Rons Gone Wrong (2021)

Quick synopsis: A socially awkward child gets a robot friend that is broken.

A lot of people like this film, I’d heard some very good things about it. My opinion? It’s okay. It’s not something I regret watching, and it is better than you may think it would be, but it’s not among the strongest kids films of the year (that probably peaked at the start with Soul and Luca).

It was recently made available on disney+, and I feel that’s a good decision. This film was made for family watching, everyone gathering around a television on boxing day and watching together while they’re too full of cheese to move. And as good as this film is, I’m not sure it will be in the public consciousness this time next year so they had to get it on there now to make use of its recent cinema appearance and positive reviews.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing bad about this film. It has heart, it looks FANTASTIC, and the cast is full of people you love. It has a good mix of people you expect and respect (Olivia Colman), actors you’re kind of surprised but it’s nice to see (Ed Helms), and then some strange choices that you can’t help but love (Ruby Wax).

This isn’t the first film to look at the growing encroachment of technology into kids lives, but it does do it better than others have tried, mainly because it seems to actually understand the technology. Watch something like The Emoji Movie for comparison which seemed like it was written by people who still call all video game consoles “Atari”. The interactions between the characters and technology are so realistic that it seems hauntingly dystopian. The humans themselves aren’t quite as well done on their own though. There are some moments between the characters in this that don’t really feel true, some interactions between them don’t feel earned.

Really the biggest downside is it came out the same year as The Mitchells Vs. The Machines, which dealt with similar topics, also had the main AI developed by a young black developer (Justice Smith in RGW, Eric Andre in Mitchells), and both feature Olivia Colman. So comparisons are inevitable, and when you do that, this can’t help but look weaker by comparison. It’s a shame, as look at it on its own and this is a fine movie. But it does seem destined to the Shark Tale to Mitchell’s Nemo.

Soul (2020)

Two minutes into this I knew it would break me. Somehow I hadn’t even seen a trailer for this so I genuinely had no idea what to expect, I knew it had something to do with music, but other than that, nothing. This is the part where I say “and I’m glad as it meant I went in with no expectations so I enjoyed it more since it was all a surprise). I’m not entirely sure thats applicable here though as I feel that even if saw a trailer, I still would have enjoyed this. It has so much heart and soul (OMG that’s the title of the movie) that no trailer could have ruined this movie for me. It could have put all the plot points in, ruined the ending, used a Black Eyed Peas song, all things I normally hate from trailers. It could have done all of that and I still would have enjoyed the film.

By this point, you know what you’re getting with Pixar, you’re either going to get one of the greatest kids films you’ve ever seen (Monsters Inc, Ratatouille, Finding Nemo), or you’re going to get something that at some point will make you cry like a baby cutting onions while wearing menthol-shooting glasses in front of a stranger. This is the second one, and very much so. I’m not really sure whether this would count as a kids movie, would you show this to a child? It seems you’d only show this to a child if you wanted them to have an existential crisis. Disney have done stuff like this before, the obvious one being Inside Out, but that distracted you with it all taking place in a childs head, and having a colourful playfulness to a lot of the darkness. This is different, it has a certain playfulness to it, yes. But it’s still a playfulness rooted firmly in the concept that the main character is dead and scared of moving onto nothingness as he feels he’s accomplished nothing. There’s no sugarcoating the medicine in this, it’s incredibly in your face and there is a chance that this will hurt its chances of being loved among kids.

For someone like me? I loved it. Pixar know what they’re doing. They generally make films which can only be made as animated (with the possible exception of Wall-E maybe) and this is no exception. Yes, a lot of it takes place in this world featuring a person and a cat talking, so you can do that live action. But the moments taking place outside of the real world, which exist as more of an abstract concept than a reality? That does things that ONLY animation can do. The fluid nature of the characters being shown as shapes and concepts is not something that would be possible in live action.

So in summary, if you have disney+, you HAVE to watch this. If you don’t, find another way to watch it. The first truly great film I’ve seen this year, and in terms of animated films it will take something truly special to upstate it.

Secret Life Of Pets/The Boss

Two very different films, but both suffer from from the same flaw: the background characters are the best ones in the entire film. Not the only problems however.

Secret Life Of Pets

I have two problems with this film:

  1. As I alluded to earlier; the main characters are the least interesting ones, which, considering one of them is played by Louis CK is kind of unexpected. It’s not just the characters, the main plot is not that interesting either. The entire main plot is shown in the trailer, nothing new or exciting. There is, however, a fantastic B-story that shows up; the idea that animals that were once pets were thrown away and are now bitter and angry and ready to get their revenge. THAT’S a film, that’s the kind of thing that Pixar or Disney would do. On the subject of Disney there’s already been a lot of controversy about Finding Dory. People are saying that it could lead to an increase of people having exotic fish as pets and then discarding them when they get bored (like they did with owls after Harry Potter And The Quantum Of Solace or whatever it was called). The idea of an animal-led film that has discourages people from getting pets just because they saw them in films? Not only would that be good but it would also be a subtle attack to Disney and Pixar, a “This is why we have a problem with you, you’re irresponsible, not like us, we’re truly wholesome and safe for children to watch with their families”.
  2. The realism. I know, it’s an animated film aimed at kids so I shouldn’t expect 100% realism. But at the very least I should expect it to stay consistent within the world it’s created. The world within the film is supposed to be our world. This is decided very early on when a human character hear’s one of the main characters “talking” and it’s just barking. Yet there’s lots of moments in here which break that realism, moments such as a rabbit and a dog driving a bus off a bridge. Pixar usually does this kind of thing very well. Look at Finding Nemo etc, it takes place in our world, and we do see humans, but the interactions between the humans and the main characters is minimal, and the main characters, although living in a human world, don’t effect that world that much. This film has way too many instances where the animals have a major influence on the human world, there’s the aforementioned bus crash, there’s a break in at a sausage factory, a rabbit beating up a dog catcher etc.

But other than those two problems how was it? It was thoroughly ok. The closing shot was beautiful. It’s one of the great things about animation is that you can occasionally get absolutely gorgeous visuals, but apart from the closing shot it never really does that. In fact it doesn’t look great throughout, the animals just look ok, and the humans in it look like they’re made of twigs. The story is serviceable and does what it needs to, but I don’t feel I need to see it again. It’s biggest flaw isn’t the fault of the film, it’s just circumstance. A lot of times studios release films which (judging by poster alone) look very similar. Has happened a lot before: Antz/A Bugs Life, Finding Nemo/Sharks Tale etc. This films competitor? Zootopia. For this film to come anywhere close to that would be difficult. Zootopia (so far) is probably in my top five films of the year. This? Well be at the bottom of the top half so far. But considering Kubo isn’t out yet, this can easily be pushed down. Although this film did have a subtle Mario green shell reference, which is kind of cool.

The Boss

Nope. Just no. Here’s my massive problem with this film: you have a character get arrested, then when they’re released they go to a Girl Scouts meeting and decides to set up a new business luring Girl Scouts from their group into a new group helping her in a business with communist workers overtones (their logo is a red badge with a picture of a girl raising her fist in the air and wearing a hat). When one of the mothers at the group objects to this, she calls her a cunt, then insults her daughter, whom she later knocks out. The daughter’s age? Between 11-15. So, the “hero” of this story bullies and beats up a school girl just because she doesn’t like her mum. Comedy!

1401x788-mccarthy

Actually this film, tonally is kind of weird and all over the place. It attempts to get cheap laughs and sacrifices story to do that, destroying all story momentum for the sake of a joke. For example: there’s a scene where she goes to her old business associates, and they all tell her they hate her and want nothing to do with her. It’s the kind of scene that’s like a large roast dinner, it’s a lot to take in and you need to give it time to settle. Instead, just after the scene takes place the film makes her fall down a flight of stairs, thereby pouring custard on the emotional roast dinner of the previous scene. It’s like the film was written by different writers who never contacted each other to check if their bits lined up. You have important characters turn up for one or two scenes and then are never mentioned again.

It’s a shame as I really want to like Melissa McCarthy; she was great in Bridesmaids, and Spy was excellent. I just feel she has a habit of picking bad films, films where she is only asked to do her usual shtick and doesn’t allow her to stretch herself (otherwise known as Jim Carey syndrome). Which is a shame as when she’s good she’s amazing, check out the aforementioned Spy for evidence of that, and St. Vincent, where she manages to be one of the best characters in a film which contains Chris O’Dowd and Bill Murray (or to give him his full title: Bill Fucking Murray). She can do better than this, and her continual choosing of below-par films just provides ammunition to her increasing number of detractors. Luckily the next film she has lined up is Ghostbusters, I’m sure that is under no pressure.

The-Boss-2016-HDRIP-Release

I also saw Independence Day; a film which (ironically) seemed like it was written by aliens, completely devoid of human emotion and everything seemed slightly fake and contrived.