(2008) dir. Jimmy Hayward, Steve Martino
viewed: 03/15/08 at AMC Loews Metreon 16 with IMAX, SF, CA
From the studio behind the Ice Age movies, neither of which have I ever sat and watched in their entirity, we have the latest take on Dr. Seuss in big time Hollywood feature film. That said, I have seen bits and pieces of them here and there enough to estimate that I have seen the bulk of both of them. The key to my selections for this diary is that I only write on films that I sat and watched through in their entirity. So, I have seen Blue Sky Studios’s work and I have to say that I like what I’ve seen.
My take on the two Ice Age films is that they have some vivid animation, but their strengths have been in the wordless segments featuring the rugged squirrel and his acorn that he’s sought relentlessly. These segments feature both great slapstick comedy and brilliant character animation. They would have been five star works as shorts, if I had to guess. They are pretty brilliant. My other guess is that saddled with the bigger narrative, characters with more story arc, and the intent to deliver “a message” with their main stories, they’ve failed pretty badly (though no more badly than average) and this has brought their films down to the level of excellent animation, some great character animation, and many strong features, but ultimately nothing better than average. My take.
The trailer for Horton Hears a Who! featured an animation sequence much like this, with the figure of Jo Jo Who ascending to an observatory via some whimsical, Rube Goldbergian means with a nonchalance and character that promised well. Of course, the film also featured some big name voices including Jim Carrey, Steve Carrell, and the wonderful Carol Burnett, handling the larger breadth of the narrative and its “meaning” with more traditional requirements behind it all. And, like my takes on those Ice Age films (for which a 3rd installment a trailer for next year was shown), my assessments stayed within prior estimates.
I did try to wrangle out any deeper meaning to be squeezed out of this film: some semi-religious faith in things non-tangible and greater (or smaller) than sensate, some anti-authoritarian rebellion against those who do not have faith, and some really sappy father-son crap that’s been done to death and over again. It’s pretty moot, I’d say, to go here. The film only meanders in these directions. I mean, they’re trying to make a non-denominational, non-religiously specific film here. They can’t say what they might, perhaps.
In stretching a relatively short Dr. Seuss picture book to 80 minutes or so, there are inevitable moments of asides and filler. Some of it works better than others. None of it is special or mentionable, actually. The style of humor for the most part, even in the delivery of the dialogue, is pretty typical for contemporary comedy, nothing new or notable.
It’s in the smaller moments of the film that flashes of character and brilliance rise to the surface. Little moments have character. This studio should work on a “voiceless” animated film, an entire film without dialogue, just with characterization via action and acting via expression and events. I think they could make something interesting in that. I really do.
But that’s me. The kids liked it pretty well. And that’s why we went ultimately.