This sequel feels very sequel-ish. In spite of the fact that this storyline is refreshingly different from that of the first Hotel Transylvania, most of my feelings towards this movie are exactly the same as my feelings towards the first. It feels like an extension of the same film, with a story that shows what would inevitably follow the events of the first film, and a script that relies heavily on its predecessor’s running gags. This one does seem slightly lacking in the cleverness and creativity of the first film, but it has the added bonus of a good Mel Brooks character. I certainly did enjoy watching the movie, and I laughed out loud at Drac’s description of using FaceTime, but since my count of predictable moments reached 18 (if memory serves), I can’t pretend it was a fabulous film. (I suppose I was impressed with a lot of the visuals – particularly when it comes to classic cartoon animation styles – but this is also something that can be said of the first Hotel Transylvania.) Aside from thoughts I already described in my review of its prequel, I really don’t have much in the way of strong thoughts or feelings about this movie at all.
This is the first of a few films I’m going to review this month that are at the very least passable on the grounds that, in spite of their clichés and shortcomings, they unfailingly hold a grip on my enjoyment simply by being so strangely interesting. Hotel Transylvania is, by all means, a stereotypical CG animated film, with shameless repetition of embarrassing tropes, as I can easily explain by summing up the film. An overprotective widowed father (see Finding Nemo) whose “innocently villainous” demeanor makes him a bizarre parental figure (see Despicable Me) lives in a world populated with monsters (see Monsters Inc.) and runs a hotel to provide solitude the legendary figures (the film’s primary, if not only, defining feature) in order to protect his daughter from the dangers of the outside world (see Tangled). The stupid teenage protagonist gets a crush on the girl who’s voiced by a pop star (see The Lorax) and finds that she wants her freedom (see Brave), and now the protagonist has to avoid being caught for deceiving everyone (see A Bug’s Life) while the couple hopes they can fulfill her dreams of going to paradise (see Up). This isn’t even mentioning the fact that it ends in a random musical number set to a pop song, making it even more reminiscent of Despicable Me, or the running gag concerning an awkward old lady doing something inappropriate while uttering a catchphrase with an odd accent, which in this case is the monster who eats things and says, “I dint do that,” but it’s basically “bad kitty” from Madagascar.
While the whole film feels too familiar, these are merely the ugly little details that fill the gaps between the beautiful experiences of seeing such great, strong characters trying to figure out how to handle the protagonist’s incredibly difficult situation whilst navigating through this frighteningly inventive world. The way that the characters – and other magical/mythical elements – are consistently used in ways I never would have considered. The movie is silly, smart, and surprising, which makes it a good family movie to share with anyone. I can almost forgive the horrendous cliché of the part when the loud party music comes to a halt just as someone is yelling something personal to someone else, creating a very “CG family film” scene that’s both awkward and sad. That being said, the only reason why that scene alone hasn’t earned this film a terrible rating from me is this: I already miss the film’s delightful characters, and I’m eager to join them again when the sequel arrives.
PureFlix is – and I expect always shall be – my archenemy, but Pixar sure does come close.
Pixar seems to exist only to irk me specifically more than anyone else on the planet, and it has a few tricks for doing this that serve as “the Pixar old standbys.” To me, a movie that tries to tug on the heartstrings too soon is like a guy who gropes a woman’s bum in the first minute of a blind date. It is blatantly violating, and yet Pixar gets away with it constantly. Both Pixar and Disney have become notorious for killing off characters seemingly solely because they don’t know how else to hold our attention, or they think we’ll feel unsatisfied with our Disney experience if we don’t meet a certain tear quota. I think it is largely because of Pixar that killing off a character in a children’s movie is no longer an act of courage, but ironically of cowardice, fearing that the audience cannot be emotionally moved enough by the characters without a death involved. They also have one of the fundamental principles of storytelling backwards: anyone who’s taken a high-school-level class in journalism ought to know that empathy with a character is used to make the audience care about a situation, so to use a situation to try to make people empathize with a character is taking the horns by the bull. Yet, somehow, projects under Lasseter’s thumb frequently use emotional, tragic circumstances in an attempt to make us care about a character – in lieu of simply writing a character that’s interesting from the get-go regardless of circumstances.
Above all, Pixar is notorious for an awe of “The Aw.” “The Aw” can refer to either the sound a canned sitcom audience makes when a character is sad, or the sound that a stereotypical (or perhaps typical) preteen girl makes when brought joy by immense cuteness and sentimentality. As a proud skeptical cynic, I find that watching Pixar with a crowd is comparable to being a punk rocker at a Carpenters concert – the urge to puke is overpowering. Sometimes watching Pixar makes me feel more like being in a very strict religious school, except the intense dogma has been replaced with intense sappiness that is inflicted upon me. Now, the studio that lives to make us cry – a prime directive I find mildly immoral and satanic – has the audacity to make a film about the importance of sadness.
So why in the name of Bing Bong do I love this movie?
Well, it was pleasant, impressive, and simply fun in every way from start to finish, and actually seemed to be aimed right at me for a change. The film is the most imaginative commentary on the human mind I have ever seen, only closely followed by Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex. As a big believer in the notion that the replacement of practical effects, puppetry, hand-drawn animation, and painted sets with CGI has largely been to the detriment of film, and I do think the film could have benefited from being a 2D or puppet film instead. I must recognize, however, that this is probably the best all-CGI film I’ve seen in terms of visuals, so it’s certainly on par with The Lego Movie in at least one regard. The way the human mind is imagined in this film is just so clever that one wants to spend forever wandering about this world, much like in The Wizard of Oz.
I also consider Inside Out to be Oz-like in terms of story structure, and unlike some films, this pulls off an Oz storyline without seeming weak or unoriginal for a second. I think every screenwriter should study Inside Out as an example of how to write a nearly perfect screenplay. It’s a very interesting premise to begin with, and the execution of the idea satisfies by exploring all of the areas of the mind that one would hope to see explored. Pixar’s take on dreams was spot on, it’s take on memories was clever, and its joke about facts and opinions was absolutely brilliant. Somehow this script is mostly a series of wonderfully clever jokes, but they never get in the way of the plot. The characters were all delightful, and the casting was superb. I liked essentially every character in this movie – even Sadness.
This, of course, leads to my thoughts on both the portrayal of Sadness, and the use of sadness. The role of Sadness essentially seems to be adding weight and significance to important people, places, and things in our lives by revealing how painful it would be to lose them. This is just a modification of the age-old contrast excuse: bad must exist in order for good to have meaning. Pardon me for getting philosophical, but I’m not a fan of this argument since knowledge of bad would actually be all that is required for good to have meaning, and no actual, existent bad is necessary in any form. This means that sadness is still an unnecessary emotion if one has a sufficient amount of knowledge, understanding, perspective, and good reasoning. While Inside Out’s solution to the Sadness problem is not perfect, I do think it is acceptable, but I personally would have emphasized the important role sadness has in empathy. This brings us to Bing Bong.
Somehow they found a way to incorporate death, and it’s in the most bizarre way, especially when one considers that people can recollect things that they’ve long forgotten, so a mere mention of Bing Bong from Riley’s mom could resurrect him. Still, the decision to kill of Bing Bong is an odd one simply because it’s not really necessary, which just makes it feel like an excuse to get the audience crying. I suppose that he was, by the end of the movie, just dead weight, but he could have stuck around. The cleverness of using his wagon to get back up over the Cliffs of Insanity made that scene powerful and impressive enough as it was, and the wagon had no need to stall. This is, however, nitpicking.
Amazingly, nitpicking is all I can do to criticize it. This comes so amazingly close to the perfect screenplay that I am just as impressed as I’d hoped I would be. I am so happy that Pixar finally made a hilarious, charming, and imaginative movie that’s right up my alley. At last I can congratulate Lassiter, Docter, and the rest of the Pixar team for a job well done.
Does anyone remember the DreamWorks 2-Ds and hand-drawns? Anyone? You may remember Prince of Egypt, but for the most part, people seem to only remember the CG movies, such as Shrek, Antz, and Madagascar. However, I think my favorite DreamWorks film is probably the one that I just saw for my first time a few days ago: The Road to El Dorado. I remembered seeing little bits and pieces as a kid, but I never actually watched it all the way through. Honestly though, I don’t think I would have appreciated it as much in my youth as I do now.
From a writing perspective, it is clearly a carefully built and structured film, that perfectly exemplifies the “correct” way to write a Hollywood narrative movie. This is exactly what I would expect from the people behind the screenwriting website Wordplayer.com, which I highly recommend to everyone who has an interest in film. The characters in the movie are strong, and the story is one that frequently connects to itself, if that makes sense. (I mean to say that elements that appear early in the film connect to events later in the film, and every scene is there for a purpose.) One of the writers did acknowledge that the middle of the film suffers from a bad studio decision to keep the protagonists “laying low” for a while, or in other words, actively doing absolutely nothing while waiting for their boat to be built. Still, the situation is handled in a way that makes it bearable. The screenplay seems to get a bit to edgy or dark for young children at times, so I do not recommend that the li’l ones are shown this film, but for an adult, it surprisingly adds to the fun.
That being said, even if the writing had been terrible, the music and animation are so wonderful that the film would arguably be good anyway. Once the protagonists enter the mysterious city of El Dorado, you can expect every scene to look gorgeous from that point on. The music is by Elton John and Tim Rice, so I don’t need to say anything else about that. While I personally did not relate with the characters very much (which is a pretty typical problem for me when I watch movies) I can still say that this is a very enjoyable film that made me gape with wonder multiple times, and it is sure to be a joy for anyone who loves a good animated flick.
Watching this movie was an odd experience for me because I felt like I was a spectator rather than part of the experience. That is not to say that I did not enjoy it. Big Hero 6 is a well built film, that successfully makes the characters likable, the story understandable and interesting, and the twist sorta kinda mildly surprising. The score to this movie is really cool, and it accompanies the lovely animation (that often had me gushing at its beauty, which I hardly ever do with CG movies) very nicely.
They were even kind enough to label the hero of the movie! I’ve been wanting movies to do that for a long time.
Essentially, this is a good movie that was done correctly. However, it felt distant to me. Maybe it’s just because CG films tend to have that effect on me for some reason, or maybe it’s because I went in with an observer-like mindset. I think a large part of my problem was the fact that it was, at its core, a superhero movie. It is about a genius who has the ability to make the gadgets and gear necessary to fight a masked criminal, who happens to be the guy who caused the death of someone important to the hero. We have seen that movie before. This movie may introduce new elements, but it does have a rather cliché story, and pretty cliché characters, making it seem like I have seen it before. It also has notable Disney movie clichés, which also make me step out of the experience and become an observer.
Still, this is a fun movie that has many impressive elements, and is certainly a good time for the kids. If you like simple stories in slightly futuristic worlds with simple characters and great animation, you’ll really enjoy this one.