It was the beginning to our rite of passage. The years up to this point for the average student was a life of following the rules. Stand in single file, no talking, sit in alphabetical order; these were the things we heard in the early years. As we now entered into 6th grade some of us started flexing our independence. For me it was leaving my bicycle at home and letting public transportation take me and my friends further down into the city. Our allowances would give us this new found freedom. Taking the bus or train, eating out at a fast food restaurant; we were finally adults–at least in our minds. Back in the classroom the students who had aggressive tendencies started flexing their ability to dominate other students. In my class there was a student who was repeating the year over. Though this person did not bully us, we still were cautious whenever we were around them. I remember how surprised I was that for being 1 year older this person had incredible strength. In PE class everyone wanted this student on their team. The aggressive students were not the only ones who asserted themselves; the class clowns from elementary school were now constantly testing their teachers to see how far they could be pushed. These two groups were heroes to some of us because they blatantly did not follow the rules. Sure they were sent to the principal’s office numerous times but it just seemed like they did not care. In fact, when they would come back to the classroom they were treated like demigods. I am embarrassed for what I am about to tell you; my way of being rebellious was to quietly shoot spitballs at students. But I did not use bits of wet rolled up paper, I used lip balm. Taking one end of an empty pen I would twirl it into the balm then aim for the back of a person’s head. When the student put their hand back to feel what hit them in the head they would smear the balm further in their hair. I was surprised no one in this dramatic comedy did not think of it. STARTING at a new school Rafe, played by Griffin Gluck (Just Go With It, Red Band Society-TV), could not believe all the rules students had to follow. One rule in particular would push him over the edge. With Lauren Graham (Bad Story, Gilmore Girls-TV) as Jules and Andrew Daly (She’s Out of My League, What Happens in Vegas) as Principal Dwight; I could not tell if the acting was meant to be more cartoonish to suit this story. I liked the animated scenes and felt I understood what the students were trying to achieve. However these students did not come across as real students for me. Part of this had to do with the script, but I think the directing also had a hand in it. For a good portion of this film I was simply bored. I believe this film would only be a hit with those who are presently attending middle school.
1 3/4 stars
It does not come with batteries nor does it need to run with any other power source. What I am referring to is our imagination and creativity. From the back porch of the 3rd floor apartment I grew up in, I could see to the end of the block. Each backyard was a different kingdom in my fantasy world. Taking empty plastic dishwasher bottles with their push-up tops, I would fill them up with water and they would become bombs I would use to protect my castle. When I had to go on a fact-finding mission, I would use the back alleys covered with gravel to cover my tracks. During these missions I would hold out a ballpoint pen at arm’s length, turning it into a spaceship that was protecting me from any enemy missiles. I could spend hours outside coming up with several activities that were fueled by my imagination; some incorporated my friends while others had to be done secretly by me. The creativity coming out of the writers’ imagination for this animated action comedy reminded me so much of my childhood. I believe everyone could relate to something in this fun film. Chris Pratt (Her, Wanted) voiced happy-go-lucky Emmet Brickowoski who loved everything he did in his structured life. One day an unusual misstep brought him in contact with Wyldstyle, voiced by Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games franchise, People Like Us), who mistakenly believed he was the chosen one to save the world from the evil Lord Business, voiced by Will Ferrell (Stranger Than Fiction, Step Brothers). The kaleidoscopic explosion of colors, rapid fire comments and crazy scenes kept me on my toes; in fact, I feel I need to see this movie again because I felt I was missing some of the details. I understand the cast did their recordings together instead of the usual way of each actor being by themselves in the recording booth. It made a difference in my opinion; there was a stronger fluidity to the verbal exchanges. Will Arnett (Blades of Glory, Arrested Development-TV) as Batman/Bruce Wayne, Liam Neeson (Schindler’s List, Taken franchise) as Bad Cop/Good Cop and Morgan Freeman (Million Dollar Baby, Now You See Me) as Vitruvius were just a few of the voices that stood out for me. There was so much that was good about this film that I do not feel I even have to tell you about the minor stuff. The bottom line for me was this movie took a familiar product and with a big dose of imagination provided me the opportunity to have a fun time while recalling some fond memories from my youth.
3 1/4 stars
Where is it written that you have to fit in to the norm? Yet how many of us growing up tried our best to be part of a group? I know I felt different from an early age, like a minority within a minority. Sure I did my best to be considered “normal” but my brain was not programmed for it. My imagination would take me to far away lands just by pretending my pen was a space ship. And let us be honest here, you must have realized I was different by the amount of movies I watch–right? This is why this gentle movie resonated with me. The story celebrated the joy of being comfortable with one’s uniqueness. David, played by John Cusack (High Fidelity, Must Love Dogs), was a widowed science fiction writer who lived a solitary life. He began to wonder if he could become a father when he met an unusual foster child named Dennis, played by Bobby Coleman (Snowmen, Must Love Dogs). Dennis was afraid of the sun, preferred standing inside a big cardboard carton box and believed he was from the planet Mars. This child actor was gifted in this role. Having recently grown tired of John’s roles, I felt he went beyond the ordinary in his work here. The chemistry was perfect between the two of them. For anyone who has felt different or has an overactive imagination, this exceptional movie will ring true for them. For all others this wonderful film will show you a larger world we all live in.
3 stars — DVD
With imagination one can create incredible experiences, where some will remain in fantasy and others will lead to a new reality. As for the creature known as the Water Horse; I fully accepted it as being real in this film. It was easy to do with this beautiful story which was accompanied by excellent CGI effects. I was very surprised how much I enjoyed this DVD. Angus MacMorrow, played by Alex Etel (From Time to Time, Millions) was a lonely Scottish boy living with his mother near the shores of Loch Ness. It was the 1940’s and his father was off to war. One day while out by the shore, Angus found an unusual rock. Taking it back home for further inspection, the young lad found it to be a curious puzzle. Confiding in their handyman Lewis Mowbray, played by Ben Chaplin (Me and Orson Wells, Ways to Live Forever), Mr. Mowbray explained the legend of the Water Horse to the curious boy. The trick, however, was whether Angus could keep everything a secret–even when English troops were setting up camp to defend the nearby waters from German submarines. An ideal movie for the entire family; I cannot imagine anyone not being charmed by this layered, enjoyable story.
2 3/4 stars — DVD