Remember when this was my main review format? Yeah, apparently me neither. This isn’t even how I did it; it was always one film not this weird fudge, marry, kill movies edition. Alright, let’s review away.
The Good – How to Train Your Dragon: The hidden World
How to Train Your Dragon is an odd franchise for me, personally I feel like I lack the enthusiasm as other critics and have almost completely forgot the events of the first two films… but I can’t call any film in the franchise bad. The Hidden World seems to repeat a lot from the second film (I’d even argue it’s the same movie just with more finale tacked on) but it isn’t any less enjoyable this time around. How to Train Your Dragon to me deserves to reap the benefits of fantastic world building and having the audacity to update your characters to follow a growing theme of maturity. Plot wise I think the franchise has actually fared better on its television adaptation building episodic problems and conflicts but then again the interpersonal drama and aerial shots to make it a cinematic worthy experience. It’s okay, it has its charm and is a nice little film.
The bad – the lego movie: Part 2
To be fair, I appreciate the heck out of the first Lego Movie I think it’s a fun romp with some clever humor, playful semantics, and some innovated animation designs; but I’m not in love with that movie as I know others are. To my dismay, The Lego Movie: Part 2 is none of what I described but feels as plastic and artificial as the toy product itself. First the good, I thought Tiffany Haddish was perfect in the role of Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi she does have a delightfully animated personality for the shape-shifting Lego thingy. The animation is still pretty much fun, and there are moments of cleverness but that’s kind of where the compliments end because I can’t say I had a bad time, but I found it incredibly dull and bland.
The music is almost ironically forgettable, I guess it was predictable they’d try to recreate the success of “Everything is Awesome” but these songs feel effortless and simple that I feel that I’d have an easier time recognizing public domain tracks more so than any featured in this musical. The story seems incredibly messy and as much as they want to shoulder shrug it as children’s imagination and meta references to movie logic I don’t think that should let them off the hook. It’s one thing if you want to say let’s not worry too much about it, make something fun but if that’s the case is the ill-defined stakes of “bad thing” will happen and was the actions in this film which mostly revolves around: going to this place, nothing really happens at this place and then running to the next one maximizing the fun?
The live-action scenes are all incredibly poor looking, everything looks like a laundry detergent commercial. Among other things I just felt that the humor felt flat. Everything in this film is named in very not subtle at all puns and actually aren’t really puns but just being lazy at naming things. Like for instance if I were to try to be oh so clever I’d call this movie a “peas of she it”. The major problem is that a large majority of the appeal of the movie is pop culture references for the sake of pop culture references. Usually when making a pop culture reference there is some for of remix or re-contextualizing. Either this situation is reminiscent or appropriate of said thing and that connection adds an additional layer to the scene or that it is the complete opposite and the addition of the reference is jarring or unexpected. Having a third-party character reference something they’re known for or act out of character doesn’t make you funny it makes your humor on pretty much the same level as Epic Movie, Disaster Movie, and Meet the Spartans.
“But K, this is a kid’s movie, so the humor is supposed to be dumb because children are dumb”. First, I hope no one actually believes that and second; NOPE you can’t really give this movie that pass. If you wanted to make the argument that the pop culture references are for the ten-year-old in the crowd… then oh boy have they really seen more movies, then I did at that age. I’m sorry I’m sure 7-year-old Billy has seen: Die Hard, The Matrix, Alien, Beetle Juice, Mad Max: Fury Road, Twilight etc. With few exceptions most of these aren’t remixed or reincorporated in a clever way it’s just hey look its Bruce Willis… please clap. By no means awful but just a generally bland experience.
SMALL SPOILER SKIP TO THE NEXT SECTION: So, when the first movie was sort of a subversion of contrived plots such as “the chosen one” It’s sort of disappointing that this film decided to do a very obvious bait and switch antagonist.
The Ugly – Wreck-It-Ralph 2: Ralph Breaks the Internet
Ralph Breaks the Internet is just the same problems but somehow even worse. I actually wrote about Wreck-It-Ralph 2 when the trailer came out and stated how I thought it might kind of be getting a pass because of an audience bias giving it sort of a “Disney Double Standard”. Why is something like The Emoji Movie so hated for such a disgraceful display of pandering and dull world building but Ralph looks fun and is SO FUNNY. Because one has actual characters and the other has grotesque ugly circles… yeah probably. I initially gave Ralph a bit of a break because I was a little intrigued with this concept of instead of a plot-based movie, do sort of what we call “filler”. What if we just shoved characters into a fun adventure rather than focus on character arc or plot structure? It can work, I love Airplane! And that movie essentially boils down to how many jokes can we make about traveling by plane. Certainly, you would think the internet would have lots to mock and adventure to enough to fill a run time… but apparently not.
References are really shallow, besides it obviously being Disney promoting Disney hour. I think literally every 3rd party character could have been swapped out with anybody and it would have had zero impact whatsoever. Swap Sonic out with another video game character, replace the Disney princesses with The Avengers nothing changes. The Disney Princess commentary was kind of funny, in that it’s funny how Disney is so quick to disown itself whenever it’s convenient to them. Again, the plot sums up to the characters go to this one place, nothing happens so they run off to another place things get ruined and then they fix it the end. The conflict is sort of uninteresting as A) if the characters fail their goal nothing changes and B) The internal conflict feels incredibly forced and oh no I feel sad now because plot needs to happen.
What really just disappointed me was that if the one guy with the little brother would have just said “I’m the globglogabgalab, I love viruses and this dank web is a true treasure trove” all would have been forgiving and this would have made my day. Reality can often be disappointing especially when you chose to represent such a sterile and bland out of touch look into the internet. (Because you know, bored office workers that’s who’s on YouTube…)