Archives for posts with tag: animated

Okay, Pixar, okay. We get it. You have figured out how optimally to tug at our heartstrings.

MV5BYjQ5NjM0Y2YtNjZkNC00ZDhkLWJjMWItN2QyNzFkMDE3ZjAxXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyODIxMzk5NjA@._V1_UY268_CR3,0,182,268_AL_Coco is a solid installment in the series of Pixar-unexpected-weeping features. Fortunately it is also clever and adorable.

A boy, Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez), grows up in a family in which music has been banned, because his great-great-grandfather left to go be a great musician and never came back. They make shoes instead. His great-grandmother, the eponymous Coco (Ana Ofelia Murguía), is extremely old and her memory is going. Jaime Camil (Rogelio from “Jane the Virgin”) is his mild-mannered dad!

Now, Miguel, inevitably, loves music. He idolizes the late singer and guitarist Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), and, on the Day of the Dead, attempts to steal his guitar to compete in a talent show. Because his family has destroyed his own guitar. And because he’s oddly okay with grave-robbing.

Well, it’s the Day of the Dead, so the division between the worlds of the dead and the living is permeable, and Miguel accidentally ends up in the world of the dead. His street dog also comes. He runs into most of his dead relatives, as well as a good-for-nothing skeleton called Héctor (Gael García Bernal). Héctor is in danger of being forgotten–his photo is not displayed by his family and his soul is not given ofrendas, and he is desperately trying to cross over and provide somebody, at least, with a photograph. He and Miguel make a deal to help each other. Shenanigans, as they say, ensue.

The world of the dead is brilliantly and hilariously drawn, particularly the bureaucracy that dictates whether or not the souls can visit their families and the customs officers who comment on the quality of the ofrendas. It is also desperately–desperately–sad. We see the fate of a soul who has been entirely forgotten, and it is heartbreaking.

The animation is gorgeous, the songs are good, and somehow a world full of skeletons is only moderately disconcerting. Oh, and the Frida Kahlo gags are great.

Director: Lee Unkrich, Adrian Molina
Rating: PG
Length: 105 minutes
Score: 4/5

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“Disney made a movie about Polynesia” is not a sentence calculated to get me to buy a ticket. “Jemaine Clement plays a giant evil crab” might have done better, but no one told me.

MV5BMjI4MzU5NTExNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzY1MTEwMDI@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_Moana is really good. It’s simple, compelling, and well-executed. Also gorgeous. A young Polynesian woman (Auli’i Cravalho) is raised to be the chief of her island. She has a kooky and mystical grandmother (the inimitable Rachel House), a cute pig, and a very stupid chicken. Then things on the island start to die, and Moana must go on a quest to restore the heart (a small jade token) to the goddess Te Fiti. To do this, she enlists the help of the demigod Maui. Who is played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Obviously.

He is arrogant and hilarious; she is naïve but plucky.  They encounter monsters, gods, and the ocean, which is usually on their side but also can get tetchy. The best of these is a giant crab called Tamatoa, who is the god of something or other and is voiced side-splittingly by Jemaine Clement.

Romance at no point enters the story, even in negation. This is markedly better than the treatment in Brave or Frozen. In fact, across the board Moana is much more the girl-power film those were trying to be. And as far as I can tell it’s not racist.

Stray observations:

  • Like, Moana, I’m excited for your freedom and self-actualization and stuff but you literally don’t know how to handle an out-rigger and it was stupid to steal one and head off by yourself.
  • The coconut pirates are baffling and unnecessary.
  • “Oh, I see. She’s taken a barnacle, and she’s covered it in bioluminescent algae. As a diversion.”

Directors: Ron Clements, John Musker, Don Hall, Chris Williams
Rating: PG
Length: 107 minutes
Score: 4/5

Hmm. I don’t know what it is about animated movies that everyone absolutely looooves, but I never like them very much. Frozen was awful, 90% of Up was insipid garbage, same goes for Wall-E, etc. Inside Out is an exception, because it actually is original and well-crafted.

Eleven-year-old Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) has to move from Minnesota to San Francisco, and she’s not happy about it. This boggles the mind, but I guess I threw a fit when my parents said we might have to move to Vermont, so…not fair at all; San Francisco is at worst a lateral move from Minnesota, and Vermont is worse than any kind of civilization.

At any rate, we get to see Riley’s internal life from the point of view of the five major emotions: Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), and Anger (Lewis Black). This could have been merely twee, but never quite gets there. Instead, the film delightfully draws the mechanics of how emotions influence memories, how memories are stored (or forgotten), and how these emotions and memories create a personality. Riley’s brain (or perhaps mind) is a vibrant labyrinth of information, rather like the databanks in a dubious science fiction film, but the touches of atmosphere are genius–dreams are performed in a theatre and require props and a director, menial workers sometimes send old jingles to “headquarters” as a prank, and the train of thought is a literal train. That’s an easy joke once you see it, but I suspect it’s not actually that obvious.

The conflict arises when Joy and Sadness accidentally get locked out of headquarters and, because she can’t feel joy any more, Riley’s life begins to fall apart. It’s slightly pessimistic that the mind holds only one positive emotion against four negative, but it’s perhaps not inaccurate. The film uses a deft touch, also, in explicating how all five are essential, and not necessarily harmful. Anger’s excitement at the hardware upgrade (now he knows LOTS of swearwords) is hilarious.

It’s an NBC comedy convention in the voice actors, but those were heady, great days for NBC comedy, when Kaling, Smith, Poehler, and Hader were all around (a soupçon of Bobby Moynihan never hurts, either). You can just hear Amy Poehler’s boundless optimism–she is a perfect choice for Joy. But if she’s in first place, the others aren’t a distant second by any means. Disgust made me long for the amazing disdain in early seasons of “The Mindy Project,” and Fear reminded me how sad I am that Bill Hader seems to prefer drama now (I’m sure he’s great, but I don’t watch a lot of sad indie films, and he is so. good. at comedy).

The only lack is that I don’t actually care that much about Riley herself. She’s nice, with her hockey and stuff, but that’s about it. She mostly seems self-pitying–and that’s the point, that you can’t always control how you feel, but meh. I guess it’s an interesting philosophical question about whether you can care about someone’s emotions without caring about them… but whatever.

Stray observations:

  • Phyllis Lappin/Vance! Who knew her voice was that distinctive?!
  • Is it weird that I didn’t necessarily want this to be a musical, but definitely wanted Joy to have a musical number?

Directors: Pete Docter, Ronnie Del Carmen
Rating: PG
Length: 95 minutes
Score: 4/5