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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The Peanuts Movie (2015) Review

The Peanuts Movie (aka Snoopy And Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie) (2015)

Directed by Steve Martino

Based on Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz

Starring Voice Actors: Noah Schnapp, Hadley Belle Miller, Mariel Sheets, Alex Garfin, Francesca Angelucci Capaldi, Noah Johnston, Venus Omega Schultheis, Rebecca Bloom, Marelik “Mar Mar” Walker, Anastasia Bredikhina, Micah Revelli, William “Alex” Wunsch, AJ Teece, Madisyn Shipman, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, Kristin Chenoweth, Bill Melendez

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Snoopy embarks upon his greatest mission as he and his team take to the skies to pursue their arch-nemesis, while his best pal Charlie Brown begins his own epic quest back home.

My Opinion:

I love Peanuts. I adore Snoopy. I’ve been a huge fan from a young age, always reading the comics in the newspapers while growing up and watching all the Peanuts TV specials (which I now have on DVD all sitting proudly next to my husband’s Star Wars DVD collection while every other DVD we have is boxed & put away). Peanuts isn’t as big of a thing in the UK so whenever I see anything whatsoever with Peanuts on it, I buy it. My daughter is always guaranteed to have several articles of Snoopy clothing as I can’t exactly NOT buy her Snoopy clothing whenever I see any. Okay – and I may have several articles of Snoopy clothing as well (mostly pajamas). 😉

My point is this: I’m a huge fan of Peanuts so I was of course extremely worried when I first heard they’d be making a Peanuts movie. I’m not a huge fan of other films made by Blue Sky Studios (things like Ice Age, Rio, Robots, Epic – I can take or leave all of these). I was also really dreading some kind of horrible disaster like those Garfield movies. Then when we first saw the look of the characters for the new Peanuts movie, I had a tiny bit of hope as they stayed quite true to the classic look. I’m so happy that I got to see a preview of this over the weekend as it doesn’t fully come out in the UK until the 21st and….. I’m SO HAPPY WITH THE MOVIE!!!! 🙂

This movie stays true to the spirit of Peanuts and it was nice to watch a movie with my daughter that was pure innocence. They didn’t try to update this in any way or throw in any naughty little jokes for the adults. I hate when they take something classic and try to modernize it for a new generation and that was my biggest fear going into this movie. That occasionally works for some things but, for the most part, modernizing something like this usually ends in disaster as all you’re going to do is piss off the fans of the original and probably still not gain any new, younger fans.

As I say, though, I’m a huge fan so I expected this to be faithful & respectful to my beloved Peanuts. My hubby & I disagreed slightly on this movie as he felt it brought “nothing new to the table”. They still had things like Snoopy using a typewriter & Charlie Brown getting tangled up in an old phone cord so they’ve not brought this film into modern times. I loved that while the hubby seemed to feel that they should’ve brought it up to date in some ways (while still remaining loyal to everything that Peanuts stands for). I don’t know – what does everyone else think? I admit that I’m totally blinded by my love of this group of cartoon characters who’ve been such a big part of my (many) years on this Earth. To me, this movie did things perfectly & I wouldn’t change a thing.

I’m going to wrap this up because 1) I don’t have anything interesting to say because I clearly love Peanuts so damn much that I’d just blather on & on about it and annoy everyone (this is why I’ve reviewed hardly any all-time favorite movies of mine on this blog) and 2) I’m off to see Krampus in a few minutes, which I’m wanting to be the new Gremlins so my expectations are clearly too high as nothing can be as good as Gremlins.

Summary:

As this movie is coming out in the UK so much later than in the US, I’ve completely avoided reading all reviews. I’m assuming that all long-time Peanuts fans breathed a big sigh of relief afterwards as I don’t think we could’ve gotten a movie that was much more loyal than this one.

I’m very glad that it has come out now while my daughter is six because I think she’d maybe be too old for it in another year. I have zero complaints about the movie but, yes – my husband is right in some ways about this movie needing to modernize in order to gain new fans. Today’s kids are quite different from how those my age were when we grew up in the Seventies & the Eighties and they sadly seem to lose their innocence at such a young age now. I love how they chose to not modernize, though, as I don’t think it’s necessary. A big thank you to the filmmakers for keeping the pure innocence of Peanuts alive in this film. The characters are so iconic (especially Snoopy) that there will always be new fans anyway. Who isn’t going to fall in love with Snoopy?? That’s why you still see him all the time. He’s one of the greatest creations in history! (Did I mention that I love Snoopy????!!!! 🙂 Okay, I’ll shut up).

I think it was more important to keep the old fans happy with this one and they certainly managed that with this fan. As for my daughter, I do feel that a part of her is humoring her crazy old Peanuts-loving mother but I did see a big smile on her face whenever I looked over at her during the movie plus she giggled quite a lot at Snoopy’s antics. Trust me, she’s a Snoopy fan at the very least. And Sally! She always giggles at Sally as well.

The Peanuts Movie is “safe” but it’s very sweet without ever being saccharine plus it never feels forced or fake. I think Charles Schulz would be very happy with it. I know I am! 

My Rating: 8/10

**Oh! I was in a hurry so I didn’t add that, luckily, the fantastic Vince Guaraldi music is in The Peanuts Movie. Good grief – can you imagine Peanuts without it?? 🙂

Cosmic Scrat-tastrophe:

This mediocre Ice Age short was shown before the movie. It was… Mediocre! Just like the Ice Age films. Meh. Actually, as far as all the Scrat shorts go, this has to be the weakest. I suppose kids who love Scrat will like it. Should I rate it? Hmm. 4.5/10.