I was expecting a terrible comedy, but this Dreamworks cartoon explores some emotional family themes and has a fantasy premise that is inventive yet strangely logical: the corporation in charge of sending babies to Earth is concerned that humans are starting to prefer puppies to babies, so they send down the Boss Baby as an undercover agent, with the result that the baby’s older brother gets jealous, discovers that the Boss Baby isn’t really a baby, and then has to help save the world from indifference to newborns.
The cover of my DVD of Madagascar 3 features a quote that says, “Easily the best one yet!”
Do not be fooled.
It is funny from time to time, and it must have been spectacular in 3D, but it lacks emotional depth. It made a ton of money, though, unlike Rise of the Guardians, which came out in the same year, and which must have been equally spectacular in 3D, and which personally I liked a lot better.
The premise is that Alex and friends get tired of waiting for the penguins and chimps to come back from Monte Carlo and take them to NYC, so they go to Monte Carlo to look for them. However, an animal control woman who can sniff out animals like a bloodhound and who has always wanted a lion for her collection of stuffed heads starts chasing them. They escape her temporarily, but crash land before they’ve gone far. How can a group of animals move around Europe without attracting notice? By running away with the circus, which becomes an all-animal circus when the penguins and chimps buy out the owner.
The whole thing gives me the impression that some committee decided to make Cirque de Soleil, in Europe, using the Madagascar characters, plus some Europeans with funny accents, and then hastily wrote a complicated, ridiculous plot that included all of the group’s ideas, instead of all of the group’s best ideas.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: Not only do kids deserve good stories, kids especially deserve good stories.
At least they got a good light show.
More thoughts, with SPOILERS, below.
Well, race fans… What to say about Turbo. Not a favorite. Too many characters and subplots. There are comparisons one could draw between this movie and Pixar’s Cars (2006) and the less obviously related Ratatouille (2007), and Disney’s Planes (2013)… but none of those comparisons favor Dreamworks.
Among the Dreamworks disasters, I liked Rise of the Guardians better than Turbo; I vaguely think Sinbad and El Dorado were okay; I haven’t seen Mr. Peabody & Sherman or Penguins of Madagascar.
Turbo’s premise, which is proclaimed insane throughout the movie itself, is that a garden snail from somewhere in California accidentally gains superpowered speed (and miscellaneous other irrelevant attributes of being a car), finds a human sponsor, and goes to compete in the Indianapolis 500 against his childhood idol, a famous French driver. Throw in Samuel L. Jackson, a Latino, grown-up version of the charmingly oblivious fat boy in Up, more antagonists than you can shake a stick at, and a clip from the hit song “Eye of the Tiger” and you’ve got a mess of a movie.
I thought the filmmakers had passed up the world’s most obvious chance ever to make the old “look at that S car go” joke until I noticed that Turbo’s race number is ‘5’, which looks an awful lot like the letter ‘S’. Kudos, guys! I was expecting the joke and you still got me.
Keep reading for more on what didn’t work and why, including SPOILERS. (Ha ha, get it? Spoilers!)
I was not particularly optimistic about Rise of the Guardians. But I should have trusted Dreamworks. They have made the best clap-if-you-believe-in-fairies movie I have ever seen. I thought I was over the whole childlike-holiday-spirit movie ethos, but apparently not. The movie was amazing. How on earth did it not make a profit? It was way, way better than the creepy adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novel Hogfather, which covers a lot of the same ground. There are also maybe some echoes of Epic here, but Epic wasn’t nearly as good.
Apparently, Rise of the Guardians (like that weird, weird mess, Meet the Robinsons) is the brainchild of writer William Joyce. Oh, hey, wait, Epic is his too, actually. Huh. He must really have a thing for hummingbirds.
Anyway, the premise of Rise of the Guardians is that a lonely magical teen named Jack Frost is called in to help four others (Santa aka Nicholas St. North, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and the Sandman) who guard the children of the world because the Bogeyman, Pitch Black, is trying to gain power again by making them afraid. If he succeeds, he could destroy belief, and with it, the guardians themselves, along with all hope and happiness. But Jack is just a carefree punk who doesn’t know where he came from. What could he possibly do?
For more on what I liked (with SPOILERS), keep reading.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 has a surprisingly straightfoward plot, but it was pretty enjoyable.
Premise: Dragons, formerly a menace to the people of Berk, are now a cherished part of Berk’s peace-loving culture. Menace lurks on the horizon, however. Dragon trappers are hunting dragons to sell to a warlord who is building a dragon army, and they’re not about to let a bunch of dragon riders get in their way, attacks from a mysterious giant ice-spitting dragon notwithstanding. Can Hiccup accept his role as future chief and protect his people… and the dragons? He and Toothless are going to have to fight that warlord, obviously. With help from an almost totally unexpected source…
Frankly, even if the plot had been a lot worse, the dragon joyrides would have made it totally acceptable. You know, kind of like The Rescuers Down Under. I’m a sucker for friendships with flying animals. (Free Willy, on the other hand, you can keep.)
Looking forward (waaaay forward, to 2018) to the third and final movie in the series. Considering reading the books, but I understand there are a lot of them and they’re only loosely related to the films. Not interested in the TV show.
More about this movie, and only this movie, since apart from the tame-the-injured-beast montage I don’t remember much about its 2010 predecessor, below. There are SPOILERS, including a detailed plot summary in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.
It was beautiful and moderately entertaining, but Kung Fu Panda 3 wasn’t great. I think the scenery and stylization was the strongest aspect of the project.
The premise is that an evil former friend of the old turtle character is stealing the life force of all China’s kung fu masters, both living and dead. Po the panda, as the famous Dragon Warrior, is the only one who can stop him. However, first he must figure out the answer to the surprisingly difficult question, Who am I?