Category Archives: Animated Films

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs Review

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs has been something of a guilty pleasure of mine since its release in 2009. It’s no great film by any stretch of the imagination, but why would it be? It was the third entry in a franchise that was only ever decent to begin with. On the plus side, it seems like Blue Sky Studios was aware that this was never a series that would rival the likes of  Toy Story in terms of emotional depth, so they just went in the “fun” direction. Though it’s a flawed film,  Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs does succeed in being an enjoyable romp, and certainly a step up from the largely forgettable second entry in the series.

From the get-go, it’s obvious that Blue Sky Studios had stopped trying to make the Ice Age films into animated classics and doubled down on cartoonish silliness. This time, the animal heroes find themselves on an adventure through a subterranean realm where the dinosaurs never went extinct.

The film begins when Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo) finds three giant eggs in an underground cavern. Thinking the eggs were abandoned, Sid decides to take them as his own. It turns out these are tyrannosaurus eggs, and once they hatch, the babies start running amok among all the ice age creatures. That is until their mother shows up and takes the babies back to the underground dinosaur world. But the babies have grown fond of Sid, so the tyrannosaurus mother reluctantly takes him along as well. Sid’s mammoth friends Manny (Ray Ramano) and Ellie (Queen Latifah), along with Diego the sabertooth tiger (Denis Leary), and Ellie’s opossum brothers Crash and Eddie (Sean William Scott and Josh Peck), set out on a rescue mission to bring Sid home.

It’s as simple of a plot as it gets, but there are token attempts at bringing some added drama to the mix. Manny and Ellie are expecting a baby, Diego fears he’s lost his edge as a hunter, and of course Sid’s relationship with the baby dinosaurs. It’s silly and simple, and little more than a means to dress up what is a tried-and-true adventure story, but it’s fun.

As is the case with every Ice Age installment, there’s a running side story in the film about Scrat the squirrel chasing an ever-elusive acorn. Only this time, Scrat has some competition in the form of a female flying squirrel named Scratte, with the rivalry between the two squirrels developing into a romance.

The best part of the film, however, is a weasel named Buck (Simon Pegg), whose years spent in the dinosaur realm have left him a little cooky, and who serves as the groups’ escort in the dangerous dinosaur world.

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs also has appropriately fun animation to compliment it all. It’s not among the most visually striking animated features, but the character designs are fun, with the dinosaurs in particular adding more variety and color into the mix, and the change in setting helping the film stand out among the other installments in the ongoing series.

It’s true, many of the problems with the series are still in full force here. Primarily, there are just too many characters for the short running time to know what to do with, and many of the character arcs feel tacked on and rushed because of it (this is especially true for Diego). But y’know, this is a movie about a couple of mammoths, a sabertooth tiger and a weasel trying to save a sloth from dinosaurs, with a squirrel romance thrown into the mix. It’s not exactly trying to tell a groundbreaking story.

In the end, Ice Age 3 is definitely Ice Age 3. But hey, it has fun action scenes, solid animation, is actually pretty funny at times, and is a pretty fun ride. If you’re looking for something more, look elsewhere. Though honestly, you could do a whole lot worse than Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.



Megamind Review

Dreamworks Animation has an odd track record, to say the least. For every Shrek, there’s a Shark Tale. For every Kung Fu Panda, a Turbo. Suffice to say, Dreamworks seems to greenlight any idea that passes through their studio to see what works. Sometimes Dreamworks’ better movies find the success they deserve, and sometimes they don’t. Sadly, Megamind falls into the latter category, as it was a fun and humorous reverse-super hero romp that seems largely forgotten, due in no small part to bad timing.

Megamind had some good writing and a decent amount of originality at its disposal, but it was released in 2010, a pretty strong year for animated films that saw the likes of Toy Story 3 and Dreamworks’ own How to Train Your Dragon hit theaters. Perhaps most notably of all, 2010 was also the year that saw the release of Despicable Me, a film that shared a similar concept to Mega Mind. And seeing as Despicable Me will soon see the release of its third entry, and even had a spinoff film that grossed over a billion dollars worldwide, it’s safe to say which of these villain-turned-hero movies won the war.

Perhaps another aspect that held Megamind back from reaching its potential success was its setup. While Despicable Me starred a cartoonish parody of a James Bond-style villain, Megamind focuses on a more comic book-styled super villain. Seeing as the superhero genre was oversaturated even back in 2010, the idea of a super hero parody didn’t exactly stand out (even the “proper” super hero films often find the time to parody themselves by this point).

Suffice to say, Megamind came and went, and that’s a bit of a shame. Because while it may not be an animated classic by any means, Megamind does provide a good time, and manages to sprinkle in a surprising amount of character development along the way.

The titular Megamind (Will Ferrell) is an alien from a far off planet. In a spoof on Superman’s origin story, Megamind was sent to Earth during his planet’s destruction, while a family on a neighboring planet (also in the destruction process) has the same idea. The two alien babies’ space pods collide on their way to Earth. While one baby lands into a loving, privileged family and grows up to become Metro Man (Brad Pitt), Metro City’s super powered savior, the other baby ends up being raised by inmates, and eventually becomes the evil genius Megamind.

Over the years, Megamind and Metro Man have had countless battles, with the villain often kidnapping news reporter Roxanne Richie (Tina Fey) or threatening the city, and Metro Man always stopping him. One day, Megamind seems to accomplish the impossible, and seemingly kills Metro Man during one of his attempted rescues of Roxanne.

With Metro Man out of the picture, Mega Mind takes control of the city, though he doesn’t really know what to do with it. Megamind was only ever thrown into the role of villain out of circumstance, and never knew what to do if he got what he thought he wanted. Without a hero to fight, Megamind loses his purpose in life, and begins to have an identity crises.

During his downward spiral, Megamind, along with his aptly-named henchman, Minion (David Cross), concoct a plan to create a new hero for Metro City. Using some of Metro Man’s DNA, the duo plan to use Roxie’s cameraman Hal Stewart (Jonah Hill) as their subject. But the plan backfires when Hal turns out to be a selfish, irresponsible jerk, using his powers to become the new villain of the city, leaving Megamind with a huge dilemma on his shoulders.

It’s a fun and simple setup. Placing the super villain in the central role of a super hero parody may not sound entirely original, but the film does a great job at delivering comedy out of its premise, as well as making Megamind a surprisingly sympathetic character.

The film has a lot of fun playing up super hero tropes, while also having some good fun with Megamind’s alien ways (one of the film’s best running gags is Megamind’s constant mispronunciations). But it also does a great job at giving its titular blue villain a pretty heartfelt story arch. Though the other characters aren’t nearly as well fleshed-out, they still prove memorable in their own right (Hal is probably a more properly hatable villain than most of those found in the recent Marvel films).

Megamind also boasts some great visuals, with the caricatured character designs holding up a bit better than the Dreamworks features that try a more realistic approach. Metro City is also impressively realized, boasting a scope and set pieces that rival those found in live-action super hero films.

Admittedly, their aren’t a whole lot of major complaints to be had with the film. Primarily, it’s a bit on the predictable side, and as stated, even a parody of the super hero genre doesn’t change things from being another entry in such an exhausted genre, and the film lacks enough newness to elevate it beyond that.

One character complaint to be had is with Metro Man himself. The film does a great job at making him a showman who enjoys his place in the spotlight and schmoozing the crowds. But – without spoiling any specifics – the film later robs him of the more heroic attributes he does have after certain story revelations. Under certain circumstances it might work, but the film fails to make a compelling reason for us to still care about the character, despite an attempt at explaining his actions.

On the whole, Megamind is a very fun movie, and certainly better than its reputation suggests. It treads a lot of familiar ground, but its sharp writing and well-developed main character put it on the better end of the Dreamworks Animation scale.



Lady and the Tramp Review

Lady and the Tramp has to be one of the most iconic of Disney films. Though the 1955 feature may not be among the best features from the House of Mouse, it has enough charm to it to warrant its iconic status.

Lady and the Tramp tells the story of two dogs: Lady, a Cocker Spaniel who lives a ritzy life with an upper-middle-class family (whom she refers to as “Jim Dear” and “Darling,” after the pet names the couple call each other), and the Tramp, a stray mutt just trying to get by.

After Lady’s owners have a new baby, life begins to change for the pampered pup, as she begins to realize she’s getting less attention than she once did, though she loves her family, and the new baby. Lady’s life gets turned upside down, however, when Jim Dear and Darling take a trip, leaving Lady and the baby in the care of “Aunt Sarah,” a ghastly crone with a disdain for dogs.

Not only is Aunt Sarah trouble, but so are her two Siamese cats, who tear up the place and blame it on Lady. Aunt Sarah goes to a pet shop to get Lady a muzzle, which results in the family’s beloved dog running away. After getting lost, Lady becomes acquainted with the Tramp, who helps her get by in life without humans, and the two begin an adventurous romance. All the while, Lady hopes to find a way back home.

It’s simple stuff, but like most Disney movies, the animal characters are cute and easily win the audience over, and it’s a charming enough story to delight both children and adults. It’s true that Disney movies reached a whole new level of entertainment value during their “Renaissance” era of the 1990s, and its only been in recent years that the non-Pixar animated features from Disney have reached a greater level of sophistication in their storytelling. So Lady and the Tramp falls under the umbrella of simplicity that was Disney’s 1950’s output, but again, it has the right amount of charm to bring smiles to faces (especially if you’re a dog lover like myself, though this makes the dog pound scene twice as heartbreaking).

The film is well animated, as you would expect from Disney, though their are some notably choppy moments in editing. But the animals all have a fluidity to their movements, and like most Disney features, the animators gave them as much personality in their appearance as the actors did in their voices.

Lady and the Tramp is also notable for including some of the most iconic scenes in not only Disney’s library, but in all of American cinema. The famous spaghetti scene has been paid homage and parodied countless times through the decades, to the point that younger audiences may not realize that it originated here.

Lady and the Tramp is too simple to be ranked among the absolute best Disney animated features, but it’s filled with so many delightful little moments and cute animal characters that it hardly matters. It’s a sweet, innocently romantic movie that remains heartwarming even today.



The Lego Batman Movie Review

Lego Batman

I did not like The Lego Movie. While just about everyone else was singing its praises, I found it to be kind of insipid. Its hyperactivity was more exhausting than fun, its visuals lost their charm within a short amount of time, and its message of everything being special was just too naive to resonate (I’m sorry, but not everything is awesome). I would even rank it among the most overrated animated films alongside the likes of Akira and the How to Train Your Dragon series.

That’s why it’s a very welcome surprise that I enjoyed The Lego Batman Movie as much as I did. By trimming all the fat and simply focusing on the best aspect of the original (Batman), The Lego Batman Movie easily outshines its predecessor with a more memorable cast of characters, a more honest message for its target audience, and more laughs per minute.

Lego BatmanIn The Lego Batman Movie, the Joker (Zack Galifanakis) is up to his old tricks, and plans a hostile takeover of Gotham City with the help of pretty much every Batman villain in the book (from Bane – who speaks in a voice that parodies Tom Hardy’s performance in The Dark Knight Rises – to the Condiment King). The villains are once again stopped by Batman (Will Arnett) who, much to the dismay of the Joker, claims he doesn’t need anyone in his life, even an archvillain like the Clown Prince of Crime.

The Joker, heartbroken that the one person who gives his life meaning doesn’t have mutual feelings of utter hatred for him, hatches a new scheme to unleash the supervillains contained within the Phantom Zone upon Gotham City. Meanwhile, Batman has to deal with familial issues when he accidentally adopts a young orphan, Dick Grayson (Michael Cera) and butts heads with his father figure in his butler Alfred (Ralph Fiennes).

From the get-go, it’s obvious that The Lego Batman Movie is primarily two things: The first is a hilarious comedy that wants nothing more than to put a smile on its audience’s faces (the movie begins with a black screen because, as Batman bluntly narrates over it “all important movies begin with a black screen”). The other thing it is is a love letter to all things Batman. The movie frequently references Batman’s previous silver screen outings (from the “two boats” segment of The Dark Knight to the Bat-nipples of Batman & Robin), pays tribute to the Caped Crusader’s past animation exploits, and tips its hat to the frequently-changing nature of the comic books.

What’s really surprising is that, despite its comedic nature, The Lego Batman Movie is also a great Batman movie in its own right. And in a time when DC’s movie adaptations are becoming more “dark and edgy” at the expense of quality, The Lego Batman Movie is a refreshing change of pace.

Lego BatmanThis, of course, brings me to what may be the film’s biggest triumph. It essentially rewrites the book on what a franchise film can be. Seeing all of these classic (and some not-so-classic) Batman characters presented in Lego form, with lighthearted interpretations of their personalities and frequent meta-gags that reflect on the franchise, the film may open the door for other studios to try their hand at something similar. I’d love to see Disney make one of their animated princess features set in the Star Wars universe, to name an obvious example.

I’m not sure if its the change in setting to Gotham City, but I also enjoyed the visuals of The Lego Batman Movie much more than the original. Maybe it has something to do with this being the second such Lego Movie, and so the visuals no longer seem like a gimmick, but I didn’t get tired of the Lego aesthetics like I did the first time around. It gives the characters a kind of mock-stop-motion sense of movement, and seeing Gotham transformed into a child’s plaything makes for a fun combination of darkness and bright colors.

Once again, I also feel The Lego Batman Movie has something more meaningful to say than its predecessor, about the importance of letting others into your life – along with Dick Grayson and Alfred, Batman also finds a new member of the Bat-family in Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) – and to not let the harsh reality of tragedies rule your life.

Overall, The Lego Batman Movie is just a really fun, feel-good movie. It does have some parts that drag on a bit, and the third act kind of repeats its message a couple of times. But The Lego Batman Movie is a great improvement over its predecessor, one that’s filled with humor and a few surprises (I won’t spoil the identities of the villains of the Phantom Zone here). It’s cute and charming in a way I didn’t feel about the original Lego Movie, and just a whole lot of fun.

In a time when most “comedies” are just trying to out-raunch each other, The Lego Batman Movie is a reminder that the funniest humor comes from smart writing, witty commentary and a good dose of creativity. Perhaps most notably of all, The Lego Batman Movie may have just created its own sub-genre of franchise films.



Surf’s Up 2: Wavemania Review

Surf's Up 2

After watching Surf’s Up 2: Wavemania, I feel like I’ve seen everything. It’s one of those rare movies where it’s almost hard to believe it actually exists. Not because of any unbelievably exceptional or poor quality, but – like Digimon: The Movie – it’s hard to grasp how baffling the concept behind it is.

Surf’s Up 2: Wavemania is a 2017 straight-to-video sequel to 2007’s Surf’s Up. Now, there have been many straight-to-video sequels to popular animated movies in the past, and they all serve the same purpose: to make a quick buck. Disney tainted much of their beloved 90s features with home video exclusive sequels, and other studios followed suit. Disappointing cash-grabs though they may be, at least it makes sense for a cash-grab sequel to be rushed out to make that quick buck (hence the term “cash-grab”). But Surf’s Up 2 arrives a decade after the original which, while a good movie, wasn’t exactly the biggest animated blockbuster out there. So if this straight-to-video affair were going to happen, it seems well overdue.

Things get all the weirder, however, because while this is still a feature from Sony Pictures Animation (creators of the original film), it is also a joint-venture with WWE studios, and features new characters voiced by WWE wrestlers and personalities.

So to review all of this: Surf’s Up 2 is a straight-to-video sequel to a decently successful movie that was released a decade after said original, and features WWE wrestlers as animated characters. Again, it’s hard to believe such a thing actually exists.

While I’m not about to say Surf’s Up 2: Wavemania is anywhere near as good as the original, I will admit that it could be a whole hell of a lot worse, especially for a straight-to-video sequel. Though perhaps I’m just so giddy in amazement at the very fact that Surf’s Up 2: Wavemania is an actual thing that I’m seeing it a bit rose-tinted. Either way, Surf’s Up 2 isn’t what I would call a good movie, but I’ve seen much, much worse animated features. So I guess we can file it under the “guilty pleasures” category.

Anyway, Surf’s Up 2: Wavemania continues the story of surfing penguin Cody Maverick (Jeremy Shada, replacing Shia Labeouf, whom I presume was too busy yelling at walls). Cody is the current subject of an after-they-were-famous-style documentary, which showcases how he has gone on to work for a surfing school on Pen Gu Island, whereas his best friend Chicken Joe (Jon Heder) went on to fame and fortune after winning the Big Z Memorial surfing tournament (this serves as a nice way to continue the “mockumentary” style of the original film).

Cody is feeling down, wondering what his life might have been like had he won the Big Z Memorial. But Cody gets another shot at fame when a quintet of legendary surfers known as The Hang Five show up on Pen Gu island looking for proteges.

Surf's Up 2The Hang Five consist of J.C. (John Cena), a muscle-bound penguin, Hunter (Paule “Triple H” Levesque), a hard-edged penguin, Undertaker (Mark “The Undertaker” Calaway) a zombie-like penguin, Paige (Sara-Jade “Paige” Bevis), a sassy puffin, and Mr. McMahon (WWE chairman Vince McMahon), an otter who serves as The Hang Five’s leader.

The story goes that Mr. McMahon plans to retire from surfing, and the Hang Five will need a new member. After hearing about the great surfers that come from Pen Gu Island from Big Z (the character’s only real mention in the film as I presume Jeff Bridges was out of the budget), the Hang Five head to the island looking for a potential replacement.

Surf's Up 2So four of the Hang Five members select one of the main characters from the first film to be their apprentices in hopes of finding a new fifth member once Mr. McMahon calls it quits. J.C. selects Cody, while the Undertaker picks Chicken Joe. Meanwhile, Paige selects Lani (Melissa Sturm) – the level-headed female penguin from the original – as her protege. Finally, Hunter chooses to mentor Tank (Diedrich Bader), the buffoonish antagonist from the first film.

The group then heads out to find a legendary surf spot known only as “The Trenches” to see if the new recruits can handle the dangerous surf style of the Hang Five, and also to give Mr. McMahon one last surfing adventure.

To be honest, I’m actually a bit surprised there’s as much of a plot as there is, and that they actually came up with reason for the WWE personalities to be included in the story, instead of being there solely though contractual obligation (though a seagull voiced by WWE commentator Michael Cole just kind of shows up for the hell of it). And I don’t know if it’s because I’m a wrestling fan, or because I’ve managed to see this film for what it is, but I actually liked the voice work.

Jeremy Shada is a solid choice as the new voice for Cody Maverick, while Jon Heder and Diedrich Bader still bring the same humor they brought to the original. And the WWE voices, while maybe a little distracting at times, can actually be kind of fun (so sue me). Hearing Vince McMahon’s voice coming out of a surfing otter is just too ridiculous not to enjoy to some degree. And having the Undertaker voice a penguin-ified parody of the character he’s portrayed for over twenty-five years hits a few good comedic moments.

Less appreciated, however, are the film’s pacing and more juvenile humor when compared to the first film. While the original Surf’s Up had an appropriately laid-back, relaxed tone to it, Surf’s Up 2 instead sends our heroes in a frantic adventure with big action set pieces including hang-gliding over lava and traversing a boobytrap-filled tomb. And while some of the humor of the film works, other times the film employs more bathroom humor and slapstick, which feels pretty removed from the nature of the original film.

On the plus side, the film is pretty well animated, especially (once again) considering it’s a straight-to-video feature. It may not be anything to write home about, and not as visually captivating as the original, but the animation has a nice, colorful look to it. Surf’s Up 2 is a fun film to look at, if anything.

Surf's Up 2Look, I don’t know what else to say. I’m still a bit dumbfounded at this movie’s existence, even as I’m writing about it. Yes, it is a cash-grab, direct-to-video sequel, and not all of the wrestling stuff works (we hear the Undertaker’s theme music on not one, but two different occasions. The first of which is for a gag, which is fine, but the second instance is during a more dramatic moment, which is unintentionally hilarious). But all things considered, it’s far from the worst direct-to-video animated sequel I’ve seen.

So again, I can see this becoming something of a guilty pleasure. It doesn’t live up to the original Surf’s Up. But, y’know, it is what it is. And considering what it is, it could have been a lot worse.



Food Fight! Review

Food Fight!

You might think the title of “worst animated movie in history” may belong to some obscure feature from animation’s early years. Perhaps an odd cartoon experiment from a time before artists fine-tuned the craft, that maybe had a limited budget that prevented it from achieving standard production values.

But you’d be wrong. The film most widely considered to be the worst animated film in history had a multi-million dollar budget, and was released in 2012. The title of this straight-to-DVD abomination is Food Fight!, and its repugnant reputation is well-earned. Food Fight! is the worst animated feature I have ever seen.

I safely make such a claim without the slightest bit of hesitation or hyperbole. I have never seen an animated film that even begins to approach its ineptitude, annoyance, and flat-out ugliness. After having watched Food Fight!, I now have a finer appreciation for The Nut Job and Norm of the North. Food Fight! makes even those awful movies look good by comparison. Yes, Food Fight! is that bad.

"This character is named "Cheasel." A weasel made of cheese. But he looks more like poop."

“This character is named “Cheasel.” A weasel made of cheese. But he looks more like poop.”

Food Fight! had a notorious production history. It was originally intended for theaters – heaven forbid – and slated for release in 2003. Reportedly, the hard drives containing a number of the film’s original assets were stolen, leading the film’s production to be put on hold until 2004. The film was then to be redone with motion-capture and released in 2005, another release date it ended up missing.

The production problems were so bad, in fact, that the filmmakers had trouble getting investments to afford the film’s budget…during its production. Through some ironic miracle, the film did manage to nab a few celebrities to provide the voice work (including Charlie Sheen, Wayne Brady, Eva Longoria, Hilary Duff, Edward Asner and even one of my favorite actors in Christopher Lloyd), but that must have been where all of the money went.

Everything got so bad that the studio behind the film lost all faith in the filmmakers, and auctioned off the film’s assets in 2011, and the financing company backing the film invoked a clause in their contract that allowed the film to be finished as cheaply and quickly as possible, so that they might get something out of this fiasco after years of nothing. In doing so, they unleashed a great evil upon the world.

"The kid's head is in the foreground. The girl is kicking the ball in the background. Yet the ball overlaps in front of the kid's head."

“The kid’s head is in the foreground. The girl is kicking the ball in the background. Yet the ball overlaps in front of the kid’s head. Just…wow.”

By this point, it should go without saying that the production values of Food Fight! are virtually non-existent. The animation – if it can rightfully be called that – is undoubtedly the ugliest I’ve ever seen. It looks sloppy, is blatantly unfinished, and the character designs are grotesque and nightmare-inducing. I can’t imagine a kid (supposedly the film’s target audience) could watch even a couple of minutes of this movie without being frightened. It’s equally as uncomfortable to look at for adults.

The awful aesthetics don’t stop with the barf-like visuals, as even the audio sounds unfinished. I am not even joking when I say there are obvious inconsistencies with the audio quality, with the volumes of characters’ voices frequently fluctuating and – I kid you not – audible static being heard behind much of the dialogue. I would not be the slightest bit surprised if much of the voice work of the film were comprised of unedited test recordings from the actors.

Goodness, I’ve only touched on the technical aspects of the film thus far. But I’ve delayed the inevitable long enough. The sad truth is, even if the production values boasted even the tiniest shred of not-sucking, Food Fight! would still be utterly abysmal due to its insultingly bad story and narrative structure.

The story of Food Fight! is located in a supermarket called “Marketopolis Supermarket.” During closing hours, the store turns into a city, and the brand named mascots of the store’s food products (called “Ikes,” which is short for “icon,” though the film fails to ever explain that) come to life.

Now, a supermarket equivalent of Toy Story already sounds insulting to Toy Story. But the whole setup is all the worse by how cryptic and nondescript it all is. Food Fight! constantly fails to explain any of the details of its world (does the market actually turn into a city, or does it exist in its own kind of “inside universe” like the video game worlds of Wreck-It Ralph?), and it even seems to contradict its own rules (sometimes the Ikes can interact in the human world during opening hours, other times they just view the world through the logos on their respective items in the store). If I could give out an award to the worst world-building I’ve ever seen, hands down it would go to Food Fight!.

"The face of evil."

“The face of evil.”

The main character in the film is Dex Dogtective (Sheen), a dog detective who also owns a nightclub. His best pal and supposed comic relief is Daredevil Dan (Brady), a chocolate squirrel who has an affinity for crashing his plane. And Dex’s girlfriend is a girl with cat ears named Sunshine Goodness (Duff).

Basically, Sunshine Goodness goes missing just before Dex gets the chance to propose to her. Six months later, in the real world, a representative for a product known as Brand X called “Mr. Clipboard” (Lloyd) pushes Brand X’s products into Marketopolis, to the dismay of the store’s owner, Leonard (Asner). The Brand X Ikes, lead by the mysterious Lady X (Longoria), then begin a hostile takeover of the store, which culminates in a massive food fight (har har) that takes up the third half hour of the movie (most of which is built around recycling the same shot and animation sequence over and over).

"This is Mr. Clipboard. They actually animated him to move this way."

“This is Mr. Clipboard. They actually animated him to move this way.”

Look, it’s just terrible. And in case the plot itself weren’t poorly thought-out enough, the pace of the film displays the troubled production as much as anything else in the movie. Once again, many of the aspects of the story are not explained to the audience, and you can’t help but think that a number of key scenes and expositions were left out of the final film. Many of the scenes of the movie just kind of happen, and several plot elements are dived into rapidly and suddenly, before they’re seemingly forgotten. I’ve probably described this movie as “unfinished” a number of times already, but it’s just an appropriate word when describing Food Fight!. There’s just so much missing from it that it’s jarring.

I could go on and on about all the things wrong with Food Fight!. It’s even filled with sexual innuendos that are pretty inappropriate for a movie aimed at kids (Daredevil Dan hits on Lady X with the line “I melt in your mouth, not in your hand.” which is…eww). I honestly don’t have anything even remotely good to say about it. Food Fight! is simply irredeemably bad.

I’ve seen some terrible animated features in my day, but wow, Food Fight! easily outdoes them all in the “bad movies” department. From its atrocious animation, phoned-in voice work, non-existent world-building, forgettable characters, inappropriate humor, sloppy pacing, bad writing, and all-around stupidity, Food Fight! is undoubtedly the worst animated film I have ever seen.



*A score of “1” is as low as my rating system goes. Though for this one instance I seriously considered awarding a “0” or a humorous “-10.” For the sake of maintaining continuity, I kept the score within my system. But let it be known that even a “1” is being generous to Food Fight!.

Surf’s Up Review

Surf's Up

2007’s Surf’s Up is an often overlooked, though surprisingly unique animated feature. Though penguin movies were all the rage in the mid-to-late 2000s (March of the Penguins, Happy Feet), Surf’s Up managed to differentiate itself from the rest of the lot with a few fun storytelling quirks.

The most obvious of these quirks is that Surf’s Up is presented as a documentary. It seems like a simple change, but it really does add to the film’s sense of freshness, which is all the more apparent now since – in the decade since the film’s release – not many animated features have adopted the “mockumentary” style.

The story centers on Cody Maverick (Shia Labeauf), a macaroni penguin from Antarctica who is entering the tenth annual Big Z Memorial, a surfing competition dedicated to Cody’s hero, surfing legend Big Z.

This contest takes place in the tropical Pen Gu Island, where a documentary crew are filming the competition and interviewing the participants as part of their documentary on Big Z. Among the contestants are Chicken Joe (Jon Heder), a laid-back chicken, and Tank (Diedrich Bader), the muscle-bound penguin who defeated Big Z in his final race. Along the way, Cody befriends not only Chicken Joe, but also a penguin lifeguard named Lani (Zooey Deschanel), and Zeke (Jeff Brides), a surfing guru who becomes Cody’s mentor, and who may or may not actually be Big Z (not-so-spoiler alert, he is).

Surf's UpAdmittedly, the plot is nothing to write home about, with an underdog/follow your dreams setup that feels overly familiar in animated films. But the aforementioned mockumentary style, along with its surprisingly relaxed tone, do help it stand on its own two feet. And the characters, while simple, can be entertaining (Chicken Joe often ends up in life-or-death situations, but is completely ignorant to them, and Tank is narcissistic to a comedic level, for the best examples).

Perhaps the film’s biggest highlights are the visuals. Though I feel CG has only more recently captured a more timeless quality, Surf’s Up’s visuals hold up surprisingly well for a 2007 feature (particularly one not made by Pixar). The character designs are all fun and cartoonish, while the backgrounds are still impressively realistic. Between Cody’s home in Antarctica and the tropical islands of Pen Gu, Surf’s Up showcases some breathtakingly beautiful imagery with its settings. And, of course, the animation of the water (particularly the waves) are pretty stunning.

Surf’s Up may not exactly be an animated classic due to its overly familiar plot, and a pretty short running time that robs some of the characters of more screen time (oh, Chicken Joe, we hardly knew thee) But it still makes for an entertaining viewing due to its fun characters, gorgeous visuals and a good dose of originality in its style and tone.

Besides, it’s difficult not to enjoy a movie that features a surfing chicken.