Movie Review – Tangled

 

Movie Review - TangledI’m only 3/4 of the way through my first viewing of Tangled (yes, my 1st time) and I love it already so much I’m willing to give it an A+. Of course, they could screw it up during the climax and I’ll have to change my review, but so far I’m completely delighted.

Tangled: beautifully animated, very funny, and packs in a lot of adventure. I’m stingy with my A grades, and give almost nothing an A+, so this is a good endorsement from us at RunPee.

Great Characters

There’s a handsome Han Solo type of rogue. Which…yay! And of course there are amusing animal sidekicks. What’s cool is that both the horse and chameleon have a ton of attitude, which Disney doesn’t usually do. Actually, their “men” aren’t usually ‘jerks with a heart of gold’, except for Flynn here, and  Naveen in The Princess and the Frog. So this is kind of a treat. Ahem.

I smiled a lot, especially with the Snuggly Duck ruffians singing about their dreams. Really. What could be more cute than that scene?

This movie made me happy.

A Great Villain

Then there’s Gothel, the ‘wicked’ adoptive mother. She’s an awesome villain. Her songs are totally fun, and she’s actually nice to Rapunzel. She really is. She’s affectionate, goes out of her way to get Rapunzel a birthday gift, and gives the girl a decent life (albeit as a complete prisoner) with games, books, paints, a great kitchen, craft supplies, a lot of leeway for doodling all over the walls…pretty much anything one can do inside a nicely appointed tower.

Gothel’s not evil so much as selfish…but not completely unrelatable. She’s not about riches or power. She just wants to stay young and live. Ursula from The Little Mermaid is still my favorite Disney villain, but Gothel is surprisingly interesting. I liked her better than Scar from The Lion King, and he was previously my second favorite Disney villain. Good job, Tangled!

Tangled, Overall

I’ll be watching the last part of this movie tomorrow (I have to see Ad Astra tonight to get Peetimes) and really hope Tangled’s climax doesn’t let me down. I’ll be back soon to let you know if this is truly an A+ film.

Grade: A+

About The Peetimes: This Disney classic was re-released in theaters this Friday. When I do Peetimes for Disney Princess films, I do my best to avoid any songs, which is what most fans want to see. Some exposition or mild plot scenes are chosen instead, but are well-summarized in the synopses. Tangled has 3 good Peetimes, so you won’t be lost when you get back from the toilet. Pick any.

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Tangled. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG) for brief mild violence
Genres: Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Family, Fantasy, Musical, Romance

Movie Review – The Little Mermaid

The Lion King – Rewatch Review of the Animated Classic

Movie Review – Beauty and the Beast

Movie Review – Beauty and the Beast

 

Movie Review - Beauty and the BeastWithout any doubt, the 1991 animated Beauty & The Beast is considered among the best of the Disney Princess movies, or any of the the Disney films. It’s from the period known as The Disney Renaissance that started with The Little Mermaid, and ran through most of the 90s. (I think it concluded with The Princess & The Frog.) This was an era that brought a faded Disney empire back into the hearts of people who love stories of adventure, and of Princesses.

Four of the best Princesses came from this creative Disney restart: Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, and Nala (she may be ‘only’ a lion but as mate of the King, she’s royalty). In several RunPee Polls over the years, Belle’s always got the top spot as everyone’s favorite Princess.

So I want to give this beloved film an A+, but I just can’t, and that’s why I’ve been dragging my heels to write this review. I finally just decided to give my thoughts and say Beauty & The Beast misses that “plus” by a hair…and it’s not the hair of Belle or The Beast that brought it down.

What’s great in Beauty & The Beast:

Belle is a great role model — she loves books and adventure stories, and isn’t afraid to try to protect the ones she loves. She’s spirited and speaks her mind intelligently.

Belle’s also very nice to the furniture, which is a big deal if you know this classic tale.  😉

The Beast has a meaningful transformation that takes a good slow time to develop (the seasons change over the course of the film). He’s delightfully grumpy for quite a while, and his path to compassion feels largely earned. The two will probably make a good couple, and the message of “seeing beyond surface appearances” is profound enough.

What drags Belle’s movie down:

No, my main beef with Beauty & The Beast lies with Gaston. (Also, with the wolf scene, but I’ll get to that later.) Gaston is simply a bore. And not in the love-to-hate way. His character sucks life from the screen. Gaston’s little sidekick is intensely annoying (again, not in the good way). All the villagers seem like the world’s stupidest morons — from the first song Belle, through to the end with The Mob Song. I don’t understand how this village can possibly even function, given their apparent level of credulity and ignorance.

At least in The Lion King (who has a great main villain), the hyenas — also depicted as intellectually challenged — are amusing in their henchmen evilness. They also don’t just blindly follow whoever talked the loudest.

Anyway, all the scenes at the castle are simply gold, and if the movie focused more on the title characters and said furniture, we’d have a perfect film. Cogsworth and Lumiere aren’t quite Pumba and Timon, but come close. And that doggy footstool deserves a special mention: what a delightful idea!

There’s enough story to be told in the main narrative without manufacturing the Gaston side plot.

To be fair, I know they were trying to show that the “good looking” guy was a big jerk, while the scary, hairy Beast has a heart of gold, but the movie spent too much time with Gaston, his motley crew, and the idiots with the pitchforks. Either spend less time away from the castle, or make the other parts better. Too much creative time is squandered.

What about the wolves?

I did say I was going to mention the wolf scene. For one thing, it makes a great Peetime, since no one is seeing Beauty & The Beast for the action. But I also don’t understand Disney’s problem with wolves. Wolves don’t attack people. They especially don’t attack people riding giant Belgian Draft Horses like Philippe. I happen to like wolves and support their reintroduction to the wild, and was vastly disappointed with Disney maintaining their ‘wolves are evil’ stance in the 2017 live action Beauty & The Beast.

You know who gangs up on people like that in real life? Other people. They could have made the remake with a band of outlaws and moved away from the whole wolf thing… This is a personal peeve, and I won’t take marks from the film for it, but I do think it’s worth mentioning.

The animated classic, overall:

Had Beauty & The Beast been solid throughout, with an interesting villain and henchmen, it would be an easy A+ film. The Little Mermaid and The Lion King handle this effortlessly. The castle scenes are so fun and compelling, though, that I’ll say Beauty is probably the third best pre-Pixar Disney Princess movie, coming in with a high A score.

Grade: A

About The Peetimes: The Disney classic is being re released to theaters on Friday. It was hard to make Peetimes, since I assume people want to see the songs in this 1991 classic, and there are a lot of them. I also didn’t want to have you miss the romantic parts. I chose 2 Peetimes during the silly villager songs, and one during an action scene, leaving you free to enjoy the best parts of the film.

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Beauty and the Beast. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (G) N/A
Genres: Animation, Family, Fantasy

Movie Review – Beauty and The Beast (live action version)

Movie Review – The Little Mermaid

The Lion King – Rewatch Review of the Animated Classic

Rewatch Review – Disney’s Animated Aladdin (1992) – A Classic Film with Deeply Modern Flaws

Movie Review – The Little Mermaid

 

Movie Review - The Little MermaidI am consumed by a move this weekend and will have to flesh this review out for real in bits and pieces.

To start off, the 1989 original Disney animated classic The Little Mermaid is in the cinemas and you should absolutely catch it while you can. Take the entire family. The Danish version of Hans Christian Anderson’s tragic story doesn’t rear its head at all, so you’ll be safe.

The Little Mermaid is my absolute favorite animated Disney movie that manages somehow to offend almost no one.

I know there are issues with the upcoming live action remake, but that’s not what I’m talking about here.

And the songs are among the best the studio ever made. I know them all by heart. When I take my sister to see this again on Sunday we’ll have a hard time not singing along, out loud. Unless everyone sings them too — then we’ll belt them along with the rest.

Although the sea scenes are luscious, especially within the limited animated style of the time, it’s the fun and gentle humor that I love so much. If you’re a fan of Finding Nemo, this undersea adventure should also be on your must-watch list.

Lastly, for now, Ursula the Sea Witch is one of Disney’s best villains. Might be their best ever. I have to think on that.

GO SEE THIS IN THE THEATERS NOW. And you might be introducing a ‘whole new world’ to an old classic. (To mix my princess movie metaphors).

#UnderTheSea

Grade: A+

About The Peetimes: This animated classic is being re-released in theaters Friday. All 3 Peetimes are good. Make SURE to use them, so you don’t miss the outstanding iconic songs in this wonderful musical.

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of The Little Mermaid. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (G) Some scenes are a little *fishy*.
Genres: Animation, Family, Fantasy

Movie Review – Dora and the Lost City of Gold

 

Movie Review - Dora and the Lost City of GoldThere’s a lot of great kid movies out right now that adults can enjoy: Toy Story 4, The Lion King, Aladdin and Secret Life of Pets 2. I saw three of the four twice and recommend all highly for people of any age.

Unfortunately, can’t say the same for Dora and the Lost City of Gold. I expected a youthful, Latina-oriented take on a smart young girl, having an adventure in the jungle straight out of The Raiders of the Lost Ark.

What I got was some middlingly pretty set-pieces, a few chuckles here and there, and long stretches where I was…bored. And I am VERY forgiving on kid, teen, and especially YA films.

The target audience (I’m guessing, as a Dora newbie):

  • Those who’ve seen Dora The Explorer as a cartoon show, and long for some great nostalgia.
  • Or the very young, even though Dora is a teen here, and there are high school party-scene hi-jinks with some bullying. So things get confused a bit. I honestly don’t think this a clever enough film for teens, so why make Dora older at all?

What’s Good:

  •  Dora has a lot of cute meta moments deriving from the animated childhood series. She talks to the camera, asks questions of the audience, and cheerfully sings about digging poop holes in the wilderness. This has a delightful quality, especially since her vocabulary upgraded as she grew older. These bits drew the most laughs from the grown-ups in the audience.
  • Dora is relentlessly cheerful, even in the face of derision from the ‘normal’ public school kids. I liked that. I’d totally sing about my backpack with her. She does get some harassment for her ‘childish’ behavior (she was home schooled), as a total fish out of water. The tables are turned later on in the jungle. These are good elements.
  • The Latina/Latino elements were big and bold, as befits the franchise and the thousands of kids seeking young heroes who look and act like they do. It’s aspirational, cheery — and even ropes in ancient Inca culture in an inclusive way.
  • The Poop Hole scene is amusing and clever, and shouldn’t actually offend anyone. I could see myself singing the “Poop Song”, if I knew no one could hear me. And now I’ve said the word poop more times in one review than anyone should expect.
  • Eva Longoria and Micheal Pena tried. They weren’t give much to do, although Pena’s “Rave Song” was a highlight. It was like his character from Ant-Man paid us a visit.
  • I loved Dora’s jungle home on the water. Can I move there?

The Really Good:

  • The sequence with the Giant Flowers was pure gold — worth the price of admission right there. I won’t spoil it, but when the spores are inhaled, the laughs flow naturally. Adults will know it’s an hallucinogenic sequence, but kiddos will only see magic at work. It works on both levels and is just grand.
  • UPDATE: There’s also this. I’ll say no more, and thank you to all the RunPee fans who educated me about them:

 

What’s Less Good:

  • The Lost City of Gold is ridiculous. These sets were cheap looking. Compare the ‘city’ (looked like a market stall) to the Cave of Wonders in Aladdin. THIS was what people were willing to kill for?
  • The resolution is iffy. Just put the statue back? What? And if that statue was solid gold, tiny Dora lifted it like Styrofoam. At least pretend it’s heavy.  🙂
  • Dora’s insight to resolve the climax had no establishment either. This movie should have had clues for smart viewers to follow as the adventure unfolded, and be rewarded as they figured things out while Dora does. That’s a storytelling cheat.
  • The various CGI characters were a bad cross between realistic and cartoony. The director should have made a choice here to take it one way or the other. If animals can be said to fall into the Uncanny Valley, this is an example of just that.
  • The Alejando character was just painful to watch. Was that a direction error, or poor acting? His scenes brought the movie down. The henchmen were handled with much more amusement.

Dora & The Lost City of Gold, Overall:

It’s a silly romp that makes no sense, but since I don’t have those nostalgic Dora lenses, I’m going to give this a higher grade with the target audience in mind than I would have otherwise.

Am I being too harsh on a childhood classic? Educate me in the comments, please. 

Grade: C-

About The Peetimes: All 3 Peetimes are great. 🙂 I don’t think I’ve ever had all the Peetimes be this good, so let your bladder decide.

There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Dora and the Lost City of Gold. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG) for action and some impolite humor
Genres: Adventure, Family

Easter Eggs in Aladdin and The Lion King – Disney Finally Loosens Up

Movie Review – The Lion King (2019)

Movie Review – Aladdin (2019) – A Live Action Remake, Good for the Target Audience

Movie Review – Toy Story 4

Movie Review – Aladdin (2019) – A Live Action Remake, Good for the Target Audience

Movie Review - AladdinThe 2019 live-action remake of Aladdin is a difficult movie to review, because I’m not the target audience — that’s mainly young kids. Personally, I found the movie to be occasionally entertaining at best, and barely tolerable for the rest. There were a few laughs here and there, and rarely did the song and dance bits drag on too long.

If you’re a parent taking their kids to see this movie, then you could do worse.

Based on the audience reaction in my theater, (mostly kids under 16) it will be a hit. Three teenage girls sat in the back row and laughed throughout.

The plot is simple and clear enough that young children will be able to follow along, and if not, there’s enough singing, dancing, and action to entertain them.

Will Smith is one of the few actors with the charisma to perform the role of Genie. I think Will did fine, but he fell short of making it iconic. I’d give him a B+.

I only vaguely remember the plot of the Disney Aladdin from 1992. From what I recall this retelling is generally the same, except Jasmine’s character has been fleshed out more. It wouldn’t be misleading if they changed the title to “Jasmine” or at the very least, “Jasmine & Aladdin,” since it’s mainly about womens’ empowerment, like “Mulan”. What do you think?

Grade: B

About The Peetimes: I have 2 recommended Peetimes, both near the middle of the movie. The 1st of the Recommended Peetimes is a song/dance scene that young kids may enjoy, but it’s easy to summarize. The 2nd Recommended Peetime is all dialog. There’s a little humor, but not much. You choose which works best for you.

There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Aladdin. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG) for some action/peril
Genres: Adventure, Comedy, Family, Remake

Rewatch Review – Disney’s Animated Aladdin (1992) – A Classic Film with Deeply Modern Flaws

Aladdin –  Animated vs Stage vs Live Action

A Whole New World – Aladdin Lyrics and Video (1992 Animated Version)

Movie Review – Dumbo – A live action remake your kids will enjoy

Movie Review - DumboIf you have a toddler, Dumbo is one of the few movies in the theater now that is specifically for your child. It’s PG-rated, so your kid won’t come home and ask you questions you don’t know how to answer. If you are worried about animal mistreatment with the circus background, by the end of the movie, they did mention no animals should be kept captive.

I was born and raised in China, and watching the original 1941 Dumbo with my dad is a piece of heartwarming memory from my early childhood. I was around 5 when I first watched it on a VideoCD. It was called “小飞象”  — Little flying Elephant — in Chinese. Yes, VCDs did exist.  🙂

Walking into the theater, I didn’t have an expectation. But as I was watching it, I was that 5-year-old girl again. The story has been changed here and there to fit the live action, but the spirit has not been changed at all. As far as I’m concerned, this movie brings back almost the same feelings I experienced over two decades ago. I’d call that a successful remake.

But for adults who don’t have any emotional connections to the original piece, this movie is probably going to be clicheic and pre-mature for you. It’s a remake that tries to be true to the original piece, so it’s still head to toe a 1940s style kids’ story. Unless, of course, you just like the idea of a cute little flying elephant.

Now here’s something extra for those who have watched the TV show West World: does the little girl in Dumbo remind you of anyone? 😉

Grade: B

About The Peetimes: We have a really good (recommended) Peetime right about the middle of the movie. Try to use that if you can. The last Peetime is okay, but you’ll miss a nice father-daughter scene. The 1st Peetime is only for Emergencies, because it’s short and is immediately followed by a scene that shouldn’t be missed, especially by children.

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Dumbo. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG) for peril/action, some thematic elements, and brief mild language
Genres: Adventure, Family, Fantasy, Remake, Reboot, Sequel

Movie Review – Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase

Movie Review - Nancy Drew and the Hidden StaircaseWho would have thought that Nancy Drew would still be rocking it after 89 years?

This new and improved version of Nancy Drew is perfect for the target audience of today’s prepubescent girl. The movie addresses bullying, body image hating, peer pressure, and the need to fit in as the new kid in school. So it’s a job well done for the writers, and director Katt Shea. Young girls will flock to this movie.

The acting was well done, and I can’t say enough about the performance given by Sophia Lillis as Nancy Drew. She provided most of the comedic relief with her perfect delivery of some hysterically funny lines. The ‘new Drew’ is spunky, funny, rebellious — but in a cute way — and smart, and doesn’t understand the meaning of ‘no’ or ‘you can’t do that’. She’s a great role model!

And it was so nice to see Linda Lavin — of Alice and Barney Miller fame — is still cranking out product at 82 years young.

I whole-heartedly recommend Nancy Drew for kids of all ages, but most especially, prepubescent girls.

Grade: B

About The Peetimes: This was a short movie, needing only 1 Peetime. I chose 1 at about half way through the movie: it gives you plenty of time to get back to your seat before the drama picks up again.

There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG) for peril, suggestive material, thematic elements and language
Genres: Crime, Drama, Family

Movie Review – The Kid Who Would Be King is Charming and Sweet

 

Movie Review - The Kid Who Would Be KingThis character driven movie was about a half hour too long, and that’s the only negative thing I have to say about The Boy Who Would Be King.

I enjoyed this movie a lot. It has all the ingredients needed to keep the audience of children entertained: out of control roots, things on fire, trees that want to hurt you, and a never ending supply of blazing skeletons on horseback. Aren’t there always blazing skeletons on horseback?

There’s enough sound and movement to keep the very young kids happy, and the story will fascinate middle schoolers and even those well into junior high.

As for the adults, well, there’s Patrick Stewart…what else needs to be said? So, parents, back the SUV out of the garage, belt the kids in, and head on down to the local theater. Everyone will have a great time.

Grade: B

About The Peetimes: A lot happens in this 2-hour young person’s movie. If you keep to the Peetimes you won’t miss the best action or magical scenes. Try to use the 1st Peetime if you can, but any of the 3 are fine.

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of The Kid Who Would Be King. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG) for fantasy action violence, scary images, thematic elements including some bullying, and language
Genres: Adventure, Family, Fantasy

Quiz – Sir Patrick Stewart in the Movies

Quiz – King Arthur and his Legend

A Brief Preview Review of The Kid Who Would Be King (No Spoilers)

Movie Review – Storm Boy

Movie Review - Storm BoyI went to this re-make of a classic Australian movie (based on the book by Colin Thiele) with my fourteen-year-old daughter and my ten-year-old son. It is a lovely story where a grown Michael reminisces with his granddaughter, Maddie, about his time growing up near the beach, and particularly the special times he had with a group of baby pelicans he hand-raised (with assistance from his father and his local Aboriginal friend, Fingerbone).

The movie shows some of Australia’s natural beauty, taking advantage of drone photography.

All the actors, including Geoffrey Rush, Jai Courtney, David Gulpilil, Erik Thomson and the young Finn Little, do a great job representing their characters.

We all enjoyed the movie, although the kids both felt ”it had too many sad bits and not enough happy bits.”

Grade: B

About The Peetimes: Storm Boy is an Australian movie and the Peetimes are brought to us by our newest RunPeep: Rach Jewiss. There are 2 Peetimes that would be good for this movie. If you are with children or don’t particularly like tense scenes, I would definitely recommend the second.

There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Storm Boy. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG) for some thematic elements, mild peril and brief language
Genres: Adventure, Drama, Family

Movie Review – A Dog’s Way Home – A Harrowing Experience for Dog Lovers

 

Movie Review - A Dog's Way HomeA solid B film where I ugly-cried six times, including within the opening three minutes. That’s got to be some kind of record. I wrote down how many times I cried as I jotted down notes for Peetimes (and my male companion cried three times, so it’s not just a girl thing).

In any case, I really don’t like movies that make me cry and try to avoid them, but since I saw the previous year’s A Dog’s Purpose, I felt I should see the ‘sequel.’ (A Dog’s Journey is not technically a sequel, but this is intended to a be part two of a dog trilogy in a shared universe.)

In any case, I’ve been referring to this as “The Dog Movie” — and that’s exactly what you get. There are a few people, some cats, and lots of pretty scenery, but for the most part you’re in the mind of a young part-pit pup who’s got a single-minded goal to play “Go Home”…a long, scary, and thrill-filled “game” that takes her over two and a half years, and 400 exhausting miles.

Bella’s not the world’s smartest dog, but she’s loving, loyal, and committed to reuniting with her human. I’m not going to give anything away, and while you probably can guess how it ends, a few things happen along the way that will surprise you.

For one thing, an almost unrecognizable Edward James Olmos has a couple of emotionally distressing scenes, and those will probably upset children.

Speaking of which: there were some little kids in my theater, and they were restive at times, because things get gripping and tense frequently. I don’t recommend letting your children see this alone, to be honest; you might get them back scared and crying. There’s a scene that’s even frightening for adults: I was legitimately freaking out watching a confused Bella try to cross that six lane interstate into Denver.

There were some weird filming liberties here and there, like a brief bit showing a moose (there are none in Colorado…but since this was filmed in British Columbia, we’ll just let that go). And the CGI animals were badly done, jarring me out of a few scenes where fake critters interacted with real ones.

Bella the dog was thankfully a real animal, and she did a fine job carrying the story on her canine shoulders. Bryce Dallas Howard narrated Bella’s thoughts, and was pleasing enough in an earnest way. Bella meets a lot of nice people along her journey, and I loved the bookend scenes with the disabled vets. No one really stood out though, which was appropriate in this kind of flick. The writer did a great job having the POV center almost entirely on Bella.

In the end, A Dog’s Way Home is a mostly-harmless fluff film that dog lovers will appreciate. You’ll forgive me though, for saying the Disney classic Incredible Journey from 1963 is still the best version of this kind of tale.

PS: These kinds of things do happen with animals. I had a beloved dog escape from my dog-sitter in Arizona and make it across the desert by himself to San Diego, CA. He arrived in a few weeks, with bloody paws and a lot of hunger, but he did make it, and we were reunited.

Grade: B

About The Peetimes: I have 3 Peetimes, and recommend the 1st if you can pop out early. Pay attention to the Peetime meta in this film and you’ll be okay with the second 2. (This movie is a series of repetitive travel scenes, intercut with emotional vignettes you won’t want to miss.)

Animal Abuse Alert: This movie has intense scenes of animals in peril. Children and animal lovers will find a lot of this movie disturbing — too many scenes to make them all into Alerts.

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of A Dog’s Way Home. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG) for thematic elements, some peril and language
Genres: Adventure, Family

Is A Dog’s Way Home a Sequel to A Dog’s Purpose?

Movie Review – A Dog’s Journey – Manipulatively Emotional, But The Least Heart-Rending of the Dog Trilogy

Movie Review – A Dog’s Purpose – A Brutal Experience in Non-Stop Crying