Category Archives: Animation

Gnomeo & Juliet

I remember the ads for this when it was in theaters. I gave it a pass, but it looked like it could possibly be interesting, mostly due to who was listed as voice actors.

Gnomeo & Juliet is what you’d expect. It’s yet another depiction of the play, but different, but not really. You have Gnomes as the characters and some characters from the play are dropped or changed. There are a number of instances where they spoof the original play or vaguely follow the outline. Possible spoiler alert, but it shouldn’t be: The film has a bubbly happy ending. The movie is set up similarly to Toy Story in that you have red gnomes and blue gnomes, each in a neighboring yard. They have “owners” who you barley see, but when people do arrive they cease to “live” much like they do in Toy Story.

The film was made by Touchstone Pictures, which I believe is still owned by Disney, though the animation was done elsewhere. The animation isn’t bad. I’ve seen worse, or at least scene animation styles that I just didn’t care for. Part of the reason it looks crappy almost, is because they attempted to keep the gnomes some what realistic. They’re dirty and flawed and clearly aren’t meant to have a lot of emotion or animation to them. Unlike Toy Story, these characters are sort of designed to be a bit more wooden (or stone in this instance).

Which brings me to the heart of this movie. The movie is very self-referential and riddled with references to other movies and pretty much anything else. There are a number of references to Shakespeare and his plays. At one point Gnomeo has a chat with a  statue of Shakespeare about the plays tragic ending. There are also spoofs of movies or altered quotes ranging from Brokeback Mountain, Rebel Without a Cause, Forrest Gump, Matrix, Saving Private Ryan, Muppets, and god knows what else. I don’t think even the makes of the film have a full list of all the references in the movie. That and there are also nods to some Disney things as well. One of the people has a laptop and instead of an Apple on the back it has a Banana. Basically a wide range of nods to various things. In some respects it may have gone to far since I don’t think there’s a single scene with out some sort of reference. On the other hand, it depends on how nerdy you are as to whether you will get half of them, so in that aspect may it balances out. Personally, I wasn’t annoyed by it. I actually kind of like when these movies do that and make fun of themselves for doing that.

The story isn’t great, but I actually enjoyed it. There were funny bits and it was played out well enough. It also strayed away from being overtly melodramatic like some animated children’s films can be. That and the music was handled well. Not Elton John’s best work, but the songs were at worst, decent and they weren’t over used ad nauseum.

The voice acting was great. For people unaware’s fo some of the Brits in the film it may not be as exciting, but I loved figuring out who played each character. Jame McAvoy and Emily Blunt are ok with the leads, but they are probably the dullest of the voice actors. Ashley Jensen was great as was Matt Lucas and Michael Caine and Maggie Smith were good as the parents, though neither was given much time, which at least Caine should’ve been given more. Jason Statham plays a crazy bad-ass Tybalt and Ozzy Osbourne plays a deer (Fawn). Patrick Stewart is the statue of Shakespeare and he does a great job with it. I also really liked Stephen Merchant’s gnome, Paris. While they did give him glasses tehy didn’t make him tall, which would’ve have been a joke I’d thrown in. Still, for the little time he gets, it’s very much Stephen Merchant, which I wanted more of. Jim Cummings however plays the flamingo and it’s a very odd character. Again it’s an instance where one of the side characters was better and he actually had more backstory than the other characters. The voice was a bit odd, but it was still great.

For watching at home after waking up from a late night, it seemed really good. Maybe under other circumstances I’d be less kind, but I knew what I was getting into. Not the greatest animated film, but there are far worse ones and there are plenty of them as well. Worth checking out though and it’s short.


Winnie the Pooh

I wanted to go see this in theaters but never did for one reason or another. Why you might not be asking yourselves? Why would a twenty one year old you male want to go see Winnie the Pooh? Because I like animation and am fine with my nostalgia. I loved the old animated Winnie the Pooh, especially the TV series. It was great. I still have the opening/closing imprinted in my brain.

Winnie the Pooh looks great. That’s actually quite important. It is classic 2d animation and more importantly it looks old and by that I mean it looks a lot like the original Winnie the Pooh animations that I remember. It’s possibly a bit cleaner and the colors seem possibly slightly different, but it wasn’t like they went and changed anything to drastically.

The voices were pretty solid overall. Jim Cummings kept Pooh solid and his Tigger was pretty good most of the time. Christopher Robin was different, but not really in a bad way. Rabbit’s voice changed for the worse. I still can’t place it though. I always remember him being a bit whiney and grumpier old man sounding. Craig Ferguson as Owl was completely different as well, but it worked great. It was hard at first though getting the old pervy man from the Late Late show out of my mind when Owl first started talking though. Still, Craig is doing a good job with the voice work these days and hopefully he keeps getting those jobs. Hell, maybe Sid the Rabbit from his show will get a movie.

The voices aside, the characters were a bit different. Eeyore was more depressing, which I LOVED! He’s not supposed to be happy. In the books he’s incredibly suicidal at points. The rest of the characters seemed a bit to wacky overall, especially Rabbit. Similar to the criticism of the voice work, he just wasn’t at all like he used to be and that’s what made that character good. He brought balance to the group. The characters seemed to have been dumbed down a bit as well. They weren’t the brightest group fo animals, but they’ve seemed to have lost a few IQ points in this movie.

Disney movies are pretty well known for musical bits. Kids movies in general are. Unfortunately Disney seems to suck at producing good songs anymore. Maybe it’s because Tim Rice and Alan Menken aren’t doing them all. While I don’t want to beat this to death, this is another spot where Winnie the Pooh fails compared to previous versions. The old songs were memorable. I still remember them. The new songs lack that quality. That and they just weren’t all that good. Again, this isn’t unique to this movie. It seems to be a trend or maybe they are ok and I’m just very nostalgic about the old ones.

I feel that DreamWorks started the trend of adding more adult humor to family movies with Shrek and that trend seems to be continuing across the board. Winnie the Pooh didn’t Shrek adult humor. It was actually quite witty though. The jokes were clean even if kids would understand them, but they were actually intelligent. I was shocked by how good they were and I’d actually prefer this type of humor for older audiences in family movies than some half concealed joke about a thong. Overall the humor was really good and I’m still just amazed by it because it was mostly witty and used heavy wordplay emphasis.

The film was pretty meta to. I recall the old TV series or film occasionally being meta, but not a lot. For an hour long movie there are a number of interactions where the narrator (John Cleese!) talks to Pooh directly (he even shakes the book!). Pooh also frequently is seen walking out of the hundred acre woods and into the long paragraphs of the books. It’s not just a transition thing, but part of the film. Pooh and Eeyore talk while sitting on a paragraph and the letters frequently fall into the pictures where are characters live. It was kind of bizarre. I don’t know how well that would work for the kids. I’m not even sure I liked it because it seemed over used.

All in all the movie was great, but it defiantly is a new kind of Winnie the Pooh. My dislikes of the film were minor and basically all aimed at comparing it to what I grew up with. And yes it is an hour long, but it works. The length didn’t seem to be a hinderance although I don’t think they would’ve been stretching it to far to have gone on another half hour. Don’t know how kids will react, but as a senior in college, I still enjoyed it and assume parents wil be able to as well.

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