Hey Arnold! The Movie (2002)

Just like the similar animated movie of the cartoon series Doug, this is purely for fans of the original cartoon series. I can’t really see any kids (or adults) getting along with this unless they know the original series and have followed it (the various backstories). Yet despite that Hey Arnold! (like other 90’s Nick toons) is very open to all ages because its content is relatable and surprisingly clever at times.

This was probably my fave Nick toon even beating Rugrats, why? Well because (as said) you could relate to it quite well. Many of the stories tend to revolve around real situations that kids deal with in their daily lives. Situations many of us will have gone through at some stage in various ways. The usual stuff like bullies, school, school projects, parents, families, snow days, playing outside with your friends, adventures using your imagination etc…

Along with that is the great array of loud quirky characters which fill this world (Dan Castellaneta voicing grandpa Phil being one of the best). The odd designs for the characters is the main series trait which is admittedly bizarre to look at. I’m guessing they are probably caricatures based on creator Craig Bartlett’s real old school friends and adults he knew growing up. Of course the colourful hand drawn style of the cartoon is one of the lures for me. Really rich, vivid, bold environments that look glorious. Each cartoon has their own unique individual artistic style, but Hey Arnold! is really one of my favourites. Its so pleasing to the eye, makes me wanna live in there (the fictional city of Hillwood).

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As for this movie, its obviously an extended version of the regular cartoon; but alas as usual it can’t quite live up to the original shorter material. The plot is quite a heavy one involving Arnold and Gerald trying to save their neighbourhood from being destroyed by some rich tycoon. This doesn’t really work too well in my opinion as it just seems too much of a stretch for the characters to achieve. At the same time some of the subplots by other characters to stop all this from happening also come across as a bit too daft (yeah I know its a cartoon but still). Blowing a hole in their own street with tonnes of dynamite? The whole tired spy parody angle complete with James Bond-esque characters and gadgets…ugh! How many times must we see that??

The main sore point here is, in the original cartoon Arnold and co often deal with simple kids issues, as I already pointed out. The cartoon worked so well because even though the episodes usually dealt with childish things, they were completely relatable (as already pointed out) and kinda cute. So when you then give these characters tasks to perform that are way out of their depths, tasks that would usually involve adults, it loses that cuteness and relatability. Because no one can really relate to single-handedly taking down huge corporations and being ninja spies.

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All in all it does feel like the writers have had problems trying to think of cute filler to pad out the run time. Even for a kids film its dreadfully average and predictable. I realise its a difficult problem to juggle, trying to remain faithful to the original show but making it bigger for the silver screen. But then what does that tell you? Maybe don’t make a movie out of said material because its not meant for the big screen perhaps?

The new characters are also kinda bland and uninteresting unfortunately. They are voiced well by a stellar cast but they just seem uninspired. All except for the Coroner voiced by Christopher Lloyd, he was quite cool. All the other regular characters are present and correct voiced by the regular cast so continuity is good. Obviously the movie only focuses on a few so many are pushed into the background. Visually and audibly the cartoons style is the same accept for the odd spot of CGI which just about blends in OK.

For the fans to look at this film is to love it. Its as you would expect but so much crisper and more delightful, but that’s about it really. The plot is lame, it feels terribly stretched, they try to cram all the characters into the background, and the little amusing touches have disappeared. All they needed to do was stick to a more kid friendly plot if you ask me, or a continuation from the final series perhaps. Something we (the fans) can all relate to, exactly why the series was so successful in the first place.

5/10

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Finding Dory (2016)

So back in 2003 Pixar released the movie ‘Finding Nemo’ and it was a critical hit. The heartwarming tale of clownfish in search of his young son (also a clownfish) who has been captured by divers, was admittedly a simple and not particularly original one. But with glossy eye-popping visuals and great characters it struck a cord with families. So naturally there was going to be sequel, it was inevitable.

This time around the story is just as simple and frankly just as unoriginal. Firstly we get a flashback to show us Dory’s young fish life with her parents before she finds herself getting lost (seems to happen a lot to these fish). We also see how Dory gets involved with the original movies hunt for Nemo. As an adult fish Dory keeps having these flashbacks about her parents so she decides to try and find them. Naturally this proves challenging for Dory with her memory problem. Nemo and his dad Marlin agree to help Dory on her quest and set out towards their destination of California (where Dory’s last flashback indicated her parents might be). As you can imagine the trio meet up with numerous other fishy friends and others not so fishy; whilst at the same time there is plenty of danger and more fish abducting by humans. So yes in short its literally the same thing all over again.

The first issue for me with this movie is the main character of Dory, she’s hella annoying. Ellen DeGeneres does a fine job with Dory’s voice, I’m not really having a go at her, but the entire character is just God damn annoying. In the first movie its kinda acceptable because she wasn’t the main character, she was the (apparent) comic relief. Here she’s the main character and you just can’t escape her dimwitted, unfunny memory based slapstick shtick. Yes the character of Dory is not funny, there I said it. ‘Hi I’m Dory, have you seen my parents?‘, oh my God shut the hell up!!

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All the other characters are your basic predictable types that we’ve seen a million times over in so many animated movies. The one standout has to be Hank the octopus voiced by Ed O’Neill. For starters this is one of those characters that just looks amazing with incredible detail. He’s been rendered, designed and animated beautifully and showcases a brilliant camouflage trait that gets him into and out of sticky situations. The other thing is the fact he’s voice by O’Neill who is a brilliantly funny bloke that I’ve been a huge fan of ever since his early ‘Married with Children’ days. Hank the octopus is almost like having Al Bundy in a modern kids flick, almost, its close enough for me. But that aside this character is easily the most engaging, the most amusing and the most relatable (even he gets pissed off with Dory). I found myself wanting to see more of Hank and WAY less of Dory.

K let me just come out and say this, this movie is cheap, its littered with so many cliches, predictable set ups and is chock full with moments of bullshit dues ex machina. Everything that happens in this movie, every little adventure, every little sub plot moment, its all full of lame gags and cheap movie thrills. Being a flick about fish you gotta have plenty of water around you see, you can’t really do without water and objects filled with water. So this means the main protagonists are constantly being saved by conveniently placed objects of water of varying sizes. This can range from a water fountain, a cup of liquid, a rock pool, a fish tank, a mop bucket etc…Its so farcical, there is no tension or risk because you know whatever happens next there will be an object of water to save the day. Either that or they constantly get saved in the nick of time by Hank the octopus who also turns up at the most convenient times.

There are so many moments of dues ex machina or just outrightly convenient moments where something or some creature saves the day its ridiculous. As said old Hank pops up outta nowhere on a few occasions to save Dory and co. The brainless bird Becky flies in outta nowhere to save Dory, a mop bucket saves Dory, a fish tank, somehow Hank manages to find a convenient bottle of water just big enough to fit Dory inside when they steal a truck (yes steal a truck). Yep, an octopus drives a truck. Its also at this point I have to ask how this world works anyway. How is it some creatures can speak and others can’t? The giant squid that tried to eat Dory and co apparently doesn’t talk, is that because it was a ‘baddie’ sea creature?

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The icing on the cake has to be the finale where Dory just happens to stumble upon her parents home from outta nowhere! One minute the gang are in mortal danger, it looks like its all over for Dory and her friends as Dory is flushed into the ocean randomly. But you’re never too far away from a steaming great chunk of convenient plot device in this movie. Yep Dory is lost, all alone…but just happens to have been plopped right where her folks live.

OK OK, I’m ranting, I know this is a children’s movie aimed at, low and behold, children. I fully realise I am not the intended target for this movie and I can fully understand how this movie did so well (I guess). Yes the movie looks slick of course and it does offer a good range of creature characters I suppose, but the story doesn’t really have much of an impact, the emotion isn’t there. This is probably because Dory isn’t really as cute as Nemo and Nemo came first, we’ve kinda done this adventure already. On top of that it doesn’t really have much for older people methinks. As we all know these animated movies usually offer tit bits for both the young and old, didn’t really feel that with this one.

My biggest problem is the simple fact this movie (in my opinion) just doesn’t offer anything we haven’t seen before. In the first movie Marlin has to find Nemo, in this movie Dory has to find her parents. So in the third movie will Nemo or Dory have to find their grandparents? Or will Crush have to find his fellow turtles? ugh!!

4/10

Sausage Party (2016)

I read some time ago that it took Seth Rogen a long long time to get any studio interested in making this crude feature. Is that surprising? no not really, considering that adult rated movies have only just come back into fashion thanks to a few other successful flicks (God bless that red and black jumpsuited superhero). Yet this naughty idea is so perfect its amazing it took this long for a studio to green light such a move. Of course the idea of a mocking/spoof/parody of the kids animated genre isn’t new, we did get that with the Shrek franchise, albeit for the family. But the idea of a full on adult animation which openly takes the piss out of the current Pixar/Disney/Dreamworks crop of features is nothing short of sheer genius frankly. I mean come on, who wouldn’t wanna see an R rated movie along the same lines as ‘Toy Story’ or whatever.

So the story is set within the present day I believe, but in this universe all food and drink are sentient beings. It seems that all food, drink, food related products, cleaning products…basically everything you would find in your supermarket, is alive and can communicate with each other (humans don’t see this, all they see are inanimate, lifeless objects). They all live in the supermarket, within their isles which each form small communities of sorts, and cohabit in a universally happy way. They live their lives according to a simple religion or belief, that humans are Gods that will choose them and take them away to a promised land, the great beyond. Of course little do they know that they are in fact being taken away to their doom, to be eaten or used. One thing leads to another resulting in a small band of foods fighting for their lives as they try to discover the true behind the so called human Gods and the great beyond. Are their beliefs true or a complete crock of shit?

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Visually this movie isn’t really anything to shout home about, in fact its pretty basic looking when compared to various other major animated flicks. Yes it looks nice but it kinda reminded more of a straight to DVD type movie if anything. Some of the characters look down right childish like the main protagonist Frank, who is a sausage (or frankfurter?), Sammy the bagel, Teresa the taco etc…These characters (well all of them) are literally food (or whatever) with a set of eyes and a mouth on them, its extremely basic. Not that you could do much more design wise to be honest. Yet some of the characters were pretty good and looked like they had more time spend on their creation. Firewater the old bottle of liquor, Kareem the lavash and the excellent Gum and his little electric wheelchair, clearly based on Stephen Hawking. I think the worst looking character that just didn’t work (for me) was the second main protagonist of Brenda the hot dog bun. I can see how it might have been tricky to give a hot dog bun a face but…man did this character look stupid…and creepy.

But hey who are we kidding here, this movie was never about the visuals, that was never the films main purpose. The movie was always gonna be all about the adult humour, how risqué it could be, how far it could push the boundaries of good taste and general political triggering, you know all the good stuff. On that front the movie is a complete success. Comparisons with South Park are gonna be inevitable here, and I don’t blame anyone for saying so. It is indeed highly amusing to see and hear little CGI animated characters that look like something outta of a kids flick, using brutal profanity left, right and centre. But not just the usual words, oh no, we’re talking an entire spectrum of naughty words and filthy innuendos. Heck at some points its not even innuendo, they just say it and mean it!

‘look how tight I am
I’ve never been opened up before
put your meat in my bun
I’m filling you!

Added to that is the devastatingly accurate contemporary political satire which springs up throughout the movie. For example the use of Jewish food products and Middle Eastern (Muslim) food products all stuck together on one shelf, in one aisle, and arguing over the space allocated to them is both predictable and genius. Yes of course the food characters are all cliched stereotypes and their problems are directly taken from present day issues which is all kinda easy comedy to be sure, but it just works in this presentation. Seeing these cartoonish little characters argue over such issues relating to our current political climate is funny and also highlights how idiotic these issues really are. Its a double whammy of comedy whilst bringing delicate problems to the forefront and shining a light on them. Its like, hey look at this! look how inane this really is.

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Nothing is really safe in this movie with everything attacked and dragged through the mud. You have a box of grits that is clearly supposed to be a black male who is angry at the crackers for taking his shelf space. Various jokes about specific religious groups such as a poke at the Jewish community and Twitter at the start. Firewater the liquor is based on a Native American so there are various digs at immigration along with racism. The entire plot is virtually a play on Christianity, God and the Bible, which is played out in a small hand drawn animated sequence which explains how foods see humans, the foods beliefs and how they had been tricked for so long. A devilishly simple yet witty attack I might add, brilliantly executed. The start of the movie sees a fantastic parody of the Normandy invasion in ‘Saving Private Ryan’ with the various food products getting killed in horrific ways when they all spill from a shopping cart. Obviously I’m not saying the Normandy invasion is anything to be amused by, but the parody here was very clever. And lastly of course all the characters you see, as mentioned, are outrageous racist stereotypes, unashamedly so.

Even when you think things couldn’t possibly get any more offensive, whammo! the finale slaps you across the face with an all out sexual orgy. Now you might be thinking how cartoon food products having sex could possibly be dirty or X-rated, well its possible. Don’t get me wrong its nothing that’s gonna blow your mind if you’re an adult, but watching a piece of fruit suck off a turnip, or seeing a banana getting wanked off is…pretty bizarre frankly. It doesn’t so much look X-rated, its the simple suggestion that’s X-rated, and funny. But why is it even in here? It doesn’t really add or bare any relevance to the plot. Well just because they can I guess, because they were able to get away with it, so there.

But overall is this an actual good movie or simply a case of morbid curiosity in seeing animated filth and profanity. To be honest I’d say the latter and that’s because unlike South Park the characters aren’t really engaging and the film lacks depth and scope. I didn’t really like or care about the characters, they were just there to tell the story and get killed horribly. As for the story, well its obviously really stupid, sure the cutesy parodies are well done and all but lets be honest here, its idiotic. But overall this was indeed a simple case of watching a movie just to see what all the fuss was about, to see cartoon pieces of fruit n veg swearing and fucking each other. To see racism and sexism played out in your face, with silly characters, and having an excuse to laugh at it. In this current political climate I think this movie does wonders by allowing people to simply (hopefully) let off some steam, sit back, relax and just laugh at this nonsense. So yes its a relatively clever flick which offers up fun chunks of controversy which you can enjoy, but its nothing more than that really. Beyond the headline grabbing controversy its a bit of a one-trick pony really.

7/10

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