Kung Fu Panda 3, The House Of Magic, Rio 2 & Muppets Most Wanted Movie Reviews

I have four quickie kids’ film reviews for you today! I promise they’ll be quick. Why? Because I barely remember three of them.

I’ve just seen Kung Fu Panda 3 so that review will be a little longer than the rest. You see, I get a little annoyed when I look at the pages on my blog & see that I still have some movies that I watched but never reviewed on the 2014 page & the 2015 page (never mind the 2016 page! I’m way behind). It’s especially annoying that the only movies that I actually went to the cinema to see but then didn’t review were these three 2014 kids’ movies. They were so “meh” that I guess I couldn’t be bothered.

So, here we go! I’ll finally say something about them two years later. I’m limiting myself to one paragraph each for the three older ones (plus my kid’s opinion on each). But let’s start with the longer review for the most current film (and by far the best of the four)…

Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016)

Directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson & Alessandro Carloni

Starring: Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, J. K. Simmons, James Hong, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu, Seth Rogen, David Cross, Bryan Cranston, Kate Hudson

From: DreamWorks Animation

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Continuing his “legendary adventures of awesomeness”, Po must face two hugely epic, but different threats: one supernatural and the other a little closer to his home.

My Opinion:

I actually thought this movie was really good. As far as DreamWorks movies go, at least. I’ve stated here before how I see DreamWorks movies as strictly kids’ films while I view Pixar & most Disney ones as just being great films overall for every age group. Like, I wouldn’t feel weird discussing both WALL-E & Citizen Kane in the same breath. Except, I’ve not seen Citizen Kane… Never mind.

What I liked about Kung Fu Panda 3 is that, while it has a message as does every kids’ movie, it didn’t let the message get in the way of the movie being fun and actually making kids laugh. The previous movie we went to as a family was Disney’s Zootropolis (aka Zootopia) & I did NOT expect to think a DreamWorks film was far better than a Disney one! But that’s the case this time.

Kung Fu Panda 3 hasn’t forgotten that, first & foremost, it’s meant to be aimed at kids. I felt that Zootropolis completely forgot this while trying to drive its message home with a convoluted plot and uninteresting characters. But Kung Fu Panda 3 isn’t dumbed down for kids, either, which is a big pet peeve of mine. Kids aren’t stupid & shouldn’t be treated that way. The jokes were all age-appropriate without being dumb but also not being too grown-up like things such as the Godfather references in Zootropolis.

I have to admit that Kung Fu Panda 3 was even enjoyable to me as an adult who probably wouldn’t watch many animated films not made by Disney or Pixar if I didn’t have a kid. I do love Jack Black (I don’t care about the haters!) and think he’s been perfect as Po in all these films. I think all the characters are strong & really like the setting and the look. In this one, the baby pandas are adorable & even had grumpy me going “aww”. The baddie in this one was also pretty cool, as were his storyline & all the chi stuff. Plus I’m a sucker for the color green. Here’s the baddie:

I’d even go so far as to say that I like the Kung Fu Panda movies the most out of all the ones made by DreamWorks. I find Shrek a little overrated and I’d say that the How To Train Your Dragon films are possibly their “best” work but they’ve never really clicked with me at all (or the kid). But all three of us have enjoyed each of the three Kung Fu Panda movies.

My Rating: 7/10

My Kid’s Opinion: She liked this movie a lot & giggled through the whole thing. She was far more enthusiastic about this one than she was after walking out of Zootropolis, which she called “not very good”. Her favorite part was Po doing his “chitty chitty chat chat” thing that she’s been annoying us with ever since (thanks a lot, Jack Black!). She also loved the baby pandas, especially when they ate everything in sight. She’s not watched the first two films since we went to see them but this one has renewed her interest (and mine!) in watching those again. I’d happily pick them up on DVD now – I think this is a very solid trilogy from DreamWorks.

The House Of Magic (2013) (US Title: Thunder And The House Of Magic)

Directed by Jeremy Degruson & Ben Stassen

Starring: Cinda Adams, George Babbit, Murray Blue, Kathleen Browers, Joey Camen, Grant George, Shanelle Gray, Nina Grillo, Kyle Hebert

From: nWave Pictures, StudioCanal

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The House of Magic is a 2013 3D Belgian-French computer-animated fantasy-comedy film. The film focuses on an abandoned young cat who seeks shelter in the home of an old, retired magician with his automatons and gizmos.

My Opinion:

I admit to not fully remembering the plot of this strange little Belgian/French film (which was in English but I assume originally in French?) two years later. But I clearly remember the kind old magician, the cat he adopts, and the man’s REALLY cool magical toys (automatons and gizmos) such as that adorable lightbulb dude in the photo at the very top of this post. I also remember some great songs being used quite prominently (The Lovecats by The Cure & the always catchy House Of Fun by Madness). It’s not some big Disney, DreamWorks, etc production and that does show but I still thought that the characters, the music, and especially those inventive toys were pretty damn good! I wonder if those who made this have gone on to do more animated films? I’d like to see this sort of thing with a bigger budget. It’s a very sweet & charming film from what I remember. I wouldn’t complain at being made to watch it again.

My Rating: 6/10

My Kid’s Opinion: She doesn’t now remember much of this but does remember all those really cool toys that I mentioned above. She said she’d like to watch it again too (fine with me – I’ll pick up the DVD if I see it).

Rio 2 (2014)

Directed by Carlos Saldanha

Starring: Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg, Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro, Andy García, Bruno Mars, Jemaine Clement, Kristin Chenoweth, George Lopez, Tracy Morgan, will.i.am, Jamie Foxx

From: Blue Sky Studios

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
It’s a jungle out there for Blu, Jewel and their three kids after they’re hurtled from Rio de Janeiro to the wilds of the Amazon. As Blu tries to fit in, he goes beak-to-beak with the vengeful Nigel, and meets his father-in-law.

My Opinion:

Wow. I really remember very little of this except that I think it was about saving the rainforest, right? I don’t remember the first one either – I only know that these Rio movies are very bright & colorful and have some big musical numbers that are okay. This is from Blue Sky, whose movies are quite similar to DreamWorks in that I see them strictly as films aimed at kids and only truly enjoyed by kids. The only Blue Sky one I really liked was The Peanuts Movie but that’s because I’m obsessed with Peanuts & the movie stayed very true to its spirit. Don’t get me wrong – these Rio movies aren’t bad. They’re very pretty to look at & not the worst way to spend a couple of hours with your kid but I don’t think they’re very memorable. I’d have to say that the Ice Age films are a stronger series from this studio as the characters are better. Also, could they get a more annoying set of voice actors for Rio? Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg, Leslie Mann & Kristin Chenoweth(!!)?? Ugh. I think I remember Eisenberg’s bird kids in this being quite cute, though…

My Rating: 5.5/10

My Kid’s Opinion: She says she liked this although she couldn’t remember the specifics of it now. She said “I liked the pink frog!” (Ugh. Kristin Chenoweth.) I think it’s proof that the Rio films are pretty & enjoyable enough while being watched but are ultimately forgettable.

Muppets Most Wanted (2014)

Directed by James Bobin

Starring: Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell, Tina Fey, The Muppets

From: Walt Disney Pictures

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
While on a grand world tour, The Muppets find themselves wrapped into an European jewel-heist caper headed by a Kermit the Frog look-alike and his dastardly sidekick.

My Opinion:

I grew up with The Muppet Show so I of course love The Muppets. Who doesn’t?! The Muppets movie in 2011 (2012 here) was pretty good. It was fun and managed to kind of capture the spirit of the original show (plus I like Amy Adams). But I found Muppets Most Wanted really disappointing even though it was great, as always, to see these beloved characters. The problem was the messy, boring story and the fact that I really didn’t like the main real-life stars. Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell & Tina Fey? How do you go from Amy Adams to some TV stars? Never been a fan of any of them (in fact, who is Ty Burrell anyway? That prick in Dawn Of The Dead??). I just think they made a real mess of this movie – I’ll stick to watching my DVDs of the original show.

My Rating: 5.5/10

My Kid’s Opinion: She remembers this one more than I thought she would! She remembers the plot & the evil Kermit with the mole. She likes The Muppets & says she liked this movie. Maybe I should give it another try…

This is her favorite Muppet-related thing. I agree:

**I’d like to finally take this opportunity to draw attention to a favorite blogger of mine here who does fantastic paintings of The Muppets (and loads of other awesome artwork with a focus on pop culture – but I first started following him because of The Muppets). Please have a look at Scott’s site at Mojoswork.com. You can see all his Muppets artwork HERE.

Scott – I’m sorry it took me two years to finally get around to doing this review! Let me know if you want me to add any more info or if you want me to include a specific Muppets image you’ve done. 🙂 Oh! Scott does a lot of wrestling & sports stuff as well and I thought his History Of The WWF was absolutely amazing despite knowing nothing of that sort of thing myself (MIB – you should really check this out).

I figure I should end this with some Madness since I have House Of Fun in my head after talking about The House Of Magic. I miss this era of music!

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Maleficent (2014) Review

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Maleficent (2014)

Directed by Robert Stromberg

Based on La Belle au bois dormant by Charles Perrault & Little Briar Rose by The Brothers Grimm

Starring:
Angelina Jolie
Sharlto Copley
Elle Fanning
Sam Riley
Imelda Staunton
Juno Temple
Lesley Manville

Running time: 97 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Maleficent explores the untold story of Disney’s most iconic villain from the 1959 classic Sleeping Beauty and the elements of her betrayal that ultimately turned her pure heart to stone. Driven by revenge and a fierce desire to protect the moors over which she presides, Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) cruelly places an irrevocable curse upon the human king’s newborn infant Aurora (Elle Fanning).

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My Opinion:

Saw this today (it’ll be “yesterday” when this posts) and am still trying to decide how I feel about it. Overall, I think it’s pretty good. It starts out very strong then loses its way a little. There were things I thought were very good (Angelina Jolie), things I didn’t like so much (the story felt rushed) and, unfortunately, one thing I really hated (the good fairies). I’ll break it down a bit now and at the very end I’ll say how scary I think it is for those with kids although, of course, it depends on each individual kid & if they’re easily scared or not.

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I’ll start out with the good things about this. The best thing, by far, is Angelina Jolie. I’ve never been a huge fan of Jolie but I have to admit that she’s PERFECT as Maleficent. She looks great in this – they got the look of Maleficent so right. I’m actually a big fan of Disney’s 1959 Sleeping Beauty. I know it’s dated in some ways (Sleeping Beauty herself is pretty insipid) but it’s a lovely looking film, Once Upon A Dream is a truly classic song, I LOVE the good fairies, and Maleficent is SUCH an iconic villain – I can certainly see why they’ve chosen her for her own movie. I don’t think Maleficent as a character is in any way damaged by this film. They’ve done an excellent job bringing her character “to life” in this movie & giving her a backstory and, of course, much more depth than in Disney’s 1959 version. It’s also nice that she’s such a strong female character. And I’m happy to report that Aurora is not so completely useless in this like she is in the 1959 film (although she’s extremely underdeveloped – more about that later).

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As I said, this movie starts out very strong. I really liked Maleficent’s backstory & seeing what turned her “evil”. I really liked the look of the film and was very much enjoying the first half of it. They managed to take a character who is one of the most evil Disney villains and did make her sympathetic. But here’s where we get into what some will like about this movie and others will hate…

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I’m doing my best to keep this review spoiler free but it’s a hard one to discuss in this way. I’ll say this: it VERY much changes the story in Disney’s 1959 Sleeping Beauty. I admit I know very little about the original story but do know that the 1959 film bears little resemblance to it anyway so most everyone, like myself, will be comparing Maleficent to the 1959 Sleeping Beauty. The changes didn’t bother me – I see it as another interpretation. Others may not like it. I don’t know… I think the direction they took was a good one and made it feel less dated and “Disney-fied” (although, it’s fairly obvious where they’re going to go with the story). Sorry to be so vague but I don’t want to spoil anything. However, I will say that Maleficent DID ruin my absolute favorite thing about Sleeping Beauty: the good fairies.

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I hated them in this. They changed their names but kept their “colors” the same. Imelda Staunton was okay but I hated Juno Temple. Too young! I know I know – I’m comparing it too much to Sleeping Beauty in this case but, dammit – I love Flora, Fauna & Merryweather. They’re nitwits but they mean well and you can’t help but like them in Sleeping Beauty. In Maleficent, they’re just plain nitwits & I hated how they don’t seem to even really care about Aurora whereas they loved her in Sleeping Beauty. And they look pretty crap in Maleficent – I hated the look of them when they were small fairies. Ugh. Sorry to go on about this so much but they’re SO unlikeable in Maleficent! What a shame. It’s the only change that I hated, however, and I know that’s because they happen to be three of my favorite Disney characters.The other changes to the story were… Interesting. I liked them fine. But they’re very drastic changes so beware if you’re expecting Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.

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Another problem I had with this was that in making Maleficent a sympathetic character, they went a little too far in making us not care about the other side. Things in life aren’t so black & white, which they’ve proved by taking Maleficent & making us feel for her. But that doesn’t have to necessarily make those against her “evil” either. They spent a lot of time developing the character of Maleficent and did a very good job but, unfortunately, we get hardly any character development at ALL with anyone else. The first half of the film focuses SO much on Maleficent that, by the time Elle Fanning shows up as the 16-year-old Aurora, the rest of the film goes far too quickly and we barely get to know Aurora at all. Her father, King Stefan, well… I don’t know how to discuss him without spoilers either. I also wasn’t crazy about the changes made with his character although I didn’t hate it as much as with the good fairies. I’m just not sure it fully worked. And Sharlto Copley really didn’t feel right for the role. But after such a set up for his character at the beginning, he ends up very poorly developed in the second half of the film. Really, the movie is too short. After such a promising start, the second half felt very rushed and needed far more character development for Aurora & King Stefan at the very least.

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Summary:

Maleficent starts out very strong with a magical look & feel and does an excellent job in developing its title character. Jolie is absolutely perfect as Maleficent – she was born to play this role. But, unfortunately, the second half of the film feels very rushed and all the other characters are very underdeveloped. Still, I think it’s much better than things such as Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland (which I hated), Oz The Great And Powerful (which I hated with a passion), and Snow White And The Huntsman (which I thought was okay). Maleficent definitely improves on these and seems like a step in the right direction but I felt that maybe too many “executive” types were pulling the strings, resulting in a film that was too short and therefore felt rushed & underdeveloped. Maleficent is a great character but I so wish they’d focused on the story and the other characters a bit more as well. Overall, it’s a worthy film and I enjoyed it although it drastically changes the story most of us know from Disney’s 1959 Sleeping Beauty.

My Rating: 7/10

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Is It Too Scary For Kids?

First of all, I’m no expert on kids so don’t come back here & yell at me if your kid was too scared! As always, every kid is different so use your best judgement. This ended up actually not being as dark as I was expecting from the trailer. It’s more tame than the ones I mentioned above (Snow White & The Huntsman and Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland). It’s maybe about the same as Oz The Great And Powerful as far as how scary it is. There are three bits that are maybe pushing it a little (I’ll still try to stay spoiler free here). One is a battle at the beginning and of course the final stand off at the end. These two fight scenes are a little intense but of course you don’t see anything like blood and nothing is TOO violent. In my opinion, at least. A lot of very young kids seem to have seen the Harry Potter movies which, to me, I think are too scary for anyone under 7 or 8. I think Maleficent is far less scary than the darkest Harry Potters. The scariest bit involves a dagger in a scene very similar to 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I’d say this one scene would be the most upsetting to young kids but it’s brief and you’ll see it coming if you want to shield your kid from that one scene. As I say – I’m no expert and you have to judge things based on each individual kid as some scare more easily but I personally don’t think Maleficent is much more scary than some of Disney’s animated movies, which can be very dark. Bambi scarred me for life! 😉