Resident Evil: Vendetta (JP, 2017)

So apparently Capcom said this animated feature would be a reboot of the animated series, but then it turned out to be a sequel. It was in fact the tone of the film that would be rebooted, and that is clear to see. Both the films poster and introductory sequence are clearly harking back to the very first game with the large scary mansion in the woods angle. Indeed the films opening sequence involves a team of BSAA agents (with Chris Redfield) storming a dilapidated mansion in Mexico. Their targets are the films new villain, Glenn Arias and the hostages he has taken. This whole brief intro is basically the original Resident Evil game but with one problem, its completely unnecessary.

We get to see the new villain and his sidekicks, and we get a small idea of his dastardly plans. Other than that its all a waste of time and obviously in there to lure in the fanboys with promise of some classic Resident Evil action. After this its essentially back to business with the rest of the film, and by that I mean lots of hi-tech locations and explosive action. If you were looking for a more classic, slow creeping, suspenseful horror feature set in a big mansion, look elsewhere I’m afraid.

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The story for this umpteenth incarnation in the franchise revolves around Glenn Arias, a shady arms dealer who was targeted by an unnamed government for termination. Unfortunately the bomb they dropped on his wedding (kinda ruthless) killed everyone but Arias, and now he wants revenge. His revenge comes in the form of wanting to turn everyone into zombies through a new virus that lies dormant within its host until triggered. Luckily Redfield is joined by Leon S. Kennedy and Rebecca Chambers to save the day (but no one else it seems).

The story is an unoriginal one but that is hardly much of a surprise. The real problems arise in the fact that this plot is supposedly set in between the events of Resident Evil 6 and 7. So if you don’t play the games (which I don’t) then you may have a problem knowing all the ins and outs. That was the first major issue, the next major issue was the connection to the previous animated movies (‘Resident Evil: Damnation’ and ‘Regeneration’). Is there any connection? Is this an actual sequence or what? Well truth be told I don’t know because its been so long since I saw those films I can’t recall. All the films have Leon as the main protagonist so I’m gonna assume each one is simply a chapter in Leon’s long running battle against zombies and whatnot. But no I do not believe this is a direct sequel to the previous animated movies. In all fairness this film does stand on its own well enough to get around those issues.

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But alas there are more issues. The new A-virus lies dormant within the host until triggered, but what was the trigger?? It was also mentioned that the triggering can happen by accident, how? This new virus can also be transmitted by air and water so surely that would make it almost impossible to contain. Chambers manages to whip up a vaccine against the virus which works, so then Arias just formulates another virus to beat that vaccine, whilst creating his own vaccine. This all happens pretty quickly which just seemed stupid. But the one thing I didn’t get was if the virus needs to be triggered, why do people just turn into zombies straight away when they come into contact with the virus? I think the newer virus Arias creates bypasses the trigger part but I’m not entirely sure.

But its not just the plot that is weak, the character are poor too. Arias doesn’t really have much clout if you ask me. OK an unnamed government killed all his family and wife-to-be, but why not just kill that government body? Why kill everybody in New York? He also kidnaps Chambers at one point because she looks like his dead wife. But what was his plan with her? Did he fancy her? Did he wanna use her as bait? A guinea pig for his new virus? Its also just a bit too ridiculous that one of his sidekicks just happens to be an ultra sexy female, in a shiny black skintight catsuit. His other sidekick is a massive Bane-like character with a metal mask and metal gear bolted onto his body. Sure these two characters look really cool but come on…cliched much? We do actually find out these two were at Arias’s wedding when it was hit, so I guess that’s why they are now both ùber villains. Not sure why the female has decided to dress in a skintight catsuit though. Also not sure how the man managed to become a ginormous monster but hey its Resident Evil.

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Both Leon and Redfield are invincible soldiers who simply cannot be beat. Both are martial arts and weapons masters who can run into a horde of undead zombies and beat them without breaking a sweat. Who needs backup? just send in these two and watch them defeat an army of zombies. Leon also spends much of the finale on a motorbike because…it looks cool? There is no other real reason for this, oh and neither of them ever change their clothes. Whilst on the other hand Chambers starts off as your stereotypical scientist, and ends up as your stereotypical damsel in distress with nothing much in between. We again see the return of the infamous zombie dogs as a pointless nod back to the classic original game. Were these zombie dogs always as powerful as they are here? Running as fast as a motorbike at top speed and crushing cars when they land on the roof??

In the end it all builds up to a climatic battle between Leon, Redfield and Arias/tyrant Arias (yes tyrant because…Resident Evil). This battle literally transported me back to 1992 with all its ludicrous slow motion bollocks and operatic gun gymnastics (my God the gun gymnastics!). Yeah there are slow motion snippets throughout, and they’re all terrible, but this finale took the biscuit. Lets not discuss the large rifle type weapon that when used, can actually take down an entire line of skyscrapers. How many innocent folk died in that moment??

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I guess the real problem here is, like previous Resident Evil games and films, its just not Resident Evil. I think now people are really craving a feature that recaptures the original game from back in 1996. I think people are tired of the insane gun-toting action. This film teases us with the classic approach but then U-turns and goes back to the usual shit. But the question is, have we all moved on from that original concept way back in 96? Is that concept now too dated, too cliche?

My final thought is also a cliched one. Although the CGI visuals in this feature are very impressive, very slick and shiny, you still have one age old problem. And that’s the fact it all just feels like you’re watching a very long in-game sequence from a videogame. You just can’t get away from this mainly because in-game videogame sequences are basically mini-movies these days. Obviously there was a time when a CGI movie was very special because videogames couldn’t match them. But now its all very different, thusly a film like this feels boring because you feel like you should be interacting with it. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a terrible flick, its just very average and way outta touch. I’m not sure if die hard fanboys will like this, they might be disappointed.

6/10

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The Boss Baby (2017)

Holy crap another movie adaptation of a children’s book, picture book. This has to be one of the most bizarre premises I’ve come across for a children’s book in some time, well at least until the end where all is somewhat explained.

So basically you’ve got this family of three, mum dad and their little boy Tim. Tim is as happy as can be with his life because he gets lots of love and attention from his parents. But things take a turn for the worst when his mum and dad have a baby. Much to Tim’s amazement the baby arrives in a taxi, wears a suit, and he can talk. Almost straight away the baby throws Tim’s life into disarray without his parents noticing.

It turns out that the baby (called ‘the boss’) is actually a baby but works for a mysterious company called Baby Corp. Here all babies have the minds of adults and work to keep infant love at a good level. Basically when people are born some are sent to their families but others that show a different state of mind are held back to work for Baby Corp, or something like that. These adult minded babies have to drink a special formula that keeps them as babies forever, if they stop they will grow old. Meanwhile, all other babies that go to their families, do retain memories of Baby Corp though their pacifier (dummy). But when that pacifier is eventually taken away (by the parents) they lose those memories. Utterly bizarre I know.

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This premise raises many questions though. Does this mean that all the babies in Baby Corp are immortal? Surely it does because if they never stop drinking the formula they never grow older. Where is Baby Corp suppose to be exactly? When a baby is held back to work for Baby Corp, what happens with the family expecting that baby? Its also mentioned at one point by Tim that his parents told him where babies come from. But as Boss baby points out that is incorrect, so how come adults have never noticed the fact that no one gives birth? I guess you could say I’m reading into this too much, but these questions do kinda spring out at you.

Lets look at the villain. This guy used to be one of Baby Corps top babies, but apparently he was lactose intolerant so the special formula didn’t work properly on him and he grew up. OK fair enough, but how come he can still remember Baby Corps? I thought babies lose that memory without their pacifier. Was it different for him because he used to be a CEO of Baby Corp or because he had been using the special formula or something??

I must admit the plot behind this movie was way more convoluted than I ever imagined. I just assumed it would be about a baby that acts like an adult behind its parents backs, kinda like an animated ‘Look Who’s Talking’ type thing. I mean the casting of Alec Baldwin was a good move that’s for sure. If there’s anyone who has the perfect temperament for being a suit trapped in a babies body, its Alec Baldwin. Hell Baldwin is intimidating enough just by looking at his face, he constantly has that angry dad expression on his face, the scary boss with a short fuse. So spot on voice casting there.

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Visually the movie is a treat but that’s nothing new these days. But what I did find more interesting were the short imagination sequences that Tim has when he’s playing. These sequences had a different, more simplified artistic style (kinda reminiscent of some old WB cartoons) with a much more vibrant, almost neon, colour palette. It was these sequences that I found to be way more intriguing and enjoyable than the rest of the actual movie. I especially liked the artistic style and colours used, really bold and striking. Other positive moments I can mention, a nice little ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ homage, and even more bizarrely a homage to the old classic kids board game Mouse Trap (80’s kids will know of this). Where on earth did that come from??

So yeah, its pretty to look at, the voice acting is solid and its amusing in places. I liked it when Tim was battling with the baby, from his parents point of view its seeing the duo merely playing, but its actually a battle. The sequence in the back garden with the pedal car is the perfect example of that. In general its a very average outing really (with a peculiar plot). A standard modern CGI kids flick with all the right boxes ticked.

6/10

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The Lego Batman Movie (2017)

What am I gonna do, get a bunch of criminals together to fight the criminals? That’s a stupid idea

So in the Lego universe, an unknown distance (at this point) away from what we witnessed in the first Lego movie, the city of Gotham exists. Within this city Batman and his allies battle the forces of evil on a regular basis, except on Sundays maybe. The forces of good have gotta have a day off right?

Well as usual it looks like the Joker is at it again with his criminal cohorts and their naughty antics. Whilst trying to detonate a bomb under Gotham City, Batman and Joker face-off. Unwittingly Batman appears to destroy the Joker’s delicate feelings when he starkly informs the Joker he isn’t his arch nemesis. In fact he doesn’t even need the Joker, the criminal isn’t as important in Batman’s life as he thinks. This hurts the Joker more than anything that has come before and causes him to review his strategies. The Joker plans to show how important he is to Batman, how vital he is in Batman’s life, and this will require a cunning plan of deception.

What I really loved about this movie was the raw exposure of Batman’s life, his true existence. And by that I mean the fact he’s essentially a bit of a loser, a loner, clearly narcissistic, a manic depressive, has maybe a touch of OCD and is quite possibly a bit unhinged. Bottom line we see right away that Batman does indeed need his enemies to survive, he does indeed need the Joker to give his life purpose. This is highlighted fantastically with the sequences in the Batcave where we see vast open spaces filled with technology and gadgets that could be used by a team of superheroes. Then again in Wayne Manor where we see Batman rattling around in large echo filled rooms all by his lonesome, except for the aging Alfred.

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I loved the small bits where we see Batman preparing his lobster dinner, then eating it on his own. He then proceeds to his own personal cinema to watch his favourite Tom Cruise movie (‘Jerry Maguire’) on his own. His laughter again echoes around the empty room exposing his self-imposed solitary confinement. Its also during these sequences we start to see some of the sweet references to all the previous Batman movies. Admittedly they did kinda look the same (unavoidable) but I simply couldn’t help but smile as I saw the brief visual flashbacks from every Batman movie in Lego form (except the 1966 movie which was live action).

Its these references to other movies, TV shows, modern pop culture and the humour that, for me, made this movie so enjoyable. Essentially the plot wasn’t important, it didn’t really need to be, and besides, it was always gonna be the same spiel anyway. This movie was basically a chance to look for easter eggs and have a laugh, and with that I wasn’t disappointed. This movie is loaded with obvious and not so obvious nods to so many things. I liked how in between some scenes we saw the classic spinning Batman logo from the 1966-68 Batman TV series.

The legendary shark repellent makes an appearance (again from the 66 Batman movie). There are naturally many recognisable Batman suits to be seen in the background at various stages. At one point we see the Burton Batmobile and Nolan Tumbler. The classic John Williams 1978 ‘Superman’ score is used very very briefly and we also get visual nods to Jor-El (in Brando form) and Zod (in Terence Stamp form). There are many lines of dialog from previous Batman movies used here such as ‘where does he get all those wonderful toys?’. There are also many many tiny nods with names being used, visual appearances, links to comics and the animated series etc…I could go on.

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Another thing that I really loved was the inclusion of so many supervillain characters. Something that could normally be seen as a bad sign and set off alarm bells, works just fine here. Why? because the plot is daft and meaningless and its all about the comedy and visual recognition. Yes we see a shit load of villains who have literally nothing to do but be seen in the background or say one line or complete one task. Who cares! in this movie it just doesn’t matter because its literally like watching a child play with his toys (ala the first Lego movie). The fun part is firstly just seeing all these wacky characters in Lego form, secondly then Googling their Wiki to find out more about them. Zebra-Man? Kite Man? Clock King? Condiment King? Calendar Man?? Seriously??? I love it!!

One little niggle though, something I didn’t really get or like. All the villains in the Phantom Zone were villains/baddies (dinosaurs?) from other movies such as ‘Jurassic Park’, ‘Gremlins’, ‘Harry Potter’ and the old Universal monster movies of the 20’s – 50’s. Why? I don’t get why they used these characters because it kinda took me out of the whole superhero vibe of it all. Of course I know its because Lego covers virtually everything and if they can use the license they will, but I just didn’t like that idea. Why couldn’t they just use more from the huge catalog of DC characters? And why wasn’t Zod, Ursa or Non used as main villains? They show Zod but don’t utilise him which was an odd choice frankly. I’d much rather see him used than Dracula for heavens sake. Also, why does the Joker look more like a demon? He has pointed teeth and again an odd choice in hairstyle.

This did all lead me to ask myself one thing though, seeing as the first Lego movie established this Lego universe as merely a young boys imagination (I believe that’s how it went if I remember correctly). Does this mean that everything in this movie is also merely a young child’s imagination? Would it be the same child? Seeing as this is a spin-off and linked to said original movie, I must assume its all a child’s imagination at playtime.

Anyway that aside, I did enjoy this movie, more so than the first Lego movie methinks. The voice work from the multitude of actors was again spot on (just like the first movie). Obviously Will Arnett as Batman wins hands down because its just so damn amusing to hear Batman talk about regular everyday stuff in that gravelly macho voice. It all looks sharp, colourful and gorgeous. That Lego stop motion animation is so endearing although a tad frenetic at times, and the comedy overall is pretty much pitch perfect. There’s stuff for the kids, stuff for the adults and plenty of stuff for the fanboys and nerds. Normally I’m not the greatest fan of modern pop culture references and trendy in-film songs, especially on overload. But this movie shows how it can be done well without being annoying.

8/10

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Rugrats Go Wild (2003)

The third movie in the trilogy and we get a big crossover of franchises. From the minds of Arlene Klasky and Gábor Csupó (the same people who brought you Rugrats) came The Wild Thornberrys, yet another popular 90’s Nickelodeon cartoon. This wacky kids adventure series focused on a kooky, environmentally friendly family that traveled around the world making wildlife documentaries. An admirable notion to be sure but I always felt the whole thing was a little too on the nose in all honesty. Trying to tick all the politically correct boxes so to speak.

The family consisted of the young Eliza who could talk to animals. Elder sister Debbie who is more of a regular teen in the sense that she likes more teenage girlie things like fashion, music etc…Marianne the mother, camera woman and editor of the family documentaries. Nigel the father, a zoologist, naturalist and the David Attenborough-esque host of the documentaries. Donnie, a feral boy raised by orangutans in a typical Tarzan manner, who is eventually discovered by the Thornberrys. And lastly Darwin the chimpanzee, the pet of the family with whom Eliza communicates with.

Now I never really watched the Thornberrys, I saw bits of it here and there but it just didn’t click with me. Its hard to pinpoint why as I’m not overly sure why other cartoons of the era did click with me. Whilst the whole cartoon did look very lush and exciting with its wild exotic locations, I think it was hard to relate with. None of the characters ever really grabbed me. I never really related to either of the young female characters as they were obviously aimed more at a female audience (which is fine). Donnie the feral boy was just stupid and annoying, Darwin was off putting simply because he was a chimpanzee and the mother character, again, wasn’t really relatable. The only character that I did kinda like was Nigel mainly because he was goofy and amusing (being voiced by Tim Curry also helped greatly).

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But another reason the characters didn’t grab me was simply down to their horrible look/artistic design. Whilst much of the cartoon is nice to watch most characters were just bland or bizarre looking. The female characters were just generic looking frankly, apart from Eliza who was a bit different with red hair and braces. Darwin was an ugly chimpanzee, nuff said, and Donnie was just a slightly different version of Chuckie from [i]Rugrats[/i]. Whilst Nigel was the best character for me he was also the oddest looking character. This is fine but for some reason he was designed really oddly with a body that was completely out of proportions.

Anyway if you never saw the Thornberrys then this would instantly present a problem going into this movie. You didn’t necessarily need to know the backstory to the Thornberrys to enjoy this movie, but it did help. This is mainly down to simple things like, why is this girl talking to animals? Why is this Donnie kid acting like an animal? How come the chimp can talk…and only to one person? etc…

As for the movie and plot well its reasonable but not stunning. They don’t hang around trying to explain the backstory to everything as I already said, they do expect the bulk of people that watch this will be fans and know the score. So on one hand that’s bold, brave and kinda good. The plot is a bit too straight forward really though. The Thornberrys are working on a tropical island, the whole Rugrats clan go on a cruise vacation but end up in a rickety old boat instead. Naturally they hit a storm and get marooned on this tropical island where, once again, the babies get lost and end up meeting some of the Thornberrys. Yet again the parents have to find and save the babies with the help of the remaining Thornberrys.

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In all honesty there are some quite harrowing moments for kids in this movie. When the Pickles, Finster’s, Carmichael’s and Deville’s get hit by a tropical storm at sea things do get a tad dark at one point. Obviously nothing bad happens but blimey it gets a bit edgy. Then again later on when the babies are all stuck within the Thornberrys minisub at the bottom of the ocean and running out of oxygen, things get really edgy. At this point its made quite clear that they’re all gonna die! Nigel starts reading stories to the babies to take their minds off the fact the oxygen is about to run out and they will all snuff it!

Most of the characters do the type of things they normally do, as you would expect. Chuckie is the comic relief and has plenty of duo time with Donnie. Tommy is brave, Phil and Lil bicker and argue, Angelica is greedy and bullies whilst Susie is a goody goody. All the parents do their usual parenting stuff, Stu being the best of the bunch as usual. The Thornberrys don’t really do all that much seeing as it is a Rugrats flick but Debbie’s valley girl persona is holey annoying and Nigel gets wasted with a case of amnesia which induces a child-like state…which is also kinda annoying. One big deal with this movie was the fact they got Bruce Willis to voice Spike the dog (yes they bring Spike everywhere). I mean sure Willis was and still is a huge star but I don’t see why they needed him just to voice the dog. Didn’t make much difference to anything, obviously just for the buzz.

Third times a charm? well not really unfortunately. Just like the previous two movies this isn’t a bad film, its just underwhelming, too formulaic. Don’t get me wrong it is a bit more off the beaten track which is good, the plot and what we see is more detached from basic reality which falls in line with the TV series (unlike the last two which were very grounded). We still aren’t getting any story based around the babies imagination but at least this plot feels more fanciful, not so straight laced. There are still annoying songs in here but luckily they are brief, shame about the awful cover of Police classic ‘Message in a Bottle’. Everything looks lovely and highly colourful but as usual there is much CGI. In the end it all feels a little bit standard with little effort put in to distinguish itself from the previous two films in terms of basic structure. The crossover was the only neat twist but I just wish they had used a better cartoon franchise like Hey Arnold!

6/10

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Rugrats in Paris: The Movie (2000)

And here we are again with the inevitable sequel to the first average Rugrats movie. This movie would see a dramatic shift in the series as new major characters were added that would carry on with further new series on TV. The main question yet again was, could this movie give us a better plot? Umm…well kinda, I guess, sorta.

So what is the most tried and trusted plot line for a kids movie (adaptation)? Well we saw that in the first movie. Through a set of unusual circumstances the kids get lost in the wilderness and have to fend for themselves while the parents have to find them. So whats the second most tried and trusted plot for a kids movie (adaptation)? Usually its the old change of location gimmick, in other words stick all the regular characters in another country and voila! An Instant flood of safe and easy ideas suddenly present themselves with the obvious cultural differences and of course a brand new look.

So for this new adventure the whole Pickles family (with the Finster’s and DeVille’s) are off to Euro Reptarland in Paris, France because Stu Pickles must fix the giant Reptar robot he built for the Yamaguchi company (parent company of the Reptar franchise). The head of Reptarland (a cold-hearted ‘Cruella De Vil’ type woman called Coco LaBouche) learns that Yamaguchi Industries president Mr. Yamaguchi is retiring and wants his replacement to be good with children as well as good at the job. So with some inside info from the naughty Angelica LaBouche sets her sights on Chas Finster.

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The movie follows a few mini plots as LaBouche tries to seduce Chas in order to gain Mr. Yamaguchi’s favour and his job. Spike the dog gets lost (because of course) and ends up running into a French poodle and falling in doggie love. Chas accidentally meets LaBouche’s assistant Kira who has orders to help LaBouche win over Chas, but ultimately falls for him. And Tommy, Chuckie, Phil, Lil and Kimi (Kira’s daughter) attempt to reach a Princess who, according to the Japanese Reptar origins, tamed Reptar. Said Princess is in fact an animatronic robot in the Reptarland amusement park. Chuckie believes the Princess would make an excellent mother for himself (in the Rugrats world Chuckie’s mother died of cancer just after he was born).

Right so lets get stuck in here. Its unfortunate that this movie hasn’t really cleaned up its act from the previous movie. Instead of going back to the franchises roots so to speak, they have doubled down on everything they did wrong (in my opinion). For starters we have numerous hideous songs again, again with the cringeworthy songs…ugh! Why oh why did they do this?? The cartoon didn’t have songs, it didn’t need songs…why??? Secondly, yet again we have more forced modern pop culture references aplenty along with the obligatory R&B/hip-hop song over the end credits, because of course we do. Apparently every single damn kids movie needs an R&B/hip-hop song on the end credits.

Admittedly this movie does look quite sumptuous I’ll give it that. Clearly a mark up on the original movie in terms of scope, detail and big bold vivid colours. Reptarland certainly does look wonderful with its blend of a typical amusement park (obviously a Disneyland Paris rip-off) with traditional Japanese stylings. That sounds odd I know but believe me its quite beautiful with all the pagodas, people in traditional Japanese attire, famous woodblock print art, giant Reptars etc…It really does make you wanna go to this park. Alas being a modern movie they couldn’t help using CGI…a lot. Again its better and less obvious than the first movie but it still wrecks the whole artistic vibe if you ask me, it just doesn’t fit in with these cartoons.

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Things take a turn for worst again though unfortunately with the pointless and god awful Lady and the Tramp rip-off subplot with Spike. Spike gets lost and roams the streets of Paris eventually coming across a French poodle…that just happens to be female of course. Naturally they fall in love and venture off together through Paris sampling its delights which eventually cumulates in the predictable eating of pizza in an alley. Oh and yes they do rip-off that very famous moment where to duo accidentally kiss whilst eating, oy! In the meantime because Kira and Kimi are Japanese, and Reptarland is in partnership with a Japanese company, everything the families do in Paris is Japanese influenced despite actually being in France. Nothing against Japanese culture, bloody love it! but it just felt kinda weird ya know. But I suppose that did mean we didn’t have to suffer a tonne of stereotypical French cliches and tropes. Although the entire Reptar thing is of course a Godzilla rip-off and you just know they had to include a kaiju face-off (Reptar vs Robosnail).

So in the end once again this movie is much like the first movie and gives us little imagination from the babies. Instead we get another reality driven plot which is merely in place to further the franchise for a new TV series, basically a lot of padding. In all honesty this could have been done in the cartoon series over an extended episode, something they have done many times before, there was really no need for a movie. So instead of something a bit more fanciful from the babies perspective (the whole original premise), its just a humdrum love story with too many mini plots and characters. Its definitely a bit more exciting than the first movie, definitely more gorgeous to look at and definitely has more movie star voice work, but its still lacking and just can’t compete with the cartoon series.

6/10

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The Rugrats Movie (1998)

For anyone not in the know, Rugrats was a highly popular cartoon series which aired on Nickelodeon in 1991 and ran through until 2004. The basic plot behind the series was seeing the world through a babies perspective, from a babies point of view. The main baby in question was Tommy Pickles, along with his small gang of baby friends, Chuckie, Phil and Lil. We follow this little group of babies as they get into all sorts of imaginary adventures and mischief born out of sheer curiosity and wonder.

Like other cartoons on Nickelodeon at the time one aspect of the series that stuck out was the artistic style or look of the cartoon. Most of the characters were generally human in shape and form but over exaggerated, almost like caricatures based on real people. The babies had quite big heads with large eyes and mouths, whilst the grown ups had very distinctive features that were simply overemphasized for a more comical look. The whole cartoon was always from the babies point of view which meant very low angles with everything looking more intimidating and obviously larger. Much like Hey Arnold! or Doug this world was presented semi realistically but obviously in a more simplified manner. The cartoon was generally big bold and colourful but with a more sensible vibe and tone; where as say Hey Arnold! tended to be much more vivid and cartoony looking.

Of course it wasn’t all just pretty visuals, the characters were the main selling point and they certainly hit a home run with these lill fellas. The wholesome, brave, bold, heroic, diaper wearing Tommy Pickles. The quivering ginger scaredy-cat Chuckie, who also happens to be one of the eldest. The cheeky twins Phil and Lil who like to eat bugs and play in the mud. Angelica the spoilt, bossy, blonde brat that is always out for number one. And newbie character Dil the baby, who drools a lot. All the other regular favourites are also present and correct from Spike the dog, Susie the girl from next door, Dr. Lipschitz, Grandpa Lou and all the other parents.

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So as said all of the little plots in the series surround everyday life and events for the babies as they go through life. Naturally this being the first big movie outing for the series the plot has to reflect that and be…bigger, makes sense. This movie sees the introduction of baby Dil which naturally makes Tommy unhappy in time as Dil gets all the attention. Not that Tommy is a selfish character, no,he just feels left out and forgotten. Unfortunately over time Dil pushes Tommy and the other babies too far with his umm…babyish antics, so the gang decide to take him back to the hospital. This leads the babies on an accidental collision course with fate as they get more than they bargained for getting lost in the wilderness.

So essentially this is in fact a very generic plot involving the babies getting lost, the parents finding out and having to go search for them. Along the way we get various cameos from old and new characters and mini side plots including the bratty Angelica searching for her precious doll Cynthia which Dil picked up before hand. So alas its all very routine stuff that doesn’t really push the barrier of originality. Its a real shame since many of the TV episodes have some fantastic little plots utilising the babies imagination and some unique locations. This movie just didn’t use any of that apart from a small (again generic Indiana Jones-esque) intro sequence. For the rest of the time its just too sensible and grounded if I can say that. I didn’t really wanna see the babies out in the wilderness for real, lost, cold and genuinely in danger. None of that felt right, Rugrats should be a much lighter affair.

Did we really need to see the babies getting stuck on a rickety bridge almost falling to their deaths? Did we need lots of eerie circus monkeys running around like evil goblins attacking the babies? When the babies get trapped in a van which crashes of the side of a mountainous road!! Jesus!! Getting tracked and attacked by a wild wolf. Almost drowning in rapids. Lost, cold and hungry in the forest at night with the parents in pieces trying to find them?? It all just felt a bit too much really.

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Unfortunately this being a modern update of the cartoon, so to speak, this also meant other new features which had never cropped up before. Whilst the animation was very nice all round, it just didn’t have the same colourful vibe that the TV series had. Again the more realistic plot lead to a more realistic artistic look with muted colours or more authentic effects. Of course it still looked like Rugrats, but like other famous cartoon TV series (The Simpsons) the earlier series will always stand out as the classic look, the epitome of the franchise. When the animation was a bit ropy but (clearly) packed with lots of tender loving care for each frame. This movie just looks too glossy, sharp and clean. It utilises CGI which stands out a mile and ruins the whole hand drawn look and vibe.

To make mattes even worse they actually added songs into the mix, songs! Let me be clear, there has never been any songs in the TV series…except for the odd plot related occasion. This whole angle just felt like a cheesy tacky way of muscling in on Disney and padding out the movies runtime (to me anyway). There was just no need for crappy songs. But wait there’s more! They even add horrendous R&B/hip hop (whatever they were) tracks to the end credits for flips sake. If anything is the absolute epitome of modern day kids flicks trying to embrace and suck up to ‘new modern culture’ its the use of ghastly hip hop songs in the credits. I wouldn’t mind but at least use these songs for movies that fit them, Rugrats does not require that type of music. Anyone who has seen the TV series will know that.

So as a fan of the series I was ultimately disappointed with this initial outing simply because I know it could of been so much more. Yes there are plenty of little humorous moments, cutesy delightful touches and lots of heartfelt schmaltz, but that’s to be expected. What I really wanted to see was a great big imaginative adventure utilising the babies creativity and hijinks around the house, garden or various local buildings (much like the series episodes). I realise its a hard ball to juggle when making a movie but this just felt way too safe, corny and easy, much like the Doug movie plot. The influx of modern pop culture references, songs, CGI and the scary factor in the plot just takes you out of the movie because its nothing like the TV show basically. This just felt like a misfire to me.

5/10

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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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