Sunday, May 20, 2007

Shrek the Third (2007)

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Disclaimer: I saw Shrek the Third without having seen the first two, but I think that this provides a better review as to how the movie stands on its own feet. Having seen about half of the computer animated movies that have been released this decade, I was blown away by the visual aspect of my first Shrek experience. Whatever animators the Shrek series is using, hopefully they are getting paid well. The animations look amazingly life-like, and they alone provide an interesting movie experience. The story behind Shrek the Third seems a little cookie-cutter. The king has died, Shrek must find the heir, the heir isn't worthy of being king, a villain takes the throne, madness ensues. What makes Shrek stand out among other animated movies is the amount of immature slapstick humor. There is no shortage of poop and vomit jokes, which I found to be excellent. I could listen to Mike Myers talk in his strange ogre accent for hours (although he still doesn't do the accent as well as Norm MacDonald), and Eddie Murphy doesn't suck as Donkey. Antonio Banderas and Cameron Diaz are both average at best in voicing their characters, and Rupert Everett, Justin Timberlake, and Larry King all fail to stand out as the supporting cast. The Shrek series has received praise for being so different in an industry that produces four and five remakes of the same film and retreads of the same storyline. Shrek the Third, however, seems a good place to bring the series to an end as the story and characters begin to lose their uniqueness. There are no surprises, and the use of many former Disney characters isn't cute or necessary. No one wants to see Captain Hook or Sleeping Beauty again, and everyone wants to see more characters like the wild little Gingerbread Man. I also don’t understand the scoring of the film. How does a Wolfmother song fit into a land called Far Far Away with a frog as king? Unfortunately, like most sequels, part three of Shrek doesn’t appear to live up to its predecessors and shows signs of wear and tear. It doesn't seem necessary at all to have seen the first two Shreks to enjoy the third, and it may be possible that someone who has seen the first two will be more suspect to disappointment. I would recommend, though, that someone who truly enjoyed the first two should take the time to finish the series. Overall, Shrek the Third is funny but not hilarious, and interesting but not captivating.

Good For: Shrek fans, kids, Mike Myers fans

Bad For: sophisticated individuals, mean people

Happy Feet (2006)

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It’s not often that a movie can be incredible for children and even reasonably tolerable for adults. Happy Feet, however, employs a typical animated, children's movie storyline but entwines parable, symbolism, and allegory to bring much more value as a film. Will young kids pick up the deeper meanings behind the characters and their actions? Who knows, but if they do notice anything beneath the surface and begin to ask questions, Happy Feet has considerable value. In the Antarctica of Happy Feet, penguins are all born with a song unique to their personality. The main character, Mumble, is dropped while in the egg and is born unable to sing a note but has better dance moves than Emmitt Smith. His striking difference leads to isolation and persecution, and a cast of interesting characters join him on the resulting journey to find acceptance. None of the characters are as funny as the Penguins of Madagascar, but each is much more complex and contribute more to an evocative story. Happy Feet has an A-list of celebrity voiceovers including Nicole Kidman, Brittany Murphy, Elijah Wood, Hugh Jackman, Hugo Weaving, and even Fat Joe, but none are very noticeable. This may be a plus, though, as none of the characters are looked at as a cartoon version of the person doing the voices. Robin Williams voices a few characters and turns in his least annoying voice-over performance since playing the Genie in Aladdin. The only other notable film by director George Miller was the Mel Gibson cult-classic Mad Max. However, the entire production team also created Babe, one of the best films of the 1990s. Although Happy Feet doesn't quite live up to Babe-status, it is similar in that is an entry in the under-12 genre that appeals to an audience of all ages. Happy Feet has received acclaim and criticism for both subtle and blatant messages about issues such as the environment, but it is Happy Feet's depth as a story and talking point that make it something that should be seen by both children and adults. It isn't just another computer animated movie designed to make money at the box office, and has earned a spot in the conversation with legitimate cinema.

Good For: kids, a date, someone babysitting, hippies

Bad For: people who enjoy littering, zoo employees