Let’s not pretend with each other. When it was first announced that there was going to be a movie based on those multicolored building blocks, we all thought it was going to turn out to turn out to be a 90 minute advert for their back catalogue. Whilst there’s no denying that The Lego Movie is sure to shift a unit or two at Toys R Us, parents can rest easy knowing that there’s more to it than that.
Emmett Brickowzki (Chris Pratt) is the happiest man in the happiest city ever. Diligently following the instructions given out by the President of the world, Lord Business (Will Ferrell), he’s a nondescript yellow face amongst a sea of yellow faces. When happenstance leads to Emmett meeting the sage like, Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) and rebellious WyldStyle (Elizabeth Banks), he discovers that he may be the savior of all the known Lego universes.
Along his journey, Emmett interacts with various ‘master builders’, who – and again parents, you really shouldn’t let this worry you – all happen to be popular spinoffs of the Lego brand. Anyone who has played the Lego computer games – Star Wars, Batman, etc – will know the slight irreverence they have towards their licenses. And those ideals bleed into the movie itself, with Batman (Will Arnett) writing epic goth poetry about being Batman.
Wildly funny and imaginative, the biggest surprise of The Lego Movie is how layered it is. Starting with the checklist that is the Hero’s Journey, the film goes on to take on big business and during the third act manages to upturn the whole thing; turning the conclusion into an emotional finale that makes you reevaluate everything you’ve been watching.
The Lego Movie; A film so brilliant, so – ahem – awesome, we don’t actually want a sequel for fear it will dilute the overall effect. It’s that good.
Good evening and welcome to the EBFS review of the year (in film). Ahhhh…. 2013…. It seems a different, more innocent time. A time when the Academy saw fit to award Argo its highest honour at their annual, low-key shindig, despite their apparent belief that the film just popped into existence from nothing without any help from a director or anything. Cannes dropped to its knees over three hours of emotionally wrought, sapphic love in Blue Is The Warmest Colour, just to prove how stereotypically bloody French they are. Toronto, in a shameless attempt to hold onto it’s spot as “hot Oscar predictor”, hedged its bets and threw The People’s Choice Award at 12 Years a Slave, which is basically cheating. Venice and Berlin foisted their respective golden animal statues at Sacro GRA and Child’s Pose respectively. Two films so art-house and (eurgh) European that they have yet to see a release in either of the countries EBFS wanders around in. However, all of that backpatting, black tie dinnering, gladhanding was just window dressing compared to the (fanfare/family fortunes incorrect answer noise) annual verbal fist fight that has become the Early Bird Film Society’s Collection of Top Five Films And Some Bad Ones Of The Year! The title will be worked on.
Anyway, all four of us here at the global EBFS offices (Melbourne/Manchester Divisions) have picked our top five films that we saw at the cinema in 2013 based on a less than comprehensive release date schedule spanning two countries and poor recollection skills. It’s our list though, so don’t judge us and you’re welcome:
Joss Whedon threw this Shakespeare adaptation together using his house, his wife, his friends and his deft ear for fast, witty dialogue. Delightfully playful, completely faithful and a little breath of fresh air amongst the towering mega franchises.
– DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012)
Tarantino’s best film since Jackie Brown, completely ignoring any political subtext and a more brutal depiction of slavery for that reason. Great performances from Foxx and SLJ but Christophe Waltz’s warmth and DiCaprio’s gleeful evil earned them the plaudits. Extra points for surviving Tarantino’s inexplicable Australian accent which he’ll have to be brought to account for at some point.
Divisive doesn’t even cover it. Nicolas Winding Refn’s desire to “violate” the audience came true with this lurid, neo fable of oedipal urges in Bangkok. Ryan Gosling’s easiest day at the office is a bleak and uncompromising, neon drenched nightmare set within the lowest parts of the human psyche. Maybe.
Despite Spock’s presence, this embarrassingly colon free sequel was almost totally bereft of logic. Insane pacing and set pieces (and lens flare) and the worst kept secret of the year still made for a rip-roaring dash through a thousand tropes of the Star Trek universe all coated with JJ Abrams’ clever script reverses and cinema savvy. Best line delivery of the year too. Altogether now….”KHAAAAANNNNN!!”.
Harmony Korine aims for the mainstream and thankfully misses with his visceral tale of hedonism and excess where the youth of America stop trying to be the best they can be and realise they no longer live in a country where anything is possible. Warning, contains James Franco saying “blue Kool-Aid” over and over and singing a Britney Spears song. Not for everyone.
Will Smith “thinks” up an idea where he doesn’t play Will Smith but seventies Robert Duvall, his son convinces us that emoting is hard and M Night Shawaddywaddy directs? Ooh, it took a round of drawing straws to get one of EBFS into the cinema to begin with to gape open mouthed at a film with as much warmth, wit and charm as someone who bangs on a van at a sex trial. If this ruins Will Smith’s career (which it won’t), karmic film balance would at least creep back into the black….
The award for best rug pull/slap in the fan boys faces goes to Shane Black’s exceptionally funny take on the superhero. RDJ nails it yet again as Tony Stark but the star of the show was Sir Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin/Trevor Slattery. Brilliant fun from start to finish.
Adored by critics and loved by the public. Alfonso Cuaron’s marvelous film may have taken some fantastic scientific leaps in logic (seriously, look into it) but who cares, it was brilliant. Innovative and thoughtful this was on most critics top 5 lists. Ghost Clooney is my hero.
The funniest film I’ve seen in ages. Steve Coogan inhibits a character better than any other actor of his ilk, (take note of how it’s done Mr. Ferrell) and does it to consistently hilarious effect. The lip synch to Roachford’s ‘Cuddly Toy’ and ‘the man fanny’ were two of my highlights. Excellent work from everybody involved.
– CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (2013)
Tom Hanks is as good as he’s been since he made me cry over losing a chuffing volleyball. Special mention to debutant Barkhad Abdi who held his own against a hollywood legend, his turn as Somali pirate Muse was almost as good as Hanks’ titular hero. Intense,thrilling, fast paced and superbly directed (well-played Paul Greengrass) this was edge of the seat viewing. Worth it for the heartbreaking final scenes.
I’m a 35 year old man who likes boxing, MMA, rugby, NFL, horror movies and the 80’s back catalogue of ‘The Austrian Oak’ and Sly Stallone and yes….a Disney musical made my top 5. The music in this is as good as anything from the 90’s golden era. I’ll put ‘Let it Go’ up against ‘A Whole New World’ or ‘Be Our Guest’. It’s very funny thanks to a brilliant talking snowman and the message that you don’t need a man to feel loved plays totally against Disney’s apparent ethos.
I thought long and ard about this. I nearly gave it to Anchorman 2but as awful as that was it just didn’t make my blood boil as much as OGF. As beautifully shot and scored as this was it felt deliberately obtuse at times and constantly frustrating. I hate this film with a passion that burns with the fire of a thousand suns.
Top 5 by @noonanjohnc
Elijah Wood is a maniac, maniac on the floor and he’s dancing like he’s never danced before. D’oh! He is NOT a maniac, maniac on the floor, dancing like he’s never danced before. He’s the puppy eyed, mumbling owner of a mannequin store, with an oedipal love for his dead mother. Oh and he likes to scalp women. Franck Khalfoun’s remake of the 1981 greasy cult classic, has the morals of American Psycho and the sheen of Drive. Shot from Wood’s POV, the film makes you an unwilling accomplice in his apologetic rampage (‘I won’t hurt you.’ He cries to one of his victims, before doing exactly that). Haunting, vicious and with a superb soundtrack, Maniac will stay with you for a long time. I suggest showering in Swafeger afterwards.
This tale of three lads building a house in the forest to escape their respective parents took me completely by surprise. Equal parts Stand by Me and The Hangover (Seriously), The Kings of Summer is brilliantly shot and hilarious. I’ve watched this several times now and it never fails to cheer me up. Pretty much every highlight includes either Nick Offerman’s grumpy sonuvabich father who continually fights with the local Chinese restaurant or Moises Arias as the alien-esque Biaggio; a boy who mistakes Cystic Fibrosis for being gay.
Another coming of age film. This time from the writers of The Descendants, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, who also direct. Duncan is a boy forced on a summer break with his mum and her somewhat dominant boyfriend. Whilst trying to find something fun to do, Duncan ends up working at Sam Rockwell’s rundown waterpark. Everyone is on fire in this film. Patriculalty Rockwell who has never been better as the lethargic Lothario with *all together now* a heart of gold.
I’ve got two Aussie films in my top ten. Ivan Sen’s noirish police procedural Mystery Road and this from documentarian Kim Mordaunt. I’ve gone with The Rocket simply because it’s probably the most accessible. A film that is both heartbreaking and joyful, The Rocket tells the story of a young boy just trying to prove his worth to his family when all those around him consider him to be bad look. I’ve told people it’s like a children’s story for grown-ups, and I think it’s the most succinct way I can put it.
What can I say that hasn’t already been said on this page. I’m not going to waste your time. If you’ve seen it and loved it, you know why it’s on my list. If you haven’t seen it yet, stop reading and see if you can find a cinema that’s still showing it. I’ll wait.
– I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE 2
I’ve seen a lot of tosh in 2013. Hell, I saw three Dolph Lundgren films alone. However, absolutely none of them, not even Diana, could be considered the worst of 2013 when you have I Spit on Your Grave 2 vying for your attention. This shitpile of a movie is everything that’s wrong with most horror films today. Replacing subtly and scares with vicious and nasty, the film tries to justify the brutal hour long rape and abuse of its protagonist by letting her have the final third of the film to exact her revenge. No movie has ever made me as angry as this Fanta bottle full of piss.
Top 5 by @noonanhannah
– STOKER (2013)
I must confess to having mixed feelings about Park Chan-wook’s English language debut upon first viewing. But Stoker is one of those films whose utter dedication to atmosphere stays with you months after viewing until you begrudgingly admit that actually, that was rather brilliant. Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman and Matthew Goode all put in stellar performances and Chung Chung-hoon’s cinematography is positively lush. But the real star of Stoker is Wentworth Miller’s haunting script, a brilliant love letter to the twisted family shenanigans of Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt.
Flawed? Yes. Overlong? Absolutely. But Derek Cianfrance’s follow up to Blue Valentine is a brooding character piece that asks for a gamut of emotional responses from its audience, most of which it successfully achieves. Plus, it threatened to melt the internet by giving us a scene where Ryan Gosling dances with a dog to Bruce Springsteen, and if that’s not what you want out of a film, then we could never be friends.
Nat Faxon and Jim Rash’s ode to coming-of-age films is beautifully judged, wonderfully directed and supremely enjoyable. Allison Janney puts in a brilliant performance as a fabulously awful drunk, and Sam Rockwell becomes the best friend any kid could want. There’s really not much else to say about the Descendantspair’s summer outing that I didn’t cover in my original review.
Disney’s wintery delight is a strong step forward for the house of mouse, and a beautifully woven tale of sisterly love, sassy reindeers and singing snowmen. But more to the point, the songs are fabulous and if you’re not singing ‘Let It Go’ by the end then you have a heart of ice.
The second of JJ Abrams’ Star Trek outings is a two-hour exercise in fan wankery at its absolute finest and, forgive me, I fell for it hook, line and sinker. Benedict Cumberbatch e-nun-ci-aaaates his way into the British bad guy canon of Hollywood, and anyone who says it isn’t entertaining watching just how far those nostrils flare is frankly a liar. Star Trek Into Darkness is a film that fiercely says no to logic, and yes to “LOOK! SHINY THINGS!” so excuse me for being a magpie.
– OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL (2013)
Most likely not the ACTUAL worst film of the year (I never got round to that Shyamalan affair with Will Smith and his young clone) but certainly the most souless and tedious film I spent money on. James Franco is sleepy and disengaged in this needless and saccharine A list pantomime. There’s a terrible CGI monkey sidekick, a creepy porcelain girl I swear I met in a nightmare in my youth, and the dullest of Bruce Campbell cameos. I love The Wizard of Oz, I love Sam Raimi, but this was such a disappointment.
So there you have it. Did you think any of us were blisteringly right? Howling wrong? Let us know.
In the mythical kingdom of Arendelle, princess sisters Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel) are raised in isolation due to the latter’s incontrollable icy powers. When the time comes for Elsa to take on the crown of the kingdom, her anxieties accidentally trigger a snowy magical outburst which sends her into a self-imposed isolation, and the whole of Arendelle into an eternal winter. The younger, excitable Anna vows to retrieve her sister and journeys into the mountains on a quest which sees her joined by magical snowman Olaf, and mountain man Kristoff.
With Frozen, Wreck It Ralph co-writer Jennifer Lee provides a sparkling screenplay which eschews and subverts traditional Disney focus on princes and ‘true love’, and turns its spotlight instead on to family, with the sisters’ dynamic driving the emotional forces of the film. When their parents decide to raise Anna and Elsa as relative shut ins (clearly having never watched how well that worked out for Mother Gothel in Tangled), it turns the girls into completely different people. Anna becomes a restless and jumpy romantic who longs for human interaction, whilst Elsa remains an introverted and anxious Edward Scissorhands-like figure, fearful that she may hurt others with her magical affliction. The filmmakers’ decision to make Elsa a second protagonist with flaws and vulnerabilities rather than a villain is a commendable shift in tone for Disney, and it’s certainly refreshing to see two sympathetic and strong female characters carrying the film. Elsewhere, in the grand tradition of animated films, the enchanted character, in this case Olaf, is an absolute scene stealer, one which judging by the children’s reactions in our screening, will dominate the film’s merchandising output this Christmas.
Musically, Frozen is arguably Disney’s strongest film since the 1990s. The centre piece song, “Let It Go” is Elsa’s rallying cry of liberation and the one you will rightfully hear Oscar buzz about, thanks in part to Idina Menzel’s blistering delivery. Equally beautiful is Anna’s “Do You Wanna Build A Snowman?” showcasing the character’s desperate desire for sisterly bonding. Husband and wife Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez ought to be strongly commended for providing Disney with several memorable new songs for the sing-a-long canon. The strength of the music is equally matched by the stunning animation which sweeps from great wintery landscapes of snowy fjords and the magical creation of a beautiful ice castle, to the quietly nuanced emotion of the sisters.
Ultimately Frozen is a glittering triumph, and a wonderfully strong step for Disney to prove they don’t necessarily always need to rely on Pixar’s help to provide tales of equally heartbreaking and amusing magnitude.
2010’s Despicable Me was a bit of a sleeper hit. Going toe to toe with Megamind – the other evil genius cartoon that shot itself in the foot with its numerous trailers spoiling its one and only twist – it invariably won audiences over with its gentle humour, its Looney Toons-esque plot, and lots and lots of those little yellow nuggets we now know as Minions. With so much going for it, the arrival of a sequel should only have come as a surprise to rocks and even then, really dumb rocks.
Former evil genius Gru (Steve Carrell) has officially hung up his plans for world domination and is focussing all his energy into raising his three adopted daughters and producing a range of mouth-watering jams. Left in the lurch by his lab partner Dr Nefario (Russell Brand), who wants more evil out of life, Gru finds himself pining for a bit of a break from parenthood. Enter secret agent Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig), who enlists Gru’s help in tracking down a stolen mutating chemical compound.
Despicable Me 2, like most sequels, cranks everything up to 11. However, unlike most sequels, it manages to hit every target it aims for. We very rarely use the term perfect, but the only issue we really had came in the form of a neutered performance by Kim Jeong as the diminutive wig guru, Floyd Eagle-san. Speaking of Jeong, Despicable Me 2 manages to show the excruciating Hangover Part III how you beef up your franchise’s minor characters without crushing the life out the film like a python.
A large part of the film sees the Minions pushed to the front in a plot concerning their kidnapping, and the film’s success is largely down to this. Never managing to outstay their welcome, like a certain man-child, they bring the biggest laughs and the greatest joy of the film. Whether this will translate to the upcoming Minions movie remains to be seen, but for now let’s not worry. Despicable Me 2 is a wonderful, anarchic, slab of joy.
Open your books and turn to chapter one; it’s time for Monsters University, Pixar’s prequel to their 2001 hit. Rewinding the clock, we follow Mike and Sully as they take their first tentative steps into art of scaring. Mike’s rotund spherical shape and booksmarts have made him the target of ridicule as no one finds him the least bit scary, whilst Sully is coasting off the reputation of his successful father and failing to take college seriously. Neither is particularly fond of the other. When they’re both kicked off their course by Dean Abigail Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren), they must work together to get re-enrolled. Along the way they will join the least successful fraternity and enter the annual Scare Games against the most popular fraternity on campus, Roar Omega Roar.
Yes, this is pretty much every college movie you’ve seen, from Animal House to Revenge of the Nerds, boiled down to a palatable child-friendly nugget. Whilst the initial idea of a children’s film set in a college may seem at odds with the cuddly nature of Pixar, it’s a credit to their talent how quickly these doubts are washed away as Mike literally takes his first step onto university soil. We only wish our days at uni were like this.
Cameos from Monsters Inc rub shoulders with some lovely little set pieces. A showcase of Sully and Mike’s scaring abilities is a particular stand out, as the young monsters learn to harness their abilities against a foe they’ve never studied for. There’s also a lot to be said for a film whose take-home message appears to be at odds with other Pixar movies, such as Finding Nemo and Toy Story. Whereas those seemed to instil a sense of limitless possibilities into the minds of their impressionable viewers, Monsters University goes for a more grown up message which appears to be restrictive and balances the hash realties of life with a can do spirit that would make Buzz and Woody proud.
Whilst not as eye-opening or wonderful as Monsters Inc, there is enough here to leave a mile wide smile on your face.
When a family of cavemen, The Croods, are uprooted from their cave by seismic activity, they become involved in the machinations of Guy (Ryan Reynolds), the supposedly next stage of evolution who wants to climb to the highest point he can find, so he can ride the Sun to land in tomorrow before the apocalypse arrives.
The Croods feels like a human edition of the Ice Age movies, as our protagnists face off against the natural disaster we know will wipe them out at some point in history. Sounds depressing when we say it like that, doesn’t it? Well, thank heavens, we’re not making a kids film any time soon.
Whereas Ice Age was a victim of diminishing returns where jokes about the time period gave way to fucking pirates, The Croods tries to keep the humour about the charcters rather than any potential Flintstones – oh look the bird is a cement mixer – kind of shenanigans. When it does dip its toe into modern humour, it doesn’t feel too out of place.
Whereas most kids films promote the message that you should stay true to yourself and everything will be fine, The Croods bucks the trend with a heartwarming message of ideas are great, thinking is brilliant, always keep striving forward or you’ll just end up burning alive in lava. Again, we’ve made it sound more depressing than we meant to!
Overall, The Croods is a simple tale that isn’t going to threaten the likes of Pixar, but it provides solid laughs and maybe even the odd tear jerking scene. Good family fun.
Wreck It Ralph (John C Reilly) is your everyday Joe with everyday problems. He wants more from his job and his life in general. Ralph just happens to be the titular bad guy in the cult Donkey Kong clone, Fix It Felix Jnr. When the arcade closes for the night, Ralph decides to forgo what’s usually expected of him and seek a better life in another game. Along the way, he crosses paths with a computer game glitch, Vanellope (Sarah Silverman), who is also trying to find her place in this crazy ol’ virtual world.
With its drum and bass soundtrack, Skrillex cameos, references to the next-gen consoles, Wreck It Ralph is a film that will date very quickly. And that’s about the worse thing we can say about it. With its storyline of games coming to life when the humans are away, this feels like a companion piece to Toy Story. Genuinely, Wreck It Ralph is one of the best Pixar pictures not to come out of Pixar.
The script bubbles with humour that won’t alienate the everyday noob, whilst background jokes will appeal to the most hardcore gamer (Aerith LIVES!!). Whether it’s worthy of an Oscar is debatable. Even with John Lasseter on the production team, it is up against the lush beauty of Pixar’s Brave. However, whatever the outcome, this charming film deserves respect for the time and attention that’s gone into it.
Looking through the murky depths of Adam Sandler’s filmography, it’s surprising to see that Hotel Transylvania, his billionth movie, is only his second family film after Eight Crazy Nights. However, this only comes in second to the surprise that it’s co-written by Peter Baynham, who brought us such kiddie friendly fare such as Arthur Christmas, Brass Eye and I’m Alan Partridge.
Contrary to popular belief, Count Dracula (Adam Sandler) is not the Bela Lugosi-shaped blood sucker we all know him to be. Rather than feasting on the blood of virgins and harassing the wives of estate agents, he’s actually a docile single father trying to balance the pressures of running a hotel for his fellow denizens of the night, with trying to protect his 118 year old daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez), from the horrors of the outside world. If there’s one thing that truly horrifies him, it’s the thought of a human encroaching on his domain, and would you Adam and Eve it? Here comes a big box of trouble in the shape of clueless backpacker, Jonathan (Andy Samberg). What’s a Transylvanian nobleman to do!
Hotel Transylvania is unashamedly a kid’s movie, which is both complementary and damning. We know we laughed just as much as the munchkins in the audience with us, but coming out we struggled to remember any actual ‘jokes’. The zaniness of Samberg’s performance is counteracted by Gomez, whose years on the Disney channel have really helped her fine tune the art of blandness. And so it goes on.
Maybe the issue is with us, the thought of Genndy Tartakovsky directing Hotel Transylvania made us a bit giddy. With a pedigree that includes Dexter’s Laboratory, Samurai Jack and 2 Stupid Dogs, we really wanted him to pull something special out of the bag. Unfortunately, the script by Robert Smigel and the aforementioned Baynham has very little in the way of originality; feeling like a mixture of Monsters Inc and Rent-a-Ghost with an ending that can be used by Ground Technicians to land planes. It all feels a bit, well, toothless.
This all makes it sound like Hotel Transylvania is a mediocre film, which is far from the truth. The problem seems to be that on the one hand, we have a film that celebrates the art of the fart joke with a plot that’s plotted simply enough for the ankle-biters to follow. However, on the other hand, we have a weakly plotted film with a penchant for breaking wind. Which side of the age of 10 you land on will probably determine how you feel after those 90 minutes are over.
After the events of Madagascar 2, our AWOL camaraderie of zoological friends are running through the plains of Africa, patiently waiting for military genius and sometimes penguin, Skipper, to return from a jaunt in Monte Carlo with his band of black and white misfits. Patiently that is, except for Alex the Lion (Ben Stiller), who is beginning to pine again for his rock at New York City Zoo. With no signs of the penguins returning, Alex gathers everyone – Marty the Zebra (Chris Rock), Melman the Giraffe (David Schwimmer), Gloria the Hippo (Jada Pinkett-Smith) and lemur King Julian XIII (Sacha Baron Cohen) – for a retrieval mission to the French Riveria, with a hope of getting back home. Whilst there, they find themselves having to go undercover as circus animals to escape the machinations of Captain Chantel Dubois (Frances McDormand), an animal control officer intent on claiming Alex’s head.
We’ll admit it, we have a soft spot for the Madagascar series. Oh, they’re not perfect. You can hear the gear change from space when the narrative of the first shifts from Chris Rock’s wisecracking Marty the Zebra to Ben Stiller’s mopey Alex the Lion, and the second does suffer from a case of ‘How many celebrities can we fit in this thing anyway?’. However, we think the issue is that from some critics’ desire to make comparisons to the mighty arsenal of Pixar and, to a lesser extent, Madagascar’s own stable mates in the form of the Shrek franchise. Somehow conveniently forgetting that as well as making Shrek, DreamWorks also made Shrek 2-4 and Pixar’s record is somewhat blemished by the intolerable Cars and Cars 2 which proved that talking automobiles and Larry the Cable Guy as the lead is just one step too far.
Madagascar 3 feels very different from the first two. There’s sense of confidence that seemed to be missing from the others. It feels fully formed, as if everybody on board decided to ignore the critics and just got on with making a film. Sticking even closer to its Tex Avery and Chuck Jones roots than previous, the humour is broader, with an absurd awareness to it all. Things that deliberately make no sense are funnier because there are great pains to highlight the fact they make no sense. As an example, in dialogue reminiscent of Morgan Freeman’s curved bullets lecture in Wanted, the matter of why a tiger can leap through a wedding ring is concluded with, ‘It had never been done before! Because it was physically impossible’.
There’s a stronger focus on set pieces this time round, with a chase through Monte Carlo that should genuinely put The Bourne Legacy to shame. Unwilling to lose her hunt, Dubois powers on ensuring neither fish, walls or physics stand in her way.
However, with our heroes hiding out in a circus run by animals, Madagascar 3 suffers from one too many characters struggling for screen time. Whilst the new additions are welcome – Vinnie Jones as a knife-wielding puppy is a particular highlight – they often come at the expense of our heroes. Pinkett Smith and Schwimmer are left to do very little in a sub-plot that sees Melman learning to dance, whilst King Julian has been boiled down to singing pop songs during an undercooked love story. It just seems wrong to having Baron’s comic timing clear a path for Martin Short’s somewhat grating Italian sea lion.
Madagascar 3 is a fine example of quality family film making, that proves there is still room in this world for putting foolish wordplay and slapstick ahead of innuendo, like so many of its contemporaries fail to understand (Shrek – we’re looking at you). Despite the finality of its ending, we’re sure there will be a sequel just around the corner. If it maintains this kind of quality, then we’ll be first in line.
The Adventures of Tintin books were a large part of a number of childhoods. Tintin the man-child journalist leaping from adventure to adventure with his dog, Snowy, by his side and a cavalcade of colourful and unusual bit-players, from Captain Haddock to Thompson and Thomson. So, when it was announced Speilberg was heading up a film version, it wasn’t so much a surprise that it was going to happen, but that it had taken so long.
With Speilberg directing and Peter Jackson on producing duties, it was down to Steven Moffat to put together a script. After banging out a first draft and accepting the job as producer for Doctor Who, fanboy Moffat handed scripting duties to Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim vs the World) and Joe Cornish (Attack the Block). So, that’s a hell of a lot talent on board before you’ve even got the cast. The latest and greatest dog-piled onto a greenscreen set to be motion captured and dropped directly into the very pages of Tintin’s world. How thrilling!
So, where does that leave us?
Unfortunately, with a very average adventure film. Despite everything that’s thrown on screen in an attempt to entertain, it all misses the mark.
No one could argue that the plot, for what it is, isn’t fast paced. In fact, it’s too fast paced. There’s no time to catch your breath or absorb what’s happening. It’s set piece, after set piece, after set piece. A sub-plot involving Thompson and Thomson on the hunt for a pickpocket is loaded with running around and slapstick, when it could have been wisely used as a sort of interval from the action. Even the most ADHD ridden child high on Vimto will want to stop for a fag break.
The animation/motion capture is impressive and EBFS would never take that away from everybody involved. However, it can’t be denied that that everyone looks a tad unearthly. And there’s that niggling thought that if you were going to that much effort to make everyone look ‘human’, why not just use… I don’t know, humans? Tintin’s dead fish eyes were a constant reminder that nothing happening on screen was real. It may as well have been Skyrim. Did The Polar Express teach us nothing?!
The tone of the movie is equally niggling. On the one hand, it does feel like a ripping yarn for boys, but on the other hand it’s all a bit too, well, silly ie Haddock using his alcoholic breath to fuel a plane. This could be the fault of the mixed bag of writers. Separately, each of them are strong writers in their own rights, but together the script seems to suffer from whose interpretation of the Tintin world is actually being put forward for consideration. Snowy chasing the bad guys only to have a cow fart in his face sums up the whole film really.
With Hugo and pretty much anything by Pixar already out there, it can be said that there are better family films. And it’s a shame, because all the signposts suggested that this could have been a cracking piece of work. If we can take anything away from this, at least, Like Moffat’s interpretation of Sherlock Holmes, there’s always that glimmer of hope that a child will want to pick up one of Hergé’s actual books and that can never be a bad thing.