Dolittle (2020) – The Animals Talk But Have Nothing To Say

Released: 16th January
Seen: 20th January

The Doctor Dolittle character first came to life in 1920 with the release of the book The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting. The book, and subsequent series of companion novels, told the story of Doctor John Dolittle who has learned to talk to animals and uses that knowledge to go on several great adventures. This idea was destined to become a movie so it comes as no surprise that in 1967 a musical was created. That musical cost 17 million and ended up making 9 million, it had the production from hell that included racism, Rex Harrison being a dick and ducks forgetting how to swim. Naturally, the property would end up abandoned until 1998 when a new Doctor Dolittle movie was made that starred Eddie Murphy. This new version was a success financially and got average reviews but it’s still fun… but it’s also, notably, one of the last good films Eddie Murphy made until his recent resurgence with Dolemite Is My Name. Basically what I’m saying is that the Doctor Dolittle franchise is a career killer and I now seriously worry about just what’s going to happen to Robert Downey Jr because the man just appeared in the worst version of the Dolittle story that’s been put on film.

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Cats (2019) – Jellicles Can't

Released: 26th December
Seen: 26th December

In 1939, T.S. Eliot wrote a book titled Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. In it, he wrote a series of poems about… well, cats. The book was beloved by many and would be the inspiration for Andrew Lloyd Webber to create the musical Cats in 1981. That show would go on to be the fourth longest-running show on Broadway, just behind The Phantom of the Opera, Chicago and The Lion King. It would also be the 6th longest running show on the West End, behind The Mousetrap, Les Miserables, The Phantom of the Opera, The Woman in Black and Blood Brothers. It’s made billions around the world on the stage and has delighted audiences for years with its story of cats that compete to kill themselves in a magical ritual… and then Tom Hooper managed to get some blackmail photos of a lot of famous people and forced them to appear in his adaptation of the infamously strange musical. That’s the best explanation that I can come up with for why these people turned up. Blackmail and kidnapping, they certainly weren’t there because they wanted to be.

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Playmobil: The Movie (2019) – Everything Is Awful

Released: 12th December
Seen: 23rd December

I don’t think we spend enough time really grappling with how surprisingly good Lego Movie and Lego Movie 2 were. Not only were both of them hilarious and wonderfully animated, but they both also had memorable soundtracks and a well thought out and touching tale about family and bringing them together. Sure they were also giant advertisements for the toy that’s caused more foot pain than ingrown toenails, bunions and athletes’ foot combined but it was a sweet and clever advertisement for that toy. Sure, Lego Ninjago wasn’t that great but Lego Batman made up for it. Movies about the tiny plastic figures going on adventures seems to actually work… when you’re a popular brand like Lego. When you’re Playmobil, also known as “What you buy for your kids when they’ve sold out of Lego”, turns out it doesn’t quite work out as well.

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Playing with Fire (2019) – BURN EVERYTHING!

Released: 12th December
Seen: 16th December

When a wrestler decides to transition from the world of wrestling to the world of acting, at some point they will be required to make a very stupid children’s movie in order to prove their marketability to all ages. Hulk Hogan did this throughout the 90s with films like Suburban Commando, Mr. Nanny and Santa with Muscles. Before he was headlining what felt like every single major motion picture released, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was filling the late 2000s with films like The Game Plan or Tooth Fairy. Now it seems the mantle of “Wrestler who appears in bad children’s movies” has fallen upon the obscenely oversized shoulders of John Cena, who I thought had gotten past this period in the Wrestler turned Actor trajectory. I mean, he should be beyond needing to do that, he was in Ferdinand which was genuinely amazing, and Blockers, where he was funny as hell. The dude is meant to be on the Superhero and Action Franchise portion of the trajectory, he’s going to be in the upcoming Suicide Squad movie and the next Fast and the Furious movie so he should be past this point in his career… but no, no he’s regressed. He doubled back to tick “Does a bad children’s film” off the checklist.

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Frozen 2 (2019) – Do You Wanna Make A Sequel?

Released: 28th November
Seen: 29th November

In 2013, Frozen came out and destroyed the lives of parents everywhere. While a charming movie, it had the power to make every child under the age of five unable to listen to anything other than the song Let It Go, an earworm so powerful that even typing that simple phrase has popped that song right back into the heads of anyone who saw the movie. It was also one of Disney’s best films, a simple story about two sisters that won the hearts of everyone who saw it. With charming songs sung by Broadway legends and some of the best animation ever seen it was a smashing success, grossing over 400 million at the box office and becoming the third highest-grossing film of the year. Naturally, they were going to end up making a sequel eventually and here we are, 6 years later finally getting a sequel to one of the greatest films of the 2010s. With such a high bar to reach it shouldn’t be a shock that it doesn’t quite make it, but it’s still pretty great.

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Arctic Justice (2019) – There Is No Justice

No Turning Back (2019) – No, Turn Back!

Released: 7th November
Seen: 27th November

So, this year has been kind of bad for animated films, at least in my experience it has. Maybe I’m unique because I’m the idiot who went to see Flying the Nest, Cats, Here Comes The Grump and Wonder Park all in the same year but it feels like there just aren’t really that many great kids films this year. Sure, Toy Story 4 was really good, Missing Link was amazing (though seriously slept on by most audiences) and there were some bright spots but most of the animated films I’ve seen this year have been on the bad side. It’s almost a respite from the badness that Arctic Justice (AKA Arctic Dogs, AKA Polar Squad AKA “Look, if we keep changing the name then eventually people might think we’re actually worthy of getting their ticket money”) is just stupid and boring instead of just outright hateful towards its audience.

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The Addams Family (2019) – *Snap Snap*

Released: 5th December
Seen: 23rd November (Advance Screening)

In 1938 Charles Addams created a cartoon about a strange family for the New Yorker. It was a satirical take on the modern family that ran for 150 single-panel cartoons and gained a following. Enough of a following that in 1964 a TV series was greenlit and that series, though it only lasted for two seasons, would be responsible for giving every member of this family their names and set the tone that people would come to expect from these characters. The series would continue to be adapted into many forms from cartoons to new live-action series to the two 90s Addams Family movies everyone loves (Don’t deny it) and even a stage musical. Now it’s a big bold animated movie, another in the recent trend of “Franchises that refuse to die” and like a lot of films in that trend, you don’t need to see this one.

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Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil (2019) – Thankyou Mistress

Released: 16th October
Seen: 18th October

In 2014, Disney (the dark overlord of entertainment that will one day consume us all) released Maleficent. Maleficent was their version of a “What If” story that featured one of their most iconic villains of all time and asked the question “What if the Mistress of all evil was good?” Asking that question netted them over $750 million worldwide and an Oscar nomination, though it received mixed critical praise. This was a film I saw long before I started reviewing so here is a short version of my thoughts of the original film… I hate it with every fibre of my being and cast it into the fiery pits of hell where it belongs. 

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UglyDolls (2019) – It’s Not Much Of A Life

Released: 19th September
Seen: 30th September

In 1986, the British TV station ITV began airing a cartoon called The Raggy Dolls. For 9 seasons, children were shown the adventures of Sad Sack, Dotty, Hi-Fi, Lucy, Back-To-Front, Claude, and Princess. For almost a decade people would tune in to watch as the gaggle of rejected toys with various malfunctions went on adventures together and taught the audience to treat those who are different with kindness. It also had the absolute best theme tune of any 80s cartoon (I WILL fight you on this) that was sung by Neil Innes (of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band) and is a glorious ode to treating people well no matter their differences. It’s legitimately one of the sweetest little cartoons that I remember watching as a kid and a must watch for anyone who wants to get their kids to learn the lesson that people who look different are just as valuable as everyone else… it’s certainly better than this movie was, because I remember the music from Raggy Dolls but good luck with remembering anything from Uglydolls… which I will now force myself to remember in order to explain why it’s forgettable.

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Abominable (2019) – I Want To Peti The Yeti

Released: 19th September
Seen: 29th September

One of the most enduring pieces of folklore is that of the Yeti, an ape like creature said to live in the Himalayan mountains. It’s a creature that goes by many names, like Abominable Snowman or Meh-Teh, and stories about it have been around for hundreds of years. Many people claim to have proof of its existence, mostly strange large footprints or even scalps that are allegedly from the creature. To this day there is no actual confirmation that the Yeti exists, but if one did I highly doubt it’d be as adorable as the Yeti presented in this film.

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