Editor’s note: In this article, we’ve introduced a new ratings system for popular films. More details are available at the end of the article.
Wall-E (Rated – G)
Directed by ANDREW STANTON
Walt Disney and PIXAR have put together a wonderful story about friendship, love, and the true meaning of humanity. Set in the post-environmental apocalypse future (and aren’t all futures post-apocalyptic?), WALL-E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter – Earth Class) has been on earth for the last few centuries doing what one-task programmed robots do best. Over the last few hundred years however, WALL-E has developed certain program eccentricities that include collecting human objects like toys and pictures, and watching reruns of old musicals. After discovering a probe robot named EVE (Extra-terrestrial Vegetation Evaluator), WALL-E finds himself crossing the galaxy in pursuit of his lost companion and shall we say, robo-love? In his quest to reunite with his EVE, WALL-E is the unwitting catalyst in the quest to rebuild and repopulate the earth.
What Disney and PIXAR have created is indeed striking in its imagination and detail. The visual images of the scenes on earth, in space, and the places in between are breathtaking.
More importantly, with very little dialogue, Director Andrew Stanton was able to bring the rawest of human emotions to these mechanical characters. Love, loss, longing, hope, fear, courage and sacrifice are communicated via these characters in ways we’ve seen lacking in many live actors. The characters take personification to a new level. These are not “talking robots” or robots mimicking human traits. These are robots that in their own universe and interaction somehow have an understanding of humanity.
The cast of voices start to come in the second half of the movie, and they all do well. Not to worry, PIXAR regular John Ratzenberger is included in the lineup. It is no surprise that the movie will delight the whole family; though expect a different reaction from your kids than in previous Disney/PIXAR creations. I suspect there will be less clamoring for replicas of the characters like Cars or Bugs, etc, and more an enjoyment of the visual effects and the ability for them to understand and put the story together themselves. I noticed there were kids at the theater seeing it for a second time and narrating the story for their parents. Oh, and by the way, it provides a wonderful opportunity to have a conversation about conservation and the environment. Be sure to begin by encouraging everyone to place the movie snacks in the garbage bins as you exit the theater. This movie will be a movie classic for its art, and don’t be surprised if you watch the movie in DVD form, even without the kids.
Your Daddy Time: Worth It or Wasted? – Worth IT! 3.5/4 Stars
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (Rated PG-13)
Director: Rob Cohen
Starring: Brendan Fraser, Jet Li, Michelle Yeoh
Like the title character’s terracotta exoskeleton, this is a great movie trapped under layers of hard dirt. This version of The Mummy seemed as if someone went to Hollywood with a great script of love lost in ancient china, of sorcery and the quest for immortality, and of battles for the control of earth, to which a suit behind a desk replied, “Hey, we’ll do it, but only if we can add Brendan Fraser in it and complete the Mummy trilogy!” Groan.
For those of us who crave fantasy plots and CGI, this will definitely whet the appetite, but don’t expect the overall experience to leave you full. Other than Jet Li’s fantastic fight scenes and the stunning grace of Michelle Yeoh, you will probably not remember anything about this movie on your way back to the parking lot or train station. Like fast food Chinese cuisine, you will be hungry again soon after.
The movie does have hints of a heartier and more satisfying meal. The scenes with Yeoh are great in the beginning plot set up and in the final battles, but there just isn’t enough of her in the rest of the movie. There is something about her ability to project stoic yearning and loss that just floods the screen. The issue is that in the middle of this poetry, one is repeatedly and rudely interrupted by Fraser and company in an attempt to interject a story no one grows to care about of two aging (a term used loosely) adventure seekers learning to adapt to semi-retirement and the idea that their son has set out on his own in the family business.
There are some good one-liners, but not enough chemistry between the characters to make this multi-layered plot work. It seemed at times that the actors spent too much time in front of green screens dodging imaginary balls of fire and not enough time actually working with each other.
One example would be Luke Ford as the young Alex O’Connell. Looking more like Fraser’s younger brother than his son, his attempts to create romantic tension with Isabella Leong is flat and forced. His accent is a confusing mix of Western drawl and Aussie outback and seems to be mostly dubbed.
Maria Bello takes a crack at the Evelyn O’Connell role with a knowing wink and does her best with it, but absent from her interpretation was Rachel Wiesz’s version of the too-smart-for-her-own-good foil to Fraser’ brawns-over-brains character. She replaces some of the bookish charm for steely grit and the scene of her back to back with Fraser in a last stand is good popcorn fun. I felt, however, that Frasier’s character did not make a similar move toward the center, making Bello’s character development too strikingly different for a sequel.
Brendan Fraser lost some of that swashbuckling recklessness viewers came to adore in the previous films. All of a sudden he decided to take himself seriously, and like a sci-fi star forced to sign his millionth autograph at a comic book convention, it seemed like he wasn’t having much fun.
I am torn here because I like many of the components of this movie – dragons and abominable snowmen and witches and Kung Fu. But it felt like I wanted this to work where it wasn’t. I will, of course, watch almost anything with Jet Li, but this definitely pushed the border of “almost.” Luckily he is barely in the same shot with the rest of the characters in other than his various CGI forms. I can only guess that was for plausible deniability.
However, If you have tweens, they’ll probably like it. This is a good diverting movie. There are enough explosions and car chases and cliffhangers and typical Hollywood formula to keep the attention of even the most tuned out tag-along. Dads won’t feel uncomfortable from a parenting perspective, as most of the violence is against soldiers made out of clay pots, and the innuendo is like watching daddy flirt with mommy across the dinner table. You may need to talk about the realities of dictatorships and forced labor as the kids may think it’s normal to bury thousands of people under large monuments.
So while this has great components, other than something to do with the bored kids, I’d wait for the ability watch the movie with the ultimate 21st century magic weapon – the DVR.
Your Daddy Time: Worth It or Wasted? – Wasted! 2/4 Stars
The Rating System is for dads who need to know one thing- Is this movie WORTH IT to:
* Pack up the kids, bags, etc and trek to the theater – or
* Find a babysitter so Dad can have a date night – or
* Cash in brownie points with the Mrs. so he can go with his buddies
If it doesn’t fit these simple criteria, the movie gets the WASTED rating, which means – don’t waste the precious time you have, wait for video/cable when you can squeeze it between chores, work and sleep.
Miguel Guadalupe grew up in New York City and currently resides in New Jersey. He is an Account Executive at FirstRain, a search-based research company for investment Professionals, and has worked in financial services for over 10 years. A graduate of Wesleyan University, he currently volunteers for various alumni and community organizations, and is the proud father of a talkative and tenacious toddler.
Miguel Guadalupe is a Director at Gartner Inc, a technology research company. Miguel (he’s the one in the middle) grew up in New York City and currently resides in New Jersey. A graduate of Wesleyan University, he currently volunteers for various alumni and community organizations, and is the proud father of a two beautiful girls.