Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Mr. Lopart – Child Molester?

mr lopart

I really like Handy Manny, but one thing I can’t help wondering lately is whether Mr. Lopart is a child molester.  He kind of fits the profile, doesn’t he?

Here’s the case against him:

  • Creepy glasses
  • Comb-over
  • Cardigan sweater
  • Cat owner
  • Too-close relationship with his mother
  • Never mentions romantic interests
  • Owns a candy store

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mickey’s Adventures in Wonderland (2009)


First, let’s dispense with the claim on the box that this is a “Full-Length Movie!”  Mickey’s Adventures in Wonderland is an extra-long episode of a show that doesn’t need any padding.  Only in Wonderland is a 50-minute episode of a TV show called a '”Full-Length Movie!"

The immediate question I had when I found out that this movie existed is “Why?”  For one, Disney already has the definitive kids’ take on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (at least until the Tim Burton-Johnny Depp version comes out next year).  This is a bit like Disney deciding to make an episode of Hannah Montana reinterpreting Cinderella.  You’ve already done it right, why screw with it?

Also, Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland is a surreal world governed by strange rules where magic exists and animals talk.  A normal episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse takes place in a surreal world governed by strange rules where magic exists and animals talk.  Kind of makes that trip down the rabbit hole lose a bit of its impact, doesn’t it?

The absolute lowest point in a cavalcade of awfulness is the appearance of Chip and Dale as “Tweedle-Chip” and “Tweedle-Dale.”  As if it isn’t bad enough that Tweedledum and Tweedledee have their names butchered into something that doesn’t even sound good, there’s a song that accompanies the two chipmunks dancing around.  It’s every bit as bad as you’re imagining.

Let’s not treat this like anything other than what it is: a bald-faced attempt to sell some DVDs with a “Full-Length Movie!” based on a popular television show.  It was based on a terrible idea (setting an episode in Wonderland) and was executed with an absolute minimum of effort.  It’s clear no one cared enough about this project to make it decent, so you shouldn’t care enough to spend money on it.

Grade: F

Peter Pan (1953)


It had been a really long time since I had seen Peter Pan before Netflix brought it yesterday.  Watching it, I was very surprised, both by how much I enjoyed it, and by how dated it seemed.

The most obviously dated element is the
American Indian stereotypes.  They’re almost uncomfortably bad (“We smoke-um peace pipe,” “Squaw fetch firewood”), and the Indians play a much larger role than I recalled.

The other thing that reminds you just how long ago this movie came out is the music.  Elvis Presley’s debut album didn’t come out until 1956, so the songs here are essentially musical theater and show no rock influence.

After being reminded of the age of the film, there are also aspects that seem extremely progressive for 1953.  The Darling parents are the bad guys at the start of the film, forcing Wendy to abandon her childish ways and grow up before she’s ready.  Four years before Leave it to Beaver, this seems like a nearly subversive perspective. 

Peter’s refusal to grow old is another subversive aspect to the movie.  What struck me in this latest viewing is how much of Peter’s eternal childhood arises from his refusal to settle down with one girl.  Throughout the film, we see Peter show interest in Wendy (whom he claims to want as his mother), Tinkerbell, the mermaids, and Tiger Lilly.  This philandering seems oddly misplaced in a children’s movie, but made Peter Pan a much more sympathetic character for me.

Other thoughts:

  • There’s an unbelievable amount of jealousy between the women, with Tinkerbell and the mermaids jealous of Wendy, and Wendy jealous of Tiger Lilly.
  • It’s not only Peter and the Lost Boys who refuse to grow old, though.  What about Captain Hook and the pirates?   What’s a better way to hold on to adolescence than to become a pirate? 
  • After watching a lot of modern children’s entertainment, it’s a bit disconcerting to see a movie like this without jokes aimed at adults.  I guess the point is that a good kids’ movie doesn’t need knowing nods to the adults in the audiences.

Grade: B

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Dora Saves the Crystal Kingdom (2009)

doracrystalkingdomI’m due for a review of Dora the Explorer at some point, but while it’s fresh, I want to tackle her latest craptastic special.

I’ll try to ignore all the things I normally dislike about Dora and just focus on the special kind of awful featured in Dora Saves the Crystal Kingdom.

For some reason, it seems like the writers tried to turn this into a musical.  I know Dora has songs in every episode, but this has some special songs with more instrumental accompaniment.  There was enough effort put in to write some rhyming lyrics, but not nearly enough to make the songs actually decent.

I hate to do this, but we have to cover the plot a bit.  Dora episodes aren’t normally narrative master-strokes, but this is particularly bad. 

The whole obsession with crystals doesn’t make any sense at all, for starters.  The Crystal Kingdom has four crystals that provide the colors for their world.  Yellow is for the sun, blue for water and sky, green for trees, and red completes the rainbow.  Which one of these things is not like the other?  Really?  You couldn’t come up with something for red to do?  If not, just leave it at three crystals.  I can’t believe I’m even analyzing this.

Dora also has a crystal that was given to her by the Snow Princess (in a special I haven’t seen) that somehow allows the Snow Princess to communicate with Dora.  For some other unexplained reason, the Snow Princess is omniscient in the Crystal Kingdom.

The villain in the story is the “greedy king.”  He steals the crystals because, well, he’s greedy.  So instead of the crystals being used to generate color in the kingdom, he keeps them all to himself and hides them in other stories.  We probably shouldn’t look for motivation past greed, since it doesn’t really make sense for someone who rules over a kingdom to steal crystals that are part of the kingdom.  Doesn’t he own them anyway?  The rest of the kingdom just benefits from the colors the crystals produce.  If I had more faith in the creative geniuses behind Dora (or if I were feeling more masochistic), I’d want to explore the crystals as a commentary on the tragedy of the commons.  Ummm, we’ll just move on.

While I find Dora Saves the Crystal Kingdom to be an extra-long, extra-bad episode of an awful show, my son seems to think it’s Citizen Kane meets Star Wars.  He has been talking for weeks about the greedy king, and the crystals, and how we need to get the colors back.  Ugh.

Grade: F

Monday, November 9, 2009

Monsters, Inc. (2001)


I have a soft spot for re-inventions of monsters.  I think one of the more underrated innovations of Sesame Street was the creation of the friendly monster. 

In Monsters, Inc., Pixar imagines a world where monsters scare children to generate electricity.  It’s a fabulous premise, and the movie is just as entertaining as we’ve all come to expect from Pixar.  The plot is interesting, with well developed characters and adult-friendly humor sprinkled throughout the slapstick.

I particularly enjoyed the title sequence with the doors opening and closing.  It reminded me of Rocky and Bullwinkle or a jazz-infused Looney Tunes short from the 60s.  Very cool, even if it seemed a little out of place stylistically. 

Before watching it, I always had the impression that Monsters, Inc. was one of the worst Pixar films.  After seeing it, I have no idea why that would be the case.  It’s every bit as good as the other great Disney-Pixar collaborations.  It’s also the first movie I’ve watched where Billy Crystal doesn’t annoy me.

Grade: A

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Aristocats (1970)

aristocats The Aristocats doesn’t place among the pantheon of beloved Disney animated features, and it’s easy to understand why.  The animation is distractingly bad (particularly in Madame Adelaide’s hair, which adds and removes lines frame-by-frame), the music is uninspired, and the plot is uninteresting.

Of course, this still makes the 40-year-old film better than most modern kids entertainment.

I had a hard time convincing my son (he’s 2 and a half) to watch the movie.  We watched it in chunks, and he never wanted to watch more of it.  I’m not sure why, because when we finally sat down to watch the second half, he seemed to enjoy it. 

The movie could have been much better with some good songwriting and better characterization.  If it came out today, it would probably have a couple hit songs, and the kittens would have been developed into better comic sidekicks, instead of being marginalized as they were.

The two adult cats (Duchess and O’Malley) dominate the film, but O’Malley is easily recognized as the street-smart rapscallion in the mold of Tramp in Lady and the Tramp and Dodger in Oliver and Company, just not as likeable.  Duchess, voiced by Eva Gabor, is distracting because all I can think is Lisa Douglas in Green Acres.

In the final evaluation, Aristocats is a purely average movie.  There are far better choices available, but watching it won’t make your eyes bleed.

Grade: C


Most entertainment marketed to children is crap.  It’s crap because it doesn’t have to be good — children will watch all sorts of awful things.

The problem is that parents have to watch this dreck with their children.  Since kids don’t care, parents would of course prefer to watch good kids entertainment instead of crap.

Hopefully this blog will help discerning parents separate the wheat from the chaff.