, I wonder what the difference is between that particular player and Kurt Warner. By allowing this film to be made, the league is making a tacit statement about what a “good” player is versus anyone else, and to me, that’s just a bit of muddy water that no one should get involved in. If that means there’s no Christian movie about a sports underdog, oh well. It’s not like there aren’t thousands of other devout athletes out there to tell a story about.
With that, it’s time to finally look at this month’s Redemption Reel, one tiny gift under the tree after the parade of shit in your stocking. After everything you’ve endured, you deserve a treat.
Well, I don’t know exactly how much of a treat this will be, but it’s at least something that shows a bit of promise. And just like last month’s twofer, if you’re hard up for stuff to show your kids to spend time as a family, this might be the way to go.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid – December 2
I’ve not read any of the books in Jeff Kinney’s beloved children’s series, but I know they’re extremely popular. I also know that the four live-action adaptations of the series have been met with mixed to abysmal reviews. No film in the series has an RT rating higher than 54%, and the most recent one, from 2017, came in at a humiliating 18%, to the point that Kinney refused to sign off on any more live-action movies, though he was open to animation, first as a TV series, and then as a movie.
This film serves as the rare circumstance where a full reboot is not only warranted, but necessary. Reading a lot of critiques of the previous movies, much of the hate comes down to juvenile humor and unrealistic plotting. This makes sense, because these are children’s books with silly illustrations being asked to function in the real world, and that’s a tall order in the best of times. It clearly didn’t work over the last decade with the first four films, so what’s there to really lose by giving it another shot in a different format?
Making it into a cartoon only makes sense. This way, some of the laws and logic of the universe can be tossed out the window, as we see in this trailer. One of the centerpieces is an apparently rotten piece of cheese on the playground that gets a stink on you if you touch it. That’s fine for a cartoon, because it’s a wacky concept that could never exist in the real world, as such a disgusting bit of food would either decompose and disappear quickly, or the school custodian would be called in to clean it up. When you live in reality, you have to obey its rules. When you’re in a cartoon, you can make your own rules, within reason, and exaggerate the absurdity for comic and emotional effect.
It’s also a lot easier to convey the emotions and moods you need when you can design the characters’ faces and movements to react in certain ways. There are a lot of talented child actors out there, but that doesn’t mean they have good comedic timing or meet the physical demands of a role, and when they come up short, the whole film suffers and looks cheap. In an animated film you eliminate those variables through the art design (which looks pretty interesting, like Charlie Brown mixed with The Oblongs) and taking whatever time is necessary to get the proper line readings in the recording booth.
But honestly, the main reason this is the Redemption Reel this month is because of its competition. There are four animated movies coming out in December, and this is the only one that even shows a hint of potential or quality. I’ve said it numerous times, this is a very down year for animation, to the point where part of me wonders how the Academy is going to fill the Animated Feature category next year (actually, it’s really not that hard; four of the five spots will go to Raya and the Last Dragon, The Mitchells vs. The Machines, Luca, and Encanto, with one wild card spot up for grabs for an indie or foreign entry, most likely). There’s just so much crap this time out, so any spark of creativity is worth a look at this point.
Merry Christmahanakwanzika, everybody!
Join the conversation in the comments below! Are you looking forward to any of these movies? Am I being too hard on any of them? Do you think I’ve left off some that should be included here? Let me know!