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.
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.
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.
It’s a Marvel movie! It’s a Disney cartoon! It’s … a Marney movie! It’s set in San Fransokyo! Wait, what?
At the intersection of Disney and Marvel, in a pan-Pacific megalopolis spanning San Francisco and Tokyo, in a world with one foot in science fiction and one in superhero adventure, is Big Hero 6. By my lights, this is a very good place to be.
Looking at those Cars eyes is worse than having no remnant of Pixar at all this year.
With this sequel to last summer’s spin-off from the franchise that descended from Pixar’s Cars, the World of Cars has left behind not only stock cars, the open road, specific real-world settings and Larry the Cable Guy, but racing itself. Practically nothing is left of John Lasseter’s original vision, except those blasted windshield eyeballs. In this melancholy year without Pixar, it’s worse than no reminder at all.
Frozen may be the most tragic fairy tale in the Disney canon, which is saying something.
Compared to Disney’s last (and only other) computer-animated fairy tale, Tangled, Frozen has twice the princesses, twice the hunky love interests, twice the domesticated anthropomorphic ungulates … but not a fraction of the humanity.
It may be Pixar Ultra-Lite, but Disney’s Planes is a pleasant change of pace from the likes of The Croods and Turbo.
Both the big race and international flavor recall Cars 2 as well as DreamWorks’ Turbo, the protagonist of which had the same personal crisis as Dusty, a longing for speed he wasn’t built for. Yet Planes, in its modest way, cannily avoids the pitfalls that made those films unsatisfying.
Disney’s Tangled in 30 seconds — in rhyming verse.
Disney’s new Winnie the Pooh is an unexpected gift, an unlikely return to a magical and gentle world that belongs so firmly to the past that I would have thought the journey all but impossible.
We really do accept as normal whatever we’re raised with, don’t we? Like, say you’ve lived all your life alone in a lonely tower in a hidden valley, and your golden hair is 70 feet long, and the only mother you’ve ever known — the only person you ever see — comes and goes using your hair as a rope ladder, and she’s never let you so much as set one foot outside, and your hair does this magic trick when you sing that — well, not to give it away, but that would just be life to you, wouldn’t it?
There’s a villain with magical powers — but instead of Disneyfied magic, like Aladdin’s friendly genie, the film’s New Orleans voodoo is an occult world of terrifying powers and principalities in which the villain himself is at much at risk as anyone. It’s almost Disney’s most overtly Christian depiction of magic and evil at least since Sleeping Beauty, if not ever — though the waters are muddied by a benevolent, swamp-dwelling hoodoo mama in a sort of fairy-godmother role.
It’s not quite Pixar grade, but Bolt blots out tepid memories of the likes of Chicken Little and Home on the Range, standing comfortably beside the likes of Kung Fu Panda and Horton Hears a Who in the race for second-best computer-animated family film of 2008.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.