Woody Harrelson

Worst to Best Animated Films of 2013 Part 1

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So, I was thinking while I’m working on a list of the Worst to Best Animated films of 2016, I’m going to, from time to time, make lists tackling films from different years. It’s probably going to be more on the side of the recent years due to how many animation studios there are, and how willing certain companies are in bringing more movies from different countries. So, what year did I decide to tackle first? 2013. Why did I choose this year, specifically? Because it was one of the best years for films that I have ever seen. Actually, that would be a lie, since 2013 was pretty bad. Not that we didn’t get anything great, since the Oscar-nominated films were fantastic, and from time to time, you would get a great movie, but man, no one, or at the very least, not everyone was willing to give their A game. This was the year we got stuff like Iron Man 3, Thor: Dark World, After Earth, Oz: The Great and Powerful, The Lone Ranger, The Host, and you get the idea. It wasn’t any better for animation, since Disney, DreamWorks, and Pixar decided to go on auto-pilot with a majority of their films in 2013. However, even though it wasn’t a great year for films in general, 2013 was a fantastic year for indie-animated films. So, what are the rules for these types of lists? 1. They had to be released in the states in 2013. I’m not going to add a film to the list unless it came out that year. 2. No straight-to-video schlock. Unless that direct-to-DVD release was worth a hoot, then I’m not counting it. That way, we don’t have to go through the terrifying number of DVD bargain bin nightmares. 3. They are also in order of which ones I would watch again. 4. it’s my list. It’s my opinion on what I thought were the worst to best animated films, and so on. Will you disagree? Maybe, but don’t be malicious towards me if you see that I didn’t like your favorite animated movie on the list.

Now then, let’s begin with one of the biggest corporate blunders of all time!

27. Walking with Dinosaurs

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You know who the biggest victims of this film were? The animators that worked painstakingly hard on getting the movements, textures, and nature of the animals down, only to have it backfire on them by studio execs ruining everything. Instead of letting the film be its own quiet, albeit generic, dinosaur story, they forced voice-overs at the last minute. It ruins any tension in the film, due to there being jokes and comments that ruin the tone. They will even insert a joke that doesn’t fit into a scene where someone horribly dies. I hope the person who thought this was a good idea loved losing over $44 million+ in the box office. It’s one of the biggest financial blunders of all time in terms of CGI-animated films, and there is no reason for anyone to see this movie.

26. The Snow Queen

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Here is the situation for this movie. It was originally released a year before Frozen, but then was brought over to the states a month before Frozen was released. It is based more on the source material than Frozen is, but overall is just a worse movie. The characters are bland and have dead-eye syndrome, the designs were awkward, the pace of the film makes impactful scenes not work, and the animation, while not terrible, is nowhere near the quality it could have been. My only real positive is that it at least tried to be more akin to the source material, but due to how rushed it all feels, it leaves very little for the viewers to take in, and its clunky animation doesn’t help, either. It’s mediocre, but knowing the stuff I have seen this past year, it’s still more watchable than most. I just wouldn’t recommend it.

25. Justin and the Knights of Valor

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The only reason this is on the list is that it got a limited theatrical release, and Antonio Banderas produced it. Funny enough, he is only a really annoying side character in the film. While this animated film might be worse in overall quality compared to the great CGI of Walking with Dinosaurs, Justin and the Knights of Valor was at least presented as intended. It’s yet another Shrek-style fantasy/comedy that doesn’t really understand why Shrek 2 worked, and is constantly not funny. It also has a universe that doesn’t make a lot of sense, due to how knights were replaced by lawyers, but for some reason still have armored men around, and so on. Justin and the Knights of Valour feels like a concept that didn’t get fleshed out enough. However, when the story focuses on Justin, he’s a pretty solid protagonist. The CGI might not be great, but considering what you can usually see with European CGI, it’s upper-tier. A decent protagonist and “good enough” CGI can’t cover up the horrible humor, pointless side characters, weak villains, a mediocre fantasy/comedy setting that isn’t fleshed out enough, and forgettable characters. Still, I’ve seen worse.

24. Free Birds

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I already reviewed this movie, but I’ll keep it short. Free Birds is a decent attempt at a first-time theatrical film for Reel FX, but it’s still super-generic in terms of its story and characters. The jokes aren’t consistently funny enough to make the film enjoyable to sit through, the human characters have no character, and there really isn’t anything worthwhile for older audiences, which is a shame, since there are animated films that can be enjoyed by both kids and adults. However, even though it’s not a great experience, I did find myself enjoying Woody Harrelson’s character, and how the time machine was voiced by George Takei, who is always entertaining. Still, if you were to watch one movie from this studio, you are better off overlooking Free Birds, and going directly to The Book of Life.

23. Escape from Planet Earth

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I don’t really remember a whole lot from this film, besides seeing one or two commercials for it on TV when it was coming out, and boy, I can understand why no one might remember this movie. It’s a low-grade CGI family film that had the unfortunate situation of a huge amount of studio exec interference, and well, it really shows. The animation is decent, but the designs are ugly, some of the characters are really grating, it’s yet another “jock vs. the nerd” story, and about half the jokes work. However, I do like the nerdy brother, and how competent he is. I mean, with these types of films, the nerdy individual would be inept at about everything, but in this movie, he isn’t. I also enjoyed some of the jokes, especially when the introductory video in Area 51 was shown. Like I said though, even with some of the positives, this film has no reason to be viewed by anyone unless you are very curious in terms of wanting to check out a financially underwhelming film that was screwed over by stupid executives.

22: Planes

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A lot of films you see on this list are definitely in that realm of “no one was asking for this, but execs wanted another financially lucrative merchandise-selling film, so this is why it exists”. Seriously, after the critical failure of Cars 2, you would think Disney would not touch the franchise ever again. Sadly, we got Planes, and while it isn’t by Pixar, it still feels like a waste of money. It’s cheap-looking for something from Disney, the side characters have one-note personalities, the story is generic, and there is no reason for this film to exist other than to sell toys. Luckily, there are still a few bright spots with the film. I actually like Dane Cook’s performance as the lead character, and some of the flying sequences are nice. They just needed a bit more polish to get to that peak of How to Train your Dragon quality of flying sequences. Some of the character interactions have enough chemistry to pay attention to, but you won’t miss anything by not viewing this cash grab spin-off.

21: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2

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Speaking of cash grabs, the rushed feeling and cheapness of this sequel is very apparent when you watch it. It had a budget that was $22 mil less than the original, and it shows. While the animation is still better than most films, everyone looks plastic and toy-like in terms of skin textures, the animation is really fast to a nauseating degree, the jokes don’t work all the time, there is a stupid misunderstanding/jerk plot point that no one cares about, a bunch of the side characters don’t have much to do, and it’s easily a really annoying experience. The story feels half-baked (ha), due to how the villain, a Steve Jobs parody, hijacks the film, and you can really tell that his animation didn’t get the most attention due to how clunky and, again, cheap it looks. When the film was about seeing the creative food animal designs, it was pretty decent entertainment. The crazy expressions were fun to look at, and the film was pretty vibrant in the color department. Even some of the food puns were pretty funny. The voice work also gets a thumbs-up, due to the material they had to work with. It’s not great material, but you can tell the actors were doing their best when the story wasn’t rehashing jokes or gags from the first film. It’s a sequel with sequelitis problems, and is definitely not a great movie. Although, I do disagree with people calling it the worst animated film of 2013, or one of the worst sequels of all time. It’s bad, but I can think of worst films from 2013, and worst sequels.

20: Turbo

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Freaking DreamWorks! It’s movies like this that make people not take you seriously. Instead of doing something creative and good, DreamWorks (this is pre-buyout by Universal), in all of their wisdom, made a snail that wants to race against actual formula 1 racers. Like, what focus group test did they run, and who were these people who were like, “yeah, this looks like a great idea!” It isn’t. It’s predictable child-pandering auto-piloted schlock. While Ryan Reynolds is a decent protagonist, the slug posse was the most entertaining element about the cast. They aren’t in the film enough, but they were the best element of the film. It’s overall pretty harmless tripe that’s well-animated, but it’s nothing to write home about. It’s easy to see why this film underperformed in the states.

 19: Despicable Me 2

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Talk about a huge improvement in terms of animation. In just a few short years, Illumination was able to improve their animation quality, and it really shows when you watch both Despicable Me films back-to-back. It’s definitely got a lot of the quality aspects of a good movie, like the two leads are funny, the minions were funny (this was before it was the giant annoying trend that it is now), and there was some heart. It’s unfortunately a film that trades in story for humor, and that’s not a terrible thing, but it once again points out that Illumination need better storywriters. The lead villain is tolerable, but they just don’t do anything with the three little girls, and they feel tacked on to the story. Like, I get they can’t retcon them out of the series, but they didn’t do anything. The female lead played by Kristen Wiig is entertaining, but at times is too hyper, and it distracts from the chemistry that she and the lead character have. It’s entertaining, and a film you can turn your brain off to and enjoy, but it still isn’t that great of an overall movie.

Let’s take a break and I’ll post Part 2 in the near future!

The Other Side of Animation: Free Birds Review


(If you like what you see, go to camseyeview.biz to see the rest of my work. If you want to, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. Thanks for reading, and enjoy the review!)

When you are an animation studio, and you are putting out your first big animated feature, it’s rather daunting. Reel FX, the Dallas-based studio behind today’s film, Free Birds, has experience with straight-to-DVD stuff or animated shorts, but the rules change when you have to move from one type of animation to another. I will talk more about this in the future with The Book of Life since we are here to talk about their first big CGI animated feature, Free Birds. Directed by Jimmy Hayward, who has worked on multiple Pixar films, and was the unfortunate director of Jonah Hex, Free Birds was released on November 1st of 2013. It was critically panned, but made its money back in spades, which the film should consider itself lucky that it did, due to the fact that it came out a few weeks before the gigantic hit Frozen made its way into theaters. So, do I think Free Birds is bad? Do I think it’s good? Well, I’m going to stop you cold turkey, and tell you in a review what I think of this film. I oh so apologize/not apologize for that pun.

The story revolves around a turkey named Reggie, voiced by Owen Wilson. Reggie is the presidential pardoned turkey, who ends up living with the leader of the world. One night he gets kidnapped by this buff turkey named Jake, voiced by Wood Harrelson. The two of them sneak into a secret base (with some groan-worthy product placements), obtain a time machine named Steve, voiced by George Takei, and go all the way back to the very first Thanksgiving to prevent turkeys from being the main course of feasts in the future. Along the way they meet some wild turkeys, with one female turkey voiced by Amy Poehler. Can they change history, or will they become the next Thanksgiving feast?

Yeah, this movie sounds stupid doesn’t it? In a sense, it is. It sounds more like a plot to a short film or a Looney Toons cartoon than a setting that could hold a two-hour movie. In short, it really doesn’t hold up. The idea sounds creative and might lead to some funny jokes, but the plot is stretched thin with a very generic story where Reggie saves the turkeys from the humans. None of the characters are memorable, with the exception of Jake and Steve. Even Amy Poehler, who I think is very funny, and has done amazingly in films like Inside Out, isn’t given a lot to work with. She is just an uninteresting female character. I think the film could have cut out a lot of the characters, like some of the side character turkeys who have no real reason to be there or have any dimension to them. Owen Wilson as the main character isn’t the worst choice, but just like everyone else, he doesn’t have a lot to work with, and just ends up not making me feel invested with the character. I am never in the camp that hates his acting; I just think his movie choices are always mediocre, unless I find him in a Woody Allen film or Wes Anderson production. Owen Wilson just keeps using that doofy, nice guy character that is almost in every film he is in. Oh, and let’s just mention how stereotypical the Native American turkeys and the Native Americans are portrayed in this film. Not incredibly out-of-control racist, but very children-movie-oriented stereotypical. It’s also kind of awkward when one of them says, “It’s better than my wife’s cooking.” Yeah, I’ll stop right there. Oh, and make sure you find a lot of the blatant product placement. Man, it’s not in your face, but it’s in there enough to be annoying.

 

So, I must really hate this entire movie, huh? Well, within all this spread-thin plot, and stupidity of the setup, I did find myself laughing at a few moments. I think between many of the mediocre story bits were some funny moments. Most of them did come from Woody Harrelson, who is a lot of fun to watch in this movie, and George Takei as the voice for the Time Machine. While George doesn’t have the best material, he is one of those guys that can make the phone book sound interesting. Heck, even having George Takei’s character reading 50 Shades of Grey would have made this movie 100% better. I admire his delivery more than the actual material at hand. I also liked the beginning bit when the President’s daughter is hauling Owen Wilson around. She makes these little comments toward people, like blabbing out that a female secretary on the helicopter loves her dad, who I remind you, is the president, and when they get back, she says that a maid eats her feelings. I can’t really pin down why that little sequence made me laugh, but I guess that my expectations were so low that those jokes caught me off-guard. It’s a shame that not a lot of jokes like that were used throughout the film. Those few jokes were more humorous than the constant and multiple jokes about turkey butt.

I will also mention that the animation is definitely better than something like The Nut Job. It still isn’t up to Dreamworks or Pixar levels of CGI, and having a lesser budget made the comedic animation suffer, since it needed to be a tad faster to capture that fast-paced timing from the Tom and Jerry-era of comedic timing. They could have used a lot more time and money to have more polished animation and character models.

So, what do I think of the film overall? I think it’s too forgettable and predictable to be anything worth mentioning or seeing, but at the same time, I found little elements and bits of the film to be enjoyable and fun. Don’t get me wrong, this is a stupid movie with a stupid concept. It’s a bad movie. It doesn’t hit a lot of the emotional notes that it wants to, a lot of the characters are not that interesting, the humor falls flat, and the stereotypical portrayal of certain individuals can be looked at as questionable.  However, I will say that it is better than something like The Nut Job and a few other films I am going to tackle later on. If I was watching someone’s child, and they wanted to watch this, I could see why, though I will be frank and say that they need better movies. Not the best film I have seen, but then again, it came out in a year where films in general were not that great. Well, now that we got this film out of the way, I think it’s time to bring back another GKIDS film as we take a look at their first ever release, Azur & Asmar: The Prince’s Quest. Thanks for reading, and see you next time!

Rating: Lackluster!