The Boxtrolls (PG)

6 Stars

I’m rooting for the underdog.

Not to win or place.

Not necessarily to show, either.

The Boxtrolls is not terrific.

It’s good, but pick the superior visual treat.

The Book of Life is the movie for in-theater oggling, not The Boxtrolls.

There, I said it!

The Academy nominates three to five pictures for Best Animated Feature. In the annual race to qualify, wouldn’t we prefer to have six to eight competing for a slot?

The quality consistence crown goes to Walt Disney Animation. Pure and simple.

Dreamworks follows admirably in second place, pumping out solid cartoons on the reg.

The remaining horses compete for the remaining places, but would it be terrible to keep Laika in the running?

Despite numerous positive recommendations, Corpse Bride (2005) and Coraline (2009) still elude this reviewer.

On the contrary, Paranorman received a nomination for Best Animated Feature in 2012, and deservedly so.

Therefore Laika, LLC., the American stop-motion animation studio, earns their jockey.

Ultimately, The Boxtrolls lack enrapture; for adults mainly.

I disdain marginalizing age groups in terms of film taste.

Frozen, Despicable Me 2 and Tangled are examples of fantastic ‘animated movies.’

Let’s not call them ‘kid’s movies.’

Because tonally, The Boxtrolls is childish.

Lord Portley-Rind’s cheese humor and Lady Frou Frou’s cross-dressing opera number are funny, but a bit mundane. Perhaps immature, no?

There’s some good plot development; a number of high points, in fact.

The self-aware jokes are chucklesome, the unusual characters are compelling.

Tracy Morgan is the voice of a bespectacled Caucasian, and I fantasize a world where he wasn’t informed ahead of time.

The mid-credits sequence is the best I have ever seen.

The existentialist thugs explain stop-motion through time-lapse camera footage of their animator.

It’s an exceptional artistic snippet.

Nab the rental if you’re keen on the new stop-motion feature. You won’t hate it.

The reality is: If you’re like most people, you won’t make time for two animated flicks in the near future.

Plus, you may wish to avoid a similar in-theater experience.

It’s rated PG, but the 3D adult ticket costs $12.50.

Doofy Dad in the back makes no effort to silence the adolescent drumming legs and flapping gums.

Surely he notices the debonair twenty-something reposition mere minutes into the feature?

This parental treasure is prompting his four children whenever the Protagonist’s name (Eggs) shows up on-screen.

“Eggs!” he cries with delight.

“Eggs!” the quartet giggles.

I can clearly see several mothers working hard to keep their collective units at a low volume.

But Doof doesn’t seem to notice. Or care. Or learn. Or grow.

Because, hey, it’s just a kid’s movie, right?

Maleficent (PG)

7 Stars

What is the best feature from the list of Disney Animated Classics?

It’s an old conundrum.

All nostalgia aside, the answer is a five-way tie: Sleeping Beauty (1959), The Little Mermaid (1989), Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992) and Tangled (2009).

Because of the similarities between Sleeping Beauty and some of the other greats, like Cinderella (whose got a great publicist) and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (another damsel cursedly dozing), Princess Aurora’s misadventure is often forgotten.

But hers is a compelling plot; for males and females alike. And it contains one of the most heartwarming notions of the entire Disney canon:

Briar Rose (a.k.a. Aurora) and Prince Phillip first meet and fall in love waltzing in a dream.

Sleeping Beauty has many additional strengths but one is its antagonist.

Maleficent is one of the most compelling villains in the history of animated cinema.

Her character is an artistic masterpiece. She is technically, “The Mistress of All Evil.” More specifically, she’s a dark sorceress and an organic incarnation of chaos.

She’s fundamentally inhuman, you see. Which brings us to a general grievance regarding the live-action reworking of the animated classic.

To allow Maleficent a moral dimension is to undermine the fundamental principle driving the original story.

But, in the end, this is neither here nor there.

I quite enjoy Maleficent.

First of all, let’s talk a little Angelina Jolie.

She’s great as the lead; the acting doesn’t slip for a minute. Even during the most difficult parts, she’s mysterious and menacing. The strains of battle and conducting sorcery oftentimes require wailing in a manner that needs to sound believable. But she delivers every time.

Jolie deserves even more rigorous applause because of her role as an executive producer. A live-action retelling of a Disney Animated Classic is exactly the type of movie I’d encourage producers to champion.

Good on you, Angelina. Combine this with the achievements of Salt, and we’ve got an all-star actress in the making.

Because of the PG rating, the stakes can only be so high. The filmmakers do an excellent job of hiding that fact.

There are several epic battles involving fantastic elements, and they’re a sight to behold. Seriously. The fights feel real and devoid of cheese.

Unfortunately, the weakest parts of this film fall on the acting performances from the rest of the cast.

Elle Fanning’s performance as Aurora is not bad; it’s just not compelling. Frankly, other than the color of her hair, skin and eyes she doesn’t resemble the original character from the animated feature.

Sharlto Copley, who I like a lot in Elysium, is a disappointment here as King Stefan.

The fairies are humorless and a severe downgrade from the delightful characters in Sleeping Beauty. They’re animated in a strikingly human fashion, and it’s more off-putting than humanizing.

Anyway. Maleficent is a very good movie, that’s safe enough for kids.

Go out and enjoy while you still can!

If you haven’t seen it, stop reading here because some spoilers follow.

The visuals are excellent; the special effects are sharp and realistic. I love the scene with the dragon.

But why do Maleficent’s wings suddenly fight to break free of their glass-enclosed prison, seemingly of their own accord?

In terms of plot resolutions involving kissing, my count is five: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Sleeping Beauty, Frozen, Snow White and the Huntsman, and Maleficent. Aurora’s princely catalyst is just a better version of Snow’s.

But in Frozen it’s Elsa, the loving sister, whose kiss breaks the spell. In Snow White and the Huntsman, it’s a different man; the caress of the Huntsman’s lips does the trick. And in Maleficent it’s the ‘Mother’s Kiss’ which breaks the curse.

This is strikingly similar to the ‘Daughter’s Hug’ which Merida uses to save her mother in Brave. As well as Anna’s saving grace from Frozen; they just use a different female from the protagonist’s immediate family.

Finally, Stefan’s death is choreographed in a similar manner to that of Gaston from Beauty and the Beast.


Feel free to let me know what you think.