Sony Pictures Imageworks

147: Smallfoot Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

2018 was an interesting year for animation marketing. Early in the year with Sherlock Gnomes, the first trailer for the film made it look awful. I haven’t seen if the scenes used in the first trailer were deleted or reworked, but the final product, while still a movie I didn’t care for, was not as awful as I was thinking it was going to be. It’s still not a great movie, but you wonder why the marketing team used those scenes when they wouldn’t be in the film in the first place. Sometimes, you get what they are marketing in trailers like Duck Duck Goose, Isle of Dogs, where the films were just as good or as bad as they were marketed. Sometimes, you even have trailers that undersell a film’s premise, like Ralph Breaks the Internet, Incredibles 2, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. That is what happened with Warner Bros. Smallfoot. Directed by Karey Kirkpatrick and animated by Sony Pictures Imageworks, Smallfoot came out September 28th, 2018 to pretty positive reviews. It underperformed in the US, but was more of a hit overseas. The trailers made it look like a goofier film than what the end product offered. I think if the trailers were more honest, the film would have done better. Why? Let’s see what happened.

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Smallfoot stars a yeti named Migo, voiced by Channing Tatum. He lives in a society of yetis that live at the upper-half of a high mountain in the Himalayas. Migo, along with everyone else in the village, believes in what is written on the stones that is worn by The Stonekeeper, voiced by Common. Migo lives a pretty good life with his father Dorgle, voiced by Danny DeVito, being the gong ringer of the village. One day, after doing a practice ring, he ends up outside the village and witnesses a plane crashing at the top of the mountain. While approaching it, he sees a human pop out, and gets excited/shocked to see one. In yeti culture, we humans are known as Smallfoots. After trying to show everyone the proof, he gets banished from the village, but then is recruited by a group of yetis known as S.E.S., if you are curious, that means Smallfoots Evidentiary Society. Its members include Kolka, voiced by Gina Rodriguez, Fleem, voiced by Ely Henry, Gwangi, voiced by LeBron James, and the leader Meechee, voiced by Zendaya. They plan to finally reveal the existence of humankind to the yeti world! While this is going on, a struggling animal documentary show host named Percy Patterson, voiced by James Corden, is desperate to try and find something to put his show back on top of the ratings. If you can already tell, Percy and Migo encounter one another, learn to be friends, and maybe find out why the yetis and humans live separately from one another. Can yetis and humans coexist?

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I think the first thing I want to talk about with this movie is the animation. Not that it is standing out like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, but more in how it is executed. Smallfoot has really good textures, great designs, fluid animation, incredible visual moments, and amusing physical comedy. So, what stands out about it? For a film that was marketed as a comedy, the animation is more slow-paced. It has its snappy moments, but the overall feel of the film’s comedy, writing, and story is much more like a Pixar/Disney film in execution than a traditional Warner Bros. comedy.

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It has a lot more quiet moments, and while there are many jokes and humor in the overall product, it’s shocking to see a non-Pixar/Disney film be more story-oriented. You can make great work with a more comedy-focused film, but that’s tough to do, and it feels like a weak scapegoat excuse to make a lackluster story in a middling comedy like the ones Illumination and DreamWorks make.

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It’s rather commendable to see Warner Bros. tackle something less focused on the comedy. The story itself is mostly about being true to yourself, not believing everything you are told, the dangerous power of lying or manipulating the ignorance of people, acceptance, and tolerance flow throughout the entire film. It may be head-scratching to see the main group of good yetis be conspiracy theorists, but, at least these theorists are actually interested in proof and not if frog people are running our government. Migo is a very likable character who may be a typical nice male lead, but you do sympathize with him wanting only the best for his kind. While you might not remember the names of the other characters, Migo works well among the conspiracy crew and the human characters. While James Corden’s character starts out fairly obnoxious, they do tone him down, and you understand his plight as well. Again, you might have seen this story and these characters before, but if you can execute them well, and make them pleasant, then that’s all you need to do. I even enjoy the fact that the film’s “antagonist” is not really evil. The villain is just doing what he thinks is best for the yetis, but not going down that path of killing off everyone for the greater good. Another thing that this film does that you don’t see many do outside of Disney films, is be a musical. Yeah, this wasn’t originally going to be a musical, but then six or so months into development, it became one. While no one is singing from the diaphragm, everyone sounds great. I mean, sure, hearing some of these songs after Teen Titans Go! To the Movies made fun of these songs, I won’t deny that I love Common’s song, Let it Lie. I listen to that song a lot to be honest. Again, I respect that Warner Bros. decided to do something different.

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So, what doesn’t work about Smallfoot? Well, while I like the music for this film, the songs are sort of forgettable. They sound nice, but I don’t remember the lyrics to a lot of them, and one of them is a different lyrical version of Under Pressure, which is lazy. By the way, that different version of Under Pressure is easily the weakest moment in the film. While the film isn’t really a full-blown comedy, a lot of the humor didn’t work for me. Not all of the jokes hit, and they really didn’t need the small annoying yeti. There is even a funny reoccurring joke that the small yeti is obnoxious and he sucks as a character. On one hand, they are easily some of the best jokes of the film. On the other hand, they are basically saying that this character is terrible, but still they have him in the movie. It’s one of those elements that feels so forced in family films that are usually never done right. It also hurts, because everyone else is really funny.

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Smallfoot might not be a big step in a unique or interesting way, but it’s a great and charming movie. It gets better the more I watch it, and I would dare say it’s better than Incredibles 2. It’s just another sad fact that it had to go against some heavy competition for the family audience during that period of time. It’s out now on Blu-ray and I recommend picking up a copy. Now then, it’s been on the chopping block for a long time, so how about we take a look at Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse next? It’s pretty much the best US-animated feature of 2018. Thanks for reading! I hope you all enjoyed the review, and I will see you all next time!

Rating: Go see it!

The Other Side of Animation 61: Hotel Transylvania 2 Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Last year, I reviewed one of Adam Sandler’s best movies, Hotel Transylvania. I mean, it’s shocking when a project with Adam Sandler pops up and it’s not terrible. Sure, it still had a lot of problems, like its cliché plot elements, story, and characters. However, for me, it was an enjoyable experience with more good than bad, but I can understand if someone wasn’t into this movie. So, last year, a sequel came out, and let’s say that the supposed “hate train” that certain directors, actors, and films receive came running on through the Hotel Transylvania 2 station. It was critically panned with a lot more negative reviews than the first film. People were calling it the worst animated film of 2015, and to me, they only said so because they hadn’t seen Strange Magic. Listen, usually I’m pretty agreeable on certain receptions of films from both critics and fans, but there are times where I disagree with both. What do I think of this sequel? Well, let’s take a look.

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Hotel Transylvania 2 continues our story with Dracula, played by Adam Sandler, now having a five-year-old grandson named Dennis, voiced by Asher Blinkoff. Dracula tells his daughter, Mavis, voiced by Selena Gomez, that he is a little disappointed that Dennis hasn’t grown his fangs. In fact, Dracula is so peeved at this notion that he goes behind his daughter’s back with her husband Johnathan, voiced by Andy Samberg, for Johnathon to take Mavis to his neck of the woods to see his parents, while Dracula and his friends help Dennis gain his vampire powers. On top of all this, Dracula will also have to deal with his father, Vlad, voiced by Mel Brooks, and his bat servant, Bela, voiced by Rob Riggle.

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Let’s get the bad out of way, because while I think this film is perfectly fine and normal, it does have a lot more problems than the first film. First off, it falls into a lot of the same traps that most sequels fall into, with jokes and gags from the first film taking the space of newer jokes, being overly familiar in terms of story and pacing to the original film. It makes it out like the creators were afraid to progress the story, like in the sequels to How to Train your Dragon and Kung Fu Panda. Now, in some respects, they do show that progress has been made, in terms of the setting, where humans are now accepted into the hotel, but it’s not enough to make a difference. It’s also a story where the dad is being a giant jerk to his daughter, and I perfectly see why with this one story element, people might get upset or mad at the story cliché.

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You also get the feeling that the executives were a bit more hands-on with the film. I say this because much of the dialogue and music choices felt like they were forced to be in the film. Not that the dialogue is all horrible, because there are a some great jokes, a good amount of soul, and humorous interactions between the characters, but it definitely feels a bit more fabricated. The ending also feels rushed. The film heavily advertised in magazine and online articles that Mel Brooks was going to be in this movie, and yet, he is really only in it for the last 20 minutes. It doesn’t help either that the moral of the story about being okay with yourself gets ruined in the final fight sequence, where everyone gets what they want. The final fight is also undone by the fast animation. I love the animation style, but it’s way too fast during this part. I also wish they could have had more time to invest into the interaction between Dracula and his grandson. Like, take out the repeated elements and jokes from the first film, and replace it with more heartfelt interactions between the characters.

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So, what is actually very good about this movie? Well, the animation is very good. The film is directed once again by Genndy Tartakovsky, and his art style definitely translates well to CGI. The same attention to detail in how every character moves is in this film, as well as with new characters like Johnathon’s parents, played by Nick Offerman and Meghan Mullally, the vampire camp counselor, voiced by Dana Carvey, Jon Lovitz as The Phantom of the Opera, and even Mel Brooks, in his short time, still does enough to leave an impression in terms of his character. The voice performances are also once again great with the same effort put into the same characters from the last film. I don’t know what it is, but Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, David Spade, and Keegan-Michael Keye (taking over CeeLo Green’s character) work off each other well. It doesn’t feel like they were phoning it in, like they have in the live-action Sandler films. Even when the jokes don’t land, at least the eye rollers were better handled by the delivery of said actors. The humor in Hotel Transylvania 2 is definitely a tad more hit-and-miss, with some lowbrow humor that feels lazy, but it’s one of those situations where when the humor is good, it’s hilarious. You won’t believe what happens when actors actually act, they actually make themselves worth watching!

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Listen, media critics, I don’t agree with you this time. I thought Hotel Transylvania 2 was fine! It’s not a great movie, but it’s not the worst film of 2015. Yes, it’s a bit more corporate-feeling, but it still has great animation, energetic characters, and some hysterical jokes. I wouldn’t recommend checking it out if you didn’t like the first one, but if you liked the first one and haven’t seen the second one, I would recommend doing so. I don’t think it’s as good as the first film, but it still has enough charm to not be an utter waste of time. Well, next time, we take a look at the gothic poet himself, Edgar Allen Poe, with an anthology film based on his work with Extraordinary Tales. If you want more animated spooks, then you had better be ready next time! Thanks for reading!

Rating: Rent it!

The Other Side of Animation 44: The Angry Birds Movie Review


(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

This has been an odd year for video game movies. How? Well, how about the fact that we are getting movies that actually looks like their gaming counterparts. To be honest, I find that so shocking, since either due to technology or no one caring, it was always so hard for Hollywood to make these kinds of movies look like the games on which they are based. Too bad they still can’t be good movies, with this year’s Ratchet & Clank being one of the contenders for one of the worst movies of 2015. It might look like the game, have the same voice actors, and is basically the game turned into a movie, but it can’t save itself from sloppy storytelling and boring characters. That’s why today’s review of The Angry Birds Movie is such a surprise. It’s actually not bad! Released on May 20th, 2016, this CGI animated film directed by Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly, who both have animation film experiences, including films like Tangled, Hotel Transylvania, and Wreck-It-Ralph, The Angry Birds Movie is honestly the biggest surprise of this year. I mean, not a surprise that it’s fantastic, but it isn’t a mess on arrival. I think everyone was thinking The Angry Birds Movie was going to bomb, hard! So, how is it? Well, let’s find out!

The film takes place on this island full of flightless birds. The main story focuses on Red, voiced by Jason Sudekis. Red is an angry individual among a village of happy- go-lucky birds. After getting into an incident with a customer, he is forced to to attend anger management, run by a bird named Matilda, voiced by Maya Rudolph. While there, Red meets up with a few individuals like Chuck, voiced by Josh Gad, Bomb, voiced by Danny McBride, and Terrance, voiced, or grumbled by Sean Penn. While attending the class, a ship of pigs arrives on the island led by Leonard, voiced by Bill Hader. And if you have played the games at all, the pigs steal the eggs, and it is up to Red and the gang to find the Mighty Eagle and save the eggs before the pigs eats them. Can they get them back? Will the birds get angry?

So, what is actually good about this film? Well, the best element that the film has going for it is the bright, colorful, and fast animation. It actually looks better than what I was expecting. It definitely makes Ratchet & Clank look so much worse, in terms of textures. While the overall look of the birds might be odd with the feet and arms, the designs don’t look that bad. I also found the script to be not that bad. Sure, it doesn’t totally devoid itself from modern animated film tropes in terms of hip dialogue and pop cultural references, but there was a lot less of it than I was expecting. The script also led itself to some pretty funny jokes. Not all the jokes land, in fact, a lot of them don’t, but I did find myself laughing a couple of times. I think that is because the actors they did get for the roles of the characters actually put effort into their acting. It could have been so easy for this film to get actors who would do nothing more than play themselves. The celebrities they hired are mostly comedians and comedic actors from sketch shows, and I was praising the casting choices when I wrote about this film a few months back. And yes, there is stunt casting and celebrity cameos that really weren’t worth the money due to how few lines they are given during the film. Still, my favorite performances came from Jason Sudekis, due to how relatable he makes Red, Danny Mcbride since I’m a sucker for big dumb characters like Bomb, Bill Hadder as the main antagonist Lenard, Keegan-Michael Key, since, well, he is Keegan Michael Key, and he made that bird judge lively, and to my surprise, Sean Penn as Terrence. Honestly, the Sean Penn casting is pretty hilarious in a very meta way due to his past history of anger, and his character, who is a giant caveman-like angry bird. The biggest surprise from this entire experience is how much effort was honestly put into this film. This could have easily been worse than both Ratchet & Clank and Warcraft combined, and yet, this is probably the best video game movie adaptation of the year. Granted, we have to see how Assassin’s Creed does, but so far, The Angry Birds Movie has more effort put into an overall experience than the two other video game movies out right now. I’ll be honest though, Rovio, the company behind Angry Birds probably put their best time and consideration into this film, since they have been going into a downward spiral of popularity with all the recent financial losses and layoffs throughout the last couple of years.

With all that praise being said, this film still has a huge amount of problems. First off, the film suffers from the usual children’s animated film tropes of pop cultural references, fast musical elements, and potty humor. Can studios get it through their thick skulls that you don’t need to make a film around those elements? Like I said above, they really didn’t need to stunt cast so many of the celebrities due to how they don’t have many lines at all. It just seems like a pointless expense to worry about. The pacing also could have been better. Once you hit the halfway point, and to no surprise, the pigs steal the eggs. The film does waste so much time with this Mighty Eagle character, and that is such a huge disappointment. They get Peter Dinklage as this character, and unfortunately, the Mighty Eagle bit goes on for way too long, and has the worst jokes of the film. Oh, and what is with this film and its fetish with its butt-shaking jokes? Like, wow! There are so many butt jokes! The ending is enjoyable, since you get to see the birds fly from a sling shot into the pig’s kingdom, but the pacing during this scene could have been slower, due to how you can’t really take a breather. This is why when you get those quiet moments of the good guys trying to find what they are looking for, or running into the bad guy between the action sequences, it gives the viewers time to take in what has been happening.

Okay, let’s talk about the elephant in the room, the political undertone. A lot of critics have pointed out that apparently, The Angry Birds Movie has some political themes under its belt, with Red representing the conservative individual stuck in a liberal PC world, and some other elements. So, what do I think about all this? Well, while I can see where some of them are coming from, I think people were looking too deeply into a movie that has a Sean Penn caveman bird with some intentional or unintentional comedy with said character, and an extended peeing joke at the halfway point of the film. I think it’s unintentional timing due to the current political landscape. And that is about as political as you are going to see me get with these reviews.

Overall, The Angry Birds Movie is a surprise. It’s not a great movie by any means since it falls into so many of the traps seen in bad kids films, but it was still so much more enjoyable than a lot of the animated films that have come out and will be coming out from the likes of LionsGate. I have already seen the worst movie of the year, Norm of the North, so anything that actually put effort into the overall package gets my thumbs up. I don’t know if I would recommend picking it up at release, but it’s not going to be the worst purchase or viewing in the world or of this year. Well, we are going from a surprise, to a new modern day classic with Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet. Thanks for reading, and see you all next time!

Rating: Rent It

Hit or Miss Trailer Predictions: The Angry Birds Movie


(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz for more of my work. If you want to, consider contributing to my Patreon on patreon.com/camseyeview. Hope you enjoy the article!)

Welcome back to Hit or Miss Trailer Predictions. This is a series of first impression articles covering the newest trailers on animated films, and breaking down the good or bad that the trailer offers.

For the past couple of years, you couldn’t go anywhere without seeing something Angry Birds related. I, for one, am with the crowd that is getting sick and tired of it. If you think that isn’t true, then maybe the hundreds of layoffs of employees from the developer behind the popular franchise should be another reason to show people’s constantly losing interest in flinging birds at pigs. Now, of course, the franchise got to be so popular that they had to make a movie. Cut forward to 2015, and we have our first official trailer for the film that is coming out next year. So, what are my thoughts/predictions? Well, let’s break down everything. If you would like to make your own assumptions on the upcoming film, check out the trailer and tell me what you think!

 

Animation/Art Direction

Besides seeing iconic characters have arms and legs, the film actually looks good. Like I said, it’s strange to see the birds and pigs have limbs, but you quickly get used to it. I also like the fluid animation and the fast-paced humor. I know neither of those things are new or original anymore, but I think for a film like this to work, it needs to channel what made The LEGO Movie and Hotel Transylvania work. Have fast animation and jokes, but balance it out with heart, and a story with likable characters. I also love how colorful everything looks. It’s as if you stabbed a rainbow and let it all bleed out onto the CGI models.

 

Humor

While some of the jokes in the trailer fell flat for me, like the yoga skit with Josh Gad’s character, I found myself smirking at the rest of them. Sure, the jokes might not be original, and you can have predictable stories, characters, and maybe some jokes, but it’s all in the execution. Like I said, I found myself liking some of the jokes, for example when you first meet the bad guy, and the main lead having to deal with the little bird kicking the ball against his house.

 

Story

So, basically, there is this island where all these birds live, and a few individual ones have, well, anger issues or some kind of tick to them. One day, out of the blue, a ship arrives and out come these individuals called pigs. No one knows why they are there, and three birds, Red, voiced by Jason Sudeikis, Chuck, voiced by Josh Gad, and Bomb, voiced by Danny McBride decide to investigate why the pigs, led by one who is voiced by Bill Hader, are on the island. I think this movie will need to be clever since the game the film is based on didn’t really have a story. Hope it is clever, anyway.

 

Voice Cast

Honestly, I like this voice cast. You could tell that the company making this film, Rovio and Sony Entertainment, had the coin to bring in some actors that include Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Danny McBride, Peter Dinklage, Keegan-Michael Key, and a few other actors. It’s interesting to note how many of these actors are from sketch comedy backgrounds. I think that will work in the film’s favor, due to how they can work off one another.

 

Any last minute good/bad comments?

I am not the only one thinking this, but I do think the film is a year or two too late. Instead of coming out when the franchise was huge, they instead come out when the popularity of the franchise is dying. I wonder if Rovio, the company behind the franchise, is basing all of their bets on this one film. Granted, a few bad business decisions have made Rovio go on a downward slide, but still.

 

Prediction: Unexpected Hit?

 

I am going to go out on a limb for this film and say it’s going to be an unexpected hit. I mean, look at what happened with The LEGO Movie or the recent Peanuts film. So many people thought they would crash and burn, but came out to be good movies. Granted, I won’t be surprised if Angry Birds ends up not being a good movie, and fails in the box office, but who knows. I just have a little more faith in this film than say, Norm of the North since there is actual effort put into Angry Birds. Now, how much effort that is, will show in the film’s story, characters, and acting. However, like I said above, this film does seem like it’s coming out too late. Don’t let me down, Angry Birds. I’m putting some of my faith into your film! Let’s me say this. This will be much more faithful in terms of an adaptation than freaking Jem and the Holograms.