This year’s animated features are an interesting lot. One of them is a foreign language documentary! Of course, the one most people will have heard of is Encanto, which is the odds-on favorite to win. I would encourage you to give The Mitchells vs. the Machines a watch before you count it out. It could me a contender. Here is my rundown of what I thought of the films and the date I originally wrote the review. Many of the reviews were written before the nominations were announced.
Luca B+ (NEW REVIEW)
This is a Pixar film that at first blush seems to be a mash of Little Mermaid and Finding Nemo. Luca is a sea monster who dreams of going to the surface and learning about all the people there and the things that people play with. Sound like Little Mermaid? His parents always tell him not to swim to the surface and Mom is constantly worried about him. Of course, Luca swims to the surface and Mom and Dad have to go look for him. Sound like Finding Nemo? Did I mention, when he’s not in water he magically becomes a real boy? Yeah. So, the story is just a reshuffle, but there are some really nice empowering moments of being yourself and what it means to be accepted for yourself. There are problems with the script, why do they protect the fish in the water, but are okay with eating them out of the water? But, all in all, the movie is cute, the message is powerful and the animation is lovely. No one will write home about this movie but it’s good way to spend an afternoon with your kids. Especially enjoyable is Jim Gaffigan as the dad!
Raya and the Last Dragon A- (Original Review Feb. 23, 2022)
I enjoyed this animated film. It was cute, engaging, and benefited from a quirky vocal performance by Awkwafina. I was a little surprised at how thematically similar it was to Encanto. In Encanto the main character is a girl and the people in her family all have special powers unique to them. They must band together to defeat the evil that threatens to overtake them. In Raya and the Last Dragon, the main character is a girl who finds the last dragon - the dragon’s siblings all have powers that are you unique to them. In order to defeat the evil that threatens to overtake them, the powers must be used together. Did Disney run out of ideas??? The movie is cute and deserves more praise than it has gotten. It’s a good family film but there are some disturbing scenes.
The Mitchells vs. the Machines A (Original Review Feb. 23, 2022)
OMG! I laughed so hard I hurt myself. I stood up, I laughed so hard. I cheered, I screamed, I HOWLED!! This animated film throws the rule book away and creates something really memorable. The script features blade sharp comedy that had my entire family screaming in laughter. The cameo voices are legendary; it’s a fast-paced romp. My only complaint is that it moves too fast. The animation is INTENSE and there is no way to see it all. It’s a quality problem and one that ensures I will watch it again and probably again. I truly loved it. This is the perfect family film for those that have teens; I would be careful about watching with young children; it’s pretty intense and warns about strobe reactions.
This is a Danish documentary that is told mostly through animation. It is based on the true story of a man whose family fled Afghanistan in the 80’s and became refugees. If you feel like you are having a rough day, put yourself in the shoes of a young boy who is realizing he is gay, needs to get out of Afghanistan and flees to Russia. Yeah, that’s some serious (blank). The animation with the actual audio from interviews makes this a compelling watch. Hearing the toll fleeing takes on a child’s life makes this a hard but required watch. Interestingly enough, this film will likely be nominated in the animation, documentary and foreign language categories, and although I think it deserves noms in each of those categories, I think there are better films that will steal the awards.
Encanto A- (Original Review January 24, 2022)
Is it the best Disney movie? No, but it’s pretty good. The animation is lush, brilliant, and evocative. I hope that Disney parks create a ride or place based on the film. I want to visit. The characters are fresh and new, and the story is one we have never heard from Disney before. The action is fast, so fast that I am sure I could watch it 20 times and still see something new each time. This is a gift for the parents who will be forced to watch it a gazillion times. I really enjoyed the lessons the film dishes out about family dynamics, being different and being valued for who you are not what you can do. I laughed, I cried…it WAS better than CATS.