Linking these three terrific family films is a defiantly old-fashioned, almost countercultural lack of ironic revisionism and gritty edginess. Each of them feels in some way like a kind of movie they don’t make any more — if they ever did.
I’m almost afraid to say it out loud, or even in writing, but with Pete’s Dragon joining The Jungle Book and Cinderella, Disney may be giving the lie to the old cliché “They don’t make ’em like that any more.”
Lewis Carroll is now right side up in his grave, having turned over twice.
A reader writes: “‘The elephants created the jungle’ is not ‘semi-religious’ as you say. It is, in fact, blasphemous. You say such ideas are not ‘often found in a Hollywood family film.’ I disagree. Blasphemy is typical in most Hollywood films.”
Like Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella last year, The Jungle Book offers a lavish new reimagining of a beloved story, blending elements from the original literary source material with the classic animated Disney version.
There are good reasons for introducing parent-child conflict into family films, depriving child protagonists of a parental safety net, depicting single-parent households, etc. There’s no good reason positive depictions of healthy, intact families in family films should be an endangered species.
Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella is such a gallant anachronism, such a grandly unreconstructed throwback, that it offers, without ever raising its voice, a ringing cross-examination of our whole era of dark, gritty fairy-tale revisionism.
I’m very much open to fairy-tale revisionism in general, and to feminist critiques of classic fairy tales in particular. As a father of three daughters, I chafe at the passiveness of so many traditional fairy-tale princesses waiting for their prince to come and rescue them. Give me princesses like Leia from Star Wars, Merida from Brave or Tiana from The Princess and the Frog any day. But there’s a difference between creative revisionism and simple inversion.
A story like this demands to be seen through the lens of what biblical scholars call “redaction criticism,” which basically means “What was changed, added or deleted in this retelling of the story, and what do those changes tell us about the storyteller’s intentions and outlook?”
Angelina Jolie is perfect for the part of Disney’s most iconically evil villainess. If only they’d let her play it for more than one scene.
It’s fair to say that Disney’s Maleficent plays to an extent as warmed-over Frozen. This is not a good thing, even, I think, if you are a fan of Frozen.
The first good thing about The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is that it isn’t called The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: Oath of the Dragon Ring or The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: Nesting Dolls of Doom.
Out of a few topics I was considering blogging about today, none captured my attention quite like this impassioned email from a young reader who strongly disagrees with my review of Alice in Wonderland, and the issues suggested by the email, at least in my mind.
The film is actually a joint evisceration not only of Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, but also of “Jabberwocky,” with Alice recast as (so help me) a messianic warrior-hero destined to claim the fabled “Vorpal Sword,” don shining armor, and wage an epic battle on the fated “Frabjous Day” against the forces of the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) and the dragon-like Jabberwocky.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.