Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Animated: Madagascar and Robots

I was going to throw Howl's Moving Castle in here, too, but I haven't gotten there yet - back-to-back cool series at the Coolids and the Brattle have more or less eaten my movie-going time. I enjoyed both, though they really solidified my belief that animation absolutely must have interesting, consistent design above almost everything else. As much as I like the story and voice-acting in The Incredibles, I really don't find myself terribly fond of the way the characters look


* * * (out of four)
Seen 28 May 2005 at AMC Fenway #12 (first-run)

For some reason, the folks who make movies for kids seem to think they need a bunch of secondary characters. The cynical will claim that this is done for the sole purpose of selling more tie-in merchandise, and they've probably got a point. There's no particular need for the hippo or the giraffe in Madagascar, for instance, and neither likely will be anybody's favorite character, but neither actually takes anything away from the movie, which winds up pretty entertaining as a whole.

I won't lie and say it's as good as some of DreamWorks' previous animated features. It's closer in tone to the likes of SharkTale than Antz; the early indications that DreamWorks would grow into a more sophisticated, adult-oriented animation studio have pretty much been dashed (with the exception of their occasional anime acquisitions). A quick look at the character designs for this movie will tell anybody watching everything it needs to know about the intended target audience. This is a movie for kids, no matter how many adult-oriented pop-culture references or celebrity voices the filmmakers include.

Read the rest at HBS.


* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 29 May 2005 at Arlington Capitol #2 (second-run)

Look at that title: Robots. I'll be that one word was bulk of the pitch to Fox, too. As in "do you know what's a natural for a computer animated feature? Robots." After all, they've got no hair, are made up of pretty basic geometric shapes, and can believably use simple color schemes; that has got to save on the processing power. Of course, Robots is hardly the first digitally-animated feature to suggest that sort of origin. Consider Toy Story, Antz, A Bug's Life, or SharkTale (which ironically started life with a more story-oriented name, "Shark-Slayer").

The thoroughly mercenary origins suggested by the name don't disqualify Robots from being a good movie. Director Chris Wedge realizes his robot world as a place of bright colors, whimsical architecture, and a delightfully retro-futuristic design sense. It would be an even better movie if some of the five credited writers had stretched, coming up with something really unique and more consistently funny.

Read the rest at HBS.

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