THIS WAS THE WAY I WOULD WATER my relative’s lawn. First, I would do battle with the reptilian garden hose that was coiled up onto the side of their house. Grabbing at its brass, pointy head I would pull it while walking backwards down the length of the house, until I made it to the front yard. From this point I would drop the green coils of its body on the ground while I continued to pull at the rest of its body; I needed enough length to get around the front bushes and out into the center of the lawn. Once this was done, I would attach the muzzle a/k/a oscillating sprinkler to its head and place it down on the lawn. Running back to the side of the house to the snake’s lair, I would find the water handle it was guarding and turn it on. I was already dressed in my bathing suit; so, I was ready to do battle with the spray of venom the snake was unleashing across the lawn. I would run and jump thru the wall of water the sprinkler was spraying up into the air as its head moved from side to side. My goal was to plant my feet firmly on each side of the wagging head then use my hands to push down the spewing venom water, until the palms of my hands could cover the sprinkler’s mad head. Once my hands reached the head, I knew I had won because of the gurgling sounds and the water pooling out into a puddle on the lawn. This was the way I helped water the lawns. GROWING UP IN AN APARTMENT BUILDING, the only time I could help water and cut a lawn was when we were visiting a relative’s house. I was thrilled to play with the water hose, sprinkler and lawn mower whenever I was at one of my relative’s houses. With the lawn mower, I would plot out the path I would take, always based on some geometric or symmetrical pattern. Outline the lawn into a square that kept getting smaller as I got closer to the center or make diagonal stripes across the grass; these were just a couple of patterns I would make with the lawn mower. This was my way of helping a relative. Some of my friends had to help with things that were not nearly as fun. I had one friend who had to wash and wax the family car every other week; another friend had to keep the front and back yards clean after the family dog had been outside. I sympathized with them whenever they complained about their job. As I have been sitting and thinking about the work my friends and I had to do to help our families, it pales in comparison to what the young girl had to do in this animated, family drama. AFTER HER FATHER WAS ARRESTED THE ONLY thing Parvenu, voiced by Saara Chaudry (Let’s Go Luna!-TV, Holly Hobbie-TV), could do to help the family was the one thing that could get her killed. And that was to go outside of the house alone. With Soma Chhaya (Poltergeist, Degrassi: Next Class-TV) voicing Shauzia, Noorin Gulamgaus (RoboCop, A Simple Favor) voicing Idrees/Sulayman, Laara Sadiq (The Invisible, Eight Below) voicing Fattema/Old Woman and Ali Badshah (Shazam!, Aladdin and the Death Lamp-TV movie) voicing Nurullah/Talib security man; this film festival winner was not a children’s film. This was an intense, at times riveting, story. Though I appreciated the animation, it was the script that sold me on this movie. Set in a Taliban controlled Afghanistan in the early 2000s, the scenes were a mix of harsh reality, fantasy and family life. I cannot recall a recent animated film that displayed such power from the spoken word. I try to avoid making comparisons, but I do not know how any child could still complain about their household chores after seeing this remarkable picture.
3 ½ stars
THE TWO OF US SAT QUIETLY playing checkers while people in the room were arguing back and forth between themselves. I had joined my elderly relative for the game after we had eaten dinner. I always enjoyed playing checkers with this relative despite him leading in the amount of games won. It was during our 2ndgame when a couple of the relatives, who were still sitting at the dining room table, started raising their voices towards each other. I had no idea what they were saying, so I started to turn around to look at them. My elderly relative patted his hand on my arm to stop me as he told me not to mind those fighting relatives. I asked him if they would start hurting each other; he said no, they both like being right and will continue yelling at each other until they get tired then they will each get up and walk away. He told me they always argue about unimportant things just so they can say they were right about something. “Pay them no mind,” he said. He also told me to learn from them which I thought was odd to say. When I questioned him, he said he wanted me to learn how to be respectful, that I can disagree with someone but respect that person’s feelings. We went back to playing our game of checkers. THE THINGS THAT ELDERLY RELATIVE SAID to me during our checker games were invaluable to me. I have never forgotten our conversations and his thoughts about the things he saw going around him. To the other relatives, we looked like we were simply playing a game; but if they had paid attention to us, they would have realized this patriarch was teaching me important lessons that carried me through many situations. When I was that little boy, he was the oldest relative I knew. Those born before him, I only got to see in a photo album. The photos were old and faded. He would tell me who each person was and how they were related to me. I would ask questions about them and he would do his best to answer me in a way I would understand. There was one relative I was intrigued with because of a shiny pin he was wearing on his suit lapel in one of the photos. My relative told me it was a diamond and ruby pin shaped like a piece of candy because the man was a candy maker; how I had wished he was still alive. The little boy in this animated film sure was lucky to have his relatives. FEELING NEGLECTED AFTER HIS BABY SISTER was born Yukio, voiced by Crispin Freeman (Young Justice-TV, Hellsing Ultimate-TV) found others who cared more about him. They were out in his yard. With Rebecca Hall (The Awakening, The Town) voicing the Mother, John Cho (Star Trek franchise, Searching) voicing the Father, Daniel Dae Kim (Insurgent, Lost-TV) voicing the young great grandfather and Victoria Grace (47 Ronin, Tokyo Grandfathers) as Mirai; this film festival winning adventure drama had some beautiful visuals throughout it. I loved the whole idea behind the story, finding things that were touching and sweet. The one thing I had an issue with however, was the main character Yukko. I felt there was too much yelling and bratty behavior coming out of him; it was hard to sympathize with him after a short time. Also, I would have liked the yard scenes to have been drawn with more magic and fantasy to them, to make them stand out more. Despite these issues, I still enjoyed the story immensely. Because I did not realize I could have changed the language, I saw this film with subtitles; they were hard to read in many scenes. I still was able to understand what was going on while Japanese was being spoken by the characters.
MY LOVE OF STORIES BEGAN AT AN early age because of the stories that were told around family meals. I heard about so many different relatives’ lives that I would wish they were sitting at the dining room table to tell their story directly to us. I had a relative who was a violin virtuoso. He was self-taught and only played for family and friends, is what I heard. The only memory I have associated to this person was seeing an old black and white photograph of him, dressed in a suit and holding his violin at his side. He died before I was born, so I never got to hear him play. Another story I heard around the dining room table was about a relative who had saved several other relatives by sneaking them out of their country during a war. With the details of each relative’s escape not known, I would make-up my own stories about their perilous travels and act them out whenever I was playing with my toy soldiers. I would cover the living room of our home with piles of towels to represent the mountains and rulers as bridges which my relatives/soldiers would have to traverse on their way to freedom. THERE WERE OTHER STORIES TOLD AT the dining room table; I remember being surprised by how many people were related to me. I used to wonder how much truth were in the stories that were being told; but, without having much physical proof, I had to rely on the storyteller to be accurate with the details. I cannot say it bothered me, but I was envious of the friends of mine who had physical remnants of their deceased relatives. One friend had a sword that was mounted on a plaque that hung in the hallway of their home; I think it belonged to a great, great, great uncle. Another friend of mine had their grandfather’s gold pocket watch. It was the first time I had ever seen a pocket watch and I was fascinated with the face cover that sprung open at the press of a button. At the time I did not realize the stories I was listening to would help me in my history classes in school. When the teacher was covering a world conflict or was focusing on a specific country, I would get a mental picture of my relative. Sometimes a city would be mentioned, and I could imagine my relative being there while doing something. I did not realize this ability would help me remember city names on our tests. How I wished I could talk to these deceased relatives; if only I had the opportunity the brothers had in this animated, adventure comedy. UPON RECEIVING THEIR DECEASED FATHER’S MAGICAL staff; brothers Ian and Barley Lightfoot, voiced by Tom Holland (Spider-Man franchise, The Impossible) and Chris Pratt (The Kid, Passengers), set out on an adventure to try and bring back the magic of their Dad. With Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Downhill, Enough Said) voicing Laurel Lightfoot, Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures, The Shape of Water) voicing the Manticore and Mel Rodriguez (Little Miss Sunshine, Panic Room) voicing Colt Bronco; this Pixar movie had the usual high standard of animation we are used to from this studio. Though the cast of actors brought life to these fantasy characters, the script did not have any magic for me. Out of the many films I have seen from this studio, this one was the most obvious with following the studio’s story formula. I did not find anything funny to chuckle at and I must say the father character was odd to me. The script was simple and predictable. If I had my choice, I would rather have been reminiscing about my deceased relatives’ stories than sitting in the theater to watch what these two brothers went through to connect to their past.
HE MAY HAVE THOUGHT WE WERE friends but that was not really the case. I felt I had to for my own self-preservation. We hung around the same group of people. If I remember correctly, he was a friend of a friend who started including him in our get togethers. He had a loud and boisterous personality that was quick with sarcasm; that was the part of him that was fun to be around. However, he also had a quick temper that was the first thing to flare up in any kind of confrontational circumstances. His “go-to” comment was “Do you want to take this outside?” This is the reason why I stayed on good terms with him; I did not want to get pulled into his negative drama. Whenever we would all go out to a club, the chances were better than 50% he would get into some type of altercation with one of the patrons of the place. I found it maddening and ridiculous because before you knew it, he would be asking the person to join him outside. Now granted he made an imposing figure; but still, there was no reason he needed the theatrics. The way I used to deal with him was simply to agree to his extreme pontifications on life and living, by nodding my head or grunting a sound that he could interpret as an affirmative answer. THOUGH IT HAS BEEN YEARS SINCE I have seen him, he is the first person I think of whenever I hear someone saying, “Do you want to take this outside?” Even if I hear it in a movie, he comes to mind. I was never the type of person who willingly confronted someone. Growing up people fell into two categories, aggressive or passive. I was in the passive group during my childhood years. It was not until I was in college before I found my voice. After what I went through during high school, I worked on myself to get to a point where no one would take advantage of me. It was not an easy process by any means; but I acquired the tools necessary to have an argument without including negative or demeaning comments. What I learned that was valuable to me was to remove the emotions from the equation and talk about my feelings instead. There are some people who think if they talk loudly enough, they will win the fight; as you know that does not work in the real world. As I was watching this animated, action adventure I identified more with one of the characters than the other; you probably could guess which one. AFTER INGESTING AN EXPERIMENTAL CONCOCTION WITHOUT it being tested, the only thing super spy Lance, voiced by Will Smith (I Am Legend, Men in Black franchise) had to rely on was his wits and new-found avian abilities to bring down an evil genius bent on destroying the agency. With Tom Holland (Spider-Man franchise, In the Heart of the Sea) voicing Walter, Ben Mendelsohn (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Robin Hood) voicing Killian, Reba McEntire (The Little Rascals, One Night at McCool’s) voicing Joyless and Rachel Brosnahan (The Finest Hours, Patriots Day) voicing Wendy; this film festival nominee had wonderful animation work. Including the cast of actors; overall, this was a pleasant, family friendly film to watch. There was nothing extreme about it; I felt it fell in the middle of other animated films. There was more of a focus on fun instead of a series of humorous jokes and pranks. The message however was what grabbed me the most. I connected more with the last half of the film, finding it to be a touching statement. If you choose to see this film, you would easily see why I felt a strong affinity to one of the characters.
2 ½ stars
DURING A SOCIAL FUNCTION, I WAS introduced to a guest who had recently started an exercise regimen to get back into shape. We were introduced by a mutual acquaintance who knew about each of our fitness journeys. Our conversation only lasted a few minutes; but when it came time to separate, I could not remember his name. I simply said it was nice to meet him and wished him luck on reaching his fitness goals, before I moved on. For the next couple of minutes, I tried to reconstruct the beginning of our conversation when we had been introduced, hoping I would recall his name; it did not work. I was annoyed because I could remember every detail about him, from the color of his socks to the buckle of his belt, but not the name. I found it weird that sometimes I can easily remember a person’s name and other times I have no clue. Considering the fact, I teach multiple classes and work with a multitude of employees at my job; I have retained a long list of names in my memory banks. I would like to know what factors trigger my brain to remember a person’s name. ONE WAY I CAN RETAIN A PERSON’S name is if they have the same name of someone I already know, or their name is similar to a well-known celebrity. However, there are a variety of things that hinder my ability to memorize names. If a person avoids eye contact during a conversation, it is likely I will not remember them. Another cause for me not to retain names is if the person does not hold up their end of the conversation. I feel if a person does not ask any questions, then there is little reason to converse with them. In these types of circumstances, I have found the individual is forgettable. The art of conversation appears to be under siege to me. I do not want to sound judgmental; but what is the point of carrying on conversation with a person who does not ask questions or engage with you? I must assume they are not interested in either me or the topic being discussed. Usually, I will converse on multiple topics and ask open ended questions to help both of us start up a conversation. If this doesn’t produce anything then I end my time with the person and gracefully remove myself. The reason I am telling you about this is because for the first time, when I sat down to write my review of this animated, adventure comedy I could not remember the story or several of the characters. DURING AN ARGUMENT BROTHER AND SISTER Charlie and Marla, played by Gabriel Bateman (Lights Out, American Gothic-TV) and Anya Taylor-Joy (Morgan, The Witch), suddenly found themselves transported to an animated world where they would discover the true meaning of family. With Jim Gaffigan (Away We Go, Chappaquiddick) voicing Del, Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter franchise, Swiss Army Man) voicing Rex Dasher and Dan Navarro (The Book of Life, American Dad-TV) voicing Viking Leader; this film was one long series of product placements. I did not mind the non-animated scenes; but after that, I found the script to be one long bore. There was no humor, adventure or fun musical numbers; in other words, this was a generic version of the Lego films. At 7:00 pm on a Friday there were a total of 3 people in the movie theater and that is including me. I do not know what the film studio was trying to do, but this picture was that one holiday gift that came broken and was not worth fixing, so it gets thrown away. With an extra scene during the credits, the studio really wants to do a sequel? If I were you, I would not engage with this poor example of an animated movie.
1 ½ stars
WE WERE WALKING AROUND THE TOWN looking for buildings that were still standing from the turn of the century. On a road trip with a friend, he asked if we could make a stop at this small town where a relative of his had lived. He had never met the relative but wanted to find his grave. The town came as a total surprise to me because it had this mixture of old and new buildings that complimented each other, giving off an old-world vibe. As we walked down the main street, we found buildings that had been built and standing at the time my friend’s deceased relative had migrated to the area. My friend took photos of the buildings we had found; he wanted to form some type of bond to this man he never knew, but who yet was connected to him. All my friend had was an old photograph of his great uncle when he was a teenager. Whenever he looked at the photo of the man, he would see a strong resemblance to his Dad, who coincidentally happened to be named after this departed relative. As we walked around, I thought how lucky my friend was to be able to visit his relative’s town and travel the same streets his great uncle might have used when he was alive. HOW I WOULD HAVE LOVED TO BE able to visit the town of an ancestor. Since I was a little boy, I was always fascinated with looking at old, family photographs; both mine and other families. There is something about me having a similar genetic makeup to a long line of individuals that comforts me. Maybe because I really was never part of any type of group growing up that now I find myself comforted knowing I have an immediate connection to a group of people. I am always amazed when I run into someone who is a distant relative that shares similar features to myself or to an immediate family member of mine. Only recently I was at a restaurant where I bumped into a group of distant relatives. One of the relatives looked strikingly similar to one of my immediate family members that it startled me for a moment, especially because this person was a cousin twice removed from me. As we briefly talked about our family connection, I could not help thinking how important it is to me to look back at those who came before me to find out where I was going now. The main character in this animated, adventure comedy would know what I am talking about. A DISTANT VOICE THAT ONLY ELSA, voiced by Idina Menzel (Rent, The Tollbooth), could hear was calling out to her. Something about it sounded familiar enough to make Elsa leave her kingdom and put herself in terrible peril. With Kristen Bell (Bad Moms franchise, The Boss) voicing Anna, Josh Gad (Beauty and the Beast, Marshall) voicing Olaf, Jonathan Groff (Glee-TV, Looking-TV) voicing Kristoff and Sterling K. Brown (Hotel Artemis, This is Us-TV) voicing Mattias; this sequel was a visual masterpiece. The amount of detail and creativity put into every scene was breathtaking at times. As for the script it was good but not as good as the original movie. Since there was no main villain, I felt the drama waned at times. It seemed as if the studio’s marketing department was working overtime; for example, the script had a new cute character that would be perfect in toy version and there were places where songs were sung (though I could not remember one song when I left the theater) in the hopes that one of them would be a chart topper. All of this does not mean much since the theaters were packed with small children and their parents dressed up as one of the characters. There was such a high bar to reach due to the success of the first movie that it would have taken super powers to try and top it. I give the studio credit for its valiant effort. There was an extra scene at the end of the movie credits.
I WASN’T AWARE GROWING UP THAT everyone essentially looked the same. Sure, there was different hair and eye colors and I had more poundage on me than most of the kids in the neighborhood who were my age; but essentially, there was nothing blatantly out of the norm. Everyone was or appeared to be in the same socio-economic class. It was not until the middle school years when changes started taking place in the neighborhood. A family had moved in that caused a slight ripple in the fabric of my world. The children were dressed differently compared to the other children in school. It was not like a traditional garb from a foreign country or religion; their clothes were not things you could find in any of the local stores in the area. Instead, the clothes looked homemade. Not that this was a bad thing; it simply made them standout from the other students in school. What I remember most were the lunches they would eat. Where most kids ate a sandwich or brought a cold leftover from home; this family’s siblings had what I would refer to as exotic foods. They had little cups that had various dips in them, along with salad ingredients. Rarely did I ever see them eat a sandwich made with white bread. I wasn’t judging them; I was just curious about their food choices. As far as I knew, no one ever made fun of them. THE FAMILY REMAINED IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD for only a few years. I thought they were fortunate because as the neighborhood continued changing, people’s attitudes started to have a hostile edge to them. I experienced some of it because I was overweight; but there were other students in high school who became targets of students who had extreme views. Their behavior was abusive, and I call it abuse because it always had either a mental or physical angle to it that was always hurtful. There was one student who was short with facial features that were too big for their face. They could be walking down the hallway between classes and get smacked in the back of the head by an unknown assailant. I was called names and experienced physical altercations. School started feeling like a competition; if you could get through the day without being abused or called a nasty name you were a winner. All of this was due to the apparent differences between each of us. The way I saw it, one had to fit into the majority; otherwise, they would be banished to the outskirts of social interactions. It is a topic that remains relevant today, even for the unique family in this animated, comedic family movie. TIRED OF EXPERIENCING HOSTILITY FROM THEIR neighbors, the Addams family found what appeared to be an abandoned building in an idyllic location. However, their differences would eventually leave their mark on the citizens. With Oscar Isaac (Life Itself, Star Wars franchise) voicing Gomez Addams, Charlize Theron (Long Shot, Atomic Blonde) voicing Morticia Addams, Chloe Grace Moretz (Let Me In, The 5thWave) voicing Wednesday Addams, Finn Wolfhard (It franchise, Stranger Things-TV) voicing Pugsley Addams and Nick Kroll (Uncle Drew, My Blind Brother) voicing Uncle Fester; I stumbled upon the Addams family when I found a book of Charles Addams’ cartoons on a bookstore shelf many years ago. There was a darkness to them; however, it was always displayed in a kind and quirky way. The cast in this film was excellent with voicing their characters. However, I found the script to be mild and not funny at all. Many of the jokes were corny and predictable, though the animation was fine. There was nothing new on display and by the time the script dealt with the true focus of the story, it was quick and lackluster. By that time, I did not care much about the picture as I had to fight from nodding off. I wish the writers would have followed the television show’s theme song and produce something less bland.
JUST BECAUSE IT IS THE PAST does not mean it ever goes away. Recently, I attended back to back family events. The first one was held at a relative’s house with a variety of family members in attendance. During the evening a photo album (does anyone remember one of these?) was brought out for relatives to peruse at their leisure. The cover of the book was made of a deep reddish colored leather or fake leather. I knew it had to be old because the clear vinyl pages that were supposed to cover and hold the photos in place had lost their adhesiveness. Some of the edges of the vinyl were yellowed from age. Making sure the table spot in front of me was clean, I carefully placed the book down to look through it. Thankfully my relative had labelled the photographs because there were many people in the photos I did not know, even though they had a familiar look to them. There were some photos that had been shot in that particular relative’s country of origin; they were printed on thick cardboard with foreign printing on the back. I have to say they looked classy, elegant and ancient. I was seeing for the first-time relatives who were from generations past. The other startling thing I experienced was the realization, while looking at these deceased relatives, many of my current relatives looked like them. THE SECOND FAMILY EVENT I ATTENDED was held at a restaurant. All of us were to meet there for dinner. When I walked in, I saw some of my relatives off to the side. Approaching them, one relative saw me and announced me to the group around her. Out of the faces I could see, there was one there I knew but had not seen in a long time. She was a distant relative from a branch of the family that, for whatever reason, we had not had much interaction with while we were growing up. Walking up and greeting her, we exchanged excited comments of surprise about bumping into each other since her group was not part of the group of relatives I was coming to see. Once we calmed down from the surprise, she told me her brother was there; I had no memory of him in my memory banks. Pointing to someone standing behind me I turned around and was stunned at what I saw; it was the face of one of my deceased parents. Though this relative was connected to me distantly, our shared gene pool dealt him a hand where he turned out looking like he was part of my immediate family. Not that I have forgotten my parent; but it struck me how each relative, whether living or deceased, plays a part in creating a place where we belong and a sense of home. This animated film had a similar story. YI’S, VOICED BY CHLOE BENNET (AGENTS of S.H.I.E.L.D-TV, Nashville-TV), dream of traveling the world took on a new wrinkle when she discovered a magical Yeti hiding on the roof of her apartment building. With Albert Tsai (Dr. Ken-TV, Trophy Wife-TV) voicing Peng, Tenzing Norgay Trainor (Liv and Maddie-TV) voicing Jin, Eddie Izzard (Across the Universe, Ocean’s Thirteen) voicing Burnish and Sarah Paulson (The Goldfinch, The Post) voicing Dr. Zara; I found the animation both beautiful and colorful. The idea behind the story was sweet and touching, despite the script being somewhat generic. However, I so enjoyed the message and the scenes that I did not mind the familiar story lines. Though this film is classified as humorous, it is not a laugh out loud type; more like a knowing chuckle. Appropriate for all family members, one cannot deny the sweetness of the message for it does make one think of their own family. Plus, the still photographs used during the ending credits were a nice touch to cement those feelings of family and home.
EVERY QUESTION WAS MET WITH A question or a story; I found it annoying. Like me, he was an employee of the company; though, in my opinion he was not an asset. He was a salesman who handled a large account for the company, which meant he was getting a good salary. At least, he wasn’t one of those braggards who liked to flash their wealth. However, he did have “airs” about him. In other words, his paperwork and follow through on his orders was never completed because he felt such things were beneath him. This was the area where I had to interact with him, and I did not like it at all. Whenever I asked him a question about his paperwork, he would usually tell me to talk to his assistant, that she had the details. And when I would, half the time she could not give me an answer because he had not turned in all of his paperwork into her. I would have to start the whole process over again with him. Maybe he was a nice person away from work; but as far as I was concerned all he cared about was making a sale and getting his commission on it. He never showed an interest in making sure we were invoicing the customer correctly, so we would get paid and for that reason I did not like him. LUCKILY, HE WAS ONE OUT OF a larger group of salespeople. If I had my way, I would have told him off and held up his commissions until the company received payment from the customer on his orders. Unfortunately, I did not own the company which meant I had to deal with him no matter what I thought of him. It was not an ideal situation; but honestly, it was not something I could not handle. The bottom line for me was I enjoyed my job and I wasn’t going to do anything to jeopardize it. Having to deal with a challenging employee was something I discovered a long time ago. It is a rare experience to work at a company where everyone gets along well. My philosophy about it is this; you do not have to like a person, you simply need to respect them. The bottom line when working at a company is for everyone to make a contribution that will assist the company/organization in being successful. This seems like a simple premise, but not everyone can do it easily. An example can be found in this animated, adventure comedy. NOTHING COULD STOP THE CONSTANT SNEAK prank attacks between the pigs and birds until mysterious ice projectiles started raining down on each one’s island. If the birds and pigs wanted to survive, they would have to find a way to work together. With Jason Sudeikis (Booksmart, Horrible Bosses 2) voicing Red, Josh Gad (Beauty and the Beast, Marshall) voicing Chuck, Leslie Jones (Ghostbusters, Masterminds) voicing Zeta, Bill Hader (Trainwreck, Maggie’s Plan) voicing Leonard and Rachel Bloom (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Most Likely to Murder) voicing Silver; this sequel was a bit slow taking off for me. Most of what I was watching seemed like a rehash of the previous film. However, as the story moved along, I started to take more notice of it. The animation was just as good as the previous film and there were several scenes that were fun to watch. What really stood out for me were the voices; I thought the actors were perfect with their characters, especially Jason and Leslie. Overall, this was an easy film that did not need much thought on the viewers’ part. In my book that is a plus since I did not have to struggle to stay engaged in the story.
2 ½ stars
UP UNTIL I SAW THE MOVIE Bambi, the only characters that would perish in an animated picture were the evil ones. The evil queen, the wicked witch; none of the “bad” characters in those animated films went unpunished for their awful actions. Even Cruella DeVil got her comeuppance for what she did to those innocent puppies. When I watched Bambi, I was traumatized by what happened to the mother. I understood death, but I had not been exposed to it on a personal level. Suddenly it was thrust upon me in an unexpected way, an animated movie where an innocent relative does not survive; it was an awful experience for me. I wanted to take in Bambi, so he would not be alone. In fact, I remember feeling angry towards the movie studio for allowing such a thing to happen. In my mind, innocent people were not supposed to get hurt or die; I believed it was a written rule. Little did I know that my introduction to the film Bambi would only be a prelude to what happens everyday in the real world. I guess that is why I am more attracted to fantasy and movies. SPOILER ALERT: YEARS LATER ANOTHER ANIMATED FILM COMES along where a tragedy befalls the parent of a main character. I at least was better equipped to handle this when I saw the original film of, The Lion King. In the context of the story, there were similarities between it and Bambi. What softened the blow in my opinion were the various musical numbers and the endearing, emotional depth given to the characters. I think a person would be hard pressed not to react to the characters in the movie. From that movie a new industry was created or at least it was new to me. Sitting in a theater, the lights go down and the orchestra begins the familiar notes from the soundtrack; I was immediately brought into their world when part of the cast of the staged version of The Lion King walk down the aisle towards the stage. With the imaginative and colorful costumes, myself and the audience were in awe. The staged show began on Broadway in 1997 and I believe it is still running today. Suffice it to say, it would be a challenge for any movie studio to do something that would top the memories and experiences viewers and theater goers would already have towards this story. However, do not let that stop you if you are curious to see the latest version of a much beloved story. WITHOUT THE GUIDANCE OF HIS PARENTS Simba, voiced by Donald Glover (The Martian, Solo: A Star Wars Story), must learn for himself what it means to become a king. With Beyonce (Dreamgirls, Obsessed) voicing Nala, Seth Rogen (Long Shot, The Disaster Artist) voicing Pumbaa, Billy Eichner (Most Likely to Murder, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising) voicing Timon and Chiwetel Ejiofor (Dirty Pretty Things, 12 Years a Slave) voicing Scar; this animated, adventure drama was visually startling to me. I kept questioning myself on whether some of the animals were real or not. The CGI was utterly amazing to the point I felt I was on an African Safari. Now for the substance behind those visuals, the writers stayed close to the original story with only a few minor tweaks. However, what they forgot to do was keep the endearing emotional quality to the characters. Based on the way the characters acted there was not much variance to their emotional output. The script paled in comparison to the technical quality of this picture. I also was distracted by the musical soundtrack; not the individual songs, but the background music was too over dramatic. One of the bright spots was listening to Seth and Billy with their verbal exchanges. If the script would have been better written I think this would have been a stellar production; instead, I felt I had gone to the zoo during the nap times for some of my favorite animals.
2 ½ stars