Monday, February 09, 2009

I think it's all animated movies for me from here on in

I saw two movies this weekend, one ostensibly a kids' movie, and one a "grown-up" film. Anyone care to guess which one I actually enjoyed?

On Saturday night I had a very rare girls' night out with a friend. We had Mexican food for dinner and then saw "Revolutionary Road," which we both thought we'd like since it's gotten a fair amount of Oscar buzz. Good God in heaven, sitting through this was like having root canal work done. What I want to know is when it became acceptable to completely dispense with the idea of plot in the movies. When the characters start out screaming at each other from almost the very first frame, with absolutely no context or back story or explanation, for some reason the filmmakers think this will be riveting. To me it was just mystifying.

So it's the 1950s and everybody's a chain-smoking drunk, apparently, and everyone ignores their kids 95 percent of the time, and in a vague generalized sense, they have angst. In the viewer, this creates questions: Why specifically do they have angst? And why should I give a shit? The filmmakers have told me exactly nothing about the characters, so why should I care if they hate each other and their marriage is falling apart? It's evidently supposed to be entertainment enough to watch Leonardo DiCaprio (who is looking weirder as he ages, with those child-like features becoming obscured by creeping middle age) and Kate Winslet, who is certainly capable of much better acting, shrieking at one another in naked pursuit of Oscar nominations. The whole thing was an ordeal to sit through. I want my $10 back!

Then there was Madagasacar 2, which we watched on DVD after having seen part of it in the theater a while back. (We had to leave early because the Peanut was freaked out by the scary parts.) As I've said before, the people making kids movies these days (Dream Works in this case) seem much more concerned with delivering a satisfying story. And while the Pixar folks are the undisputed masters of computer animation, this film shows that Dream Works is capable of giving them a serious run for their money. Some of the animation work here is astonishingly sophisticated. Fast, funny, engaging and moving, this movie was every bit as good as its predecessor, which you can't always say about sequels.

That said, I do have one gripe: why must the scary bits be SO scary? It's fine for, say and 8- or 10-year old to see the terrifying shark trying to eat the cute little lemur guy--not so great for a 4-year-old. Same thing for the use of an actual child's voice for baby lion Alex in the scene where he is being abducted by poachers. This certainly added realism, but it's disturbing to hear a real kid crying "Daddy!" in that scene. We had to fast-forward through that part when the Peanut was watching, and then watching it ourselves later after she went to bed, we found it terribly off-putting.

But, even given that issue, give me the latest and greatest from Pixar or Dream Works before some lumbering pretentious novel adaptation any day of the week.


Misty said...

ok... from a critics perspective- I'm disappointed in the Snub that Revolutionary Road has received from the Academy. The quality of this film is nearly flawless.

That being said... YES! 100% I agree. I've not sat through a more painful movie to watch. Just utter hopelessness, selfishness and cruelty.

Magpie said...

Go see Slumdog Millionaire - really, really good.

That said; Netflix. Then if it stinks, I'm not all annoyed that I shelled out for a sitter *and* for the movie. And you can put the kids stuff on there too (although I don't think Mamma Mia counts as a kids movie, but my girls loved the singing and dancing, and the "who's your Daddy" plot went right over their heads. Mostly. The big one is getting too smart.)

Fraulein said...

Oh, we already do Netflix -- we can't live without it since we have the no-frills cable. I love that you can get old TV shows on there too.

But I was truly mystified by "Revolultionary Road." Since Misty is a bona fide movie critic, if she's still reading this, I'd like to hear more from her on this one. Is it that it was technically well-made? I guess I can see that. But isn't it a problem that they never introduced the reason for the Wheelers being so hopeless and sad? Or was there some indication of this that I just missed? I couldn't get past that for the rest of the movie -- it was like the context was just missing.