Quicktime (Sonic the Hedgehog, 2020)

Sonic_the_Hedgehog_PosterSonic popularity came about at a time when I had no access to video games. So I watched a lot of the discourse around the film lacking any real skin in the game.  There are two things that stood out.  One was the initial trailer that drew outrage over the look of the Sonic.  This led to the studio rushing back to the drawing board and aggressively redesigning and animating an all new Sonic model. Since the movie was released, it seems pretty universal that the altered model is a big improvement.

The second issue seemed to revolve around how relevant this would be for young kids. One example is that on Fandom’s Charting with Dan, Dan Murrell and Lon Harris asked if kids really cared about Sonic. But honestly, at the time, the only reason I expected to see the movie, it was because my nephews liked Sonic and wanted to see the movie.

We are introduced to young Sonic, who lives on a magical island in another universe and is looked after by an Owl.  She warns Sonic that he has special abilities that people will always want to exploit, and so he must always keep himself a secret. She gives him special rings of gold and explains to him that if trouble ever happens, he must escape to another universe using the rings.  When they are attacked, Sonic is forced to leave on his own. He ends up in our world, where he spends the next ten years living in hiding.

He lives his life alone, pretending to have friendships with all the locals, with a special attachment to the local Sheriff, who he has named Donut Lord. Meanwhile, Donut Lo-uh Tom lives with his wife and is trying to chase a life of excitement by joining a larger police force. When Sonic accidentally causes a massive power outage with his powers, the U.S. Government sends out eccentric scientist Doctor Robotnik to find Sonic.

Tom finds himself road tripping with Sonic to San Francisco to locate his lost rings, bonding and trying to escape the grasp of Robotnik.

And you know…the movie is actually a lot of fun. Ben Schwartz voices Sonic with an excited child like quality.  James Marsden is always a solid Every Man (in spite of his leading man good looks). And Jim Carrey is clearly having a blast here.

The CGI works pretty well, and successfully bridges the cartoonish and real.

I am not a huge fan of the whole “You can Never Share Your Secret” narratives, as it often feels kind of an easy setup. But for the most part, once the movie kicks into gear, you kind of forget about it until the end.  Some of the humor falls flat (like the running jokes about Olive Garden).

But I was far more entertained by this film than I expected to be.  Sonic is one of the more fun video game adaptions and makes for nice light entertainment.

 

Batman Will Go On (Batman Forever, 1995)

Batman_Forever_PosterBatman Forever had some big shakeups.  Tim Burton and Michael Keaton were out.  Joel Schumacher and Val Kilmer were in.  But the real shakeup was…Warner Brothers wanted to sell more toys.  Schumacher had read Batman: Year One.  He really wanted to tell that story.  The studio was not interested.  Schumacher thought that if he gave them the movie they wanted, he might be able to persuade them on the next film to do the film he really wanted to do.

For the Riddler, the film hired Jim Carrey (fresh off Ace Ventura:Pet Detective, the Mask and Dumb & Dumber) and for Two Face?  Tommy Lee Jones (their established actor choice-no doubt selected for his uncanny resemblance to Billy Dee Williams) was their choice.

The casting of Kilmer was treated like this was a James Bond casting choice. We can replace anybody.  Anyways, The story also introduced Robin (played by Chris O’Donnell).  Batman’s love interest is sexy psychiatrist Chase Meridian.  Really.  Adding more characters means more action figures…and vehicles…Super-heroes gotta have a lot of rides…as do their arch enemies.  Well, unless you are Chase Meridian…you do not get to be an action figure.

Much of the film is given to Jim Carrey to do his typical over the top goofiness that he was known for.  This was three years before he started playing roles that required him to tone it down.  It can become obnoxious, and Tommy Lee Jones tries to keep up, going over the top himself.  Kilmer just fills his tuxedo and walks through the film.  Multiple villains make for a bloated plot.  Add to that the introduction of Robin?  This is not O’Donnell’s finest moment.  He is just not convincing as a skilled martial artist or acrobat.  Chase Meridian is a very boring character.  She seems to be a character existing solely because they felt there should be a love interest.  You know…for the girls.

Again, there is little meat for characters like Commissioner Gordon…and the films make him feel like an old man who is ever so ineffective…and knows it, so he waits on Batman to save the day.

Visually, Schumacher goes more Art Deco with his Gotham City.  He plays with vibrant colors and visual queues.  This is certainly an interesting change…except it also becomes highly implausible that such a city would be built this way.

This was the Bat Franchise teetering on collapse.  But there were no lessons learned.

What a Scrooge Part 5 (A Christmas Carol, 2009)

a-christmas-carol-poster-2009Truth be told, I was not anticipating much with this film.  It was motion capture and seemed like a vanity project for Carrey to show off.

And yet, the motion capture was not as distracting as I expected.  The character designs had an old storybook look.

And yes, it is an opportunity for Carrey to show off, but this film works in his favor.  Carrey provides the voice of Scrooge and all three Ghosts.  The film has some of the most imaginative takes on the ghosts, as only animation allows.

The Ghost of Christmas Present has a flame for a head, symbolic of the birth of hope (at least to me) to be mined from the past.  While the Ghost of Christmas Present appears very much like other incarnations in his wreath crown and red robe, Carrey plays him with a wicked glee.  This is a powerful component of the Ghost that can often be missed.  He enjoys sticking it to Scrooge by using his own words against him.  The best adaptions of the story remember this.

Marley is spot on.  He is downright horrifying, as is fitting to the story.  If your Marley is not fear inducing, you are getting it all wrong.  And here, Marley’s arrival is intense.

The performances are all effective.  Oldman’s Marley is grim, angry and desperate.  His Bob Cratchit kindly and gentle.  Colin Firth brings warmth and joy to Fred.  But Carrey?  He shines as Scrooge.  He brings the right amount of fear and bitterness to Scrooge.  His ghosts echo his voice ever so slightly, as if each ghost has a direct link to Scrooge.

Post conversion Scrooge hits all the right notes.  He is giddy, joyful and full of hope.  There is a glint of childish mischievousness in him as he plays off the expectations of those around him and then surprises them.

The one sore spot for me is that there two absurd and over the top effects sequences.  The first has Scrooge rocketing through the sky after extinguishing the ghost of Christmas Past.  The second is where Scrooge shrinks and grows while trying to outrun the horses of the Ghost of Christmas Future.

But overall, writer/director Robert Zemeckis and his cast seem to understand the story, and put together a pretty effective version of the tale.  They get the horror element, the scary aspect of the story, but also the hope and redemption.  I was pleasantly surprised with this one.

Hail to the King (Bruce Almighty, 2003)

imageAfter lukewarm receptions to How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Carrey went back to where his bigger successes occured.  High concept comedies.  And you do not get more high concept than Bruce Almighty.

A couple decades after the Oh God series, we see George Burns replaced by Morgan Freeman in the role of God.  Carrey plays Bruce Nolan, a sad sack who does not appreciate what he has, rather wanting more, believing he will be happy once he achieves his goals.  And his biggest goal?  To try and move from doing puff pieces for the local news station to the anchor desk.  He tries to be positive, but is dealt a crushing blow when the job goes to his rival Evan Baxter (Steve Carrell).

Angry and at the end of his rope, he ends up getting a meeting with God.  God is not really impressed with Bruce’s complaints and makes him a deal.  Bruce has the omnipotent power of God for a week.  Bruce agrees, and initially relishes the power.

This is a fairly entertaining bit, as we see Bruce experiment with what he can do.  And at first it seems awesome…until he starts discovering some of the drawbacks…like hearing everyone’s prayers.  Bruce starts to find things getting harder, and he is chasing away his girlfriend Grace, who is tired of Bruce being so focused on himself and his unwillingness to see what he has as enough.  Bruce tries to use his powers to fix his personal problem, and quickly tries to find shortcuts for the responsibility stuff (like prayers from people).  Of course, it ends up only being made worse.

Even with the powers of a supreme being, Bruce’s life is more messed up than ever.  Bruce hits bottom, even though he can move the moon.

And this is where the film works so well.  It is very focused, with a very simple point.  Don’t be a self centered jerk.  Bruce begins to look outside himself…he starts to help people in regular human ways.  Rather than worrying about what is just out of his grasp, Bruce focuses on what is right there in front of him.

Freeman makes a pretty nice avatar for God.  He is kind, gentle, loving and patient.  He is not there to accuse Bruce, he is there to open Bruce’s eyes.  Like Oh God before it, Bruce Almighty’s God does try and tackle some of the tough questions about existence.  They do it best when they keep it simple.

While you can predict the happy ending on it’s way, the film manages to earn it’s happy ending.  It does not cheat.  Bruce does not have to just say he is sorry and everything is awesome.  No, he has to work to get there.  He has to give up dreams and find a new path.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑