General Review: Toy Story 4

Hello, ‘Spongey here.

It’s time for our yearly Pixar movie and it’s a doozy. It’s the last one for the 2010’s and it’s a sequel. Fittingly, it follows up on their first film for the 2010’s.

I’ve talked plenty about the Toy Story trilogy and how 3 capped things perfectly, and complimented the others very well. It also started the trend of Pixar sequels, which will end soon as the 2020’s will be full of original ideas.

But before then, another Toy Story cuz why not. Look, you don’t need me to tell you everyone thought this was not needed and seemed slightly cash grab-y. Even I wasn’t really for the idea, as a Part 4 really did seem excessive.

After 3 movies and 2 specials, where do you really go from there? The troubled production full of last minute re-writes didn’t seem to help either. I had no doubt it would be decent, I just wasn’t sure if it would really prove it needed to exist.

But thanks to recent clips and reviews, I’m more excited to see what they have in store for us. Either way, it will be fun to see these characters again and to finally see one of these on the big screen.

Besides, if a movie is good and at least tries to present good ideas, it doesn’t matter if it “needed” to exist. Anyway, for our two credited screenplay writers, one is Andrew Stanton, a Pixar mainstay who did WALL-E and Nemo/Dory. The other just did a couple Star Wars Resistance episodes. There’s plenty others credited for the story though.

The director has this as a debut but of course he did some Pixar work before, like writing some of Inside Out.

So, does Part 4 of this Toy Story manage to keep the high quality of the previous 3? Let’s see.

This, is Toy Story 4

Woody and the gang are living a happy life with Bonnie, when one day she creates a toy out of a spork, which she names Forky. Woody tried to help him cope with existence but they get lost on a road trip and Woody has to tangle with a figure from his past.

I hate to parrot quite a few reviews….but yes, they managed to pull this and make a really strong 4quel. I have thoughts, and it may be hard to keep this organized but we’ll what I can do.

First, the flaws. It does involve some repeating (it’s basically the 2nd movie with bow Woody gets lost from the others) and while it can go into different directions, it can leave some people with a feeling of “Been there, done that”, especially in the middle. The other toys each have at least one good moment, but are otherwise very sidelined, even more than in the 2nd film.

I feel that helps streamline things a bit, as giving them too much to do might have made the story cluttered but even to me I could forget they exist at times. This goes back to being Woody’s story and I get that a lot of people, including myself, preferred it when it was everyone’s story.

And for as good as Forky/Tony Hale is, he isn’t as fleshed out as the earlier trailers might make it seem. Without going into too much detail, it’s not as much about the meaning of life as I thought it would be and he can almost feel like just a device to get us into the story.

On a more amusing nitpicking note, these humans are both patient and stupid. They will wait for as long as they need to look for their toys until they happen to come back, while I would have left long ago. There’s so many moments where they should have been caught, I swear, lol.

But that aside, there’s plenty to get into here. I’ll skim past the animation because you know by now it’s great. They have perfected their craft at this point with how realistic everything can look, with great and varied designs on the toys. So we can move on to the meat.

We’ll start with the more minor things. The humor is really good, with a lot of laugh at loud moments all over the place. That’s one thing I’ve come to expect at this this point from these movies, especially with the voice actors are being top notch.

Key and Peele are as good as I was hoping they would be. The movie does a good job with these side characters as they play the role they should in moving things forward and don’t take over the movie too much. Keanu Reeves is one example where he plays a great role as a daredevil but he simple gets in his jokes, moves the story along and we move on without needed to just make it his show for 20 minutes.

The pacing is quite tight, moving from scene to scene very well and keeping things going, and it mixes all the elements well. While in the middle I was wondering what the big take away would be, I was still never bored and felt it wasn’t focusing too much on one certain aspect.

This gets in to how they really just have the charm of these movies nailed. I feared they might skip a beat due to a new crew but everything is as it should be. Every characters acts how they should, and they remind of certain moments while not just repeating everything.

This could have been one of those cynical “remember this?” movies but the way it’s executed manages to simple capture that feeling of the other movies. At times it brought me back to being a kid watching the first two, and rarely made me go “boy, the other ones sure did this better”.

One interesting aspect would be the villain, They thankfully don’t wait to long to reveal that they are the villain and they end up having a solid personalty and arc. They stand out from Pete and Lotso despite almost seeming to tread similar ground.

This really ties into the main theme of the movie, which parallels the previous films super well. Woody has been known to be quite stubborn, really loving his situation with Andy and feeling that making him happy was the most important thing.

In the first movie, he learned to share the spotlight a little, and that making Andy happy is more important than WHO makes Andy happy. 2 has him finding out he’s an important collectors item and that owners sadly do move on from their toys and questions if going to a museum would be a better place for him.

The 3rd film had him really wanting to go with Andy to college in some way and acknowledging that he has to move on from him, and finding a new owner to stick with. He believes no toy should be left behind and that even if life with an owner is fleeting, he wants to make the most of it.

That all comes to a head here, as the plot starts with him hitching a ride to school with Bonnie because he is just that stubborn, and when Forky is created, he is glad she has a friend to play with at school.

Going on from there would go into spoilers, but this movie really has Woody’s views being challenged and goes deeper into things they touched on before. The 3rd film did an excellent job at that and I’m pleased they found a new angle, somewhat.

Maybe not new entirely, but a new way to look at it. I first rolled my eyes at that start, as it seemed Woody was relapsing after everything he’s been through but they managed to justify it with how the story played out.

It leads to a 3rd act that really brought things home and connected everything together, especially when it comes to the themes. Tom Hanks and Tim Allen have been talking about how emotional the film it is, and how hard it was for them to record certain scenes.

It figured it would be emotional but also thought they were just playing ti up to get people excited. It turns out they were right. Holy crap, a certain scene near the end got me super hard.

It helps that it had some tear jerking moments beforehand that built up to it, but what they do is really brilliant. It was a very smart and refreshing decision on the writers parts. The final note was basically perfect.

In hindsight it was clear it might go there but I’m still glad they went with it. Regardless of any small bumps there were, the final detestation makes the trip worth it.

So yeah, they came up with a clever way to keep the themes intact while adding a new twist and that made this a very well crafted journey. This movie relies a lot on that big takeaway to justify this story being told.

They did a solid job at doing that. Plus, the new locations are fun to explore, and Bo Peep was cool. I was worried they would try too hard to create a female role model but the extra backstory they give her makes her fleshed out. She also helps with the themes.

By the way, I love the little dialogue moments in this. There’s some great parts of the characters that talking that fleshes them out naturally, like a scene of Woody and Forky on the road for example.

It really seemed like they did know what they were doing, despite the production troubles. I feared it would feel like just a mash up of elements they couldn’t fit into the first three but even parts that could have fallen into that end up fitting it naturally, like with Keanu Reeves as I said.

I’ll admit my attachment to the other movies played a part in me liking this as much as I did. I pointed out the problems of course, but I could there being others I was blind to, especially when it comes to certain rehashed elements.

However, the overall package really ended up being strong. I was as skeptical as everyone else and figured it would be simply pretty good with some strong elements. I can see someone feeling it is that way but something about the 3rd act alone managed to pull it up. Either way, it managed to justify its existence just by keeping the quality intact.

Toy Story 4 keeps the high tech animation, lovable characters, great humor and heart that made the original trilogy so excellent, while adding the themes as well as fun new characters and reintroducing an old one.

I’m so glad this ended up being so good, as it showed they went the extra mile and picked a route that would allow for extra growth, instead of just repeating everything. There’s some of that but only as much as there needs to be to get us to the ending.

And a powerful ending it is. I really don’t want a 5 so hopefully they stop here and maybe make some shorts at best. The only thing to really do though is finally have a human find out toys are alive.

I mean come, imagine a toy having a human an an ally as a human finds out out about the crazy stuff they don’t see, not to mention that Bonnie proves humans can just create life out of very little.

…Fanfics aside, check it out. Nothing more to say.

Rating: Great

Between LEGO 2 and this, toy based animated films sure are surprising me this year. Regardless of how I rank this, I did enjoy it a lot and was really satisfied with how it ended.

Also, there’s some fun mid credits stuff and a post credits bit that was totally worth it. Stay to the end. So there you go, those toys are still in great condition, despite all odds.

Next time on the general reviews, we’ll be far from home.

See ya.

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Posted in Animation, General Reviews | 1 Comment

Barley Lethal

A24 has done it again!

Hello, Spongey here.

Let’s talk about A24. This Independent film studio is quite the favorite among films fans for bringing us many well received films by wonderful talent. They give them more exposure then they might otherwise get.

The have some middling efforts sometimes but otherwise seem to be on top of the world. But of course, everyone has to start somewhere. 2015 is when they really started to grow with Ex Machina and the like but before then they had a slightly weaker track record.

In their attempt to give some films exposure, sometimes an oddity would come around that you’d be surprised to find out is an A24 film. Did you know Kevin Smith’s Tusk is an A24 movie? You do now.

That leaves us today’s movie. I saw it on Netflix and watched it based on a few actors that were in it and here we are. No one really cares about it and I just sort of bumped into it. No one who made is that well known but some pretty famous actors made it into this.

It’s not even too infamous or horrible but it gave me a fair bit to snark about so why not. It will take you to a time where A24 was less selective about what the released.

This came in early 2015 by the way, the same quarter ass Ex Machina. That gives you an idea of how fast they grew. Anyway, the director did Fanboys and the writer moved on to the Trolls Netflix show.

Sure. So yeah, let’s dive in and recap the film while sometimes making jokes/commentary. Also, this was co-produced by Direct TV films. Sure, why not.

This, is Barely Lethal

I want to say the movie starts with an animated title sequence, but I don’t think zipping through chalk drawings that barely move counts as animation.

Anyway, it tells us about a government run agency that raises orphan girls to be badass assassins with numbers in place of names. And their main rule is “No attachment”. Gee I wonder what the hero’s arc is going to be about.

Said hero is 83 (later named Megan), played by Hailee Steinfeld who has to answer to Hardman, played by Samuel L Jackson. Man, SHIELD has really upped its game recently.

Megan naturally is interested in having a real teen life so she soon starts studying up on it, by watching other movies/shows I would rather be watching. She has a rival played by Sophie Turner, which was pretty great timing on my part given Dark Phoenix just came out. Plus, there’s the threat of a villain played by Jessica Alba. Playing against type, I see. I can dig that, actually.

83 pretends to be one of the people she captured to finally take her down, which works but 83 gets dropped into a lake. Jessica takes being captured well, almost like she has her own plans that this agency should catch onto or something.

83 washes up on shore but decides not to take Sam’s calls so she can pretend to be dead and start a new life. They don’t even try looking for her after getting no response, but given the no attachments thing, I guess that lines up.

She somehow manages to set herself up with an exchange program very quickly so she can live with the Larson family. Okay, I could point out how the daughter being played by Dove Cameron totally played no part in my decision to watch this.

But instead I must mention that the son, Parker, is played by Not!Greg from The Long Haul, and the Mom is played by Susan from the first 3 Wimpy Kid movies! Yes, really. This is screwing with my brain big time, seriously.

Dove is bitch-y and distant which certainly won’t get annoying very fast.

“But it’s a quintessential high school experience”

“So is Mono”

But she’s not without her funny moments. Yes, she does have a cliche backstory that explains why she’s like this, why wouldn’t she? But moving on from that, Megan starts school soon after and it does not go well since she doesn’t know how to fit in. Dove does not approve.

“It’s like you have social herpes and you want to spit it back in my mouth”

This is pretty much the Disney Star “Edgy” Role they all have to take at least once before proving their worth. Honestly, all the actors are good here, including her but as you can guess, the materiel is often not great.

They have an assembly for this one exchange student from “Canada”, and she says she is from “Regina” but it’s pronounced like vagina so the students take advantage of that. The kid who starts this is called Gooch, so he has no business mocking any name of a thing, ever.

“Take back Bieber”

This was 2015 and not 2011 right?

The staff just lets these kids be rude for a bit and just walks off stage. Despite this awkward-ness, some nice cheerleaders do want to sit with her later at lunch but Megan assumes they are Alpha Bitches. I was hoping her being genre savvy would help this movie  but as you saw, she can’t read things correctly and this will be a problem.

There’s one awesome part in the next class where Gooch mocks here again but she twists his arm and it very satisfying. She meets a nice guy named Roger but is more into Cash (what is with these names?) which is bad since the actual Alpha Bitches are into him.

They pretend to be nice and she falls for it. I get that this is ironic but if she had actually seen Mean Girls twice like she claims, she really wouldn’t have fallen for this. It just makes her dumb in a bad way.

They tell her Cash likes school spirit and have her try out for the mascot, and she makes it since no one cares. They have a tradition where the rival school kidnaps the mascot, while dressed like robbers.

That’s just gonna make you look like actual criminals. Being a trained fighter, Megan beats them up which is pretty cool. Honestly this movie would be better if it was just about her fighting stuff in a town setting, those bits are the best so far.

This leaves her embarrassed in the moment but someone filmed that and it went viral. So now people like her despite this usually being something that will make people fear you. But she beat up the rivals so she’s cool.

Liz is still annoyingly bitch-y about it though. At least she bonds with Roger, who is totally not the love interest and that bad boy-ish guy certainly is, clearly. Fun Fact, despite the PG-13 rating, it came close to an R and I feel like that crowd would easily know where a lot of this is going.

Being predictable and cliche isn’t always bad, but here it adds to a weird issue I just alluded to that we’ll go more into later.

But just as this makes her happy, an agent shows up and takes her back to Samuel Jackson. They think she’s working for some bad guy but with the help of truth serum, they find out the real reason she went rouge.

At this point she doesn’t want to anger them so she says she’ll come back if they let her tie up some loose ends so she can leave without being suspicious. At this point, he seems like the real villain here. Hell, a scene I skipped had Jessica Alba arguing this same point. Should be interesting to see play out at least, as long as they stay on this train.

She goes home and goes back to sharing casual scenes with others, and doesn’t seem that worried about tying up loose ends. She and Liz plan go to some big party.

“You look cute”

Now I wish they’d dropped the “pretending to be sort of family’ stuff so this can just be a rom-com between the two.

At the party, Megan sees that 84 is there and asks her what the hell is going on. She calls herself Heather and for now she lets Megan think Samuel sent her. But who cares about that, let’s watch Liz get drunk with Gooch! Also, his real name is Bernard.

Then even Megan and Heather drop the story that matters to fight over Cash. At this point I like the getting drunk with Gooch scene way more. It does start to get pretty okay, with how Liz loosens up.

Drunk Liz eventually appears downstairs and while Megan helps her slightly, she still leaves her to go out with Cash. But that’s not really important so I guess I can’t care about that.

The next morning they are back at home and mom is mad. Also, Liz has a drawing of a dick on her fact which is quite the image. Also, not very PG-13.

A bit later, Megan gets on the bus and sees that Samuel Jackson is the bus driver.

“I’m pulling you out”

“No, we had a deal!”

Yeah, to tie up loose ends, then you’re gone. Why are you surprised?

Jessica Alba has escaped and they feel like Megan isn’t safe her, which is at least a tad understandable. He eventually lets her go but warns her she’ll be alone. So if she dies, it’s totally her fault.

She has Liz drive her to school when my point is proven by some assassins attacking. This makes Megan tell Liz the truth and after a chase, they escape. Also, turns out Heather was one of the attackers, so she’s a bad guy. I’m so shocked.

During the fallout, Megan talks to Liz who gets over the whole assassin thing very quickly. It does let to a somewhat sweet moment though. But never mind that, let’s have a happy montage!

Seeing these two bond is delightful but sadly we must move on to homecoming because who cares about the escaped evil doer? At the dance, she realizes Cash is kind of boring but he’s not an asshole so dumping him seems a bit harsh. But I got, Roger is better. And this action turns him into a jerk anyway.

Thankfully, Heather is here to add some action back in. But eh, I don’t think I hate Heather enough.

“For once, you don’t look like a tranny mess”

That’ll do it!

With the help of Liz, they take her down and go home where Jessica Alba has showed up. Victoria reveals that she used to work for Samuel Jackson but left to do evil stuff.

Meh. That doesn’t really change too much but it counts as a motivation I suppose. They fight with bad editing for a bit but then Samuel and his men jump in to rescue them!

Well, that was anti climatic. She just has someone bail her out, that’s lame. I get that this is him learning about attachments but come on.

“Okay, so we do have our attachments agent 63-I mean Megan”

He might have helped train little girls into becoming killing machines instead of letting them have a life…but he randomly changed his heart, so it’s all forgiven! Just saying, stories like this usually would have her leaving them forever but I guess they’re all cool now.

They go back to the dance so the ever so riveting romance can wrap up. Liz/Gooch is better. They leave in a helicopter and Megan’s narration tells us the obvious moral.

The end! Well, except for the Mid Credits scene, because Samuel Jackson infected this movie’s DNA. Heather is with some guys and asks them to find out where Megan is going to college.

Oh yeah, you’re totally getting that sequel. Is it too late to do my Rom Com idea?

Final Thoughts:

Well, that was mediocre. As cliche as a good amount of this is, this concept certainly could have been fun. But they don’t do a job of balancing everything.

I get that this is mostly supposed to be about the high school stuff, but at many points they just forget about the evil Jessica Alba. Even the interesting parts aren’t focused on that much or aren’t fleshed out as much as they should be.

Or are just handled badly, like how this organization is just forgiven for everything they’ve done. The ending is especially bad with how everything wraps up in such a rushed manner.

Stronger writing made have made some of the generic parts work better but alas that is not what we got. On top of that, I’m not sure who this was made for. A lot of the plot makes it feel like a DCOM but that crowd will be put off by the raunchy jokes.

And those who want that kind of humor will find the story pretty boring. And someone like me who enjoys both will find the script too messy to get into either element so this was just all flat to me.

Either tone down the raunchy stuff or make the plot more involved and interesting, it tries to go for both and doesn’t work. On the bright side, the actors are all trying and can elevate the materiel at times.

Hailee Steinfeld once again proves she should be in every movie and Dove Cameron is charming once she loosens up and she even makes some of the snark-y moments work at times. Plus, Samuel Jackson can do this sort of role in his sleep at this point.

Even Jessica Alba as a villain worked surprisingly well, even if her character did very little. This could have been a fun little movie but instead it’s a tonally confused mess with a boring plot.

It’s almost an average movie but these issues build up over time. It’s far from terrible but it’s certainly a black spot on A24’s generally solid record. Thankfully, everyone has moved on to better things and hey, this wasn’t too painful of a sit at least.

But yeah, skip it. It’s not very good.

Rating: Meh

At least this was a tame follow up to Hugo. Next time…eh, let’s do Cinderella Story 4, if it gives me enough to talk about. Why not?

See ya.

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General Review: The Secret Life of Pets 2

https://spongey444.wordpress.com/2016/07/08/general-review-the-secret-life-of-pets/

Hello, Spongey here.

It’s been a hot minute since we last spoke generally about a film. But now we’re back, with the help of Illumination.

Back in 2016, they released The Secret Life of Pets, which I reviewed back then, you can read my thoughts in the link above. Re-watching it, I agree with what I said. Some of the animal antics are funny/cute but the storytelling is rather average, and the leads are not that likable.

Since then the Illumination backlash is getting worse than their actual work so my attitude is different. They still work hard and even their cute stuff can at least be charming. They are starting to get sequel happy though, which worries me a fair bit.

But we’ll see how this sequel goes. I wasn’t sure where you could go with this given the first movie was almost like a cartoon episode stretched but hopefully this sequel can be at least on par with the pleasant but mostly just okay original.

Crew is same as the first, as the director did DM 2 and the writer did Hop, Minions and Puss in Boots. He also wrote many funny/nice tweets that make me want to like this movie a lot.

Let’s see how these secrets go this time.

This, is The Secret Life of Pets 2

Max’s owner Katie gets a husband and a son that turns his life around. Also, Snowball and Tiffany Haddish rescue a tiger from a bad guy.

I’m a bit mixed on this sequel, but I will start by saying I generally enjoyed it more than the first movie. My thing with the first film is that I liked a lot of the animal antics, but the actual storytelling was weak with unlikable/uninteresting leads.

This sequel ramps up the antics, makes the leads more likable and doesn’t try as hard to tell a bigger story. Max has a solid arc of learning to be braver and his relationship with Liam, the son, is cute.

The supporting cast is solid with Chloe being a funny stand out again. I quite liked Harrison Ford as a grumpy dog, but while Tiffany Haddish was amusing, she was also pointless and felt like all her other characters.

I laughed a fair bit and enjoyed some of the fun antics we got. It’s closer to what I wanted out of the first movie, with better emotional moments As jarring as Snowball becoming good was, him being a superhero was pretty amusing at times.

However, its attempt to try less hard on a bigger story works too well. This is basically just a bunch of TV episodes stitched together. You can tell which section would have been fleshed out as its own episode and they hardly even try to connect them until the 3rd act. Even then, it feels forced.

I always felt the first movie should have been a cartoon series and this confirms that. I’d certainly watch it as there’s plenty of room to play around with these characters but they felt pretty constrained in a film format.

One big example is with Gidget. She was one of my favorites in the first movie but here she doesn’t do much. She’s still funny like when she has to act like a cat but otherwise, she feels less important.

Same goes with Duke, so may as well not even be here half the time. This being a movie with many things going on, some things could have fleshed out more as a 11/22-minute TV episode that could have had more time.

The first 5 minutes could have been like two separate episodes. Some things I don’t care for, like the forced villain, would have been more acceptable in a TV format. The scenes don’t flow too well, and I feel a tad ripped off that I was paying to watch this.

But I did mostly a decent chunk of it and would rather watch this than the first movie. See where my problem lies? It’s weird. Plus, it did lose me a bit in the 3rd act as it was forcing itself to be bigger than it was, and I was realizing more of the script issues.

As for Patton Oswalt replacing a certain someone, he did a pretty good job. Still slightly miscast but I bought his nice moments more here. The animation is exactly the same, with some lovely lighting, solid character animation that brings some extra laughs and basic background.

Although there is a 2D sequence that is awesome, so there’s that.

How much you like this movie will depend on how you can tolerate the structure. Some will enjoy the humor and characters enough to forgive it not being much of a story while some will not be pleased and won’t care for it.

For me I did manage to enjoy it more than the first, but the weak story did become an issue after a while, and some characters felt more fleshed out in the first movie. If you liked the first film well enough, you’ll likely get enough of it if you know what you’re getting into.

If you either didn’t like it, or were mixed than you should probably wait until you can rent it. It’s the kind of movies that works as something you put on while doing other things. Then, you may not care about the non-story as much.

I hope they just green light a cartoon series at this point, as this concept works better as one and I would check it out. As a film series, it feels like filler, even for Illumination. It has plenty to like, but even for movies like this they can feel lightweight.

But, there’s still some things to enjoy here so it’s not a total loss. Overall, I enjoyed The Secret Life of Pets 2 more than the first due to focusing more on the funny antics, with solid animation and some decent characters. But it barely feels like an actual movie and some of the characters/arcs feel short changed.

It’s perfectly harmless entertainment for kids, but older viewers may be mixed depending on how they are. This is about par for the course for the studio, but I guess that’s fine.

Rating: Average

A higher one to be sure, I’ll give it that. Well, that was perfectly okay I suppose. Next time, we’ll see what happens when you give some toys a 4th chapter after a perfectly great conclusion.

See ya. 

Posted in Animation, General Reviews | Leave a comment

Spongey’s Favorite Episodes: Sofia the First

https://spongey444.wordpress.com/2015/01/24/a-look-at-sofia-the-first/

Hello, Spongey here.

We’ve got another edition of Spongey’s Favorite Episodes but this time it’ll be different. Let me back up a bit.

You all remember by now that in 2015, I did a look at Sofia the First and have talked about it a few times since, as well as the sort of spin off Elena of Avalor. The post is unnecessarily long but ah well.

There I went into a few of my favorite episodes up to that point, as the post was done during the last quarter of Season 2. The show has ended since then after two more seasons.

And of course that means more really good episodes that I did want to talk about. I don’t always do “next best episodes” list these days unless I really have things to talk about with those episodes or whatnot.

But for some reason in this case, I did. I backed out of doing one for Adventure Time for now but a Disney Junior show was able to get me to do one. It’s complicated but either way I did want to do this one.

Mostly because it has grown quite a bit since then and I wanted to talk about it, along with the standout episodes. The problem is that there are some from that last quarter of Season 2 I wanted to fit in, along with the Season 3 and 4 episodes.

It feels weird to lump all that together instead of being able to just put two seasons together but it just wouldn’t feel right to leave them. Consider this a hybrid of a SPF and a Next Best list.

Calling it a Next Best List would be weird given the original post was just a look at so I labeled it this way even though it’s just from certain seasons as I pointed out my favorites from the first half of the show already.

I realize how needlessly complicated I am making things but whatever, we’re going over other episodes I like.

Since my big post, the show went into a more serialized direction, because being a Disney Junior show doesn’t stop it from being a 2010’s cartoon. The show already had some lore and development to it, so this shift did make sense.

It wasn’t executed perfectly but they managed to make each episode stand alone and a lot of the charm was still there even as things got a tad more serious.

Some people can be mixed on shows during this kind of thing and while I get that it can lead to some shows trying too hard to be “adult”, this is a case where it remembered what audience this was aimed at and it was merely just growing up slightly.

I think being a preschool show prevents it from getting too dark or falling into other pitfalls. Even with story aspects working better than others, it was a treat to see the world grow.

That said, which episodes stood out the most? Which did the best job of keeping up the solid morals, humor and heart? Did the finale make it on here like you’re all expecting? Let’s find out.

These are some of my favorites from the latter half or so of Sofia the First.

Even now, it’s weird to think I’m giving this show the treatment I give more respected cartoons but whatever, here we go.

(By the way, this in the order they aired)

In A Tizzy

Writer: Erica Rothschild

Season 2

The setup of this episode sounds very familiar and makes you think it’ll go in the very typical direction but actually plays out differently and becomes really refreshing.

Ruby is gearing up for a go-ka-I mean Go Carriage race when she meets a fairy godmother named Tizzy (voiced by Melisa Rauch). She hasn’t earned her wings because her attempts to help kids always fail, so Ruby so Tizzy help with her Go-Carriage but things quickly get out of control.

From that, you’d think this would be a story where a grump who doesn’t work well with others has to learn to accept help or learn the importance of teamwork or whatever.

I’ve seen that pretty often to the point where I kind of wanted some show to say that doing things on your own is okay sometimes too. So I was pretty surprised when this episode actually did that despite having the setup of that kind of story.

Tizzy is very likable and manages to be a bit goofy without being annoying about it, so that could have worked. But they also could have accidentally said that accepting help is bad or something like that and it doesn’t do that either.

The problem comes when Tizzy tries so hard to help her that she ends up doing most of the work for her which not only robs Ruby of that feeling of accomplishment but is also cheating.

In the end, they learn that a little help is fine but achieving something on your own can be rewarding and that too much help can be a bad thing. Tizzy gets to be a bit much but you get why she’s like that so even when later on, she doesn’t cross the line into being unlikable.

Nor does Ruby since she doesn’t ever blow up at her or anything like that. She feels like she has to let her help given how much Tizzy wants to do this, and of course it’s Sofia who has to remind her of the big lesson.

It’s a far more balanced story than it could have been, where everyone is likable and learns a pretty refreshing lesson. Help/teamwork is great but doing some things mostly on your on can be just as rewarding.

Outside of that, there’s some decent comedy with the other racers like how Amber cares way more about making her carriage look good. Another thing I like is that most of this is told from Ruby’s perspective.

Yes, Sofia is there and does her thing of having to tell someone the lesson but right from the start, we follow Ruby through this while Sofia is more of a side character which I think is a nice change of pace.

She’s still pretty important, it just shifts things a bit so we can a slight variation of the usual formula. Another thing that is nicely balanced. Also, seeing more of her village friends at all is nice but I’ll talk more about that later.

Overall, this episode gives us a solid message in a well written story with likable characters and is a nice change of pace. I’m glad Tizzy got to return way later, she made for a pretty enjoyable episode.

It’s one I appreciate on a few different levels, and it’s pretty charming as a whole. It makes my dreams come true. …It’s a reference to the song, shut up.

Elena and the Secret of Avalor

Writer: Craig Gerber

Season 3

Yep, I talked about this one in regards to the backstory and how it fed into the show it set it up but it’s time to discuss how it is on its own merits.

Despite basically being a Poorly Disguised Pilot (without the disguised part, thanks Disney), this does fit very well in the show and it feels like something they’ve been building up to this whole time.

It helps that it’s all tied into that amulet she’s had from the beginning. It wasn’t that important to know what the deal with it is but this was a pretty epic way to reveal.

Turns out it was keeping a princesses after it protected her from being murdered like her parents were. Who knew?

The whole reason Sofia is doing this is that it’s a mission from the Secret Library, as she has to finish Elena’s story and all that. That was a whole thing and it all ties together pretty well.

Honestly,I could repeat a lot of what I said in the Elena post as it applies here. The Sofia stuff is pretty good but the highlights come from Elena. Her backstory is a sad one and we get to know her fairly well even though she takes a bit to appear.

We see how much she wants to take down Shurki, and she has a really nice moment regarding her sister Isabel. This is the largest conflict the show has dealt with and it’s really well, especially in the climax.

The special is a full hour long even without commercials, and that allows the story to feel more complete with good build up and a very satisfying climax and ending.

There can be some padding in places but not enough to where making this a full hour was pointless. I like how in the end everyone has to stand together, so basically everyone from Sofia to Elena to almost every citizen of Avalor takes part in the climax.

It makes for an epic climax and it feels equal so it’s not just either Sofia or Elena taking Shurki down. Elena does pretty much give the final blow though, which is fitting.

Esteban really stands out here as we see him not being happy with serving Shurki and we see hints of his complex nature that the show would later explore. As I think I said before, this special helped me understand more of his deal, since he was a bit undefined in the early episodes.

Shurki herself (voiced by Jane Fonda) is pretty good as a villain, you certainly wanted to see her get taken down. I feel like some of the other villains stand out more in terms of enjoyment but she still works and she would do more in the show anyway.

Speaking of, I like how they put in a wraparound thing with Elena and Naomi to act like they planned for it to air at this point all along, but then took it out of the Netflix version. Nice.

One last thing to mention is the animation. The animation was already quite good by this point but they take it up a notch here with especially good expressions and shading.

Also, the backgrounds. I don’t think I mentioned them before but the backgrounds in this show are so damn good, really bringing the world to life. They can almost look like out of place, they’re so good.

Overall, it works as a set up with Elena of Avalor but it also works on its own as an epic adventure with a good character in Elena and a grand scale conflict. It’s basically Elena’s show for the most part, and it does that exceptionally.

Although saying that her story “isn’t over yet” and is for “another book” is not exactly subtle.

But yeah, it’s really good and gets better once you see what it leads into, while still working on its own.

I don’t have a catchy note to end this on, so I’ll just again say it’s really good and was a good lead to a good spin off series.

Day of the Sorcerers/In Cedric we Trust

Writer: Laurie Israel

Season 4

That’s right, we have a tie. The latter is a follow up to the former and they’re too tied together for me to separate. And oh boy, is he former especially interesting to talk about.

We’ll mostly be focusing on Day of the Sorcerers, which is pretty big for only being a normal episode. I will be spoiling it since it carries over into the other one but in this case I don’t think you’ll mind too much.

Cedric is invited to a gathering of sorcerers who plan to use their magic to take over all of the kingdoms, and he has to decide if he ants to betray Sofia.

Yeah, this was quite the big one. It basically feels like the conclusion to Cedric’s entire arc, although it would be formally capped in a couple of later episodes.

This episode mirrors Cedric’s Apprentice quite a bit, as that one introduced his motivation and him being unsure of wanting to do all this since he had been starting to befriend Sofia. This is the very start of Season 4, where they’ve now been through a lot and Cedric was hardly a villain by this point.

Here, his loyalties are put to the test and he gets to really think about why’s doing all this. It feels like a natrual extension of what had been established before. The song really shows this, with him having 2nd thoughts, while Wormwood reminds him that even if Sofia is nice, most other people were not.

Honestly, Wormwood comes off as the real villain here, since he convinces Cedric to do this and has been like this in the past. There was a whole episode about him appreciating Cedric more but I feel like that was a fluke.

Anyway, this is the episode where Sofia finds out Cedric had been plotting against here a lot. Yep. I was not expecting this bombshell to go off in a normal episode but here we are.

It’s really heartbreaking to see her find this out, especially with how close they had been. There’s some good dialogue here between the characters, as Cedric tells Roland off and other people weigh in.

Despite just being a normal episode, they pack in quite a lot and it’s done as well as it really could be. Some parts feel rushed as a result of the length, but the impact is mostly felt and a lot of is done really well.

Cedric being fully forgiven is the only thing I think suffers a tad, should have been saved for another episode. They’re just lucky his actions were somewhat understandable and not too horrible.

There’s some great emotion here and Cedric gets some really good moments, especially in the scene where he’s defeated. They explore the reasons he did all this and it fleshes all this out further.

As weird as it is to cap this off in a normal episode,it ended up being done splendidly in the end. And if you feel like more could have been explore,we have In Cedric We Trust.

It came a tad too much later (like 15 plus episodes later) but at least we got it. Here, Roland still can’t fully trust Cedric after what he did, so Cedric has to spend 22 minutes trying to get his trust back despite still being bumbling.

Also, Prisma (who we’ll talk more about later) is still going after some evil McGuffins and she might get some help from Wormwood. What did I just say about him, eh?

I won’t talk too much about him here but we do see that he’s unhappy with Cedric turning good and he gets a pretty interesting moment at the end. I also like that there’s a cliffhanger here despite the happy ending to the Cedric story.

We go more into his and Roland’s relationship, as we find out more about what they were like as kids. Roland can feel a bit too dick-ish at times and it can get a bit tiring but the overall story works well enough for me to forgive that.

This one completes the other one nicely, as it makes him being forgiven feel a bit more earned. There’s of course a whole musical number one dedicate to getting Roland on Cedric’s side, which is great.

The Prisma stuff works okay, it mostly exists for the sake of the arc but they work together to create a more fleshed out story. Especially since Cedric saves Sofia in a pretty perilous moment.

I don’t have as much to say about In Cedric We Trust, I just lumped in to show how they continued the development from Day of the Sorcerers. Both episodes do a great job of capping off Cedric’s arc, and developing Roland further.

Day of the Sorcerers is especially great with this as we see how Cedric just wanted to be seen as a great man despite everyone dunking on him, and how that lead him to becoming all grumpy and making some mistakes.

In the end, these episodes show off great of a character he is, by showing how far he’s come and then going into how things are with Roland. Day of the Sorcerers is way better but they both work quite well together.

I trusted them to pull this all off well, and at this point they pretty much earned it. I might be stretching with these.

Princess Jade

Writer: Matt Hoverman

Season 4

Hey, did you know Sofia has two friends named Ruby and Jade? …Likely yes since I talked about an episode with them earlier but you know what I mean. After Season 2, the show seemed to forget they existed.

I don’t think they appeared at all in Season 3. I get the shifted focus means less visits to the village and whatever, but it’s still weird that they seemed to drop off the face of the Everrealm.

So I was pretty happy to see this episode where Jade finally got more focus. They’re having a School Swap Day where a kid from Dunwiddie (Jade) swaps places from someone from Royal Prep (Amber).

Sofia is excited, and they discover a painting of someone they think is a princess, that looks exactly like Jade. Now they believe Jade is actually a princess and likely has to come on Royal Prep full time. Sofia is super excited but Jade starts having second thoughts.

This episode is pretty simple, with Jade realizing she loves Dunwiddie and doesn’t really belong at Royal Prep but unsure if she has the guts to tell Sofia. You get the point but still has to wait for the obvious conclusion.

It feels like an earlier episode in that way, but I’d say that’s a good thing as it’s a nice counter to the more ambitious episodes, especially the ones on this list.

It’s Sofia and Jade’s friendship that carries this one. Right from the start, Sofia getting all excited over Jade’s arrival is really cute, as if they’re bond in general.

Their interactions are really enjoyable and super adorable. Their strong friendship is able to carry this one, along with Jade’s dilema. It’s interesting to see Sofia accidentally put pressure on someone like this, as it would usually be the other way around.

Thankfully, it doesn’t feel too out of character since her being excited makes sense and she isn’t a jerk or anything like that. Plus, it is nice to see her being more flawed with more of a focus on someone else.

It’s not quite as good as In a Tizzy in this regard, but it’s still refreshing and makes for a nice story. You can tell where this is going on but it’s still enjoyable in spite of that.

Also, there’s a subplot with Amber where she learns more about the Dunwiddie ways. It’s been done before with her, but it works okay. At least it breaks up the plot somewhat.

It’s a simple story but a shift in focus and a cute friendship makes it a pretty enjoyable one. The weakest on this list but I just felt like throwing another slice of life-ish one to counteract the bigger ones I tend to favor.

I wish they had a few more of these in the later seasons but it’s nice to see any at all, especially since this one was pretty cute. Nothing too grand or deep, but still works as a good story for Jade.

Not much to add, just a nice change of pace with plenty of adorable moments. I like it.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Sidekick Clio (Season 2, Erica Rothschild): A pretty good spotlight story for Clio, showing her trying to stand out from Hildegard.

The Secret Library (Season 3, Craig Gerber): The Merida appearance is cool, as is the story of this arc but honestly this one is here for the scene where Sofia enters the library. It’s drawn out and done entirely with visuals and music and it’s honestly magical. Look it up, it’s honestly amazing.

New Genie on the Block (Season 3, Krista Tucker): I like that Sofia makes a mistake that leads to all this, but this makes it here just for the concept of the Genie Police. Yes.

Princess Ballet (Season 3,Laurie Israel & Rachel Ruderman): Pretty nice story for Kari that I was into more than I expected. Also, she’s voiced by Doc McStuffins.

A Very Mystic Wassalia Season 4, (Matt Hoverman): https://spongey444.wordpress.com/2017/12/20/a-look-at-disney-nick-cartoon-network-christmas-episodes-2017/

And the final favorite we’ll be talking about is…

Forever Royal

Season 4

Writers: Craig Gerber & Micheal G Stern

Yep, it’s the big epic finale. Even if we were going in the usual quality order, this would be number one. Sometimes I like being obvious, especially when it’s this damn great.

Not spoiling certain things will be a bit hard, not to mention all the buildup through other episodes that is hard to explain. But compared to other shows, I think I can get through this alright.

Despite how big it is, it’s fairly simple to explain. After Prisma has gathered a bunch of evil objects, they unleashes the evil Vor who quickly takes Prisma aside and goes on to try to take over the Everrealm.

The story itself isn’t super complicated, it’s more about how the heroes try to stop her and all that, rather than a ton of plot points or subplots. It feels more focused as a result, while still having side things and completing the show’s story.

As far as complaints go, I honestly don’t have many, especially compared to most finales. There are some characters I wish got more of a send off, most notably James. They get used well enough but perhaps there could have more.

Some bits can feel forced but work towards the overall story. My biggest issue is that something that h append in In Cedric We Trust is not addressed. I don’t mind that it happens, it’s just not explored despite how major it was in a way.

Everything else is great though. As far as Vor goes, she blends in with every other sassy baddie this show has, but I like how far she goes and the climax really makes her work.

It’s weird how they built up Prisma so much only for her to get pushed aside by the bigger villain she teamed up with (getting a little sick of that cliche), so I can see that being a problem for some people. Vor works well enough for this to be fine though.

I also like how Prisma is handled at the end, it’s a nice mix of her showing some remorse while sill being punished unlike basically every other snapshot redemption, even the ones in the show.

My only real issue with Vor is…her name. Pronounce it like “Voor” and you will you see the huge problem with calling her this. Needless to say, I had to suppress a giggle every time they went on about the evil of Vor.

Anyway, this finale does an excellent job of bringing the series full circle. It starts with Sofia and Miranda visiting the village they came from, and they really remind of you of where she came from.

We see how she much she has grown despite starting as just as a commoner, and it really reminds of us how far she has come. It would be easy to let the epic scale of the story take over but we are reminded of her humble beginnings.

We also see that with how she gets help from her friends, old and new. Considering my previous comment about the lack of Ruby and Jade, it’s nice to see them play a notable role, along with people Sofia befriended along the way like Lucinda.

They are defined by how they help Sofia which I think works for the kind of story this is. This is pretty much her story and her friends and family play a major part here.

It can be bothersome for this to be all about her but there are episodes going deeper into the other characters on their own and how things play out make it all pretty satisfying, at least for me.

The climax is especially great, with Sofia being put in a position where she has no help but still gets to take down Vor in a really awesome way. And it’s through song, of course.

Speaking of songs, they know how to use them to power the story here. There’s a reprise of the Royal Prep song in the graduation scene that is just amazing.

Also, the opening song features a shot out to a longtime fan from Tumblr. I’m not making that up.

Naturally, there is plenty of emotional moments here, especially at the end. The final scene makes the show on a nice note, including a “The End” card that reminds you how this was all one big story being told on top of the usual little stories.

It’s already crazy to see a preschool show like this have more story/lore to it, but to have it feel like a big story with a complete ending is especially strange but very satisfying.

This finale really reminded me of why I even got into this show in the first. It has some of what you’d expect to see in this kind of show, but they went the extra mile with the storytelling and really respected their audience.

It may not have been the smoothest road but Forever Royal makes for an exceptional finale that brings things full circles and not only shows how far Sofia has grown, but how her the relationships she’s built over the course of 4 seasons have helped her out.

Plus, it’s another hour long special that makes good use of the time. It only gets a bit bloated near the end but the execution makes up for it. Otherwise, this really flies by while still using the time to flesh out the story, mostly.

And on top of that, we find out what Roland’s first wish from the wall that he mentioned like two seasons ago! It’s…an interesting reveal, to say the least.

Overall, Forever Royal is a grand finale that caps off this story extremely well with plenty of emotional highs. There’s the usual missed chances and things some fans may not agree with but as a whole, it wraps things up in a way I was quite happy with.

It’s a good way to end the show, and this list.

And those were some more of my favorite Sofia the First episodes. I’m pretty happy with the list and how I explained things, at least for the most part. It is interesting how much I got into a show like this, but I don’t regre itt.

It just shows how good it really is, that it got a bigger audience outside of just kids. This show managed to have more story and lore, along with memorable/likable characters and excellent music.

The use of Disney Princesses (and Olaf) was nice too, as I bet they put more pressure on them to have this respect the Disney legacy. As I’ve said, plenty of “pre-school-isms” slip in, but it doesn’t hinder the overall show too much.

At the end of the day, this was nice while also having some emotional moments and some grand scale conflicts. Sometimes that’s really all you want, regardless of age.

It was a fun journey with a nice ending. I’m very glad that Elena of Avalor will be continuing this show’s legacy in a way, despite the different feel it can have.

I love how that Elena keeps the spirit of one of their big hits alive, even including some nods, while still feeling like its own thing. It would off putting of they kept reminding us of the original show to the point where it seems like they’re banking too much off it.

Anyway, that’s all I got. Weird post for a nice show that I very much enjoyed. Huge thanks to Craig Gerber and the crew for a lovely little show. These episodes helped close it out nicely.

Not sure what the next SPF will be on, but my main ideas are ones I should have done a long time ago, so it’ll be fun either way.

See ya.

Posted in Animation, Lists, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Hugo the Hippo

The fact that I couldn’t come up wit anything despite the insanity within should tell you….nothing, really.

Hello, Spongey here.

Last year, I reviewed a foreign animated movie called The Treasure Planet, which was quite the mind screw, to say the least. I start with that because today I decided to tackle another older foreign animated film that is said to be…something else.

This was…well not a request but rather a casual suggestion from Twitter friend KyleOVox, who said it made The Treasure Planet look tame. That filled me with a lot of terror…but once I actually watched it, I was kind of disappointed.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. This one is almost the opposite of Treasure Planet, at least in terms of the “backstory”, While that was an 80’s movie by mostly unknowns and didn’t have a major U.S. theatrical release, this Hungarian oddity is from 1975 and actually did have a U.S Theatrical release.

It was a flop but hey, at least it got one. From 20th Century Fox no less! Sadly, Warner Archive released the first DVD in 2015, meaning it’s likely they have the rights and we can’t call this a Disney movie.

Co-produced by a division of a perfume company (seriously), it was animated by the studio behind Willy the Sparrow and another infamous flop, Princess and the Goblin. And tons of other movies that might be better.

But this isn’t one of those better movies. I almost didn’t want to do this one but I figured there’s enough to say so here we are. It’s interesting compared to some of the other “weird” animated films out there, at least when it comes to how the odd elements are used.

With that said, let’s what makes this strange movie tick. Does it even come close to The Treasure Planet levels of insanity? Spoilers no, but let’s see them try.

This, is Hugo the Hippo

The opens up on a nice day as a lovely little song informs us that this strange story is all true, as we get random close ups of animals. I assure you that “is this true?” was the last thing on my mind during all this.

A narrator pipes in during the middle of that (doesn’t even let her finish smh) to talk about how the difference between animals and humans is that the former does not fight wars of use the other group to solve their problems. I feel like the whole “lack of military weapons or thumbs” thing is the only reason for that.

Then the sun frowns on the world. It’s gonna be that kind of movie.

Our story truly begins in Zanzibar, where they have slaves helping take things to trade ships and whatnot, as the slaves sing a song about it. Yeah, this is a musical and it’s the kind where even the small things get a song for some reason.

It makes being a slave sound much cooler than it is, but it’s an okay song to be honest. Then a mere 6 minutes in, we get the first traces of a story in the form of sharks that attack the harbor.

Nazi sharks to be exact. I am not kidding. There’s even a crazy song that comes with them, making it the 3rd song in only 6 minutes. The song is just some random noises that mean nothing.

They eat the slaves through the power of confusing editing, which somehow goes unnoticed by the Sultan’s survivor when he shows up. Seriously, all this madness and he’s just wondering why they’re not working.

Thankfully a shark eats his clothes, so he has to take the threat seriously. Also, the lip sync almost never matches with what they’re saying but I expected that.

The sultan finds out and wonders how they’ll get their supplies with the sharks in there, so they of course call upon the royal magician. Despite his powers to make things freeze and recreate the sound effects from The Treasure Planet, getting rid of sharks is beyond his abilities.

That night, the Sultan gets the idea to get some hippos to scare the sharks/

“Hippopotami”

“Hippopotamuses!”

Hippopotapeople?

Sultan has some men along with his adviser head to the African mainland to get some hippos, so naturally a cute-sy song comes with this. Oh and one of them is a youngin’ named Hugo.

They take what seems to be forever to wrangle up most of them but Hugo manages to slip away, only to watch his father and the others get taken. He stows away in their ship in order to a find a way to rescue them.

I guess with not much going on, now is a good time to talk about the animation. It’s…hard to describe but it’s actually not that bad, I think. It’s certainly got a distinct style, especially with the backgrounds.

It gives me a Yellow Submarine vibe. The actual character designs and animation are okay enough, but of course can be sloppy and the designs of the Africans….yikes.

I mentioned the lip sync but that’s more of a dub problem, but I have no idea who to blame the messy editing on. A lot of things just of sort of happen in this movie, with no transition.

Then some things seem to take way too long and the actual content isn’t good enough to make that wait really worth it. You do get to see more acid trip animation though. I feel like that’s really the draw here but we’ll talk more about that later.

Anyway, they head back home where the Hippos get rid of the sharks in an amazing anime battle.

“Zanzibar was a new strange home for the hippos, but they liked it”

They sure got used to slavery quickly. The people even give Hugo his name, how nice. Things go back to normal, but now with the hippos to help them get even richer from their trade.

But eventually they get so used to their life that they not only forget to feed the hippos, but forget their existence and even why they were there to begin with.

“It was a nuisance having hippos around”

Okay, how big of a time skip is this? This has to be ages later if they forgot all these hippos and how they ward off sharks. In the very least, they should still want to feed them even if they don’t know why they’re there.

I don’t blame the hippos for heading into town and just eating stuff all over the place. The citizens get angry and take their complaints to the Sultan’s evil adviser for some reason, which ends up being quite the terrible idea as we’ll see.

He sees the hippos as a threat so he takes the farmers out to kill them all. This sure turned into some PERFECT FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT, eh? They at least use the clouds to visualize this action which is…creative but sitll dark.

Hugo is the only survivor but don’t worry, he gets over his dead daddy and it’s never really that big of a factor aside from being why he runs away.

“Go ahead, swim! I’ll get you someday”

Next time Hugo, next time.

This intense scene is followed by…a cute song about how hungry he is when he washes up on shore. A very natural follow up to that scene. Poor Hugo does seem in need of food though.

You could say he’s a thirsty thirsty hippo. …Wait…

Eventually he meets a boy named Jorma who makes creepy faces at him, and it’s owner/pet love at first sight. Complete with yet another song! They have fun but they must part as the next day, the boy heads to school where he isn’t doing too well.

We meet his teacher, who gets his own full song for some reason. I think every part of this recap should have “for some reason” at the end of it. His shtick is that he doesn’t pay attention to what is around him, to the point where he mistakes a snake for a scarf while at home. Why was a snake just there in that position anyway?

Yes, that is the thing I’m hung up on now.

Hugo follows Jorma (Jarma?) to school and gets the attention of the kids.

“We’ll call him Hugo”

I like how two different parties gave him the exact same name.

Then they play around during the 5 millionth song sequence. The songs aren’t that bad to be honest, there’s just too many and very few really add anything. It doesn’t help that this one is called “The Best Day Ever” which reminds me of a much better movie.

How dare they know the future.

It’s good that the children are taking solid care of Hugo, as the other animals hate for bonding with humans. Why are they so anti human? (Besides…all the reasons). No idea, it’s not important to anything even though that would make for a slightly more interesting story.

They decide to make Hugo his own garden so he won’t disrupt school as much and you bet your ass this comes with another song! The teacher finds out about this very quickly and it’s making the kids not focus on school work so the hippo is bad.

I see even in 70’s Africa, the school system was out of wack. Even the parents get in on this!

“If the parents had thought twice about it, they wouldn’t have burned Hugo’s garden”

Yeah, no kidding.

“So as angry parents sometimes do, they used force instead of reason”

I don’t think this movie should be making fun of things happening for no reaso.n Hugo Is now alone, which the cute song tells us about. These songs are really killing any mood they’re going for.

Hugo goes around eating stuff from farms, which upsets the people. It’s almost like driving him away from a garden made for him was a bad idea!

The evil adviser hears about this (one town’s farms being ruined must be huge news) and figures out it’s Hugo, so he heads down there to take care of it. He lures Hugo into a trap so he can kill him.

It works and now Hugo has to face evil giant veggies. ….At this point, I don’t even question it.

We get a pretty amazing epic chase scene through the one color backgrounds that seems to last for ages. Honestly, nothing I can say can do this scene justice, you gotta watch it for yourself.

When all that fails, the bad guy just throws Hugo in a cage. But he’s surprisingly fair as Hugo gets a fair trial. Yep, this is now a court movie, because why not.

It doesn’t go too well until the Sultan shows up, as he was called over to hopefully free Hugo. He realizes how this is all their own damn fault, so at least there’s finally one smart adult in this movie.

With a speech, he’s able to sway the judge somewhat. Hugo is found guilty but the children are sentenced to replanting the garden so that Hippo can be fed correctly.

Well, that was a climax I suppose, at least we’re almost done with this insanity. The evil adviser runs away and the people realize killing animals is bad.

…So uh, did the sharks ever come back after the hippos were killed?

Hugo gets a happy ending with the kids despite the dead dad we forgot about, and of course we get one more song about how amazing Hugo is. After the kids are doing singing, the credits finally roll.

Well, that was an ending. I was expecting something more insane but but I was also expecting something rushed so I can’t say I’m totally surprised here.

Final Thoughts:

This movie isan odd one, but for different reasons than I was expecting. Honestly, the story itself is fairly mundane and somewhat simple in the end, just with weird lore thrown in.

The main thing that makes it weird is the style, as the animation gets really trip-y. There’s some odd concepts too like the Nazi Sharks but it’s mostly the style itself that stands out.

The pacing is the biggest problem here, as many scenes go on for far too long, and not even just the song sequences, although those are the biggest offenders.

It’s weird because you think they’d use the time to get me to care more but I really don’t. Hugo’s cute and all but even killing off his dad doesn’t exactly register much emotion. I’m not quite sure what the overall story was supposed to be, the cute kid stuff kind of clashes with the 1st act.

The acid trip stuff really feels like an attempt to cover up the lack of substance. It kind of works as it makes the movie more enjoyable despite the padding but it doesn’t exactly make for a good movie.

As far as ironic viewing goes, it’s enjoyable enough, but can drag at points and even isn’t terrible enough to be one of the greats. I’d actually put it more in the mediocre kids movie category, with some crazy backgrounds and racist looking Africans. Also, Nazi Sharks.

That’s why it stands out from something like The Treasure Planet. It’s just a simple story padded to hell with weird visuals than a full on crazy-fest so like so many movies like it.

As a whole, it’s just kind of meh with some odd-ness that makes it enjoyable for people like me. It’s mostly harmless and not horrible, so it’s not going to stand out as one of the worst things I’ve reviewed.

I was let down compared to how it was built up, but ah well.

Rating: Meh

Well, that was something. I think we should head back to this decade for next time, maybe with a company that is more prestigious. But maybe not with one of their greatest outings…

See ya.

Posted in Animation, Scene by Scene Reviews | Leave a comment

Kenan and Kel-Get the Kel out of here/Freezer Burned

Hello, Spongey here.

It’s been a while since our last TV Review, eh? Our last live action one anyway. Truth be told, my interest in those isn’t as high as with my other kind of projects. I’m running out of things to really say about these sitcom episodes at this point.

There’s enough for me to still do some but truth be told, you will be seeing even less in the future. I think I’ve said more than enough in general so it’s not as vital that I do a lot of them. I’ll still do some positive ones and cover their holiday episodes, nut the negative scene by scene reviews of them may dwindle. Hopefully ya’ll don’t mind. But I still got some up my sleeve, so lets go back to the 90’s with Kenan and Kel!

I talked about this show a few times and went into what I like about it, especially when it came to an episode that came from my better versions of bad episodes post. I watched all of it semi recently and I find it generally holds up well.

It’s simple stuff but it works for that reason, with the leads having good chemistry. However, it got more hit or miss starting with the third season. Yeah, this is one of those shows. It was still decent but the antics got too be a bit too much sometimes and the comedy didn’t always land as well.

Mostly when it came to Kel. Early on they managed to make him dumb in a likable and funny way but as time went on, they started making him just do…things for the sake of it and it got annoying. This isn’t to surprising given what kind of show it was but it still wasn’t that fun.

Today we have two examples of that. Double feature time, bitches! Neither episode is horrible, but both are pretty poor and show off the main problems this show could run into. I’ll explain more about them we get into it…so let’s get into it.

Our first episode is actually from Season 2, showing signs of where they would later go with Kel. This,is Get the Kel out of of here

Writers: Dan Schneider and Kevin Kopelow & Heath Seifert (Hey look, it’s the future creators of Austin & Ally!)

I love that title. This will be a bit different, as we’ll be generally skimming over the recap portion. This episode has so little really going on that the usual approach make lead to me repeating myself too much, so we’ll so go through this one more quickly than the other one.

Anyway…Aww, here it goes!

The set up is that Kel gets Roger comically injured one too many times, so he kicks Kel out of his house. So of course he’s got a find a way back in. You can probably guess the main problems here.

But honestly, I don’t mind Roger getting hurt a lot for the plot. It fits the wacky tone of the show and his reactions can make some of his misery somewhat funny. This episode is on the better side of things I’ve reviewed as some of the antics do work.

I like the part where Kel pretends to be a delivery man after a failed attempt, because clearly no one is falling for it at all. Now that’s funny. This is disconnected from the actual story, but there’s a part where Kenan is at work and keeps getting calls from someone looking for a Winiona, and Keanan keeps having to reject the caller.

Then Chris comes in with cousin Winona who is expecting an important call. Things like that were pulled off pretty well, but a lot of the rest falls flat. While Roger’s torment is generally not the worst, there are naturally some parts that feel like a bit much.

Roger tripping on Kel’s roller skate? Fine. But then when Kel walks in on him getting a message, he sees the guy doing it a bit furiously, so he thinks he’s being attacked and leashes out, leading to the thingy Roger is on getting outside and going into traffic!

Jesus, even for this show that’s over the top. It’s the incident that causes Roger to kick hi out and at that point, I can’t blame him. While Roger is a over the top angry, he’s not really that unreasonable. He’s hotheaded, not really a big dick. Especially given what Kel does to him.

Kel’s actions do come across as accidents and his stupidity isn’t even the worst, it just feels like he refuses to realize the consequences of his actions. At no point does he really even apologize or try to flip out less.

There’s no real progression in the story, things just happen until they don’t. As funny as that delivery man scene is, that whole section in the kitchen goes on for too long, with 3 separate attempts to get back in.

They should have varied it up more so it didn’t feel as repetitive as it is. And there’s a scene at a restaurant, so clearly they could vary things up a little bit. Anyway, I don’t feel they pushed the story as far as they could have.

I mean, Kenan can still see Kel, he just can’t visit the house anymore. That sucks but it isn’t that big a deal, so I fee like the stakes aren’t that high. Maybe if they couldn’t see each other at all, there would be a bigger reason for all this.

You could still have simple antics, you could just add more with them trying to see each other in secret in something. Instead, Kel pleads with Roger at the restaurant and tries to tug on our heartstrings. A bit too hard , as they play the “D’aww” track and it’s just sort of shrugged off.

This show could mix in heart in a couple episodes but this sadly isn’t one of them. Especially since this is followed by him messing up again by getting hot pork sauce all over again. Oh joy, another nice moment ruined by a joke. I didn’t see that coming.

Usually it would end here, with that being out climax but it continues on from there. I thought this was to redeem the episode but instead this is all pointless.

Kel tries to put something in their room as an apology, I already forgot what it was. Comedy ensues and he is caught, leading to him jumping out the window. Roger jumps in after him…and then the episode just kind of stops.

Yeah, it doesn’t really edn. It reaches a climax, then ruins it and moves only to stop on a random note. I’d say there’s no resolution, but in the wrap up, Kenan reveals Roger hit his head and forgot the whole episode.

“Boy, that’s convenient!”

…I’m not even mad, I’m just rolling at my eyes at how dumb that was. The structure of this episode is just off. It has the set up needed for a classic Kenan and Kel episode and has a few funny moments but the 2nd half especially drops the ball.

This could have been a nice but wacky episode and instead they waste time and it has a botched climax and a non ending. It’s not as bad as it could have been with the torture or even Kel’s derailment, but it just winds up being a waste of an idea.

Kel isn’t too horrible, he just fails to really own up to his mistakes and the end, nothing really matters. Being a wacky comedy, there doesn’t need to be a grand statement but I do expect more of an ending.

I’m ready to move on to the other episode, as we’ll pick up this discussion in the final thoughts. But first, I should mention that when he’s hiding under the bed in the parent’s room, there’s a gag where he has to close his eyes while Mom undresses.

…Okay, moving on!

Next, is Freezer Burned

Writer: Jerry Colker

The episode proper starts at home as Chris is hang dinner with the family. Roger brings out their dinner, but Kel barges in and knocks it over. Off to a great start, I see.

To his credit, he tries to clean it up but just ends up making a bigger mess, So they’ll go out to eat instead, because that turned out so well in the other episode. They go to a pirate themed restaurant, where their waiter, Pirate Jeffery is amusingly grumpy.

I can’t blame him given Kel keeps wanting to mess with his eye patch and fake parrot. He also freaks out when he’s told pirates aren’t around anymore, in another example of his stupidity being pushed a bit too far. Quick, distract me with a pointless celebrity cameo!

”Dr. Joyce Brothers!”

That’ll do. Wait, who? I feel bad for not bowling who this is, given she passed away in 2013 apparently. It’s kind of neat, but a bit random. Did kids in 1999 know her better or what?

“She gives people advice and stuff”

“Yes, my advice to you is get your foot out of my mashed potatoes”

Okay, that was funny And yes, Kel showed off his bare feet. ….You sure Dan Schneider only wrote the other one? Oh shut up, you were thinking it too.

With still no freezer in sight, Kel takes on a challenge where he drinks a big thing of grog (Orange Soda Grog, of course) in under 10 seconds. I like seeing the others cheer him on at least but the downside is that now he has to pee.

He tries to go to the bathroom but knocks down the arrow leading to it (man that thing is not very strong if Kel can just bump it off like that) and when told to follow it, he ends up in the freezer.

Good, we made it to the premise a mere 10 minutes into this 22 minute episode. We’ve got a bottle episode here but it’s not a good one. It doesn’t take long for them to notice Kel is gone, so Kenan heads to the “Bathroom’ and is now locked in too.

Oh yeah, Kel knocked off the handle because he doesn’t want to be useful in any way today. So now we get a revolving door of people coming in only to get locked in too, starting with Pirate Jeffery.

It’s less funny then it sounds, it’s the same joke repeated over and over. There are a few funny reactions from Jeffery and this one guy who immediately loses all hope though. It takes too long for them to start trying to get mileage out of this premise, instead opting for Kel is dumb and useless jokes.

Eventually almost everyone is there and tries to focus on surviving/getting out. Their first major idea happens when they find a dial to turn up the head but Kel tries it so he breaks it. These jokes that prove Kel is a waste of human space doing it for ya?

Eventually they actually keep the door open when someone comes in but Kel briefly leaves on his own and when he remembers the others, he lets the door close. This is more of a genuine mistake but at this point the joke is officially old.

At least in the other episode, I could feel some slight sympathy and he only hurts one person. Here, you can’t blame everyone else for ganging up on him. Even Kyra (who has a crush on him) turns against him! That’s how bad he is!

“This isn’t Kel’s fault. He does this sort of thing all the time”

I don’t see how this is in any way a good defense.

Joyce tries to be calm get and everyone to stop being so hostile, until she gives up and joins in. Now i’m agreeing with mob mentality, I hope you’re happy, writers of a kidcom who likely don’t care what some grown man has to say about your work.

Thankfully, Chris comes in and the door stays open long enough for them to leave.

“Thanks for the memorable evening, Kel!

Most of them leave, living only Chris, Roger and our heroes left and woops, the door closes behind them and they are back to being locked. Wah wah, what an annoying but sadly predictable ending.

Yes, that’s the end. I’m not even surprised. Kel is forever useless, hooray.

Final Thoughts:

Neither of these were awful, but they were both pretty weak. Both have good set ups for comedy, but ended up being annoying and frankly, kind of boring.

I went into the first one well enough, it has a messy structure and a non ending. The attempts at heart fail because it goes back to throwing story away for comedy. As much as that annoys me, at least own up to it and don’t play that annoying “D’aww” track

The other episode is more traditional but takes too long to get to the premise and is even more one note. Kel still just seems unware of his actions but they push it so much further here, and he never does anything to fix it.

Maybe if he solved the problem in his own quirky way, he could redeem himself while still being the same. Instead, the issue solves itself and he gets them into more trouble. I’ve seen worse idiots in these reviews, but at the end of these episodes, you have to wonder why Kenan even keeps him around.

Both episodes for relying more on the one joke of Kel messing instead of doing more with their premises. The other episode could have explore dynamics we don’t see often or something like that.

The first had a chance to have some nice moments with Kel but even if it wanted to for jokes, it at least could have had an actual ending. It is the funnier of the two. The latter episode has a few funny moments but not that many and they’re not that great.

At least the funny moments in the other worked a lot better for me. Between the two, I’d say Freezer Burned is worse. Yeah, it at least doesn’t try to be more than it is but it also was less funny and a lot more annoying.

Neither is awful but both are pretty weak. I’m getting sick of complaining about these shows focusing more on comedy that ruins the overall story but it’s nice to know it’s not a new problem.

That’s why I’m slowing down, there’s only so many new ways to say that. I didn’t come up with any here but hopefully this look at some duds from an alright 90’s kidcom was of use to you.

Rating: Meh

I think this turned out alright given how repetitive these can get. I plan to finally a Spongey’s Favorite Episodes for Disney Sitcoms so we’ll get more talk about those then at least. Even if you see less scene by scene TV reviews, I hopefully will have plenty of other types of projects for you to “enjoy”.

That is all.

(Oh and Happy Birthday Kenan Thompson. …I swear I didn’t plan that, only found it out the day I was supposed to post this)

See ya.

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General Review: Uglydolls

Hello, Spongey here.

After last week’s billion dollar epic, I think we need a simpler film so today we have an animated film that will give us just that.

This movie is based on a toyline from the early 2000’s that I had never heard of. They seem like sort of a troll doll kind of thing but they seem cute. Ugly cute anyway. They were successful so naturally they got a movie…years after most people would have cared.

It went through a long development, starting as a possible Illumination film before being carried over to STX, with animation by Reel FX. Hopefully they can be a step up from Rock Dog at least.

Truthfully, I wasn’t fully sold on this one since it looked like a knock off of that Dreamworks movie Trolls. I’m going to give it a chance of course, but it was low on my interest list. Although some of the crew got me interested.

Like the director Kelly Asbury, who did Smurfs the Lost Village and Gnomeo and Juliet. Not exactly great movies but they were cute enough and Kelly’s work was solid. This could at least be on that level of ‘fine”.

The only credited writer s no other credits I can find, but the story is by Robert Rodridgiez. Yes, really. He was supposed to direct this at some point but eventually he got booted down so here we are. Given his track record for kids movies, I’m really curious how his version would have turned out.

So, is this adventure as ugly as the title implies? Let’s see.

This, is Uglydolls

Moxy and her UglyDoll friends travel to the other side of the mountain where Uglyville nestles and finds the town of Perfection, a place where everyone is perfect. There they encounter Lou who gathers recruits to train for perfection and ultimately find a child in the real world. Eventually, the UglyDolls learn that being oneself is more important than perfection when Moxy meets lonely perfect doll Mandy.

This movie was pretty eh. It was better than I expected at least, as it is not worth getting that mad over. It’s still not very good though. Starting with the positives, it’s a musical and the songs are actually kind of decent.

They’re pretty “pop”-y and are nothing amazing but songs like the opening number can be fun to listen to. My favorite song was Lou’s villain song, I’m sure this comes as an utter shock to you.

The animation is well done. The look is generic but at least it’s animated well and it looks appealing. It’s not as creative as it could have been but they have some fun in the song sequences, like the Unbreakable song.

As watered down as it is, the message is a fine one and there are some funny moments here and there. The final note was also a nice one, as I expecting it to end on a louder note, to be honest.

But for the most part, this is a pretty standard movie, that will mostly just appeal to kids. That’s fine but for a reviewer, it’s not anything that memorable. For as simple as the story is, the world is weirdly complicated.

Real kids do exist and the dolls in Perfection need to be perfect to go to them,through this portal thing I guess? They act like this makes sense but it leaves me with questions. Certain things get explained but other things leave me scratching my head.

I do like that they give the villain a motivation though, even if it was a bit too little too late. The story goes in the directions you’d expect and the characters are pretty one note. Moxy is is a liklable enough lead and Lou isn’t the worst villain ever, but everyone else was either weak or kind of annoyed me.

This includes a dog voiced by Pitbull. Yes. (Also, Nick Jonas is Lou. Neat?)

Speaking of annoying me, the move tries to hard to be funny a lot of time, and a decent amount of the time the jokes fall flat. There were some hits (I liked the weird “Both sides” joke) but they would often by ruined because they needed a pack in a joke too often.

I was on the edge of giving it a weaker rating but it was honestly just too harmless for me to drop the hammer per say. Yes, it’s pretty surface level stuff and won’t offer adults anything special. But it was “cute” enough at times and in the end I’m just going to forget about this movie in t minus, one day.

I’m struggling to say as much about this one as it is. It’s clearly meant for kids and it’s not too bad as far as those kind of movie. But I’ve been able to enjoy simpler moves before, even the ones from this same director.

This was just very average with some lower moments and a decent soundtrack. Also, nice animation and perfectly okay voice acting. It’s perfectly okay for kids, even if there is far better out there. I don’t wanna go back to the Troll thing…but yeah, Trolls was better.

…But this did have a better soundtrack, so take that for what it’s worth. The rest on the other hand suffers from an overly complicated world that can’t make up for a weak story and weaker characters that spot annoying jokes.

It may have some funny/nice moments, and good songs/animation but as a whole it’s a perfectly okay and forgettable experience. I’d wait for video on this one.

Rating: Average

That about sums it up. Better than I expected but not good either. A bit of step up from Rock Dog at least. I want Reel FX to make movies on their own again, but at least they’ve still improving not very good movies with their craft.

Unless something else comes up, next time we’ll go back to the secret lives of pets.

See ya.

Posted in Animation, General Reviews | Leave a comment