Writers: Sergio Casci, Veronika Franz, and Severin Fiala
Starring: Riley Keough, Jaeden Martell, Lia McHugh, Alicia Silverstone, and Richard Armitage
Plot: A woman with a tragic, cult related past and her soon to be step-children, who don’t like her, are stuck in a cabin together in the dead of winter.
Review: Ok, so here’s the thing. This is going to be a relatively short review. In fact, I almost didn’t end up doing one for it at all. Why? Because it’s super hard to discuss what makes The Lodge great without spoiling the crap out of it. And, I want your potential experience with this movie to be as pure and batshit insane as mine was. Because I knew absolutely nothing going in and it was fun to guess where this movie was going as the plot unraveled. So, I’ll say what I can, but, unfortunately, that won’t be much.
First off, the plot of The Lodge is insane. I spent the first half of the movie trying to even figure out what type of horror film this was. Is it a cult movie? Is it a creepy kid movie? Something along the lines of The Shining? Or The Conjuring? Honestly, I had no idea. But, I was having a blast trying to figure it out. Then, when everything does reveal itself, I was floored by what they were presenting. I really, really enjoyed where this movie went. It was an insane ride with one of those endings that leaves you sitting there stunned as the credits roll. However, I can also see where some wouldn’t enjoy it as much, because it’s not exactly as advertised. But, I’m a fan of the new, “artsier” wave of horror and the twist was a big hit for me, so this was right up my alley.
Speaking of artsy, this movie is beautifully shot. Each and every scene could be a painting on someone’s wall. There were so many gorgeous establishing shots of the cabin and just people roaming around to really give you a feel for how isolated they really were. And, the lighting definitely created that cold, wintery vibe. It really felt like you were stranded with them. Plus, the constant shots of religious imagery shot in probably the scariest possible way really showed the lead character’s uncomfortable relationship with religion in a jarring way. It felt a lot like The Shining or an Edgar Allan Poe poem. There was dark, creepy foreshadowing and symbolism everywhere. It’s really freaking effective.
Lastly, I can’t wrap up this review without talking about how absolutely amazing Riley Keough is in it. She’s been a bit of an indie darling the last couple of years, giving good performance after good performance without becoming a household name. She’s definitely been one of my favorites though. And, The Lodge is probably my favorite role she’s had yet. Again, it’s hard to talk about without giving specifics, but her character unravels in a very real, very scary way. You can tell exactly where this character is coming from and empathize with her almost every step of the way. She’s a truly damaged human being and to see her get thrown into a scary situation again is just heartbreaking.
I can definitely say I loved The Lodge. It’s not for everybody. It’s a bit of a slow burn, especially for a horror movie. And, the twist is one of those that you’re either going to really enjoy or really hate. I happened to think it was brilliant. Plus, the atmosphere and performances are top notch. In fact, I think my own review talked me into watching it again. It’s that good.
TL;DR: The Lodge is a very good, atmospheric horror film with an absolutely chilling plot.
Writers: Danny Bilson, Paul De Meo, Spike Lee, and Kevin Willmott
Starring: Delroy Lindo, Jonathan Majors, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, Isaiah Whitlock Jr, Melanie Thierry, Paul Walter Hauser, Jasper Paakkonen, Jean Reno, and Chadwick Boseman
Plot: Four Vietnam veterans go back to Vietnam to retrieve the body of their fallen leader and a fortune they left behind.
Review: I know it’s ridiculously early to make this call, but I think I just saw our first 2020 Best Picture nominee. Or, at least, I did if the Academy wants to be as “important” as they think they are. Because Da 5 Bloods rocks, is super well made, and speaks perfectly to the times that we’re in. It instantly became my favorite movie of the year and I can’t imagine that ten better movies are going to come along to knock it out of contention. I really, really enjoyed this movie.
Sometimes, despite their release dates being set months or even years in advance, movies just get lucky and come out at just the right time. That’s definitely the case for Da 5 Bloods. It’s a movie that speaks very much to the Black Lives Matter movement. It tells the story of black soldiers who feel betrayed by their country. They have been fighting for this country for hundreds of years, only to be treated like second rate citizens at home. It’s tragic. And, while I understand that this has been an issue for years, it’s a super relevant message for today. A new spotlight has been shone on the black struggle. A lot of people are looking for this type of message right now and Da 5 Bloods definitely hits with a deep dose of reality.
Likewise, it dives deep into Vietnam and the war in general. It makes a point to show how scarred (emotionally and physically) we leave our soldiers. And, for what? Forty years later, it doesn’t really matter all that much anymore. These men don’t hate the Vietnamese. In fact, there seems to be a lot of remorse on both sides. They even say at one point that the war was all about money and money was all about war. It’s really chilling stuff.
But, don’t think that Da 5 Bloods is all serious and depressing. It’s actually a super fun movie. Each and every character is likable and has their own unique quirks. The dialogue between these old friends is super entertaining. A lot of crazy shit happens in that jungle that I can’t get into for spoiler reasons. And, it’s crazy violent. Seriously, as the best movies do, I feel like it works perfectly well without all of the moral lessons. It’s just a fun trip to be a part of.
After being in the business for 40 years, Spike Lee got his only Best Director nomination for BlacKkKlansman. I expect him to get his second this year, because this movie was perfectly directed. From the beautiful shots of Vietnam to the literally in your face character moments, I loved every choice he made here. I liked the fact that, whenever they referenced a historical figure, their picture or a video of them would come up on the screen. I liked that the Vietnam flashbacks were filmed in a different aspect ratio and lower quality film so it seemed like we were actually watching footage from the war. I haven’t seen a lot of Spike Lee’s work (sadly, I’ve only seen his two most recent films), but I’m definitely becoming a fan and want to dive into his past work.
I would also definitely expect an Oscar nomination for Delroy Lindo. While all of the performances are top notch, his character was maybe the most interesting of them all. He plays a vetern who very much suffers from PTSD and is having a super hard time being back in Vietnam. Watching his character unravel is one of the most entertaining and devastating aspects of the movie. It’s insane how well he managed to make this character sympathetic while he does and says some truly awful things. I 100% think he crushed it. And, while I’d understand if the Oscars forget about this movie by the time the nominations roll around, they better not leave his stellar performance out because that would be a true injustice.
Overall, I freaking loved Da 5 Bloods. It’s a two and a half hour movie but I thought the time flew by. It manages to balance tragic, important lessons with a funny, unpredictable storyline. I never once felt like it’s message was too heavy handed but it still got it’s point across very effectively. Plus, Spike Lee is a hell of a director and he has a hell of a cast. I’d definitely give it a stream on Netflix when you get the chance. I guarantee you’ll have a fun time. And you may even learn something along the way.
TL;DR: Da 5 Bloods is an entertaining, relevant, and important movie that everyone should see. It’s my favorite movie of 2020 so far.
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Rudhraksh Jaiswal, Randeep Hooda, Golshifteh Farahani, Pankaj Tripathi, and David Harbour
Plot: A mercenary is sent to save a drug lord’s kidnapped son.
Review: Are you the kind of person that can be entertained by just one long, extended fight scene? If so, Extraction is the movie for you. If you’re looking for anything deeper or more character based, I would look elsewhere. This is an action movie if I’ve ever seen one. I swear the runtime is like 95% fighting. And, in this case, that’s both the best and worst part of this movie.
Extraction is one of those movies that I was almost more impressed with than entertained by. It was produced by the Russos and directed by the guy in charge of a lot of their MCU stunt work. And, from the earliest days of their Marvel work, it was very clear that these guys know stunts. Luckily, this is a high quality display of those talents. The fight choreography here is super impressive. It’s brutal. It flows nicely. And, it feels very, very real. There were a couple of times where I had to look away and I’m normally pretty ok with even the most intense action sequences. Overall though, I wouldn’t put it up there with things like John Wick or The Raid. Maybe it’s a tad more realistic, but it just doesn’t seem as fun.
The other noteworthy thing about Extraction is the directing style. Almost all of the action sequences are filmed to look like one long shot. It’s super impressive as we’re ducking in and out of buildings and jumping from high heights and getting into cars and then doing extended chase sequences. The way the camera flows through moments like this was quite impressive. It almost feels like a video game instead of a movie. I’m definitely interested in seeing what the director, Sam Hargrave does next.
So, what’s holding Extraction back? I said I was more impressed than entertained. Why? Well, there’s really not a lot of story here. There’s like one or two wrinkles in the overall plot but that’s about it. From the point Hemsworth’s character is introduced, we just jump from one intense fight scene right into the next. It really starts to wear you out after a bit. And, it feels like there’s absolutely no emotional stakes either. They tried by having Hemsworth’s character have a tragic past, but it just feels shallow and shoehorned in. Likewise, there isn’t a single moment of levity in the whole movie, which is very strange considering it was written by Joe Russo. I know that he’s a funny guy. From the MCU to Community, he’s shown that before. I’m not saying that this should be a laugh riot, but I feel like every movie should at least make you smile once or twice. Unfortunately, I’m not sure this one ever pulled much emotion from me.
So, like I said, if you’re looking for just a straight action movie, I would recommend Extraction. If you’re looking for almost anything else, I’d look elsewhere. Overall, I’m glad I saw it. The fight scenes were impressive as hell. However, I’m not sure how much of a mark it’s going to leave. It’s definitely a well made movie, but far from a great one.
TL;DR: Extraction excels in super cool fight scenes and stunning camerawork, but, unfortunately, doesn’t have a whole lot else to offer.
Hiya folks. Welcome back to Dyl’s Ultimate Disney Tournament. Sorry for the delay. I’m right dab in the middle of two extended weekends and have honestly been feeling kind of lazy lately. We’ll bounce back after this weekend though, I promise.
Today’s match-up is an interesting one. We’ve got #113 – Frankenweenie vs. #144 – Midnight Madness. Both are super unique to the Disney canon and worth talking about. So, without further ado, let’s jump into it.
#113 – Frankenweenie (2012)
Director: Tim Burton
Writer: John August
Starring: Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short, Martin Landau, Charlie Tahan, Atticus Shaffer, Winona Ryder, and Frank Welker
Plot: Inspired by his science teacher, a boy brings his deceased dog back to life.
Review: In the early 1980s, a young animator named Tim Burton was working for Disney. He started to make shorts of his own. They were darker and creepier than your usual Disney fare. As a result, his works were not widely promoted by the company. His first was shown only at a film festival for two weeks. The next aired once on Halloween at 10:30 p.m. on Disney Channel. Then, came Frankenweenie, a horror parody about a young boy, resurrecting his dead dog. The plan was to show it before the re-release of The Jungle Book or Pinocchio. Instead, the movie was shelved and Burton was fired. Disney was mad that their money was spent making something so frightening for children. Of course, this didn’t last. Burton hit it big with classics like Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Beetlejuice, and the Batman franchise. His creepy style was all the rage. And, Disney started working with him again on The Nightmare Before Christmas. Four collaborations and over a billion dollars box office earnings later, they were ready to re-tackle Frankenweenie. This time it’d be a stop-motion animated feature in the same vein as Nightmare. So, was all of this controversy worth it? Is this movie worth the almost 30 years of hype? Is Burton, indeed, too dark for Disney? Well, yes and no. I’ve got very mixed feelings on Frankenweenie. There are some things I really like and others I’m just not a fan of.
The first time I saw Frankenweenie I hated it. To be frank, there were a couple of Tim Burton bombs right before it, including two of my least favorites in his filmography (more about that later). I very much had Burton fatigue at the time. I remember seeing the creepy, big-eyed girl, the dead dog, and some of the other grotesque town people and immediately checking out. I didn’t really give it that fair of a shot. That’s a shame, because I had an overall pleasant experience with it this time. Sure, that stuff still bothered me. It’s like Burton is being creepy just to be creepy. I liked the short’s community better, because they felt like real people. It felt like what Burton did really well early on in his career. It was every day, suburban, mid-upper class snobs versus your oddballs and weirdos. In this version, everyone felt weird. Also, the short felt very punctual. There was no wasting time. There was no excess fat. This feels like they really, really had to stretch it out to reach 90 minutes. And, I didn’t really care for a lot of the extra content for most of the runtime.
I will say, however, that this has a terrific third act. It makes sitting through the rest of the movie worth it. There are so many homages to the Frankenstein lore and other iconic horror films. I really, really ended up enjoying myself. Burton is like Tarantino in the sense that he wears his influences on his sleeves. You know exactly why he fell in love with moviemaking. In that sense, this is the most Burton movie ever made. It’s a love letter to old-timey Hollywood. And, a damn fun one at that. I can’t really hold too many faults I had against the first two-thirds of the movie against it when I know it’s all leading to this. Maybe the first time I watched it I wasn’t enough of a horror guy yet. I don’t know. But, modern me smiled a lot rewatching this.
Lastly, the animation is freaking gorgeous. I’ve always been a fan of stop-motion animation as an artform. I think it brings out the most creative side of filmmakers. Frankenweenie is a perfect example of that. In fact, if I didn’t know better, I would think it was all done by a computer. It’s that good. The character designs are a bit questionable but everything else looks great. The characters all move super fluidly. They have an impressive range of motions and expressions. The backgrounds are detailed. And, the black and white color scheme perfectly captures the monster movie feel. Overall, it’s a beautiful movie.
So, I definitely think I was too hard on Frankenweenie the first time I saw it. Is it one of Burton’s best? Nah. How about Disney? Is it one of their best? Spoilers, but no. However, it’s not the worst I’ve seen by either of them (or both of them working together for that matter) either. In fact, it’s pretty good. The animation is gorgeous. The premise is fun. And, that final act is super entertaining. I’d definitely recommend it to any Burton fans or fans of old-timey Universal horror flicks. The more into those you are, the more you’ll enjoy Frankenweenie.
#144 – Midnight Madness (1980)
Director: Michael Nankin and David Wechter
Writers: Michael Nankin and David Wechter
Starring: David Naughton, Michael J. Fox, Stephen Furst, Maggie Roswell, Eddie Deezen, Dirk Blocker, Debra Clinger, and Brad Wilkin
Plot: College kids participate in an all-night race/scavenger hunt across the city of Los Angeles.
Review: You know what’s a classic genre? The college party comedy. Everyone loves them. College kids like to use them for party ideas. Older folks relive their glory days through them. And, kids, well, they like to see boobs and get a taste of what it’s like to be an “adult.” From Animal House to Old School to Pitch Perfect, it’s a tried and true formula. You get some attractive college kids (early 30s works too since it’s Hollywood), throw in some beer, some sex, and boom. You’ve got yourself a hit. But, you know who should never, ever, in a million years, make a college frat movie? Disney: a name synonymous with family entertainment. Well, that’s exactly what they did in 1980 with Midnight Madness and… it’s bad. There’s no way around it. It’s really, really bad.
“Wait. Did Disney make an R-rated movie in 1980?” I can hear you asking. No. They did not. Midnight Madness was rated PG. Of course, this was still a stretch for the studio. They’d only made one PG movie before then. But, as you can imagine, the rating is what really bogs down the movie the most. They make reference to spying on changing girls and binge drinking and even drugs. But, all of those punches are severely pulled. Imagine watching a Disney Channel cut of Harold and Kumar. That’s more or less what you’re getting here. Still, I can’t help but gawk at the fact that this even exists. Who greenlit this? Someone at Disney actually visited Pabst Blue Ribbon to negotiate product placement. That’s a real thing that happened. No wonder Eisner had to save Disney.
While the pulled punches definitely didn’t help Midnight Madness, I’m not sure it would be considered a classic even if it were as raunchy and R-rated as it wanted to be. Why? Because it’s also just an absolutely horrid movie. Each and every one of the characters is a weird stereotype. No one really acts like this. The dumb characters are unrealistically stupid to the point that they wouldn’t even be able to function in normal society. The portrayal of the nerds is so over the top that they make Crispin Glover’s George McFly from Back to the Future look normal and nuanced. And, there’s these two girls (the joke is that their fat, but let’s not talk about that) that have this stupid, annoying dolphin laugh over everything they do. It seriously never stops. It had to have been dubbed over too, because the actors definitely weren’t doing that in the moment. Seriously, background Looney Tune characters have more realistic personalities than a lot of the ones featured here. To top it all of they’re each brought to life with Razzie worthy performances. God, I hate so much of this movie.
Come on, Dylan. Say something nice. Anything… Alright. Honestly, the main group wasn’t too bad. They actually had some decent characters and a few engaging story beats. I’m guessing it’s no coincidence that it’s also the only group with any recognizable actor names. If the movie was about only them, it may have been decent.
So, overall, I have no choice but to call Midnight Madness an absolute 100% failure. It’s completely unfunny, boring, and super strange. It’s probably definitely the worst movie I’ve seen for this bracket so far. The only hope I have now is that the memory of it doesn’t last too long. I don’t see that as being a problem though. It’s already fading fast.
I’m not going to lie. I don’t even want to type up the Disney smackdown for this movie…
The Disney Movie Smackdown
This is where we quickly compare the movies against metrics that almost all Disney movies meet. It won’t necessarily determine the winner, but it will help break some stuff down into a nice digestible format.
Our Heroes: Our hero in Frankenweenie is Victor Frankenstein. He’s kind of your typical Tim Burton stand-in. He’s tall and lanky. He’s a loner, who doesn’t fit in anywhere. He’s passionate about his obsessions. And,although he’s willing to dip his toes into the macabre, you can tell that Victor is still a good kid. He only wants to bring his dog back. Once the other kids start using him for their own selfish reasons, you can tell he gets very uncomfortable. Like I said, if you’ve seen enough Burton flicks, you know this character already. He’s Edward Scissorhands or Ichabod Crane or Ed Wood. Heck, he even looks like the dude from Corpse Bride. This type of character is kind of a Tim Burton specialty.
While it’s definitely an ensemble film, I guess if I had to pick anyone to name as the lead in Midnight Madness it’d be Adam Larson. He seems like a good guy. He’s a guidance counselor for freshmen, who always tells them they should chase after their dreams. The only real flaw he has is that he doesn’t like his little brother, but that’s eventually solved. Other than that, you don’t really get to know the guy all that well. This isn’t really a character-driven movie. It’s more about the adventure and the gags.
Victor is the more complex and interesting character, giving Frankenweenie the win here.
Our Beloved Side Characters: Because he’s a bit of an outcast, Frankenweenie doesn’t actually feature that many characters that are on Victor’s side. We, of course, have Sparky. He’s Victor’s dog and, I guess, the titular Frankenweenie. He’s absolutely adorable in the way that all cartoon dogs are. You can see why Victor would want to bring him back. He’s also super brave, saving Victor’s life while potentially sacrificing his own. He’s such a good boy. I liked him a lot. Then, there’s Victor’s parents, Ben and Susan Frankenstein. They are super loving, but also a little too controlling. They just want their son to go outside and make some friends. It’s a relatable child-parent relationship. Also, the dad is voiced by Martin Short, so that makes him instantly likable in my book. Then, we’ve got Victor’s crush/neighbor Elsa Van Helsing. If Victor is your typical Burton boy, she’s your typical Burton girl 150%. Just think Winona Ryder in Beetlejuice and you’re pretty much there. She’s even voiced by Winona, which is weird because she’s supposed to be like 11. And, lastly, we’ve got Mr. Rzykruski, Victor’s science teacher. I really liked this character. He’s super supportive of Victor’s passion and ends up taking the fall for him. Plus, there’s a really great moment where he practically insults the whole town during a conference with the parents. It’s really entertaining. I wish we got to spend more time with him.
Ok. I’m going to be frank here. Midnight Madness features a whole lot of secondary characters. I don’t feel like doing a deep dive into each of them and almost none of them warrant it. Instead, I’ll just barely touch on the notable ones. There’s Laura, Adam’s love interest. She’s cool and seems down to help Adam be the best person he can be. There’s Flynch. He’s probably the character that evolves the most throughout the movie, turning from a shy nerd into a confident ladies man. He’s probably the best character. Then, we have Scott Larson. He’s Adam’s little brother. It’s no wonder Adam hates him. He’s played by Michael J. Fox but is pretty much the opposite of Marty McFly. He’s very whiney and irresponsible. Disney made me dislike a character played by Christopher Lloyd in Angels in the Outfield and now one by Fox in this? Shame. The last member of Adam’s team is Marvin. He’s the token black guy. I’m not even sure if he ever contributes to the plot at all, but he’s there. On the red team, we’ve got Donna. I think she’s supposed to be stuck up? I don’t know. Like I said, not a lot of time for characters here, especially those not on Adam’s team. There’s also Peggy and Lulu. They’re the annoying ones I wrote about in the review. I hated these characters and their stupid laugh. Speaking of characters I hate, Wesley was the leader of the white team. He’s the nerd. That’s all they really give you. But, he’s maybe the worst nerd stereotype I’ve ever seen and that’s saying a lot. And, worst of all, his whole team is exactly like him. They didn’t even try to give these guys distinct personalities. It’s all major cringe. And, then there’s the jocks on the green team. I hated these guys too. They were stereotypical douchebag jocks. The only one I can even remember anything about is Blaylak, who is such a raging alcoholic that he couldn’t even take a tour of the Pabst factory without diving into the vat. Oh, and then there’s Leon who runs the game. He seems like a pompous ass. I didn’t like a moment he was on the screen. Just way overly full of himself with maybe my least favorite actor ever playing him. Screw that guy. Ok. That’s enough. Can I never think of these characters again, please? Thanks.
Can you guess? This win goes to Frankenweenie as well, just for having less hateable characters.
Villainous Villains: An argument could be made that the only real villains in Frankenweenie are the creatures towards the end of the movie. They don’t agree that the people I’m going to claim as villains have cruel intent. And, while I can see that point to a certain degree, these are all still terrible people who tried to hurt Victor and Sparky. That makes them the villains in my eyes. First of all, there’s Mr. Burgermeister. He’s the mayor of the town, who is super against science, Victor, and Sparky. He spends the whole movie just as grumpy as can be. And, in the end, he’s the one that leads the mob against Sparky. He’s honestly the worst. Then, there’s the kids who took advantage of Victor’s experiment and tried to replicate it for their own benefit. There’s Edgar, who figured out that Sparky was brought back and used it to try and make friends, despite telling Victor he’d keep it secret. He’s honestly responsible for every complication in the plot from that point forward. If I had to name just one villain for this movie, it’d be him. The other classmates aren’t as awful but still problematic. There’s Weird Girl. Honestly, this character is Burton at his worst. She’s just weird to be weird and creepy to be creepy. She has this weird psychic connection to her cat. I don’t know. I hate this character. I honestly blame her for ruining the movie for me upon my first viewing. Moving on. Then, there’s Nassor. He’s honestly probably my favorite of the kids. I love that he’s so blunt and rude. He made me laugh quite often. And, then for the one that looks like Boris Karloff to be the one responsible for the Mummy-like creature? *Chef kiss.* Perfection. I can’t say the same for Toshiaki though. I get where they were coming from by having the Japanese kid responsible for the Godzilla-esque creature, but it just felt wrong. This felt like a stereotype. I’m sure that Burton meant no harm but this character is offensive. It’s weird to see this type of character in a 2012 movie. Finally, there’s Bob. Bob is another Burton cliche: the fat, scared kid in stripes. He’s the one that gets Mr. Rzykruski fired, so screw him. Also, the creatures are insanely cool, but we’ll get to them in a sec.
The main villains of Midnight Madness are members of the blue team. Leading that team is Harold. He’s like the definition of a cliched ‘80s bully. He’s big. He’s fat. He’s borderline homicidal. I guess there’s an ongoing joke about how he just eats and eats and eats, but it’s not very funny. He’s more or less just another character that just got on my nerves. Speaking of, his friend Melio may be my new least favorite character ever to appear in a movie. I absolutely despised every single second this guy was on screen. I wanted to punch him. His mocking voice and his super dumb laugh just got on my nerves. I’ve not been this annoyed by a character in a very long time. The only other character on the team worth mentioning is Harold’s nagging girlfriend, Lucille. That’s all there really is to say about her though. Then, on Leon’s case, we’ve got his landlady Mrs. Grimhaus, who wants to shut down the game for being too noisy. If you’ve seen a sitcom with the grumpy, old neighbor, you’ve seen this character. And, of course, it’s played up to the tenth degree because that’s just what this movie does. And, finally, we’ve got the security captain at the hotel. Now, this might just be a case of bad timing, but watching a cop-like figure use excessive force on a bunch of college kids just trying to play a game isn’t really what I wanted to see right now. Like I said, probably just bad timing though. Actually, nah, screw it. It’s just another bad character in this trainwreck of a movie.
Frankenweenie gets this point as well. I’ll always remember Edgar. I can’t say the same for anybody from Midnight Madness.
Quotable Quotes: From Frankenweenie: “They like what science gives them, but not the questions, no. Not the questions science asks.” “When you lose someone you love they move into a special place in your heart.” “Sometimes adults don’t know what they’re talking about.” “Science is not good or bad, Victor. But it can be used both ways. That is why you must always be careful.”
From Midnight Madness: “Fagabeefe.” “If I’m lucky, I may get to see Venus’ two moons.”
Is it just me or are the quotes from Frankenweenie actually kind of deep? Unlike the super shallow everything from Midnight Madness.
Songs to Add to Your Playlist: As far as I can tell, there is no original music in Frankenweenie other than the score.
Midnight Madness has a disco theme song. It’s honestly better than the movie and has been stuck in my head for a day now. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the only thing that sticks with me past a week.
Hey, look! I finally complimented Midnight Madness… kind of.
Most Magical Disney Moment: As I’ve alluded to several times, I love the third act climax of Frankenweenie. All of the kids have each created their monstrosities and they’ve escaped to terrorize the town. Luckily, there’s an easy place for all of them to gather: the annual Dutch Day celebration. What follows is a true monster mash. There’s references to Frankenstein (obviously), the Wolfman, the Mummy, Gremlins, and Godzilla. All in one. Seriously, this scene is jam packed with references. The movie drags a bit in the beginning but it really pays off here. Plus, the ways the kids find to take down the monsters are incredibly entertaining. And, it’s 100% a reflection on who Tim Burton is. No other filmmaker could have done this quite as well. It’s not only Disney magic. It’s Burton magic as well.
Like I said, Midnight Madness is about as un-Disney as Disney gets. So, as far as magical moments go, they’re few and far between. I guess I’ll just go with my favorite moment instead then. After Leon’s clues lead them there, the jocks pull up on the Pabst Blue Ribbon factory. What follows, while obvious product placement, is one of the funnier scenes in the movie. The team gathers around and stares up at the building as if they’re seeing heaven for the first time. Plus, it leads to a guy binge drinking and Michael J. Fox trying to sneak some underage alcohol. How often do you see that in a Disney movie?
I mean… it’s gotta be Frankenweenie‘s win here, right?
Legacies: The legacy of Frankenweenie is good, but not super lasting. It has a 70% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 6.9 on IMDB. The movie wasn’t a huge box office success, barely making twice it’s budget. It was nominated for the Best Animated Feature Academy Award, but lost to Brave. During Christmastime, when the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland becomes A Nightmare Before Christmas themed, there is a small reference to the film in the pet sematary. There you can see Sparky’s recently dug up grave. Other than that, there’s not much reference to this movie in Disney Parks or really the company in general. It’s mainly remembered as kind of a burying of the hatchet for Disney and Burton. Even though they’d long since made up, this was seen as the ultimate sign of respect between the two. So, definitely not a bad legacy for Frankenweenie.
Midnight Madness’ legacy is, well, strange. It has no score on Rotten Tomatoes (not enough reviews, though they’re all negative) and a 6.4 on IMDB. It was a pretty big box office bomb, costing Disney millions. However, it later gained a cult following after being shown repeatedly on HBO. It’s barely recognized by the company though, probably because of it’s very un-Disney subject matter. In fact, when it was first released, the name Disney didn’t appear on any of the marketing. It was only added when the movie went to VHS. There are two rather big lasting effects brought on by the movie though. A number of competitions semi-based on the film take place annually around the U.S. including one among Disneyland cast members. And, it was the first movie to feature Michael J. Fox who went on to become a bit of an icon of the ‘80s. Other than that though, this is more or less a failed attempt to branch out for the company that’s probably left forgotten.
I’m going to give the better legacy to Frankenweenie as well. The reviews on it alone were too good to ignore.
AND THE WINNER IS…
This one really, really wan’t all that difficult. It was a movie I enjoyed against one I absolutely hated. Now, if I hadn’t revisited Frankenweenie, we might be in a different situation. But, that’s why I do what I do.
So, congratulations, Victor, Sparky, and the gang! You move on to fight another day!
Thank you all for once again joining me. Sorry again for the delay. I’m going to try and do better. Maybe that means I need to schedule breaks for myself. I don’t know. We’ll see. Unfortunately, it’s going to be a couple days until my next post as well. I’m going out of town for a long weekend with friends. But, when I come back, I hope to be refreshed and better than ever. Good thing too, because we come back to two Disney classics. It’s Dumbo (1941) vs. Herbie Rides Again! It should be a good one!
Hiya folks. Welcome back to Dyl’s Ultimate Disney Tournament. I hope you’re all ramping up for a good Memorial Day weekend. I know I am. And what better way to celebrate the holiday than by watching two movies about completely unrelated ones. Yes, today we have #16 Coco going up against #241 The Santa Clause 2. It’s Dia de los Muertos vs. Christmas! Who will win? We’ll never know unless we read on!
#16 – Coco (2017)
Director: Lee Unkrich
Writers: Adrian Molina and Matthew Aldrich
Starring: Anthony Gonzalez, Gael Garcia Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Ubach, Renee Victor, Ana Ofelia Maguia, and Edward James Olmos
Plot: A living boy is accidentally sent to the Land of the Dead and must get his great-great-grandfather’s blessing to return to the living.
Review: Coco is, without a doubt, one of my favorite movies of all time. I think it’s a masterpiece. I absolutely love everything about it. It’s gorgeous. It’s emotional. The music is fantastic. The characters are wonderful. The story is strong. If you haven’t guessed, this review is just going to be me gushing about Coco for a couple paragraphs. I hope we’re all cool with that.
I’m not over exaggerating when I say that, in my opinion, Coco has one of the best story lines in movies. On its surface, it doesn’t sound like much. A boy gets trapped in the Land of the Dead. However, when you experience it, it feels like so much more. He’s not only following his dream. He’s breaking down decades of family drama. He’s righting wrongs left and right. He’s dealing with family, and legacy, and forgiveness, and death, and all kinds of complicated matters children’s entertainment is usually afraid to approach. Plus, there’s a very dark, serious turn about halfway through that I didn’t see coming. But, watching it back though, everything makes sense. It was all foreshadowed and there’s not a single plot hole. It’s honestly a really masterful script and I’m not just saying that as a Pixar fanboy.
Then, there’s the absolutely stunning animation. Even in its relatively simple opening scenes, it’s already gorgeous with the picturesque Mexican village celebrating the Day of the Dead. However, the beauty really kicks into gear when we enter the Land of the Dead. I remember my first time watching the scene where Miguel first crosses over the bridge like it was yesterday. My jaw was on the floor. The colors are just so complimentary.We have the beautiful bridge made of orange petals with the blue and purple city looming behind it. And, there’s so much detail to the city. It’s just thing piled onto thing piled onto thing. And, it all looks so realistic. The attention to detail is amazing. I later read that there’s over seven million lights in that scene. And, that’s just in that one shot. This movie is filled to the brim with such a pleasing aesthetic. I could easily take several screenshots of this and have them hanging up as art in my house. It’s the beautiful imagery of Dia de los Muertos spread across an entire movie.
And, as I’ve said before, Pixar is always so good at mixing tone. Coco is a prime example of that. It deals with really heavy topics that will make you cry, but it’s definitely not a downer. In fact, it’s one of those movies you just smile thinking about. All of the characters are just so good. There’s plenty of hijinks from them to make you keep laughing. And, the music is top notch. Seriously, I jam out to the soundtrack on a regular basis. It’s all guaranteed to make you smile. But, it’s also not afraid to get you super emotional. I cry every time I watch it. In fact, Coco is so good that it’s a shame that people still look down on animated movies. This could’ve easily been one of that year’s Oscar nominees. It got more emotion out of me than the rest of the nominees combined.
As you can tell, I love Coco. I think it’s one of Pixar’s better movies and that’s really, really saying something. I think it perfectly walks the line between heartbreaking and heartwarming. Plus, the animation is top notch. It’s going to be super hard for anything to beat it.
#241 – The Santa Clause 2(2002)
Director: Michael Lembeck
Writers: Don Rhymer, Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio, Ed Decter, and John J. Strauss
Starring: Tim Allen, Judge Reinhold, Wendy Crewson, Elizabeth Mitchell, David Krumholtz, Eric Lloyd, and Spencer Breslin
Plot: Scott learns that, if he doesn’t find a Mrs. Claus by Christmas Eve, he is going to lose his position as Santa.
Review: I’m not exactly sure why The Santa Clause 2 exists. It just feels like one of those movies that was made out of obligation, not passion, after the first’s success. No one really seems all that motivated to be there. The story doesn’t seem that inspired. It’s just kinda meh. It’s not a total waste of time, but it’s not essential viewing either.
I think the main problem with The Santa Clause 2 is that nothing feels all that organic. It feels like the writers came up with the idea after being told to write a sequel to the first, not that this was a story they were dying to tell. The dating storyline is a flimsy premise to start with, mainly because the race against time was just a way to manufacture conflict. Seriously? No one decided to read the contract until the middle of December? After he was Santa for eight years?!? Come on, now! Meanwhile, the villain just seems shoehorned in because they were afraid that they didn’t have enough story, which, let’s be frank, they didn’t. Either that or they just wanted to give Tim Allen an excuse to try and be funny. Honestly, it may have been both. And, on top of all of that, I feel like they threw Scott’s son being on the naughty list on there just because they thought that was a funny position for Santa to be in. They had no idea why he would be on there. It shows because his motivations are not strong. He’s vandalizing because his dad is Santa and he can’t tell anyone? What? This whole script seems like they had about an hour to pitch a sequel to the first, couldn’t come up with one concrete idea, so just threw a bunch of their lesser stuff together. That’s really disappointing too because I have quite the soft spot for the first. I think it’s a really simple, funny story. This one is just weird.
I feel like there’s a simplified version of this movie that could’ve worked. You just take the basic concept of Santa dating and stretch it out into a feature, because those are the parts that kind of worked. Tim Allen and Elizabeth Mitchell actually have really good chemistry together. You could’ve spent more time having Santa subtly performing Christmas miracles for her, using his powers to win her over. And, in a mirror of the original, he’s back to convincing people he’s Santa throughout the movie. Just this time the person is a potential wife. Would it be a little too Lifetime movie-esque? Sure. But, I think it also could’ve been a quant, cute little Christmas movie.There’s no need to overcomplicate it with a big bad villain and the tooth fairy and all that jazz.
Overall, I didn’t hate The Santa Clause 2 but I didn’t really have much affection for it either. It’s my least favorite of the Santa Clause trilogy. I just think it’s kind of bland and forgettable. There’s some decent stuff. There’s some awful stuff. It’s about as middle of the road as you can get.
The Disney Smackdown
This is where we quickly compare the movies against metrics that almost all Disney movies meet. It won’t necessarily determine the winner, but it will help break some stuff down into a nice digestible format.
Our Heroes: Our hero in Coco is Miguel Rivera. He is 12 years old and would like to become a musician. The only problem is that he is from a family that has banned music after his great-great-grandfather abandoned his family decades ago to start a career in music. So, he’s constantly torn between not wanting to disappoint his family while also being true to himself. It’s a very relatable problem. And, he handles it super well. He’s never disrespectful but is willing to bend a couple rules to get what he needs done. Also, we see that he’s got a good heart, as he is often willing to make sacrifices if it’d make others happy. Plus, the kid can sing and, obviously, has a natural talent for music. He’s very much a character worth rooting for.
As was the case with the first one, our lead character for The Santa Clause 2 is Scott Calvin. He’s been Santa for about eight years now, so he’s grown into the role a bit. He’s no longer sarcastic and bitter. He’s a much nicer, more gentile Santa Claus (which moves the movie’s rating down from a PG to a G). He’s one that’s constantly bringing magic to those around him and making everyone’s holiday a little better. Unfortunately, that also means he’s less funny. And, to be honest, Tim Allen isn’t the person I’m going to go with for a heartwarming, lovable character. He’s good for the rough, no filter, but you love him anyway kind of roles. This version of Santa would be better suited for someone like Robin Williams. Wait. I’ve got an idea. How about you just make a romantic comedy about Santa, don’t have it be a sequel, and cast someone like Willaims or Crystal in the role instead? Instantly better movie. Sorry. I’m apparently still in review mode. Overall, I like the character of Scott Calvin/Santa Clause. It just feels like this wasn’t the movie for that character.
Miguel is easily the more likable protagonist. Coco takes this win.
***MAJOR COCO SPOILERS PAST THIS POINT***
Our Beloved Side Characters: One of the things that makes Coco so pleasant is that Miguel’sfamily is filled with such wonderful characters. In the Land of the Dead, his main ally is his friend Hector who he eventually learns is his great-great-grandfather. He’s a terrifically complex character. On one hand, he’s very comedic with gags such as him crossdressing and singing silly songs about attractive ladies. On the other, he’s a super tragic figure. He just wants the chance to be reunited with the family he regrets leaving behind. It’s a mistake he’s lived with for decades now and you can tell it hurts him a lot. I love this character. In many ways, he’s the soul of Coco. Then, there’s Mama Imelda, Miguel’s great-great-grandmother. I love the attitude they gave this character. She’s got a lot of spunk. You can tell that she had her heartbroken, but isn’t going to dwell on it. She’d rather shun him, his lifestyle, and move on to protecting her own family. But, also, you can tell that she really loves Hector and is having a hard time staying mad at him. It feels like a very real situation a husband and wife would find themselves in. There’s also a ton of other dead relatives. Unfortunately, we don’t really get to know their personalities all that well, but the movie wouldn’t be half as much fun without them. Miguel’s family on the other side is great too. Again, there’s a lot of relatives that don’t really get a lot of screentime, but you can tell that they all love each other and want what’s best for the family unit. The one that we do get to know pretty well is Abuelita, Miguel’s grandmother. She’s a really fun character. She’s carrying on her grandmother’s tradition of banning all music, which should make her unlikable. However, you can tell she’s got a deep love for her family and just wants to keep them safe. Unfortunately, that means discriminating against musicians. Her mother, Coco, doesn’t have many scenes either but there’s a very important reason the movie is named after her. She is the bridge between the generations and the absolute heart of the movie. She’s also the kind of adorable old lady you just want to give a big hug to. And, lastly, I couldn’t in good faith wrap up this post without mentioning Dante and Pepita. They are the guide protectors of the Rivera family and are super cool. Dante is kind of your typical, goofy, super lovable dog and Pepita is this huge, majestic, powerful cat. Their distinct personalities mixed with their gorgeous designs make them two of the more unique characters in Pixar’s lineup.
Like most sequels, The Santa Clause 2 features a blend of original and returning characters. All of the original characters are pretty good additions. We’ve got Carol Newman. She’s the one Scott is trying to romance. She’s a strict disciplinarian at her school but knows how to have fun and loosen up when she’s home. Like I said before, her actress, Elizabeth Mitchell, and Tim Allen actually have a lot of chemistry. I think they were adorable together. Meanwhile, there’s a new worker at the North Pole in the form of Curtis. I get nostalgic whenever I see him because it feels like this actor was all over my childhood. In this, he plays his typical nerdy, awkward, always worked up character type. He’s not an especially good character but his yell acting always makes me laugh. He’s also the butt of like 90% of the jokes. Scott’s family has also grown since the last movie with the addition of Lucy, his ex-wife’s youngest daughter. She’s adorable. I swear she was just a replacement for the young kid who’s amazed that they get to actually meet Santa Claus since Scott’s son grew out of the role. That part is in every Christmas movie for a reason though. It’s a trope that works. And, finally among the new characters, we have the Council of Legendary Figures. This includes several iconic characters like Mother Nature, Cupid, and the Easter Bunny. However, the only one we really get to know outside of the meeting in the Tooth Fairy. He’s good for a couple of laughs as he’s kind of insecure about the masculinity of his title. Most of the returning characters are the same as they were before. The only one who’s really changed is Charlie, Scott’s son. And, man, do I hate this kid now. He’s now one of the whiniest, most entitled, punk teenagers in the Disney canon. I think we’re still supposed to like him, but I wanted Scott to tell him off. I get that he’s not a little kid anymore and they didn’t know what to do with him, but this feels like the wrong move. Just put him a corner somewhere. Definitely don’t make him one of the centerpieces of the movie.
For it’s rich complex characters, Coco takes this one fairly easily as well.
Villainous Villains: In Coco, we have a truly sinister villain: Ernesto de la Cruz. He’s an absolute scumbag, one of those villains that you love to hate. Afraid of losing his fame when his partner left and too untalented to write anything of his own, he murdered his friend and stole all of his songs. He’s portrayed as Mexico’s and the Land of the Dead’s biggest star and it’s all a lie. And, when he’s figured out, he is ready to murder a child to help keep the secret. It’s really scummy. I also really enjoy the misdirect. You’re led to believe that he’s the hero of the story for the first two acts. Then, boom, nope. Disney’s been doing a lot of twist villains lately and I think Ernesto is the best one. His motives making sense and a touch of foreshadowing makes his twist seem less like it’s coming out of nowhere. He’s not a villain that was forced in at the last second. Ernesto is crucial to the plot.
Oooooooooh, boy. The villain of The Santa Clause 2… It’s just very bad. He’s a Toy Santa who was put in charge of the North Pole while real Santa went South to deal with his business. He over analyzes the rules and eventually becomes a dictator over the elves. And, I swear they just let Tim Allen run wild with it from there. Again, I like Tim Allen. But, there’s only so much he can do. He is not Jim Carrey. He cannot pull off over the top, crazy characters. Or, at least, he can’t do them well. Toy Santa is just him doing the Buzz Lightyear “Mrs. Nesbitt” bit in half a rubber mask for the entire hour and a half run time. In fact, the only moment that made me legitimately laugh was when he quoted Buzz. And, he feels completely shoehorned in. Maybe they were afraid that boys wouldn’t be invested if they didn’t have a villain. I don’t know. But, this… this is bad.
Do you even have to ask? Coco definitely has the better villain.
Quotable Quotes: From Coco: “We may have our differences, but nothing’s more important than family.” “I have to sing. It’s not IN me… it IS me.” “One cannot deny who one is meant to be.” “Never underestimate the power of music.”
From The Santa Clause 2: After being told Charlie was on the naughty list: “Sheen? I thought he straightened out?” “It’s the Mrs. Clause.” “Oh, a battle of wits. It’s a shame that you come unarmed.”
Every single one of those quotes from Coco could be a motivational poster. Another easy win.
Songs to Add to Your Playlist: As I said before, I freaking love the music in Coco. In my opinion, “Remember Me” is right up there with the best Disney songs of all time. Not only is it insanely catchy, it’s also extremely emotional and meaningful. I can listen to both the sped-up “poppy” version and the traditional, sadder version and get something different out of each. I also really appreciate Miguel’s other two songs. “Un Poco Loco” is a legitimately fun song to dance and sing along too. And, I’ve been known to put on “The World Es Mi Familia” from time to time. Honestly, if Spotify were able to break down Disney songs by artist, I bet Miguel would be my number one most listened to. A lot of the other big ones have one or two songs. I can easily jam to three of Miguel’s.
As far as I can tell, there’s not any new music in The Santa Clause 2, unless you count a cringey Christmas parody of “Man, I Feel Like a Woman” sung by Molly Shannon.
Sorry, Molly. I love you. But, Coco gets yet point.
Most Magical Disney Moment: In Coco, I have to go with the moment that always makes me cry. Miguel has returned from the Land of the Dead. Hector is about to be forgotten, unless Miguel can make Mama Coco remember him. In an act of desperation, Miguel starts playing “Remember Me.” Coco’s face lights up as this was the song her father used to play for her. She smiles and starts to sing along. Everyone in the room starts crying. I start crying. It’s beautiful. I had to sit through the credits upon my first viewing because I was not going to leave that theater with tears streaming down my face. Easily one of my favorite Disney moments.
In the Santa Clause 2, Carol invites Scott to her work Christmas party. Using magic, they travel there in a one horse open sleigh with a perfect snowfall. When they arrive, everyone seems bored and not in the holiday spirit at all. Scott fixes this by putting on a bit of a presentation where he gives each of the teachers the gifts they wanted most as children. Before long, the party is hopping with games and toys everywhere. Then, Scott takes Carol aside, gives her the doll she always wanted, and makes mistletoe magically appear. It’s a lot of fun to see stuffy adults really embrace being kids again when presented with some Christmas magic and one of the rare moments this movie will successfully put you in the Christmas spirit.
For creating one of my all-time favorite PixarDisney movie moments, it’s Coco again.
Legacies: he legacy of Coco is super strong. The movie has a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 8.4 on IMDB, making it the 75th highest ranking movie on the site. It also did extremely well at the box office, as the 11th biggest film of the year. It won two Academy Awards: Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song for “Remember Me.” There is a show at Disney’s California Adventure celebrating the music of Coco with an adorable Miguel puppet. And, there have been rumors for years about Coco possibly replacing The Three Caballeros in the Mexico pavilion ride at Epcot, but those may just be a pipe dream. A couple of Mexican restaurants in Tokyo and China’s parks are themed to Coco as well. But, most importantly, Coco has been praised for its admiration and respect for Mexican culture, ignoring the fact that Disney wanted to trademark Dia de los Muertos. It’s also the first movie with a budget over $100 million to feature an all Latino cast. As a result, the movie was a massive hit in Mexico, quickly becoming their highest grossing movie of all-time. Overall, I’d say Coco is easily one of the most beloved and cherished movies Disney has put out in the last ten years.
Overall, the legacy of The Santa Clause 2 is mixed. It has a 56% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 5.6 on IMDB. The movie was a moderate hit at the box office, becoming one of the highest grossing Christmas movies. It did well enough that there was a third Santa Clause film four years later. And, that’s pretty much it. No awards. No rides. Nothing. Just mixed reviews and a moderate level of success.
I don’t think I’m breaking any ground by saying Coco is the more impactful and beloved film of the two.
AND THE WINNER IS
Was there ever really any doubt? I mean… I couldn’t even give The Santa Clause 2 a single point. I really, really freaking love Coco. As I said before, it’s one of my favorite movies ever. The Santa Clause 2 never stood a chance.
Congratulations, Miguel, Hector, and the rest of the Rivera family! You live on to fight another day… even though half of you are dead.
Thank you for joining me today. It was a lot of fun revisiting these two movies, even if it wasn’t necessarily the right time to do so. There’s going to be a bit of delay between this post and the next. I’m going to take the holiday weekend off to just relax with my family. I hope you have a fantastic Memorial Day and I’ll see you in a couple days for Frankenweenie vs. Midnight Madness.
Hiya folks. Welcome back to Dyl’s Ultimate Disney Tournament. We are on our eighth match-up of the bracket. Today we’ve got #96 The Three Musketeers facing off against #161 The Shaggy Dog. And… well, this one was extremely close for reasons I’ll get into later. I know I say that a lot, but I really had to hunker down and think about who was going to end up winning this one. Without further ado, let’s get to the movies.
#96 – The Three Musketeers (1993)
Director: Stephen Herek
Writer: David Loughery
Starring: Charlie Sheen, Kiefer Sutherland, Chris O’Donnell, Oliver Platt, Tim Curry, and Rebecca De Mornay
Plot: After the musketeers are disbanded, a small group of them still tries to foil a plot against their king.
Review: I wanted to like The Three Musketeers. I really did. I like all of the actors. All of the still images, posters, and clips I’d seen looked alright. And, it was based on a classic piece of literature and made in the good old fashioned Hollywood style. What was there not to like? Well, as it turns out there’s a lot.
Let’s start off with the positives. The highest compliment I can give The Three Musketeers is that it looks fantastic. While it obviously wasn’t actually Paris, you can tell they took the time to actually scope out beautiful European locations. I was constantly marveling at the beautiful scenery. And I appreciated that all of the internal castle shots were filmed in an actual castle. I’m glad they didn’t use green screens or sound stages. This made the movie feel more real. I’ve also got to give major props to the costume designer. Each and every costume was spot on. They looked like they belonged in the 1600s. From the feathery hats to the priest robes, I loved the outfits in this movie. It’s a shame that the movie wasn’t that good, because the set and costume designers could’ve been Oscar contenders. They definitely make this B-movie seem more important than it is.
Now, as I said, I’m a fan of almost all of the actors involved in The Three Musketeers. They’ve all turned in a performance or two that I enjoyed. But, none of them were particularly great in this one. In fact, most of them were downright bad. To be fair, I’m not sure that even Daniel Day-Lewis himself could’ve saved this movie’s bad dialogue. It was Tommy Wiseau’s The Room level of bad at points. I’ve not seen all of the writer’s movies, but I can already tell you that I’m not a fan. His Rotten Tomatoes page tells me I’m not missing much either. And, while I do like them, none of these actors really have the bravado to sell a bad line. That is, except for Tim Curry of course. I don’t know what it is about him but he thrives in below average movies. He’s almost always the best part. He can take cheese and ham it up into something special. This is no exception. I’m a big fan of Curry’s work here. His scenes were always a highlight.
The other problem I had with The Three Musketeers is that the action is a little lacking. With the practical sets and extravagant costumes, I was expecting something in the vein of Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood. But, every time things seemed like they were starting to ramp up into an intense action set piece, everything would resolve itself fairly quickly and we’d lose that momentum. I can’t help but wonder what this would’ve looked like with the Pirates of the Caribbean team on board. I know it’s ten years earlier, but that level of stunt choreography would’ve helped a lot. Take that and mix it with the grand setting and flamboyant costumes? I’m not sure you would even need good writing to make that worth watching. Instead of talking about how bad the dialogue is, I’d be praising how fun this movie is. I wanted it to be fun. Why wasn’t it fun?
Overall, The Three Musketeers is completely middle of the road. The costumes and settings are impressive, but the dialogue and stiff acting kills any potential this movie had. I’d definitely say you’re ok with skipping this one.
#161 – The Shaggy Dog (1959)
Director: Charles Barton
Writers: Lillie Hayward and Bill Walsh
Starring: Fred MacMurray, Jean Hagen, Tommy Kirk, Annette Funicello, and Tim Considine
Plot: A teenage boy is turned into a dog by a magic ring until he breaks the curse by performing a heroic act.
Review: Speaking of movies I wanted to love… woof. The Shaggy Dog is ruff. (Ok, I’ll stop with the puns.) What really stinks is that I can see it’s potential. It’s got the makings of a fairly decent family comedy, but, man, did they overcomplicate this one. The plot became so insane that I, as an adult, could barely follow along. And what plot I could keep track of was cheesy as heck. The idea of a boy turning into a dog is maybe the most believable thing in this story.
The dog stuff was cute enough. It’s a fun plot point to see a wrench like this thrown into a typical whitebread American family. The transformations were clever. The puppet used for the talking dog was good enough. I got a couple of laughs out of a dog brushing his teeth and driving a car. And, how he does stuff and people stop and give a shocked look like “did I just see what I think I saw?”. It’s also silly that his dad doesn’t like dogs so he has to hide from him. Man, what a cute, simple movie! Oh… there’s more to it than that? Weird.
When I was doing my research for this review, I found a very telling quote from star Tommy Kirk. He said, “At the time, I viewed it as a fairy tale, but in later years, I’ve come to think that the film has one of the screwiest combinations of plot elements in any movie ever made. It has all the realistic elements of the Cold War — Russian spies plotting against the government — mixed in with a rivalry over Annette between two teenage boys, mixed in with a fantasy about a boy who turns into a dog because he encounters a ring from the Borgias.” That about sums up my feelings on the movie too but in a not so positive light. This movie is jam packed with stuff, but not in a good way. There are three distinct plots occurring and I only cared about the one. Most of the teenage dating stuff annoyed me. I didn’t really care for most of the kids so their romantic escapades didn’t catch my interest. So, I was already waning when they introduced the spy stuff. And, holy crap, why is there spy stuff in this movie? It’s not even particularly interesting spy stuff. This is the kind of stuff I’d expect in an episode of Arthur. Just vaguely threatening Russian (?) spies planning on stealing something (?) in the middle of an American suburban neighborhood foiled by a bunch of children. It’s very strange. I feel like no one properly warned me about this. I’ve only been told that The Shaggy Dog was a cute movie about a teenager turning into a pooch. What is all of this extra stuff? Did everyone else forget about it? Did I watch the wrong movie? What is happening?
Overall, I don’t know exactly how I feel about The Shaggy Dog, but I don’t think I liked it. There’s just too much going on. The dog stuff works, but I was bored by everything else.
The Disney Smackdown
This is where we quickly compare the movies against metrics that almost all Disney movies meet. It won’t necessarily determine the winner, but it will help break some stuff down into a nice digestible format.
Our Heroes: Our main character in The Three Musketeers is D’Artagnan. He’s a young man who would like to join the recently disbanded musketeers to live up to his deceased father’s legacy. He’s also a little headstrong, cocky, and slightly dimwitted. He meets each of the other musketeers by pissing them off and being challenged to a duel. Literally, all three of them within like ten minutes. And, we later see him reveal his whole plan to the villain. It’s not in some kind of forced manner either. He just meets her and immediately starts spilling his guts. It’s quite odd. But, for the most part, his head is in the right place. He just wants to be a hero. Honestly, with Chris O’Donnell playing him, it was hard not to compare him to Robin in Batman Forever. It’s almost exactly the same role. I guarantee you the producers of Batman thought of him for that role after seeing him in this.
Our hero in The Shaggy Dog is Wilby Daniels. He’s just your average, everyday American boy who… builds bombs in his basement? Yeah. The first thing we see this kid do is almost blow up his family’s home with a missile in the basement. So, that should play into the plot later, right? Oh, no. He is supposed to be your average teenager, but just slightly more awkward. He fights with his friends over girls. He hides from his stereotypical 50’s straight-edge dad. So, we’re already kind of on a weird path before we even see this kid turn into a dog. I mean, I guess he’s a good kid. We’re not rooting against him. He’s just weird and slightly boring, like the movie itself.
I’m gonna give the win to The Three Musketeers. He’s at least a realistic person.
Our Beloved Side Characters: Fittingly enough, most of the supporting cast in The Three Musketeers is made up of… well, the three musketeers. There’s Aramis. He’s played by Charlie Sheen, so you probably already know his personality. He’s a womanizer. He’s sassy. He’s cocky. He… is super religious. Ok, maybe that part is a bit unpredictable. Still, he’s basically Charlie Sheen in a feathered hat. Then, there’s Athos, as played by Keifer Sutherland. He’s the noble one with a dark past. He takes his work, his responsibility, and his drinking very seriously. Unfortunately, that also means he’s kind of the most boring one. And, finally, we’ve got Porthos, played by Oliver Platt. He’s kind of a show-off. He’s constantly pulling new and interesting weapons out in the middle of battle. He’s also probably the funniest of the musketeers. His schtick was a simple one, but I enjoyed it. Outside of the musketeers, the only characters I really took note of were Queen Anne and King Louis. She was portrayed as a real badass, instantly seeing through the villain’s plot, while he was a weaker sort that was super gullible. I appreciated their performances, even if they weren’t featured much.
Our side characters in The Shaggy Dog, unfortunately, aren’t very likable. In fact, I was ready to throw two of these characters into the villain category, despite the movie telling me otherwise. First of all, there’s Wilby’s dad, Wilson. This guy is a total piece of crap. He talks down to his family. He poo poos on his kids’ hobbies. And, he’s super judgmental towards his neighbors. We’re told early on that he’s a people person, but the movie doesn’t portray him in that way. Or, at least, he’s not one based on modern standards. But, worst of all, the guy hates dogs. I get that he’s allergic to them and used to be a mailman, but his level of hatred seems unjustified. Like, you’d think every dog he sees has personally killed a close family member by his reactions to them. He even chases one through his suburban neighborhood WHILE SHOOTING A SHOTGUN AT HIM at one point just because it was in his house. It’s not some random dog either. He’s pretty sure it belongs to his neighbor. What the hell? That character definitely does not hold up. The other piece of crap human being is Buzz Miller, Wilby’s best friend. Again, I’m not sure whether we’re supposed to like this kid but his actions are despicable. When he and Wilby take two girls to the dance, he tries very hard to somehow make Wilby’s date fall for him instead. This ends up throwing his date and his best friend under the bus. It’s really scummy. And that’s not the only time it happens either. This dude is constantly looking out for his own best interests. But, again, the movie tells us that he’s not a bad guy. He’s just “conceited.” Bullshit. He’s awful. The rest of the characters aren’t so bad, but are kind of bland. There’s the two girls Allison and Francesca. They’re both alright. As far as 50s entertainment goes, they are rather strong characters. They at least do stand up for themselves a little bit. Then, there’s the rest of the Daniels family. The mom, Frida, is kind of your typical 50s housewife. While his brother Moochie is super adorable in how supportive he is of his brother.
This is another win for The Three Musketeers. Regardless of their acting abilities, the musketeers are likable people.
Villainous Villains: Like I said in my review, my favorite character in The Three Musketeers was Tim Curry’s Cardinal Richelieu. Whenever you see Curry in the villain role, you know you’re in for a good time. The dude just chews scenery like no one else. Every single one of his lines is delivered perfectly and make for great six second Youtube clips. His wicked grin and deep, drawling voice just do so much for me. Plus, he plays such a conniving, evil character here. I loved his performance and there’s not a lot to love in this movie. Likewise, I found his sidekick Captain Rochefort to be fascinating too. First of all, he just looks great. With his all-black get-up, his eye patch, that douchey facial beard, and the flowing hair, he’s just instantly recognizable as a cheesy, fun bad guy. And, he’s got this air about him where you can tell that he thinks he’s better than everyone around him. I’ve never really taken note of this actor before (which is weird because I’ve seen a lot of his stuff), but he’s right behind Curry in his campy goodness here. There’s a third villain too called Milady de Winter. We don’t really get to know her all that well, but the big reveal with her is one of the more interesting parts of the movie. I really enjoyed her relationship with Athos as well. Overall, the villains of The Three Musketeers are really freaking strong though.
I can’t tell you a single thing about Dr. Mikhail Valasky from The Shaggy Dog, other than that he’s Russian (?), a spy, evil, and Francesca’s step(?)-dad. That’s literally all I know. I’m not sure I could even point the actor out in a picture of the cast in the next week or two.
This is the easiest win for The Three Musketeers yet. Tim Curry elevates each and every movie he’s ever been in.
Quotable Quotes: From The Three Musketeers: After being told the queen would rather die: “That can be arranged.” “God, I love my work!” “Rochefort. Isn’t that a smelly kind of cheese?” “Only a fool would try and arrest us twice in one day.”
From The Shaggy Dog: “I like you much better as a dog.” “I think that dogs don’t like mailmen because — well, because sometimes they bring bad news.”
You know something is amiss when writing as bad as The Three Musketeers starts winning.
Songs to Add to Your Playlist: While I listened to it and it did almost nothing for me, I guess “All for Love,” the credits song from The Three Musketeers by Bryan Adams, Rod Stewart, and Sting, was a bit of a hit the year the movie was released. While I enjoy all three of those guys and the song isn’t bad, I don’t think it’s something I’d go out of my way to listen to. It’s nothing special.
There’s a 50s style bop at the beginning of The Shaggy Dog that gets you in the mood for the wacky romp you’re about to watch. Unfortunately, it doesn’t prepare you quite enough. It’s still an adorable enough little song. I don’t think I’d listen to it outside of the movie though.
I won’t find myself jamming out to either any time soon, but, if I had to pick, I guess I’d choose “All for Love” from The Three Musketeers.
Most Magical Disney Moment: During the finale of The Three Musketeers, D’Artagnan and Rochefort come face to face. In one of the rare good action scenes, they battle up and down the castle stairs. The backdrop is gorgeous. The fight choreography is great. Like I said before, Rochefort is a top-notch cheesy villain. And, these two have a really clever back and forth. Plus, a couple really important, emotional revelations are made. It definitely has more than a hint of Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride, but it made for one of the better moments in the movie. I wish the whole movie was like this.
Before The Shaggy Dog got too weird, Wilby comes home in dog form for the first time. He changes into his pajama, goes to the bathroom, and tucks himself into bed. Meanwhile, his little brother is watching on in bewilderment, wondering if he’s dreaming. It’s more or less what I was expecting from this movie. I wish they had stayed down this path. The gag might’ve gotten old, but at least it wouldn’t feel overcrowded.
I’m going to give this one to The Shaggy Dog. It’s the one scene in both of these movies that gave me exactly what I wanted.
Legacies: The legacy for The Three Musketeers isn’t great. The movie only has a 28% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 6.4 on IMDB. The movie wasn’t a huge financial success, barely making back its budget. Chris O’Donnell was nominated for Worst Supporting Actor at that year’s Razzies. The only real other impact is that the song “All for Love” was a massive hit, reaching #1 on the charts. There was also a two-part comic book adaptation put out by pre-Disney Marvel. Overall, The Three Musketeers is definitely more or less a relic of the 1990s. It has really left much of a mark on Disney or society as a whole.
Actually, The Shaggy Dog’s legacy is quite large. It has a 68% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 6.5 on IMDB. As far as box office goes, it made nine times its budget. That made it the second-biggest film of 1959 and the most profitable Disney flick up to that point. There were two direct sequels, one theatrical and one made for television, as well as two remakes, again one theatrical and one made for television. Due to its box office success, The Shaggy Dog kicked off a stream of movies nicknamed “gimmick comedies” where something wacky happens to a middle-class whitebread family. These would go on for decades and would hold the company afloat through some of their rougher patches. So, yeah, The Shaggy Dog was massively important to the overall legacy of the Walt Disney Company.
With all of those remakes, sequels, and box office receipts, it’s easy to see that The Shaggy Dog had the better legacy.
AND THE WINNER IS…
THE THREE MUSKETEERS
As much as I didn’t want to, I have to admit that The Three Musketeers is a better movie. I didn’t really enjoy either one, but Musketeers at least told a more streamlined story. And, as I mentioned, the characters were better too. I’m not looking forward to watching it again, but at least I’ll be able to spend more time with that Tim Curry performance!
Congratulations, D’Artagnan and the three musketeers! You move on to fight another day!
Be sure to check in for the next match-up, where Coco faces off against The Santa Clause 2. It’s sure to be a good one. I’m going to try my best to get it up by Friday evening before this holiday weekend. No promises though. But, I’ll definitely try.
Hiya folks. Welcome back to Dyl’s Ultimate Disney Tournament! We’ve got a good match-up today. It’s #33 Remember the Titans versus #224 The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride. I like both of these movies. In fact, I have such fond memories of both that I wasn’t sure who was going to win before re watching them. I knew that Remember the Titans was a great movie, but would my nostalgia for everything Lion King win out? Let’s jump into it and figure out together.
#33 – Remember the Titans (2000)
Director: Boaz Yakin
Writer: Gregory Allen Howard
Starring: Denzel Washington, Will Patton, Wood Harris, Ryan Hurst, Donald Faison, Craig Kirkwood, Ethan Suplee, Ryan Gosling, Burgess Jenkins, Kip Pardue, and Hayden Panettiere
Plot: A black man is hired to coach the football team of a newly integrated high school.
Mini-Review: I forgot how much I loved Remember the Titans. I watched this movie quite a bit as a kid, but I was afraid to go back to it. I was afraid that it’d be too cheesy or too simple. Like I said during my post on Angels in the Outfield, sometimes stuff from your childhood just does not hold up. That’s not the case with Remember the Titans though. It is still a very good, very important movie.
Honestly, it’s kind of impressive that Remember the Titans is as good as it is. The plot is fairly straightforward. You know exactly what’s going to happen from the moment the Disney logo comes on the screen. However, you still find yourself getting deeply connected to the story. I still fist pumped every time the Titans scored. I cheered when they stood up to adversity. I cried when the sad parts inevitably happened. It’s a tried and true formula, but it’s one that works. And, in this case, it works really, really well.
Plus, it’s nice to see Disney actually make some social commentary. Is it oversimplified and melodramatic? Of course it is! This is Disney! But, for a family film, it’s brave of them to even approach the topic. And the fact that we’re still having problems with this super simple message 20 years later (50 from the events in the movie) means that maybe, for some, the message isn’t that simple. I can see some kid born into a backwards thinking family stumbling upon this movie and learning a thing or two. And, if no one is there to teach them that people are people, I guess a movie is the next best thing.
My favorite part of Remember the Titans and what makes it stand out is the chemistry the team shares. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the concept of teamwork portrayed as well as it is here. While they start off kind of distant, they eventually come together and want whatever’s best for the team. And, there are a ton of fleshed out characters, each with their own moments to shine from the coach to the second string quarterback. It’s no wonder this is known as one of the best football movies.
Overall, I loved Remember the Titans. It can be formulaic and oversimplified at times, but the talented cast and important message outshines any potential problems.
#224 – The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride (1998)
Directors: Darrell Rooney and Rob LaDuca
Writers: Flip Kobler and Cindy Marcus
Starring: Matthew Broderick, Neve Campbell, Andy Dick, Robert Guillaume, James Earl Jones, Moira Kelly, Nathan Lane, Jason Marsden, Suzanne Pleshette, and Ernie Sabella
Plot: Simba’s daughter, Kiara, falls in love with a member of a disgraced pride of Scar loyalists.
Mini-Review: “The Disney sequels are trash.” That’s all I’ve heard my entire life. And, to be honest, most of them are. But, I’ve always argued that a few of them are worthwhile. They’re not instant classics or anything, but they’re good for a viewing. They give you more insight into the world and let you spend more time with the characters that you love. To me, that’s exactly what The Lion King II is. It’s not high cinema. It’s definitely a step down from the original. But, I still found myself enjoying it.
Let’s start off with the inevitable comparisons to the original. Of course, it’s not nearly as good. The animation is definitely not on par. The characters look slightly off. The fire and water effects look a little wonky. Just nothing looks as natural as it did in The Lion King or even really any Disney hand-drawn movie for that time period. You can definitely feel the budget cuts. But, unfortunately, the animation isn’t the only part that’s suffered. The music is a definite step down. There’s nothing super iconic here, while the original was packed with hit after hit. And, the plot just doesn’t seem as important. The first felt like a gripping tale of legacy, destiny, and finding your purpose. This just doesn’t have that depth. But, I would argue that there’s no way it could live up to those expectations. The Lion King is one of the best animated movies of all time. There were crazy talented animators with huge budgets and big-name talents working on that movie. Of course a direct-to-video movie isn’t going to compare. And, it’s probably more than unfair to set the bar that high.
On its own merits, The Lion King II is pretty decent. While the plot doesn’t match the importance of Simba’s journey, it still feels like a next logical step. Like, of course, you’d follow up a Hamlet interpretation with a Romeo and Juliet one. It’s still an entertaining plot too. It’s not like I was bored. Also, unlike other Disney sequels, most of the voice cast returned so we’ve still got a lot of super talented actors involved. None of the characters act out of character either (except maybe Simba at certain points). And, the new characters that are introduced are likable enough. Plus, it’s just good to be back in the world of The Lion King. It’s one of my favorite movies ever made, so I’ll eat up almost anything set in the Pride Lands.
Overall, I enjoyed The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride. I loved it as a kid, but as an adult it’s hard to ignore its flaws. It’s not nearly as groundbreaking or artful as it’s predecessor but that’s a hard bar to clear. It’s still an entertaining enough movie. I’d definitely recommend it if you enjoy the original as much as I do. It’s one of the better Disney sequels.
The Disney Smackdown
This is where we quickly compare the movies against metrics that almost all Disney movies meet. It won’t necessarily determine the winner, but it will help break some stuff down into a nice digestible format.
Our Heroes: Our hero in Remember the Titans is Coach Herman Boone. He is put into an extremely difficult situation. He has to coach the football team for a school that just integrated. Of course, that comes with a lot of racial tensions. On top of that, the town plans to fire him if he loses a single game. So, he gets to be Martin Luther King and Bill Belichick all rolled up into one. But, he handles the pressure remarkably well. He makes students of different races interact and get to know each other. He gives starting positions based on talent, not race. He ignores all of the hate he gets, deciding to instead focus on the game. And, he gives some of the most powerful speeches I’ve seen on film. Not to mention the fact that he’s played perfectly by one of the greatest living actors, Denzel Washington. He truly is a great character and one of the better coaches I’ve seen.
As The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride is a romance, we’ve got two lead characters. There’s Kiara. She’s Simba’s daughter, who he is very protective of. She’s constantly trying to gain independence from her dad. She doesn’t want to just be a princess. She’d like to have the ability to hunt and roam around like the other lions. That rebellious streak leads her to Kovu. He is the youngest member of a pride of lions that remained loyal to Scar, but doesn’t really understand the history between the two prides. (He’s definitely not Scar’s son though. They pound that into your head. Forget that his siblings are all Scar’s kids, he was originally written to be, and he looks just freaking like him. There is absolutely no cousin loving going on here! None. Leave it alone.) Eventually, his mother sends him into Pride Rock in an attempt to assassinate Simba. Instead, he falls in love with Kiara and his family and learns of Scar’s evil past. With Kiara, the two try to show the prides that they should forget their past, reunite, and live as one. I like these two characters. Kovu, especially, has a really interesting arc. I would watch a third Lion King featuring them.
I’ve got to give this win to Remember the Titans. Coach Boone is just such a noble and honest man. It’s hard not to look up to him.
Our Beloved Side Characters: Like I said before, almost everyone featured in Remember the Titans is great. There’s the assistant coach Bill Yoast. He’s extremely loyal. Towards the beginning of the movie, we see him threaten to quit after he is demoted to assistant coach. He backs down though, when he learns that his young players would also step away if he did. Throughout the movie, we see him really embrace his new position as he grows closer to Coach Boone. By the end, we see him willing to sacrifice his career and reputation for his friend and the rest of the team. He’s just another all around good guy. He’s also got a daughter, Sheryl Yoast, who is absolutely obsessed with football. I remember she was my favorite character as a kid. Her interactions with Boone’s more traditionally girly daughter are really funny. My favorite character pairing now though is that of Julius Campbell and Gerry Bertier. They are both the star players on their former teams. When integrated, they, of course, clash heads. However, they eventually call each other out, readjust, and go on to become best friends. This is at the expense of many of Gerry’s family and friends. Their actions towards each other in the third act, after the accident, are especially touching. I really like these characters and their relationship is the heart of this movie. There’s Louie Lastik who is your typical big, lovable goofball. He’s the first one to accept all of his teammates, legitimately not seeming to care what race they are. Then, we’ve got Ronnie “Sunshine” Bass, who might be gay (the movie never definitely says) which would be huge for a Disney movie in 2000. Actually, it’s almost even more progressive than that. When asked, he just says “why does it matter?” That’s huge! That’s a really important step for 1971 (or 2000, or 2020)! Why don’t we talk about this, like, ever? Sunshine was ahead of the curve! And, while it may be unfair because they’re played by two of my favorite actors, I could not keep my eyes off of Petey Jones (Donald Faison) and Alan Bosley (Ryan Gosling). Neither was all that important to the plot, but I could always rely on them for a laugh.
A lot of the heroic side characters from The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride are leftovers from the original. Probably the most disappointing of these comes in the form of Simba himself. He’s, like, really hateful towards Kovu here. And, sure, I kind of get it. That pride still worships the man who killed his father and almost succeeded in killing him too. That’s no good. But, Kovu had nothing to do with that. He was either a baby or not even born at that time. Come on, Simba! Out of everyone, you should understand what it’s like to be banished for something you didn’t do. Did you forget everything that happened in the first movie? Sure, it’s nice to see Simba again and his stuff with Kiara is really cute, but it’s disappointing to see him like this. And it’s weird that Disney took him in that direction. Other than that, everyone else is pretty much the same. Rafiki is still weird and all up in everyone’s business. Timon and Pumbaa aren’t in this movie nearly enough. They take over the role Zazu previously had, as, more or less, glorified babysitters. I’m glad they had their own tv show and eventually a movie to shine in, because (spoilers) Timon is my favorite Disney character and is underutilized here. And, Nala and Zazu are pushed so far to the side that I don’t even remember if they said anything in this one or not.
As much as I think each of the characters from The Lion King are iconic, they aren’t super well represented in The Lion King II. I’ve got to give this one to the terrific team of players in Remember the Titans.
Villainous Villains: The real villain in Remember the Titans is racism. Wait. Never mind. Let’s not get poetic. It’s true though. There aren’t really that many named bad characters here. The only real one is Ray Budds. He used to be best friends with Gerry. Unfortunately, as Gerry grew as a person, Ray was left behind. He never moves on from being bitter and racist. He’s eventually kicked off of the team for not blocking for the black quarterback. Plus, he’s got one of those punchable white supremacist faces. (Sorry to the actor. I’m sure you’re very nice.) The only other named character we see constantly be a piece of shit is Emma Hoyt, Gerry’s girlfriend. However, after the injury, we see her grow and eventually become accepting of Julius. It just takes a little longer than the others, which makes her look bad. Other than that and the nameless townspeople, everyone else grows out of their hateful ways. So, yeah, maybe it’s not poetic. Maybe racism is just the bad guy…
The villains of The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride are pretty cool. We’ve got Zira. She’s the leader of the pride that worships Scar. She is driven by hate and a need for revenge against Simba. She’s got a wicked cool voice, a scary design, and even a traditional villain song. The only problem is that she definitely feels like a sequel villain. Like, she has no motivation of her own other than revenge. And, we don’t really emphasize with her in any way because we don’t know how real her connection to Scar is. I think showing her be a little vulnerable and heartbroken would’ve really helped. Speaking of which, there’s Nuka. He might be my favorite of the new characters, honestly. He’s the eldest son of Zira and (according to the writer of the movie) Scar. As such, he is extremely jealous of all the attention Kovu is getting. He just wants his mother’s affection, even though it’s obvious he’s not fit for a leadership role. This leads to the most heartbreaking scene in the movie as he fails at chasing down Simba. It’s one of the more underrated sad moments in Disney. Then, there’s Vitani, who is super loyal to her mother but is also one of the first to be convinced to come to Kovu’s side. She’s not super important but I would feel weird leaving her off because she is a fun, evil character. Overall, I’d definitely say that the villains in The Lion King II are kind of underrated. They’re not the best Disney has got, but they get the job done.
This one is close, but I’ve got to give the win to The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride. While their motivations aren’t as clear, I think their overall vibe is more iconic. I’m going to remember Zira and Nuka for years. I’ll just remember that the villains from Remember the Titans are racists, not their specific faces.
Quotable Quotes: From Remember the Titans: “You’ve taught this city how to trust the soul of a man rather than the look of him.” “Attitude reflects leadership, captain.” “Sometimes life is hard for no reason at all.”
From The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride: “Them? Us? Look at them. They are us. What differences do you see?” “Oh, Mufasa. You’ve been up there too long. Your head is in the clouds.” “Someone once told me we are one. I didn’t understand it then but I do now.”
These are actually super similar when you break it down to just the quotes, huh? I think those from Remember the Titans are a bit deeper though.
Songs to Add to Your Playlist: While Remember the Titans isn’t a musical, music still plays a massive part in it. The score is really, really good. And, it has a 1970s Rock soundtrack that’s right up there with Guardians of the Galaxy. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” especially, gets a moment to really shine here.
While not as good as the ones from the original, the songs for The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride are still super catchy. There’s “He Lives In You,” which some might recognize from the musical production of the original. I don’t know if we should count that, but it’s still really freaking good and this movie’s “Circle of Life.” Then, there’s “We Are One” which pretty much sums up the whole moral of the movie. “Upendi” is probably my favorite song. It’s like a combination of “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” and “Hakuna Matata.” I really like it and it’s been stuck in my head for days now. Plus, Rafiki gets to sing a song which is really cool. There’s also a song called “One of Us” that is such a good shaming song that it made me feel uncomfortable while watching. I’m not sure if that’s because the song made me feel shame or the fact that all of the other non-lion characters sang too though. Definitely effective. And, finally, we’ve got “My Lullaby” which many rank up there as one of the best Disney villain songs. I like it but I wouldn’t go that far. To each their own though. While none of these songs are iconic, they’re still all pretty good. I kept thinking that they’ve got the same style as Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog in that half-singing half-talking style. It’s insane that I thought that because, as it turns out, Joss Whedon helped write the music for this movie. Weird right? That should give you an overall feel for the music if you’ve seen Dr. Horrible. But, yeah, overall, The Lion King II has some pretty decent music.
I’ve got to say that Remember the Titans has the better songs, but I’m going to give this one to The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride since they’re originals. I could’ve easily swayed the opposite direction though.
Most Magical Disney Moment: In Remember the Titans, after an especially hard training camp and before their toughest opponent of the season, the Titans come out onto the field with a musical warmup. They sing and dance together, not as different races, but as Titans, a team united despite their differences. Plus, it’s just really catchy and super entertaining. It’s the moment that made me realize just how much I enjoyed this team and this movie.
I think for The Lion King II I’m going to go with the “Upendi” sequence. It’s where we see Kiara and Kovu fall in love. We get to see more of Rafiki. And, it’s one of the rare moments that actually feels like it matches the artistry of the original. We get the same vibrant colors and beautiful African imagery we saw in some of the more iconic original musical numbers. Can you still feel the budget cuts? Sure. But, it’s still a vibrant, beautiful number that proves there was effort put into this movie. Plus, that song is just really good.
It’s Remember the Titans. That moment is iconic for a reason.
Legacies: The legacy for Remember the Titans is fairly strong. It has a 73% on Rotten Tomatoes and a strong 7.8 on IMDB. It did well at the box office, but wasn’t one of the biggest hits of 2000. The score is widely used through many sporting events and political rallies. As a drama, it’s unfair to judge Remember the Titans on its lack of sequels or amusement park attractions like I would with other Disney flicks. However, it is very well known for being one of the better Disney sports movies and, to some, one of the best football movies ever made.
For a direct-to-video release, the legacy of The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride is actually pretty good. It has a 62% on Rotten Tomatoes and a comparable 6.5 on IMDB. It broke the record for the best selling direct-to-video release, making $300 million for Disney. It was followed by another Lion King inbetweenquel and a second tv series. The show takes place during Kiara’s childhood and follows Simba’s second child. All of the characters from this movie make appearances. There are many attractions based on The Lion King franchise, but, as far as I know, none reference anything from this. But, overall, the main lasting legacy of The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride is that it’s actually been accepted by a significant portion of the fanbase. Most of the direct-to-video sequels of that era did not fare so well.
This one is super tough. Do I go with prestige or the movie that’s characters live on in Disney lore? It’s a weird comparison to make. Uh… I guess I’ll go with Remember the Titans. I feel like it’s more fondly remembered.
AND THE WINNER IS…
REMEMBER THE TITANS!
I couldn’t in good faith have this turn out any other way. Remember the Titans is an absolute classic with a really important message and fantastic performances. The Lion King II, while not bad, just doesn’t compare.
Congratulations Coach Boone, Coach Yoast, and the Titans! You move on to fight another day.
Be sure to check in next time for two Disney movies that are new to me. It’s the 1993 version of The Three Musketeers versus the original Shaggy Dog. I’m excited to see both of them. Which one will win? Only time will tell.
Hiya folks. Welcome back to Dyl’s Ultimate Disney Tournament. Again, sorry for the delay. Life has been a bit hectic lately. I’m still very much enjoying this tournament though and I hope you guys are too.
Today’s match-up is an interesting one. We’ve got our first live action vs live action faceoff. It’s #97 Darby O’Gill and the Little People versus #160 Angels in the Outfield. I’ve experienced one for the first time ever and revisited the other for the first time in decades. Which one won out? Well, let’s figure out together.
#97 – Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959)
Director: Robert Stevenson
Writer: Lawrence Edward Watkin
Starring: Albert Sharpe, Janet Munro, Sean Connery, and Jimmy O’Dea
Plot: Darby O’Gill, an old Irish farmhand, catches a wish-granting leprechaun, which he uses to leave his daughter a better life.
Mini-Review: And I thought Escape to Witch Mountain was weird? Darby O’Gill and the Little People is easily the strangest Disney movie I’ve come upon in this tournament yet. But, gosh darn it, it’s also delightful. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a more Irish movie in my life.There’s leprechauns. There’s banshees. There’s plenty of drinking. And, there’s Sean Connery singing an Irish jig. I mean… what more could you want. It’s like all of the Saint Patrick’s Day cliches just explode all of the screen for 90 minutes.
I only really have one minor complaint about Darby O’Gill. They don’t really hold your hand at all. It’s an immediate deep dive into the world of Irish folklore and there’s a lot happening early on. You don’t get a scene like Genie explaining that Aladdin gets three wishes. You have to just know that the leprechaun king grants wishes. Also, there’s no explanation of what the banshee is. With the accents, it definitely took some time for me to catch up. In fact, I had to pause it and read the Wiki to make sure I caught everything. You probably should just know that going in. It’s a very strange experience, especially in the world of family entertainment. However, I didn’t mind it all that much because it added to the feeling that this movie is balls to the wall crazy.
I’m not really super crazy about the ending either. I’m not going to go too deep into it, because, well, spoilers. But, I think there’s some logical fallacies here. It didn’t hurt my enjoyment all that much though. Just definitely thought it was worth mentioning.
The special effects in this movie are amazing. Seriously, if I didn’t know better, I would think Walt Disney pulled a Willy Wonka and actually found leprechauns somewhere in the world. But, in reality, it’s just forced perspective, mirror tricks, and the occasional puppet. It definitely comes together well though. I’m constantly impressed with what filmmakers were able to do with practical effects before computers. I really wish that art form would make a comeback, because, in my opinion, some of this stuff looks better than green screens and CGI.
But, overall, I just enjoy the energy this movie radiates. It’s like what Disney World does at EPCOT, where they take a whole country, highlight the positives, and just give you a feel for the land within just an acre or two. That’s how Darby O’Gill feels. It’s like if Epcot had an Ireland pavilion. In fact, I’m surprised they don’t because a dark ride based on this movie would be the perfect centerpiece for it.
I definitely enjoyed Darby O’Gill and the Little People. It’s like a romp through an Irish fairy tale. The characters are delightful. The story is interesting. And, the special effects are top notch, even by today’s standards. I definitely plan on re-watching it every St. Patty’s day.
#160 – Angels in the Outfield (1994)
Director: William Dear
Writer: Holly Goldberg Sloan
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Danny Glover, Tony Danza, Brenda Fricker, Ben Johnson, Jay O. Sanders, and Christopher Lloyd
Plot: After being told he and his father would reunite “when the Angels win the pennant,” a boy prays that they start winning and actual angels intervene to help out.
Mini-Review: You know what’s dangerous? Revisiting movies you loved as a child and haven’t seen for a very long time. Especially live-action flicks. Because, odds are pretty good that they just won’t hold up and you’ll just be super disappointed. That’s definitely the case with Angels in the Outfield. I remember watching it once as a little kid and enjoying it. However, it was never really one of my favorites so I didn’t obsessively watch it and my nostalgia for it was moderate at best. But, the movie definitely left a positive impression on me to the point that I was surprised, later in life, to learn that people genuinely did not enjoy it. Well, I can now officially say that I see where they were coming from. It’s not very good.
If I had to sum up Angels in the Outfield in one word, it would be cheesy. This movie reeks of cheese. Just look at any of the scenes featuring the actual angels! They look like they belong in a Trinity Broadcasting original movie, not something put out by Disney. And the acting isn’t much better either. While you’d expect performances from child actors to be stale and awkward, it’s weird to see one coming from Danny Glover. He’d been acting for years at that point with Lethal Weapon and The Color Purple already under his belt. How the heck is his performance so bad here then? And I don’t want to just pick on him either. Everyone from Christopher Lloyd to Neal McDonough is hamming it up here. And the slapstick comedy is just unbearable at times. And, what’s with the random sad part in the middle of the climax? Was that necessary? Did it really need to happen? We never really address it. There’s just a line thrown in that one of the players is… (Spoiler) about to die (End spoilers) and we never address it ever again. There’s like 30 seconds of the kids being sad and that’s it. Actually, the whole movie is kind of weirdly sad and slapstick-y. It’s super strange.
Also, how weird is it that this movie is sprinkled with future superstars? Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the main character of the freaking movie, is listed seventh in the credits. He was such a no-name actor at the time that he was barely worth mentioning. It’s surreal, but that’s not even half of it. Watching the first couple of baseball sequences gives you the same feeling you get when you’re scanning the crowd at a big, televised Hollywood event. There are two future Oscar winners in Adrien Brody and Matthew McConaughey. And, it features a little bit of the MCU with decades younger Dum Dum Dugan actor Neal McDonough. Again, none of these guys were known at the time of their casting. It’s super strange, but adds a fun, unintended benefit to watching the movie today.
Overall, Angels in the Outfield is not good. It’s not a complete waste. There aren’t nearly enough positives to balance out the cheese though. It’s a movie that should forever live on in your childhood memory, but is not worth revisiting. Trust me. It’s better that way.
The Disney Smackdown
This is where we quickly compare the movies against metrics that almost all Disney movies meet. It won’t necessarily determine the winner, but it will help break some stuff down into a nice digestible format.
Our Heroes: Our hero for Darby O’Gill and the Little People is none other than Darby O’Gill himself. I freaking love this guy. He’s awesome. He’s just the sweetest old man. It’s a case of absolutely perfect casting. Every time this dude smiles, you want to smile along with him. Watching him try to outwit the leprechaun king, who he has terrific chemistry with, was delightful. And, he’s a super good guy too. Throughout the movie, he’s not really thinking about himself with his wishes. He just wants what’s best for his daughter. And, when she’s taken care of, we even see him use a wish to help out the other townsfolk, many of whom tease him on a regular basis. It’s super admirable.
Despite what the credits for Angels in the Outfield will have you believe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character, Roger Bomman, is the main character. He’s the one leading the story. And, as far as lead characters go, he’s pretty good. He’s got a super sympathetic arc. It’s the heart of the film. We want to see him reunited with his father. However, as reasonable adults, we know it’s never going to happen. It makes you really want to just give the kid a hug. Plus, like I said earlier, it’s adorable 13-year-old JGL. You don’t have to try very hard to get us to like him.
Gotta give this win to my main man, Darby O’Gill. The fact that there’s absolutely no way to spend more time with this character bums me out.
Our Beloved Side Characters: As wonderful as Darby O’Gill is, my favorite character has to be the leprechaun King Brian. It’s another case of pitch perfect casting. His pantomime skills are off the charts. The amount of emotion the dude was able to portray with just his facial expressions and his body movements was impressive. Also, he’s got a super contagious laugh. But, my favorite part is the fact that I wasn’t sure whether to put him in this category or list him as a villain for like 90% of the runtime. Again, his rivalry with Darby is just so much fun to watch. The banter and trash talking between the two was a lot of fun. (I wish they had made a sequel actually. I want more of this.) And, of course, what’s a Disney flick without a little romance? In this case, our lovebirds are Katie O’Gill and Michael MacBride. Katie is Darby’s daughter. She cares deeply for her dad, but isn’t afraid to give him a little sass. She’s reluctant to marry because she doesn’t want to leave her father’s side. That is, of course, until she meets Michael. Michael was hired as a replacement for Darby, but is super respectful about it. He quickly becomes very attached and protective to the family, not wanting to kick them out. Also, he’s played by Sean Freaking Connery and the rest of the townspeople are jerks, so, of course, she falls in love with him. I wasn’t super invested in their story, even though both characters are likable. It’s kind of just your typical romance. That rivalry between Darby and Brian though? Gold. A pot full of gold.
There are a lot of memorable side characters in Angels in the Outfield. We’ve got George Knox. He’s the manager played by Danny Glover. I do not like this character at all. Not only is Glover’s performance not great, but the dude is super unlikable. They do this in kids’ movies a lot. We’re introduced to a guy who’s grumpy and way past his prime. However, through some cheery attitudes, he eventually opens up his heart to become a better person. In this case, though, I think they did too good of a job making him a jerk. So that, by the time we’re ready for his turn, he’s kind of already irredeemable. It feels less like he’s gotten his life together and more like he’s just exploiting the situation. Probably my favorite supporting character is J.P. He’s pretty much in the same boat as Roger. He’s another foster kid, who is worried about his future. But, he’s somehow even more adorable. The scene where we find out what happened to his parents is crushing. It’s crazy to me that this actor was only in two movies and a couple tv episodes. During the games, the kids are watched by David Montagne. I’m not sure how I feel about him as a character overall. On the one hand, they do the usual shtick of the business professional who is in over his head with these kids. That’s almost always funny. On the other, they push it a bit too far. I don’t know. It’s a recurring gag throughout the movie that sometimes made me laugh and other times made me groan. In the whole baseball team, there are really only two characters worth mentioning. Tony Dazna plays Mel Clark, a pitcher past his prime. I really liked the redemption arc they had set up for him. Unfortunately, I think the unnecessarily bleak ending kind of ruined that for me. Then, there’s Whitt Bass. I hated this guy with his constant chewing of waaaay too much bubblegum and the slapstick-y way he threw the ball. I legitimately did not enjoy any time we spent with this character. I’m glad McDonough went with the more “bad-ass soldier” route in his later career because goofy comedy isn’t really his thing. Lastly, we have Al. He’s the lead angel. I really wanted to like him. I think I did as a kid. But, man, Christopher Lloyd just makes this character creepy and unpleasant. Do you know how hard it is for me to say that? I love Christopher Lloyd! But this character just did not work. In fact, all of the angels were kind of creepy. Yeah. Like I said, a lot of this movie doesn’t really hold up.
King Brian easily earns Darby O’Gill and the Little People this round as well.
Villianous Villains:In Darby O’Gill and the Little People, we have two central villains. They are the mother and son duo of Pony and Sheelah Sugrue. Pony is kind of your typical douche. He’s another villain that’s more or less on par with Gaston. He’s super cocky and thinks he deserves the heart of Katie. This causes him to get in actual fistfights with Michael on more than one occasion. Plus, he’s constantly making fun of Darby, which just is not cool, man. But, we do have an added element over Gaston. He’s not a tool on his accord. He’s been raised that way. His mother, Sheelah, builds up his ego in the most obnoxious ways. She’s constantly looking for ways to screw everyone else over if it benefits her son. They truly are not likable people at all. Oh, and there’s a Banshee who is freaking terrifying. That thing has definitely made some kids cry.
The only thing less believable than angels helping players out on the field is the villain for Angels in the Outfield. There are legitimately no people in the world like Ranch Wilder. He’s the sportscaster for the Angels… but he openly hates the Angels. There is no way this guy is getting that job in reality. I don’t care how bad the team is. The one who calls the game is always a fan and they’re usually pretty dang optimistic. This just felt like they needed a villain and threw one in at the last second. (Side note: Does anyone else think the actor who played him, Jay O. Sanders looks a lot like David Harbour? I had to check Google to make sure it wasn’t.)
That Banshee if freaky, man. It’s Darby O’Gill and the Little People again.
Quotable Quotes: For Darby O’Gill and the Little People: Honestly, I loved this movie, but I did not write any quotes down and, when I did my research after, nothing really stood out. Maybe it’s the accents?
From Angels in the Outfield: When asked if angels play baseball: “Since the all-star break, yes.” “We can’t even lose as a team.” “Amen. Oh… and A-woman, too.” “You can’t go through life thinking everyone you need will one day let you down.” After being told not to swear: “That eliminates all the speech for most of the team.”
Yeah. I literally have no choice but to give this to Angels in the Outfield.
Songs to Add to Your Playlist:If you like Irish music, Darby O’Gill and the Little People has a couple little, cute songs. The most famous one is “Pretty Irish Girl” which is a romance song. It’s interesting to hear Sean Connery sing. He and Janet Munro, the actress who played Katie, both have terrific voices, so this definitely ends up being a sweet song. Then, there’s “The Wishing Song,” which is less of a song and more like a drunk, Irish rap battle between Darby and King Brian. While I immensely enjoyed the scene, I’m not sure I’d ever listen to the song separately. Likewise, there’s a couple of Irish jigs that are charming enough, but not really my style.
Other than score, there was not any original music in Angels in the Outfield. There are a couple rousing versions of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” though.
Another easy win for Darby O’Gill and the Little People.
Most Magical Disney Moment: In Darby O’Gill and the Little People, there’s really no choice. It’s the extended dance sequence after Darby gets trapped in the leprechauns’ lair. Honestly, the whole time we’re in the cave is 50s Disney magic at its peak. But, I especially loved the dancing. In order to trick them into getting worked up and leaving, he starts playing the fiddle. What follows is one of the weirdest, yet absolutely delightful moments I’ve seen in a Disney movie. It’s essentially just five minutes of dancing. The special effects are so good and the characters so charming, though, that you are 150% invested in it. Plus, there’s tiny horses!
n Angels in the Outfield, the final game is super close. The angels can’t help, because it’s unfair for them to help in the championship (I guess). It’s down to the last pitch and Mel is suffering. Roger decides to do a little white lie and tell him that there is, in fact, an angel helping him. Before you know it, the whole team and all of their fans are flapping their arms like they’re angel wings for encouragement. It’s cheesy, but, like, the good kind that all sports movies are. And, it really, really gets you pumped up for that final play.
While the Angels in the Outfield moment is inspirational, the Darby O’Gill and the Little People scene actually feels like real magic captured on screen. It gets the win here as well.
Legacies: Unfortunately, Darby O’Gill and the Little People doesn’t have much of a legacy today. It’s mostly forgotten by modern audiences. However, just about everyone who has seen it seems to enjoy it with many critics naming it as one of the best little known Disney movies. The movie has a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 7.2 on IMDB. It finished within the top twenty highest grossing movies of 1959. Janet Munro received the Most Promising Newcomer Golden Globe for her performance. It’s not represented in any of the Disney Parks. (Like I said, it should be though.) And, maybe the most lasting impact, this movie is the first time producer Albert Broccoli saw Sean Connery, which led to him getting the role of James Bond. So, that’s definitely something. Overall, it’s legacy is that it’s a super underrated movie and you should go watch it.
Angels in the Outfield is yet another case where the legacy of the movie is probably bigger than the movie itself. It currently has a 33% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 6.2 on IMDB. It was not a huge box office hit, barely making back its budget when you take marketing into account. There are two direct to video sequels, Angels in the Endzone (featuring a returning Christopher Lloyd) and Angels in the Infield (with none of the original cast). Two years later, due to their connection to the films, Disney bought the California Angels, renovated their stadium with the Imagineers, and renamed them the Anaheim Angels. Under Disney, the team won their only championship. However, this ownership was brief as they failed to make much of a profit. Still, for a movie that didn’t leave much of a mark on the box office, that’s quite the legacy.
Oh, also, if you’ve just recently watched this movie and/or are nostalgic for it, look up the 30 for 30 parody on Angels in the Outfield. It’s really, really funny.
As sad as it is to admit, I’ve got to give the legacy point to Angels in the Outfield. It led to some real world results.
AND THE WINNER IS…
DARBY O’GILL AND THE LITTLE PEOPLE
I cannot emphasize enough how delightful Darby O’Gill is. It’s a super fun watch. It’s definitely one I will be revisiting over and over. Angels in the Outfield, on the other hand, does not hold up very well. It’s best left in the 90s.
So, congratulations, Darby, King Brian, and the crew! You guys advance to the next round. Also, Darby O’Gill and the Little People is the first live action movie to move on. That’s super impressive!
Be sure to check in next time for another sports flick, Remember the Titans, facing off against a Disney sequel, The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride. I’ve seen both of these movies and still have no idea who’s going to win. So, be sure to come back in a couple days when the post is up.
Hiya folks. Welcome back to Dyl’s Ultimate Movie Tournament. Sorry for the delay. I spent all weekend watching Star Wars movies on accident. I hope everyone else had a good Intergalactic Star Wars Day. Today’s match-up is a Pixar clash (for the ages?). We have #32 A Bug’s Life facing off against #225 Cars 2. Which of these John Lasseter directed movies is going to win out? Let’s find out!
#32 – A Bug’s Life (1998)
Director: John Lasseter
Writers: Andrew Stanton, Donald McEnery, Bob Shaw, John Lasseter, and Joe Ranft
Starring: Dave Foley, Kevin Spacey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Hayden Panettiere, Phyllis Diller, Richard Kind, David Hyde Pierce, Joe Ranft, Denis Leary, Jonathan Harris, Madeline Kahn, Bonnie Hunt, Michael McShane, John Ratzenberger, and Brad Garrett
Plot: While looking for warriors to help protect his colony, an ant accidentally returns with circus performers instead.
Mini-Review: For decades now, A Bug’s Life has been kind of shorthand for “average” Pixar for me. Whether a Pixar movie is good or not is irrelevant. On an even playing field with all other movies, basically every single one of them is going to be on the good side. However, because of their extremely high batting average, they’re judged on more of a curve. And, I feel that Pixar accidentally set this rating scale for their future releases with their first two films. Is it a Toy Story or a Bug’s Life? Meaning, is it deeply imaginative, groundbreaking, and surprisingly emotional, or is it more by-the-book yet still creative and entertaining? Yeah. A Bug’s Life is definitely, well, A Bug’s Life. More or less, what I’m trying to say is that A Bug’s Life is really good. It just suffers by comparison to some of the other Pixar flicks.
I’d say the main thing that’s pushing A Bug’s Life to the back or middle-back of the Pixar pack is the story. Again, there’s nothing wrong with it per se. It’s just not all that original either. It’s basically just Three Amigos but with bugs. There’s not a whole lot of emotional weight to it. Sure, we don’t want to see the ants be bullied anymore, but there’s nothing super relatable to their struggle. Maybe if we had seen Hopper actually stomp on someone there’d be a more urgent sense of danger. I don’t know. It just felt like it was missing a little bit of a spark.
Also, I’m not 100% sure the computers were ready for something like A Bug’s Life yet. I mean… it definitely looks better than Antz (we’ll get to that rivalry soon) and is a step up from the Toy Story animation on a technical level. It’s just the characters still look kind of plastic-y and some of the nature effects definitely haven’t aged well. The water during the climax looks especially odd. You can tell that the Pixar team was careful with what projects they picked, not jumping to humans yet. But, I do think that bugs may have still been a step too far.
A Bug’s Life definitely isn’t lacking in comedy though. I thought it was hilarious as a kid and find it every bit as funny today. I’ll break them down in the smackdown section later, but the energy that the circus bugs bring is infectious. I’m not sure the movie would shine half as bright without them. Each one has their own distinct personality and their own thing that made me laugh. I would definitely watch a series about them just trying their hardest to make it in show business.
And, even when Pixar goes for a more straight forward story approach, they always still manage to breathe some life into it through world-building. A Bug’s Life is no exception. I really liked the world the bugs lived in. I liked how Flik’s inventions actually looked like something an ant could build. I liked the city made up of discarded trash. I liked that the mosquitos drank blood and the flies ate poop at the bar. And there were a million more small (no pun intended) things that just made this movie better. Those are the things I really appreciate. They make even the lesser Pixar movies stand out from other studios’ bests.
Overall, I really, really like A Bug’s Life. It definitely isn’t one of my favorite Pixar movies but it is worth checking out or revisiting. At the very least, it’ll make you smile. And sometimes that’s all you can really ask for.
#225 – Cars 2 (2011)
Director: John Lasseter
Writers: Ben Queen, John Lasseter, Brad Lewis, and Dan Fogelman
Starring: Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy, Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, John Turturro, and Eddie Izzard
Plot: While Lightning McQueen participates in a race around the world, Mater gets caught up in a secret espionage task force aiming to stop someone from sabotaging it.
Remember when I mentioned my Pixar rating system? How something is either a Toy Story or A Bug’s Life? (Of course you do. We literally just talked about it.) Well, in the case of Cars 2, throw that out. Because Cars 2 is not a good movie. It’s not just Pixar bad. It’s actually bad. Like, it’s one of the movies I was dreading rewatching most in this whole tournament bad. And, upon my rewatch, it didn’t get much better.
I often hear that the biggest problem with Cars 2 is that they took a minor comic relief character like Mater and pushed him to the forefront, meaning the audience grew tired of him. I’m going to have to disagree with that assessment. Mater is not the problem with Cars 2. It’s that they didn’t give Mater anything interesting to do. According to the man himself, John Lasseter got the idea for the story of Cars 2 while doing press for Cars. He kept imagining how Mater would react to all of the different cultures and it made him laugh. I get that line of thinking. However, why the heck did you make him a spy? What about the first film made you want to take the leap into espionage? It’s such a weird idea that just doesn’t work. I was bored out of my mind for like 80% of this movie. The spy stuff just could not hold my interest at all. And, worse than that, I didn’t find any of it funny. (It features a lot of body gross-out humor, which is super rare for Pixar.) Now, maybe it’s just that I am too old for it and was even when it came out. However, Disney and, especially, Pixar have always been so good at telling stories that are for everyone and not just the toddlers in the audience. This is one of the few that doesn’t feel that way. I even enjoyed Cars and Cars 3 infinitely more than this one.
Throughout Cars 2, I was trying really, really hard to get into it. I was looking for something (anything) to enjoy. That’s when I noticed the gorgeous cityscapes. Whenever they entered a new country, I loved how they panned over different landmarks and streets, giving you a real feel for the country. Despite the Cars puns, it was actually really artfully done by the team at Pixar. And, the animation was beautiful. That’s when I realized that, as a straight racing movie, Cars 2 isn’t really all that bad. Lightning McQueen’s story, jumping from country to country in a Grand Prix, is actually kind of interesting. He’s got a good rival. There’s a lot of cool backdrops. And, it’s actually pretty funny. Then, while Lightning was being dragged around by Mater, still oblivious to the whole spy situation, I realized something. This would all be funnier if we also were oblivious to Mater’s escapades. Like, we’d just see him disappear without any context. He’d still have the same excuses to tell Lightning, but whether or not we believed him would be on us. Then, in the final moments, we get a quick (nothing more than like 5 minutes) flashback where we see that he was telling the truth the whole time. I think this would help in a couple different ways. First of all, it’d be more focused. Second, it’s a better sequel to Cars. Then, we still get the wackiness of Mater’s adventures without actually wasting time on them. And, finally, I think those adventures are funnier to think about and not have fully explored. Let our imaginations fill in the gaps. Then, again, you could keep the spy stuff out altogether. I don’t know though. Who am I to judge? I’m no John Lasseter. I didn’t form one of the most successful movie studios of all time. I’m just a white dude in his twenties, writing about movies on the internet. There’s a million of me.
Overall, I’m not a fan of Cars 2. It kinda sucks to be honest. The animation is beautiful, but, other than that, there’s not a lot to see here. It’s Pixar’s only bad, bad movie in my opinion. And, for a studio that’s been around for 25 years and 22 movies, that’s pretty dang impressive.
The Disney Smackdown
This is where we quickly compare the movies against metrics that almost all Disney movies meet. It won’t necessarily determine the winner, but it will help break some stuff down into a nice digestible format.
Our Heroes: In A Bug’s Life, our hero is Flik. He’s your typical town oddball. He’s an inventor with grand ideas to help the colony, but does not have the best track record for actually pulling them off. He’s clumsy. He makes mistakes. But, he’s always trying to do what’s best. I really like Flik, even if he’s a cliche we’ve seen in other movies. Watching him never give up, instead coming up with new, better solutions was inspiring.
In Cars 2, our heroes are the returning Lightning McQueenand Mater. Lightning is still relatively humbled from his experiences in the first movie. He only enters the big race to stand up for his friend. We do see him slip back into his old habits when he loses his temper a little bit after some trash talking and a few bad performances. However, he grows to realize that winning just doesn’t matter if he loses Mater in the process. Mater on the other hand is super supportive of his friend. He’s also very easy going, which gets him into a lot of trouble. We do get to dive a little bit into his psyche when he has nightmares about being called stupid. But, I don’t think the movie really earns that because, well, he is kind of stupid. He eventually solves the case in the end, but, like, it almost seems miraculous. The movie just tells us he’s smart enough to do it without ever really showing us how. Still, I do like both of these characters. A lot of that goodwill probably comes from the first Cars movie though, as they aren’t super well developed here.
I’m going to give this point to A Bug’s Life for getting me to form a connection in one movie, rather than relying on my feelings from another.
Our Beloved Side Characters: As I stated before, this category is where A Bug’s Life really shines. First of all, in the royal family, we’ve got three strong female characters. There’s the fun-loving, wise, and seasoned Queen, who is about to retire. Her daughter Princess Atta is trying her hardest to learn how to properly govern, while also dealing with a once in a lifetime disaster. Then, there’s the youngest daughter, Dot, who is in many ways the heart of the movie. When the grasshoppers attack, she is the one we see get upset. She’s also the one that is encouraging to Flik, even when the whole colony has turned on him. And, then, we’ve got the circus trope, who I honestly love. There’s Slim, the stick bug, who wants to be a serious actor but is always typecast as a stick for obvious reasons. Then, we’ve got Heimlich. He’s adorable, being all fat and scared and stuff. There’s Francis, the male ladybug. At the beginning of the movie, he’s constantly getting upset about being misgendered. However, towards the end, we see him evolve into a calmer, more caring bug who’s in touch with their feminine side. It’s probably the best character arc in the film. Manny and Gypsy are fun, self-serious magicians. Dim’s role in the circus is to act ferocious, but he’s a big softie who loves kids. And, Rosie serves as his caretaker since he’s basically just a big child. And, finally, we’ve got Tuck and Roll, two pillbugs who are probably my favorite. They don’t speak English, so they never quite know what’s going on, but they always bring the perfect punchline to every moment. Their slapstick is right up there with the Three Stooges. So, yeah, that’s quite the supporting cast. And, to top it all off, they’re all perfectly voiced by some of the funniest actors of all time. Pixar always has top-notch casts, but A Bug’s Life might just be their best.
Pretty much the whole town of Radiator Springs returns (with a couple recasts due to actors passing), but are pretty much sidelined for Cars 2. Instead, they are replaced by a couple of uninteresting spy cliches. There’s Finn McMissile. The most interesting thing about him is that he’s voiced by Michael Caine. Other than that, he’s just your generic James Bond stand-in. I’m sure some of his action scenes were appealing to kids, but seeing a car do those things was just too weird and/or silly for me to get over. And, no James Bond parody is complete without a Bond girl. In this case, we have Holley Shiftwell who… is there. We’re told that she is Mater’s girlfriend, but we never see any connection or romance between them. Both new characters are both easily forgettable. They don’t have a lot that make them stand out other than the spy tropes.
Easy win for A Bug’s Life.
Villainous Villains:A Bug’s Life features one of the best villains Pixar has given us in Hopper. He’s a straight-up bully. We see that he steals from the ants even though he doesn’t have to. He kills anyone who stands up to him, even his own men. His design is perfect. I mean the guy just looks mean. And he’s perfectly voiced by… oh no. This is awkward… How do I get around this? He’s voiced by… *whisper* Kevin Spacey *end whisper*, who made a career out of playing intimidating jerks so you know he’s perfect for this. Am I allowed to say that? Oh shoot. I’m gonna get in trouble. Let me clarify. The dude was a total scumbag. I hate him for what he did. But, damn, did I enjoy his performances (this one included) before I learned that. C’mon, Kevin Spacey, why’d you have to go and ruin Kevin Spacey for me? (Also, if we’re talking about people ruined by their own reputation John Lasseter is a creep too. Darn. This movie is great but the credits really don’t hold up.) Ok… moving on. There’s two other grasshoppers I feel are worth mentioning. First, there’s Molt, Hopper’s brother, who is absolutely terrified of Hopper. He’s always made me smile. And, finally, there’s Thumper who is worth mentioning for no other reason than he’s terrifying. Like, legit scary. The fact that he’s humanized like all of the other bugs but has this animalistic sensibility makes him one of the scarier Disney villains period.
Probably my favorite new character in Cars 2 is Francesco Bernouilli. He’s a Formula One racer and Lightning McQueen’s main rival. We don’t really get to know a lot about him, but he’s super good at trash talking. Also, he’s cocky. I think a lot of my admiration for him comes from John Turturro’s performance. I didn’t realize that he voiced him until the end credits, but when I saw his name everything made perfect sense. I love Turturro in The Big Lebowski and he pretty much brings the same energy here. The other main villain we spend a good amount of screentime with is Professor Z. Like Finn and Holley, he’s more or less just a stand-in for a 007 archetype. If he were a Bond villain, he’d be a boring one though as there is nothing distinct or threatening about him. There are also a couple named henchmen and a surprise big villain at the end, but they aren’t even interesting enough to mention.
Hopper is legit scary. A Bug’s Life takes this point as well.
Quotable Quotes:From A Bug’s Life: “Someday I will be a beautiful butterfly and then everything will be better.” “First rule of leadership: everything is your fault.” “Hey. Turn your butt off.” “I’m the only stick with eyeballs.” “You fired!”
From Cars 2: “Do not eat the free pistachio ice cream!” “Two Mater, average intelligence.”
Like I said, A Bug’s Life has me rolling and, therefore, has more memorable quotes.
Songs to Add to Your Playlist: A Bug’s Life features one song from Randy Newman called “The Time of Your Life.” It’s good, but not nearly as iconic as his work in Toy Story. Every time I listen to it, I really enjoy the chorus and become bored by the other verses. I don’t know. It’s a weird song.
Brad Paisley and Robbie Williams performed a song for Cars 2 called “Collision of Worlds” which compares U.S. and British culture, only to find out they’re not so different after all. It’s not very good. Also, there’s a Weezer cover of “You Might Think” by The Cars if you want to count that. I honestly didn’t even realize it was a cover though.
Wow. There’s not a lot here. If I had to pick one, I guess the Randy Newman song from A Bug’s Life wins.
Most Magical Disney Moment: My favorite scene in A Bug’s Life is probably when we meet the circus trope for the first time. They’re putting on a show that’s honestly a disaster. You can see their boss P.T. Flea trying to hold the whole thing together by just throwing anything he can at the audience. I love this scene because it really puts each of the individual characters on display in a really clever way. We only spend a couple of seconds with each, but instantly understand what makes each of them tick. (No pun intended.) Plus, we get to see that imaginative world-building and sense of humor that Pixar is famous for.
For Cars 2, I’ve got to go with the short sequence where Mater plays with the disguise technology, rapidly switching between disguises. It’s easily one of my favorite moments in the movie. It shows off Pixar’s design creativity, Mater’s infectious personality, and the good vocal work by Larry the Cable Guy. Also, it leads to one of the more touching moments when Mater refuses to have his dents removed because they remind him of the good times he’s had with Lightning. This movie doesn’t have a whole lot of that trademark Pixar heart so I liked to see it shine through a little bit there.
While both moments are great, I’ve got to give it to A Bug’s Life. That scene made me smile the entire time.
Legacies: A Bug’s Life left behind a pretty big legacy, actually. It has a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes, making it certified fresh, and a 7.2 on IMDB. It was the fourth highest-grossing movie of 1998. The movie was nominated for one Academy Award. It won the Grammy for Best Movie Score. There is currently only one attraction based on the film left in the parks. It’s Tough to Be a Bug in Animal Kingdom is a fun, 4-D movie experience where Flik and the other bugs do a PSA on why we should be nicer to bugs. It also has a reputation for making children cry by being one of the scariest rides in the park. It used to have a clone in Disney’s California Adventure. It was located in A Bug’s Land which had several kiddie rides based on the characters from A Bug’s Life. However, this land was closed to make way for Avengers Campus in 2018. Flik, Princess Atta, and a handful of the circus bugs have been meetable characters as well. But, maybe the biggest part of its legacy is the fight it generated between Disney and Dreamworks. During the development of A Bug’s Life, John Lasseter had a chat with his friend Jeffrey Katzenberg, who had recently left the company after a feud with then CEO Michael Eisner and formed DreamWorks animation. During this conversation, he outlined his plans for A Bug’s Life. A few months later, DreamWorks announced Antz, which had a very similar basis as the Pixar film. This led to a bit of a public rivalry between the two companies that kind of still exists today. Even though A Bug’s Life crushed Antz at the box office, they will forever be paired together in the minds of the general public as well. I, for one, was always creeped out by Antz. The animation style looks rushed. But, that’s a review for another day. Anyways, I’d say that A Bug’s Life definitely left its mark on the world of Disney.
Cars 2’s legacy isn’t very good to be honest. It’s kind of universally accepted as the worst Pixar movie. It currently has a 39% on Rotten Tomatoes, making it the only rotten release from the studio yet, and a 6.1 on IMDB. It did, however, finish in the top ten highest grossing movies of 2011. When it came to awards season, Cars 2 was the first Pixar movie not nominated for an Academy Award, though it did receive a nomination at the Golden Globes. It’s hard to tell exactly how big of an impact this one individual film had, since it’s part of a larger franchise. We do know that it seemingly did not slow down the Cars franchise very much. A third Cars film, which received a much warmer reception, still came out a few years later. Likewise, the cartoon series still continued and Cars Land opened shortly after in Disney’s California Adventure, along with some smaller attractions in other parks. It is telling, however, that none of these properties directly mention the events or characters introduced in Cars 2. Even among the franchise, it’s sort of the black sheep.
I mean… this is easy right. A Bug’s Life‘s legacy is at least positive.
AND THE WINNER IS…
A BUG’S LIFE
This was one of the easier decisions I’ve had to make. I can’t stress enough how bad Cars 2 really is. And, while A Bug’s Life isn’t perfect, it’s miles and miles ahead. It’s hard to believe they were made by the same studio, let alone the same director.
So, congratulations, Flik, Princess Atta, and the circus trope! You move on to fight another day.
As always, thanks for reading. Let me know how you feel about these movies in the comments. I had fun with this one, even if it was just reaffirming my previous thoughts. Be sure to check back for the next fight. It’s gonna be a good one. It’s Darby O’Gill and the Little People, which I’ve never seen but heard is terrific, versus Angels in the Outfield, which I saw as a kid but not since. I’m very much looking forward to it, so there shouldn’t be much of a delay either.
Hiya folks. Welcome back to Dyl’s Ultimate Movie Tournament. I hope you’re feeling patriotic because today’s match-up accidentally has a bit of a theme. We have two stories set in the early days of this grand country we call the USA. It’s #65 seed The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad versus #192 Johnny Tremain. So, grab your muskets and let old glory fly, because it’s time to jump into it.
#65 – The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad(1949)
Directors: Jack Kinney, Clyde Geronimi, and James Algar
Writers: Erdman Penner, Winston Hibler, Joe Rinaldi, Ted Sears, Homer Brigthman, and Harry Reeves
Starring: Eric Blore, Pat O’Malley, Colin Campbell, John McLeish, Campbell Grant, Claude Allister, Leslie Denison, Edmond Stevens, The Rhythmaires, Basil Rathbone, and Bing Crosby
Plot: Two narrators, one British and the other American, each tell us one of the most famous tales from their country, The Wind in the Willows and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
As I talked about in the Make Mine Music review, World War II put the Walt Disney Company in a bit of an interesting position. A lot of their animators were otherwise occupied with either serving in or making propaganda for the war. In order to carry on, Disney made the package films made up of several loosely tied together shorts. Overall, they are a very mixed bag, but I’d say the best of them is The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. That’s probably because each short was originally pitched as a feature-length movie. The Wind in the Willows in particular had been kicked around in some form or another since right after Snow White was made. So, they had years to work on these concepts. It shows too. Each one feels like it’s its own separate movie, yet they complement each other perfectly. Both stories are simple. There’s not a moment wasted. And, overall, they’re both just really fun. If you squint real hard, it almost feels like a normal Disney flick that doesn’t feel like it was made in the same weird circumstances as the other package films. The keyword here is almost.
As is the norm around here, let’s break this one down segment by segment. (Can you believe this is already our third package film? I mean… what are the odds they’d all be in the first part of this challenge?)
Our first adventure is The Wind in the Willows, where we follow the legal proceedings of J. Thaddeus Toad, Esq. He has a bit of an obsession with thrill-seeking and constantly is getting himself into trouble. I really enjoy this short. It’s got good energy. It’s amazing how well it puts you in the shoes of Mr. Toad’s friends. You’re exasperated with him. You want him to do the right thing. And, while you want to be annoyed when he doesn’t, you also can’t hate the guy for wanting to have a good time. On an animation level, it’s super well done. The character designs are all terrific. You can tell this movie was a big influence on things like Roger Rabbit, The Great Mouse Detective, and, even, Winnie the Pooh. It’s a very simple look, but, also, kind of stands out in a unique way. And, I feel like they trimmed down the story perfectly. It never drags. There’s not a wasted moment. We get a very quick introduction to the characters and then we’re off to the races. Figuratively (and a little literally) speaking. Overall, it’s a very good short.
I very much enjoyed the second segment too. I’m a big fan of things that go bump in the night and love when Disney decides to tap into their creepier side. And, boy oh boy, did they ever with The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Watching what is essentially a horror film in the classic Disney animated style is a real treat. I will admit that I’m not huge on the first half of this short though. I don’t really care for the character of Ichabod all that much, so his romantic escapades didn’t really hold my interest. However, the moment we hit Halloween, I’m fully on board. And, whoever thought of having Bing Crosby come in as the narrator is a genius. His deep tones bring an extra level of spookiness to the whole ordeal. I really, really liked this one. I can definitely see myself revisiting it every Halloween.
So, overall, my thoughts on The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad are pretty positive. It’s not up there among the best Disney stuff. There’s not quite enough substance to get it there. But, it’s a fun experience. Both adventures are fun. They each provide something you don’t see a lot of in Disney films. And, it’s a more coherent, better-assembled movie than the other package films of the era. I would definitely check it out if it sounds up your alley.
#192 – Johnny Tremain (1957)
Director: Robert Stevenson
Writers: Esther Forbes and Tom Blackburn
Starring: Hal Stalmaster, Luana Patten, Jeff York, and Sebastian Cabot
Plot: A young boy gets wrapped up in the early days of the American Revolution, after an injury derails his silversmith career.
Mini-Review: This is going to be one of the shorter reviews I’ve written for this bracket, because, quite honestly, there’s not a lot to say about Johnny Tremain. I’m a big Disney fan. I love older movies. And, I was a history major for a while, so, obviously, I have a bit of a passion for that as well. But, holy crap, this movie is boring. I can’t even imagine how badly someone who’s not into all three of those things would react. During my research, I found two very telling facts. First, this was originally made for television. Second, after release, it was split into different parts to sell as educational films. That more or less tells you everything you need to know, in my opinion. This is very much the type of movie your seventh grade history teacher would put on when she didn’t feel like working for a week. It’s slow. The acting is bad in that usual 50’s tv style. And, it just barely glosses over some of the defining moments of the American revolution in the least compelling way possible. I was invested in the first half, as we see Johnny become injured and struggle with his legal issues. However, by the time the actual revolution started up, I had more or less checked out. It may be entertaining to kids just learning about that time period (I even have some doubt there), but no one else will get much of anything out of the experience. It’s not bad (the costumes and sets are impressive). There’s just not a lot here that holds up, storywise. Definitely a skippable one.
The Disney Smackdown
Our Heroes:For a movie that’s main goal seems to be “look at how whacky these characters from different sides of the pond are,” The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad features two of the least sympathetic lead characters in any Disney movie. The Wind in the Willows features J. Thaddeus Toad, who, while his lust for life is contagious, just isn’t a responsible person. He’s like a friend who just can’t stop making bad life choices. By the end of his segment, you’re basically rolling your eyes in an “Oh, you!” kind of fashion. It’s very sitcom-y. In fact, he kind of reminds me of Michael Scott, but with less time for him to grow on you. Then, there’s Ichabod Crane from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. I don’t know if I was supposed to hate him or not, but I most definitely did. He’s just the worst. Everything he does is in his own selfish interest. He’s nice to the schoolchildren just to get a better meal and some attention from their mothers. When he falls in love, the movie makes it very clear that he’s just in it for her family’s fortune. Then, since he’s no longer in need of the school parents, he just slacks off from teaching. Instead, he’s thinking of his new lady friend. Seriously, he’s the freaking worst. I always tend to like the villains in Disney flicks, but this is the first time I was actively rooting against the hero. Luckily, it’s basically a horror film, so we do get to watch Ichabod learn a bit of a lesson.
Johnny Tremain is a likable enough young fellow. He’s a hard worker. He’s dedicated to whatever cause he throws himself behind. Even after his injury, we see Johnny trying his hardest to get a steady job and help out wherever he can. We see him turn down any handouts, because he doesn’t feel as if he’s earned them. We also learn that he’s incredibly loyal, even standing up to a British man who wants to provide him with a better life. So, he’s definitely a good, principled dude. However, he’s really not all that compelling of a character because of it.
While I’m not a huge fan of any of the leads, Mr. Toad is probably my favorite, so this win definitely goes to The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.
Our Beloved Side Characters:Most of the sidekicks in The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad come from The Wind in the Willows, as Mr. Toad has a pretty decent amount of friends who support him. There’s Angus MacBadger, his bookkeep who is trying to keep him out of trouble. He’s mostly exhausted, which how could you not be? He calls in the help of Mole and Water Rat. Water Rat is strict and lawful, while Mole wants to be a little more lenient on their friend. Ultimately, they all do want what is best for Mr. Toad and are a tremendous help. Then, there’s Cyril Proudbottom. He’s also a very good friend of Toad’s, but he’s more into the idea of having new adventures than staying out of trouble. Thus, he’s one of the more fun characters in the entire film, even if you are rolling your eyes at him a couple times. In Sleepy Hollow, the only other “good” named character other than Ichabod is his love interest, Katrina. She doesn’t really have a whole lot to do other than be flirted with though.
In Johnny Tremain, I definitely preferred Priscilla Lapham to our lead character. She has all of the same positive qualities as Johnny but with a little more spunk. Every other character in the film was kind of flat. There were iconic and important names like Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, and Josiah Quincy. However, they’re portrayed exactly as you’d imagine a Disneyfied version of the Revolution would portray them. Every single one of them is this perfect man who’s got the best interest of everyone at heart and is very noble and proud and, well, boring. Some of their speeches are rousing and I’m sure this could’ve been a very interesting story (actually, as a former history major, I know it), but Disney was not the ones to tell it. Or at least not in a way that really adds anything to the conversation.
This one easily goes to The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.
Villainous Villains: Honestly, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad is pretty stacked in this category. It’s kind of insane. In The Wind in the Willows, we have Mr. Winkie. He’s originally introduced as a witness for Mr. Toad’s defense. However, he quickly throws Toad under the bus as we figure out (dun, dun, dun) he’s the main baddie. While we don’t really learn all that much about him, I think his character design gives you everything you need to know. The dude just looks slimy and untrustworthy. I just want to punch him in the face. Speaking of iconic designs, there’s really no beating the weasels who form Winkie’s gang. In fact, their look was so iconic that it was straight-up lifted for Who Framed Roger Rabbit and DuckTales. Again, it’s such a simple look but one that instantly lets you know that these are the bad guys. Heck, I even enjoyed the prosecutor from Mr. Toad’s trial, who, again, is a character we don’t spend a lot of time with but still learn a lot about just from his appearance and a great vocal performance. But, that’s not all! The second half of the movie features two super cool villain characters as well. Brom Bones is essentially a prototype for Gaston. He’s the toughest guy in town. He’s big. He’s strong. He’s arrogant. And, he has a crush on the new girl. However, her heart is elsewhere. So, he makes a plan to get Ichabod out of the picture. I gotta say though, in this case, I was definitely rooting for him. As far as we know, he liked Katrina for Katrina and not her family fortune. And, last but certainly not least, we have the iconic Headless Horseman. Disney villains do not get much scarier than this folks. Again, it’s the look that sells him. He’s got that all black visage other than the red of his horse’s eyes, that massive flowing cape, and, of course, that flaming Jack-o-Lantern skull in his hands. Throw in that terrible high pitched scream/laugh and he’s truly terrifying. Plus, for all we know, he might’ve won in the end! It’s kind of implied that he didn’t, but we don’t really know that. I imagine he kept more than a few kids awake at night over the decades. But, overall, the villains of The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad are wonderful and truly exhibit how important the art of character design is for animated features.
Unfortunately, Johnny Tremain doesn’t really stand out in the villain category either. There’s Jonathan Lyte. He’s the rich, British jerk in town. He makes Johnny overwork, which leads to the injury. He’s also the one who wrongfully accuses Johnny of stealing from him and asks the court to consider hanging him for it. So, he does have his moments of malice. However, he just kind of abruptly disappears about 75% of the way through. He just nopes his way back to England. There’s no real climax. No payoff in any way. He’s just gone. It’s very unsatisfying. Other than that, there are a couple of British generals and other military men, but none of them are even worth naming. (Not that I could, anyways.) They’re all just prim and proper and snobby. You know, the same way all children’s entertainment represents the British at that time.
Sorry, Johnny. Your characters really just are not memorable. Another point for The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.
Quotable Quotes: From The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad: After being asked to elaborate on what the “honest way” means in court: “I thought you wouldn’t know that one, guv’nor” “You can’t reason with a headless man.” “I’m telling you, brother, it’s a frightful sight for what goes on Halloween night.” The narrator’s last line: “Man, I’m getting out of here.”
From Johnny Tremain: “There’s a time for casting silver and a time for casting cannon.” “We have been vanquished by an idea, a belief in human rights.”
Surprise! It’s The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad again.
Songs to Add to Your Playlist: None of the songs for The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad have necessarily become iconic but that doesn’t mean they’re not still good. “The Merrily Song” is a fun B-side track about going for just a casual ride. And, pretty much everything in Sleepy Hollow is at least worth a listen. Bing Crosby is an absolute legend with a terrific voice. I’d listen to him sing about anything really. I especially liked “Headless Horseman” where Brom tells the legend to Ichabod and the rest of the party. I’d definitely throw that onto a Halloween party playlist, if I could find it.
As far as revolutionary songs go, “Liberty Tree” from Johnny Tremain is actually pretty dang good.
It’s closer than you’d think because “Liberty Tree” has been stuck in my head for days now. However, the power of Bing Crosby gave me almost no choice. It’s The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.
Most Magical Disney Moment:This is a bit of an unconventional pick, but, for The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, I’ve got to go with my favorite scene. I’m, of course, talking about the chase scene with the Headless Horseman. It might be stretching the definition of “Disney magic” a bit, but the amount of fear and suspense they were able to generate using animation, typically thrown away as kiddie stuff, is super impressive. I also liked the fact that Disney was reaching outside of their comfort zone a bit. And, again, the character design on the Horseman… So. Freaking. Cool.
In Johnny Tremain, celebrating the success of the Boston Tea Party, the Sons of Liberty march through the town singing “Liberty Tree.” Eventually, the whole town joins in as they decorate a tree with lanterns, nail the Stamp Act to it, and continue to sing out that the American spirit is worth fighting for. It’s patriotic as hell. I watched it again on Youtube before typing this up and got pumped all over again. It makes you want to go fight the British yourself. Unfortunately, it’s also probably the last exciting scene in the movie…
While both are moments I’d probably revisit for different holidays (Halloween and Independence Day), I just love the Sleepy Hollow segment of The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad too much to vote for the other.
Legacies: The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad kind of broke out of the WWII era film curse and left a pretty good legacy with the Disney Company. It currently has a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 7.0 on IMDB. It didn’t make a huge splash at the box office, but each short gained popularity on their own after being shown on tv and in front of other movies. Strangely enough, the movie won a Golden Globe for Best Cinematography. While there were no sequels made, many of the characters would go on to appear in Mickey’s Christmas Carol. The movie also is fairly well represented in the parks. Mr. Toad is featured in a couple of different parks. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride was an opening day attraction at Disneyland, still operating to this day. In it, you speed around in a car with Mr. Toad, causing mayhem everywhere you go. The Disney World version was removed to make way for Winnie the Pooh. However, Mr. Toad still has a presence felt in the park. There’s a painting of him featured in the Pooh ride and he has a tombstone outside of the Haunted Mansion, which reportedly reads “Here lies Toad. It’s sad but it’s true. Not nearly as marketable as Winnie the Pooh.” I say reportedly because the epitaph is currently not visible. There’s also a Toad Hall restaurant at Disneyland Paris and the movie is part of that park’s canal boats. While it doesn’t have any yearlong attractions, the Sleepy Hollow segment always re-emerges at the parks around Halloween time. The Headless Horseman leads the Not So Scary parades and even had a haunted house in Hong Kong. So, yeah, not a bad legacy for a package film. It’s not one of their most popular films (obviously, not as big as Winnie the Pooh), but The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad definitely left a mark.
For such an obscure Disney movie, the legacy of Johnny Tremain is actually kind of interesting. It does not have a score on Rotten Tomatoes, as not enough critics have reviewed it, and currently stands at a 6.5 on IMDB. It was not super successful at the box office. It was eventually split into two episodes for the tv show Disneyland. And, like I mentioned, different segments were sold to schools as educational tools. However, the most lasting legacy of Johnny Tremain is in the Magic Kingdom. While the movie was in the works, Walt Disney planned on basing a whole land on the film in Disneyland. While this never happened, it did heavily influence Liberty Square in Orlando. And, in the center of that land stands the Liberty Tree, which is adorned with thirteen lanterns representing the original colonies. So, in a way, there’s actually a whole land (loosely) based on this film. The more you know…
Semi-obscure references in Disney World aside, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad definitely has the more lasting impact.
AND THE WINNER IS…
THE ADVENTURES OF ICHABOD AND MR. TOAD
Are you surprised? No? Me neither. While I wanted to like Johnny Tremain, I ultimately just couldn’t. And, both the Wind in the Willows and Sleepy Hollow segments have a lot going for them. The animated films just keep bringing the heat. Not a single live action flick has moved on yet.
So, congratulations, Ichabod, Mr. Toad, and the rest of the crew! We will see you in the next round.
As always, thank you for joining me on this quest. We’re slowly starting to chip away at it. We’ve got eight movies down so far. I’m greatly enjoying myself. I hope you guys are too. Next up, we’ve got two Pixar movies facing off against each other! What? How did this happen? I would figure they’re all higher ranked. It’s A Bug’s Life (yay!) versus… oh, Cars 2. Do we have to do this? Yeah? Fine.
Just kidding. I am looking forward to talking about these movies. I’m just not necessarily excited to re-watching Cars 2. Maybe it’s not as bad as I remember? Hopefully?