“The Adventures of Tintin” (2011)

“The Adventures of Tintin” is fresh off it’s victory of  being awarded “Best Animated Feature Film” at the Golden Globes, and I will agree that it is deserving of the award. Don’t let “Animated” make you think it’s a “Kiddie” movie though, not at all. This isn’t “Kung Fu Panda” or “Toy Story”, this is an adventure/action movie that little kids (under 6 or so) simply won’t “get”.  There’s gunfire, abduction, a plane crash, sword fights, cannonballs, alcoholism, and a creepy old mansion that could be quite scary to a little kid. As always, every kid is different in their “scare factor” and ability to follow plot, but my best recommendation is for about age 5-6-ish and over. My almost-7 year old and 8 1/2 year old were totally fine with it, and LOVED it.

The plane crash scene was even more unrealistic than the plane crash in “Castaway” (turbine blades still spinning after hitting the water?! Really?) but again I reminded myself it’s just a movie and to put my pilot certificate back in my wallet and just shut up and enjoy the movie. The topic of alcoholism was a surprising (and actually fairly integral) part of the plot. It wasn’t “in your face” or anything, but noticeable, and can be a conversation starter with kids about drinking.

“Tintin” hold viewers’ attention, is visually pleasing and pays homage to the Tintin cartoons with a artist’s drawing in the opening scene (very cute).  The actors were well-matched to their vocal parts, the voices fit perfectly with the characters. The animation was superb, “real” enough to tell the story and yet “cartoony” enough that you remember the “Tintin” history.  Enjoy the jaunt around the world with Tintin & Snowy, it’s an adventure that is worth watching, even if you don’t have kids to take with you!


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“The Muppets” (2011)

I had been waiting quite impatiently for “The Muppets” to make it’s way to theaters since I saw the first trailer for it. The original 1978 “Muppet Movie” was the first movie I remember going to a theater to see, and as a kid I remember watching The Muppet Show on TV. The new “Muppets” was very obviously targeted towards my demographic (and that’s actually pretty rare, to find something targeted towards my forgotten 30/40-something GenX group.. we’re very often cast aside in marketing which seems to favor either the aging Boomers or the young GenYs/Millenials.)  Yes, my age group was exactly who this movie is reaching out towards: People who remember the originals as kids, and have kids of their own to take to a theater. Yes, it worked!

The entire Muppet cast was reunited for this movie, and when I say “entire” I mean ENTIRE. If you watch closely, you will see every Muppet character is present. Some of the Muppet puppets are the original puppet, and some that had been lost or destroyed had to be remade, but they were all there. Sam the Eagle, Statler & Waldorf (my personal favorite Muppets, as they remind me of my Grandpa R), Beaker & Bunsen.. they’re all back and voiced perfectly. Watching this was like being wrapped in a pre-warmed down blanket and time-warped back to the 70’s. (In a good way, not in a foil wallpaper, avocado green bathroom fixture kind of way.)  Sure, it’s gooey-feel-good and more than a bit cheesy but it’s a GOOD cheese. Like a bag of cheese curds bought still warm from the cheese factory and they still squeak when you chew them.


The movie starts out with a 70’s flashback and the “brothers” growing up together, and we go with them on their journey to LA to see the Muppet Theater. The fixing-up of the theater and travels to reunite the Muppet gang are predictable but still fun to see.  The villains are villainous, the good guys are good and while we all have a a pretty good inkling of how the movie is going to end, it’s not quite what we think it’s going to be!  Plenty of song & dance numbers and, just like the original Muppet Movie, lots of celebrity cameos throughout. The actors & Muppeteers are absolutely seamless in their interactions together, and I think they prove beyond doubt that yes, Muppets most certainly DO have a place in the modern world!  Welcome back, Muppets.

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“Zookeeper” (2011)

Zookeeper was.. well, one of those movies that I think was confused as to who its target audience is. Is it a silly talking animal movie for kids? Is it a romantic comedy date movie for adults? It tries to be both at the same time, and that’s just hard to do.

Zookeeper tells the story of zoo employee Griffen Keyes who’s heart was broken when his girlfriend rejects his marriage proposal. He still carries a torch for her, and after 5 years she comes back and wants him back, but wants him to change and get a high-dollar job at a luxury car dealership. The animals at the zoo don’t want him to leave, and they try to give him dating advice, at times that advice involves frat-boy-level biological function “humor” (peeing in a plant at a restaurant? Is that really something we want to show our kids? Really?) As Griffin changes to be who this girl wants to be, he is not happy with himself, and discovers who he really is and he finds his true love interest in another character.

The kids LOVED the talking animals, but had trouble with the adult theme and plot of the movie. My 8 year old had to ask a lot of questions as to why he was doing the things he was doing, and what the “point” was. It’s not a scary movie by any means, though there is a scene at the end where Griffen and a gorilla are dangling from and eventually fall from a NYC bridge, this high-altitude scene could bring about some gasps from some kids. It’s not a “bad” movie, it’s very well made, I love Kevin James, and he does play the part VERY well.. it’s just that it’s really confused as to who the movie was made for. If I was dating, I wouldn’t take a date to it, even though it has the romantic-comedy storyline. But while kids will love the talking animals, they may not grasp the storyline, so what’s the point in taking them?

It’s not a bad movie, it’s just a well-made movie with an identity crisis.

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“Cars 2” (2011)

Surprisingly, other reviews have been very mixed regarding Cars 2. Some have really blasted it as being awful, a waste of time, how could Pixar have put this out, etc. To me, those trashing reviews are a surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed Cars 2. It’s perhaps not quite as good as the original, but making a sequel as good or better than a smashing original is not an easy task..

I was smitten from the opening scene. I love “Deadliest Catch”, and to see the Northwestern (a crab fishing boat) with the voice of Captain Sig Hansen getting a cameo was AWESOME. I think I may have been the only person in the theater to “get” it though.. Cameos abound, with Jeff Gordon, Brent Musburger, Darrell Waltrip, and Lewis Hamilton popping up here and there. John Ratzenberger has had a part in every Pixar production, he reprises his “Mack” character here. Michael Cane is perfect as the British Finn McMissile, all the vocal cast is splendid. I do have to admit that you CAN have too much Larry the Cable Guy… and the whole “redneck” accent did start to get a bit on my nerves by the end of the movie, but I was able to put the annoyance aside and enjoy everything else about the movie.

Some political outlets have labeled Cars 2 as being bad because it’s displaying a political message poisoning our childrens’ minds against Big Oil. WTF. Really? Politics have gone too far in our country, when someone actually thinks that an animated kids movie is trying to poison kids minds against oil companies.

The animation was Pixar-beautiful, the story easy enough for kids to follow. We follow the whole Cars gang as Mater gets Lightning McQueen involved in the World Grand Prix, and the resulting round-the-world adventure that finds Mater mistaken for an American spy. There weren’t any “OMG SCARY” moments, nothing that I think would cause any distress to any age group.

Like all things, don’t take it too seriously, and just enjoy it.

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“Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer” (2011)

I haven’t read the “Judy Moody” book series, and I have boys so it’s doubtful that I’ll ever see them come through our house… so when we went to see the JM movie I went with no preconceived notions or expectations based on a book series (unlike when I saw the “Ramona & Beezus” movie last year).

It’s probably a good thing I had no preconceived notions, I think I’d have been pretty disappointed. Some things just don’t make the transition from book to movie well. The character of Aunt Opal for one. She shows up with this massive steamer trunk set up in the living room and proceeds to trash the house?! The “quirkiness and free spirit” was just over the top. The little brother’s lisp was incredibly annoying and I wanted to send him to speech therapy by the end of the movie, I would gladly pay for it out of my own pocket if his family’s insurance doesn’t cover it. Any amount would be worth it to not have to listen to that anymore. The main character’s made up exclamations are tiresome but bearable… as long as the kids watching don’t catch on and try and talk like that all the way home. Mercifully mine didn’t, but others may not have been so lucky.

Some reviews have said that the movie is constant go go go go go go with no time to pause and appreciate it. I didn’t see that myself. For my two, if a movie is too slow, they won’t pay attention and it’ll lose them.

There aren’t any really scary moments, even as they’re chasing/trying to lure bigfoot the scenes are funny enough that it’s obviously not real, and while the characters are supposed to be scared, it just doesn’t come off as scary. There is, however, a blue puke scene on a rollercoaster (yes, the puke is blue, as the puking character had been gorging on candy). But at least the puke is blue, kinda like how maxi-pad commercials use blue to demonstrate their products…

Anyway, I can’t really say that JM was full-out terrible, but it wasn’t anything to write home about. I guess there is a whole series of JM books? Judging from this, I don’t think we have to worry about the same thing happening with JM movies.

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“Kung Fu Panda 2” (2011)

Yes, I know I’m terribly late in getting these most recent reviews posted. It’s summer, the kids aren’t in school and that leaves pretty much *zero* time for me to get anything done that *I* want to do.

Enough of that tomfoolery though, and on to my review of Dreamworks “Kung Fu Panda 2”. Jack Black is back along with the other vocal talents from the original 2008 “Kung Fu Panda”. It was pretty much a given that Dreamworks knew they had an automatic WIN with KFP2, building on a successful established franchise and releasing just in advance of school getting out, being the first of the kids’ summer movies to hit the screens.

We get a glimpse of the history of Po, ultimately seeing how it is that a Panda comes to be raised by a duck. I like the positive message of adoption in KFP2, that even though Po does learn about his biological past, nothing can replace the love & upbringing that his dad (the duck) gave him. Adoptive parental love is just as strong as biological parental love, and I think that was a really great message.

The “bad guy” in this movie is really pretty sinister, and could be scary to skittish little kids. The evil peacock commits mass genocide as he slaughters every [or so he thinks] panda in China in an attempt to ensure that a prophecy of his destruction doesn’t come to pass. There’s a lot of action, and dark scenes with the evil peacock.

Po and his comrades face the challenges valiantly and save the day, with all the humor and silliness of the 1st KFP. Definitely a must-see, or rent as the case may be… as this is probably posted too late to still catch it in theaters.

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“African Cats” (2011)

“African Cats” is Disney’s 2011 Earth Day movie. My 6 year old LOVES all things animals, lions and cheetahs included, so I took him to see it this morning while older son was in school. I don’t think he would have had quite the same appreciation for it…

When you have a big budget, and the Disney name behind you, it’s pretty hard not to come up with some pretty spectacular footage, and Disney doesn’t disappoint. The scenery/visuals are truly awe-inspiring, absolutely beautiful. Samuel Jackson lends his voice to the documentary for the narration, and handles it quite nicely. His voice is the only “human” aspect of this movie, there are no humans seen, the film focuses entirely on the animals and their natural environment, their actions not disturbed by humans.

The main characters of the story are a lioness and her cub and a cheetah mom and her cubs. They are followed as the cubs grow and learn, and as the circle of life moves around them. The differences between their lifestyles are explored, lions living in prides and cheetahs being solitary creatures. Some elephants, warthogs, zebras, buffalo, hyenas and some assorted birds also make guest appearances. The individual lions and cheetah mom are given names, and help the view to “bond”, per se, with them.

“African Cats” is basically a 90 minute long nature show/documentary. So, keep that in mind when thinking of taking kids to see it. If the kid is really, really into animals, especially lions & cheetahs, they’re going to love it. If they’re not so much the “nature loving” type, it’ll be hard to get them to sit through it, especially if they’re quite young. My little guy sat spellbound the entire time, that’s how much he LOVES animals. The movie doesn’t sugar-coat the realities of nature either (which I liked and appreciated). There are some “bad” things that happen, animals get eaten by predators, die, and other assorted not-so-niceties that are a very real part of nature. These are presented not in a sensationalistic, gruesome way, but in as gentle a way possible, while still making it quite clear what has happened. This could be disturbing to some kids.

This latest addition to the Disney Nature series earns it’s place in the series among the others, another beautiful Earth Day release.

Happy Earth Day to all, and to all a good night.

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“Rio” (2011)

You know what sucks? Wanting to see a movie, but having kids misbehaving SO badly that there’s no bloody way that I would step foot in any public place with them, let alone a place like a theater where they’d be expected to be quiet. So our planned Saturday viewing of “Rio” didn’t happen. Yesterday (Sunday) whatever demons possessed my two little hellions had passed, and we were finally able to see it.

From the previews “Rio” looked to me to be pretty, well, fluffy … So I wasn’t expecting too much from it. I could tell from a lot of the scenes (flying over the jungle, the scenes of the city of Rio, etc) that it was made with the expectation of being seen in 3D. I don’t “do” 3D though, it annoys me, but the Hamilton IMAX 16 did show the 2D version on their big screens, so it was still visually pretty cool.

“Rio” starts off in, well, er, Rio, where we’re introduced to baby Blu, who ends up being sent to Minnesota and adopted by a little girl. The scene transition from Rio (sunny, beautiful, tropical, exotic) to Minnesota (NOT Rio) is hilarious. I busted up laughing. The other people in the theater were probably wondering what the heck was wrong with that crazy woman in front laughing so hard… Blu is propositioned to go to Rio to meet up with Jewel, the only other known blu macaw, and get together to, you know, repopulate the species n’ stuff.

Blu and Jewel end up stolen, are handcuffed (footcuffed?) together, and since Blu can’t fly they have to learn to work together and get along in order to find a way to get separated. Their adventures are somewhat predictable, however given the target audience (kids!) the plot/story is perfect. I found myself laughing out loud lot a LOT (it really is very funny), and my kids (6 and 7) absolutely LOVED it. It was a big hit with them, and they talked about it all the way home.

In the movie, both birds are stolen (birdnapped?) and there are some scenes with birds in cages in a dark room with the “bad guys”. It’s a little “dark” I suppose in those scenes, but I think “Tangled” rated higher on the scare factor than “Rio” does. My 7 year old asked several times if the bird was going to get back to the girl. I told him yes, and to keep watching… but I didn’t see any real fear or scaredness (is that a word?) from either of them.

Jesse Eisenberg is a doll, I saw an interview with him on Letterman not long after he did “Social Network”, and he was hilarious. His flat, kinda monotone voice is PERFECT for Blu’s character. All the characters are well-voiced, but Blu’s in particular was a very good fit. The musical numbers throughout are silly, but fitting with the movie.

We all loved “Rio”, and think it definitely deserves a spot on the Netflix queue once it comes out.

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“Hop” (2011)

Yes, I bought into the type and took the kids to see “Hop” on it’s opening day today. It looked kinda silly, kinda goofy, something light to start the spring break off with. I was pretty much right on… It wasn’t great, it wasn’t awful, but it was cute, and it was funny. And it had David Hasselhoff. So, really, what more could a silly kids’ Easter movie ask for? 🙂

From what I’ve seen, this movie hasn’t been getting the best critical acclaim. Well folks, this isn’t “The King’s Speech”, this isn’t “Hurt Locker” or “The Blind Side”. It’s a kid’s flick about the easter bunny. What exactly were they expecting? Yeah, the bunny poops jelly beans. It’s juvenile, it’s silly, and the girl eats one. It’s FUNNY. It’s supposed to be. So keep in mind, that I base my critiques of movies based on what they’re supposed to be, I don’t compare all movies to the same standards. Movies that are meant to be FILMS, like “King’s Speech”, are in an entirely different league than something like “Hop”. I judge on a sliding scale, keeping in mind the intent of the movie, what it’s supposed to or trying to be, instead of grading everything as though it’s in competition with “Casablanca” or “Gone With the Wind” for Best-Movie-of-all-Time.

“Hop” starts off with E.B. being shown the easter factory. It’s a pretty cool factory, my 7 year old loved all the mechanical assembly lines and machines. We’re also shown a scene of a young boy seeing the easter bunny in his yard delivering his easter basket. Flash forward 20 years and E.B. no longer wants to be the easter bunny, and the young boy is now an unmotivated out-of-work guy living with his parents. The two (E.B. and the character Fred) together work through their issues with their fathers, and the happy ending was a bit cheesy with the Christmas parallels, but goofy enough that it fits the movie.

I absolutely loved David Hasselhoff’s appearance. It’s great that he doesn’t take himself too seriously, and can be silly enough to have such fun with a part like this.

Don’t go to this movie expecting a moment of cinematic grandeur. You’ll be disappointed. Go expecting a silly kids movie with plenty of laughs and you’ll have a grand time.

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“Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules” (2011)

I was unimpressed with the first “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” movie, and was pretty “meh”‘ about seeing the new one. I was pleasantly surprised though, to find myself laughing out loud the whole way through. Most sequels suck, this one, IMO, was better than the first.

“Wimpy Kid” mark II again takes us into the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” books, and the Heffley family drama. The two young stars (Zachary Gordon and Devon Bostick as Greg & Rodrick Heffley) are the reason this movie is as good as it is. They are both perfect for these roles, and together they carry the entire movie. One positive thing about both these movies is that it has inspired more reading on the part of my 7 year old. After seeing the first one he wanted one of the books, and now he’s even more desirous of indulging in a few more of the written series.

Nothing scary or anything in this movie, though Greg does get locked in the basement for a little bit. (Yes, he does get out.) I wouldn’t bother taking any kids under the age of 5/6, the situations and humor will be completely lost on them. It does get a high “cringe” factor rating, in that several of the awkward scenes made me VERY glad I wasn’t actually a part of it!

Certainly not in the running for “Best Picture” or anything like that, but if you’re looking for a couple hours’ escape to go laugh at the awkwardness of middle school, this is it.

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