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REVIEW: Winter 2017 Animated Films

For the third year in a row I’m making an effort to see all of the animated films released this year. I love animation and I think it’s important for it to be treated as an art form and not as a distraction you slip in to a blu-ray player to entertain your kids. So let’s kick off this years movies with the winter 2017 animated films.

Ocean Waves | January 16th 2017 (Limited) | Studio Ghibli
Director: Tomomi Mochizuki | Box Office: $83,962
72 Minutes | Rated PG-13
Not all Ghibli movies are home runs. While Only Yesterday merely felt a little disjointed, it still had plenty of heartwarming moments with genuine connections. Ocean Waves on the other hand romanticized some pretty problematic red flags between these two main characters characters. The girl was chaotic and abusive while the boy was a doormat…because she was pretty? I was yelling internally when at the climax of the film this guy was wistfully recalling all the times she yelled at him with the swelling emotional music and reverb on her insults, and he came to the conclusion that he loved her. HUH? It’s not as bad as ‘Anthem of the Heart’ but it’s not far off.
[Rating 2/5]
Rotten Tomatoes: 86% (6/10 average)

Sailor Moon R: The Movie | January 13th 2017 (Limited) | Toei Animation
Director: Kunihiko Ikuhara | Box Office: N/A
62 Minutes | Rated NR
I grew up on Sailor Moon but seeing the films in a theater was never an option. It was great to hear the heckling at the awkward moments that don’t seem to quite fit with modern storytelling. I particularly enjoyed the use of horror imagery (zombies/mind controlled people, disembodied hands, Alien-esque monster flowers, etc) that I didn’t catch when I was younger. I was also aware of the gay subtext between Mamoru and Fiore but I didn’t understand a lot of the comedic timing of Usagi when Fiore showed up and announced he was taking Mamoru away. I also couldn’t quite describe how I felt the moment ‘Moon Revenge’ started blasting through the speakers. It’s not a perfect movie, but it’s probably the closest to the summation of what a season of Sailor Moon is like for those unfamiliar with the franchise. It has a main villain, the Monster-Of-The-Week minions with fight sequences, Tuxedo Mask arrives but ultimately needs to be saved by Sailor Moon, the Sailor Scouts have an intense heart to heart before battle, everyone (almost) dies and Sailor Moon swoops in at the last minute with the Silver Millennium Crystal to save the day, insert epic Rock-Pop song and roll credits.
[Rating 4/5]
Rotten Tomatoes: N/A

Rock Dog | February 24th 2017 | Mandoo Pictures
Directors: Ash Brannon | Box Office: $9.4 million
80 Minutes | Rated PG
Seeing the trailer for this film immediately gave me Norm of the North vibes. The film opened up in a similar fashion akin to Kung Fu Panda with an animated and intriguing 2D sequence. I felt affinity for the characters in that style but they lost their charm and unique qualities once the 3D portion of the movie started. The main problem I have is that it feels like two different movies smushed together because they couldn’t decide what kind of conflict they wanted. Is it Bodi dealing with his overbearing father and protecting the sheep village from wolves with magic? Or are we following Bodi’s quest to become a musician and the pitfalls of trusting people in the corporate music industry? As a result of trying to marry the two concepts, the film felt rushed and amateur. Not to mention the inconsistent storytelling especially with the old Bison narrator breaking the fourth wall only during the first 10 mins was weird. It was also nice to hear the voice actors weren’t just phoning it in and had fun with their roles. You could also tell the people working on it cared about the movie which sets it apart from other low budget CGI animated films. It’s too bad that I just wasn’t interested in this character’s journey.
[Rating 2/5]
Rotten Tomatoes: 39% (5.3/10 average)

The Lego Batman Movie | February 10th 2017 | Warner Brother Animation
Director: Chris McKay | Box Office: $310 million
90 Minutes | Rated PG
I tried not to get my hopes up too high for this film since The LEGO Movie was so well done. I generally have no skin in for super hero movies since I didn’t grow up with them outside of Saturday morning cartoon renditions of them. So if their were any inaccuracies (even in a goofy LEGO sense) they didn’t affect my experience. The humor was extremely fast paced and I’m  always a fan of self aware jokes but sometimes I felt like it needed to take a breather. This was also a scenario where the star-studded cast was done right and that’s a welcomed surprise in my book. Michael Cera was probably my casting choice as he’s become off-putting for a lot of people in movies but he was really endearing as Robin. I’m also blown away by the attention to detail the design/art teams did to translate LEGOs in to Gotham, extremely well done. Overall a fun and smart movie, hopefully we don’t get burnt out on LEGO style humor since they seem to be upping the number of LEGO movies lately.
[Rating 4/5]
Rotten Tomatoes: 90% (7.5/10 average)

The Boss Baby | March 31st 2017 | DreamWorks Animation
Director: Tom McGrath | Box Office: $436.5 million
93 Minutes | Rated PG
I kind of dreaded seeing this one, mostly because the Trump-like capitalist baby character was not endearing enough due to our current political climate. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be. There was plenty of adult humor but bathroom jokes reigned supreme obviously. The plot was pretty out there but it was so ridiculous that you were like, baby factory in the sky? Sure, why not? What really saved the movie were the brilliantly designed imagination/fantasy sequences each had a unique feel to them and were often insanely vibrant and abstract. Hats off to Andy Schuhler. However ever since the trailer the huge character flaw that I could not get over was all of the characters’ dilated pupils. They all looked high. I know it was supposed to give a “cuteness” factor but it especially hurt the later scenes where Theodore (Boss Baby) is slowly reverting back to a real baby due to his formula that keeps him from aging being stolen (see? plot point ridiculousness). One of the visual cues for him changing in to a full on baby persona was his eyes getting even bigger and more dilated, but they were already HUGE and dilated to begin with so that whole joke was lost in my opinion. Boss Baby wasn’t horrendous, but it’s hard to recommend when there’s a better wise cracking “man baby” in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Maybe Red Box it if Storks is out of stock?
[Rating 2/5]
Rotten Tomatoes: 53% (5.5/10 average)

*Rotten Tomatoes ratings and box office numbers from Box Office Mojo are current as of May 11th 2017.

Have you seen any animated films this year? Are there any you’re looking forward to in 2017? Let me know below or tweet @teriarchibbles.

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