by Brad Nelson
The Spiderwick Chronicles
This movie, without seemingly trying, becomes a mystical, magical, fairy tale. It gets a nice assist from music by James Horner. Although this movie’s humor is often in the form of a couple of rambunctious goblins who aren’t particularly clever, that doesn’t harm this movie which is otherwise smart and never predictable, although a few of the elements are basic movie clichés.
But for the most part, The Spiderwick Chronicles should be fun for young and old alike. It was well-acted, well directed, well edited, and it had a real, live story worth following. This one I can recommend to those who like good kids’ films, although it’s probably a bit too violent and scary for most younger kids. I’ll give it 3-out-of-5 all-seeing lugees. And even if you don’t like kids’ films, I’d still recommend it as well worth watching. There’s a particularly gorgeous CGI closing-credits sequence at the end that, along with the accompanying music, is award-worthy unto itself. Quite good.
Just the name of the movie made we want to eyeroll. I’ve been avoiding watching this but decided to give it a go. For some reason I thought this was an animated film. Aside from “Cars,” “Shrek,” and a few other notable animated movies, the studios are really cranking them out these days and many of them are just crap. Have you seen the cheap sequels and other direct-to-video stuff Disney deluged the market with that are based on “Aladdin”?
But “Sky High” is live action, it’s Disney, and it stars Kurt Russell. But don’t let the Disney name fool you. This is a surprisingly smart film for its type. It’s not Shakespeare. It’s another superhero movie. But in this case, the humor is surprisingly funny and sophisticated. The humor has a bit of an Airplane quality to it at times. It’s not real laugh-out-loud stuff, but it is genuinely clever.
But, I mean, you throw out the words “Disney” and “Kurt Russell” and you’re probably eyerolling even now. But this is a movie that isn’t a barf-bag of saccharine sweet. It actually pokes a bit of fun at itself, and Russell anchors this movie nicely as the word’s top superhero (there are many of them) who is simply named the “Commander.” This is a universe full of heros and villains, and heroes pass on their special powers to their children, at least sometimes. And if you don’t get them genetically, you can acquire them through a radioactive spider bite or by being dropped in a vat of toxic waste, although you might not survive the dunking.
This is basically a “coming-of-powers-age” type of movie for Russell’s son who is being sent off to the superhero high school, Sky High, for those kids with superhero (or even just sidekick) powers.
The performances are good, the plot moves along, and the humor is clever. Notable is the hokey, but fun, performance of Bruce Campell who you might remember as Autolycus in the Hercules and Xena series.
I grew up on Disney Films, everything from “Son of Flubber” with Fred MacMurray to “Herbie the Love Bug” and even some of Kurt Russell’s own, which were generally pretty bad as I remember. But he strikes the right tone in this one – big hair and a big smile. Again, it’s not Shakespeare but it shows that you can be entertaining without dropping a constant stream of f-bombs or mutilating bodies in slow motion. Had this movie avoided a few of the tried-and-true yute movie clichés, it would have been even better. But it all still works on the level of light Disney fare. 2-3/4 out of 5 “cars”. (That’s a really funny moment.)
The Water Horse
A contrived-plot, Disneyesque film of kids and animals that 3-year-olds will love but adults with likely only tolerate. It lacks imagination but is long on clichés. It’s not even very well acted. It’s hokum with some nice photography, which isn’t hard considering it’s set in a picturesque Scottish manor on the edge of a loch. It’s an okay movie if you have kids to entertain and your expectations are low. Of course, the main kid in the movie eventually rides the “water horse,” but instead of triumphant and magical, it’s just displaced from any kind of a meaningful story. They tried to turn this into a mythological, providential tale, but what plays out on the screen is not half as grand as the score tries to say that it is.
All in all, just another movie that is tone deaf in terms of story, story logic, and characters. You can indeed throw together a series of tried-and-true clichés (including a truly eye-rolling ripoff of Free Willy) and create boilerplate entertainment. But that’s about all this movie is. 1-1/2 artillery shells out of 5. • (775 views)