Posted in Reviews

Trolls Holiday (2017)

When an animated movie is a humungous hit, you have a number of options for sequels and spin-offs. You can rush into production one of those sequels that’s too cheap to bring back the cast of the original film (I’m looking at you, Muppets Most Wanted)… you can wait 13 years before bringing everyone back (e.g. Finding Dory, The Incredibles 2)… you can create a spin-off TV series, like Home: Adventures with Tip & Oh or Dawn of the Croods, that change the voice cast and the animation style, but try hard to capture the spirit of the original… or you could bring back the original cast and the original CG animation style, make it 20-something minutes long, and drop it on DVD and iTunes for a fiver. That’s what Pixar did with films like Toy Story of Terror, and it’s the path DreamWorks Animation has chosen for Trolls Holiday, the surprise, short form sequel to their 2016 hit Trolls – and it’s terrific.

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Paddington 2

Paul King’s 2014 movie adaptation of Paddington was an instant classic, and proof that they do make them like they used to, even though they now make them with state-of-the-art computer-generated effects that can render a beloved children’s character like Paddington, the bear from darkest Peru who finds himself stranded at the London station that gives him his name, in a photo-realistic style. Set in an idyllic London that just about still exists, it rebuilt Michael Bond’s marvellous story of good-natured marmalade-flavoured mishaps with extraordinary care and attention, and assembled a dream cast, including Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins and Julie Walters as Paddington’s adoptive family, plus Nicole Kidman, Peter Capaldi, Jim Broadbent, Matt Lucas, and the voices of Ben Whishaw, Michael Gambon and Imelda Staunton. Even Paddington creator Michael Bond popped up in a cameo. “Please look after this bear,” he might have said as he handed the reins of his nearly sixty-year-old creation to the makers of the film. And they did.

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My Little Pony: The Movie

What would most My Little Pony fans want from the makers of a My Little Pony movie? You could follow Spongebob Squarepants and The Smurfs into a live action adventure bringing the ponies into the real world… you could change the animation style to full CG… but we reckon what kids would really want is to follow The Rugrats Movie model: a full-length movie with the animation style and voice cast of the TV show, but in an adventure too big for the small screen, and with a few new characters and a couple of bona fide movie stars thrown in. Happily, that’s exactly what director Jayson Thiessen (Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks) delivers with My Little Pony: The Movie – and it’s terrific.

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Cars 3

uk_cars3_flex-hero_header_r_351fa582Cars 2, Pixar’s follow-up to its 2006 animation about anthropomorphic automobiles, was mostly a misfire; Michael Caine and Emily Mortimer were memorable, but the ‘60s-style spy story was a detour that led to a dead end. Happily, Pixar’s boy-friendliest franchise (and merchandising juggernaut) is back in the race, even if Cars 3 isn’t firing on all cylinders (And that’s enough motoring puns, thank you – Ed.)

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Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie

Silly is seriously underrated. Many recent movies designed for kids are based on such a crackpot idea – I’m thinking Storks and The Boss Baby in particular – that they work hard to create some semblance of realism to keep the more outlandish elements grounded in some kind of recognisable reality. But silly is fun! Tigger is silly. The Minions are silly. The Lego movies are silly. And in these serious times, with children dealing with all kinds of anxieties – both self-created and projected by their parents – silly may be the most important element of any modern kids’ movie. And Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie has silly in epic proportions. Continue reading “Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie”

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Despicable Me 3

Supervillain-turned-super agent (and super dad) Gru (Steve Carell) once had an uneasy relationship with the law, but the law of diminishing returns has got him bang to rights in Despicable Me 3, which sees the megamovie franchise that spawned a mass of Minions merchandise (and, in 2015, a spin-off movie of their very own) running on fumes. Not since Shrek the Third has so much animated effort been poured into a threequel that’s likely to disappoint even the most avid fan of Gru, his adopted daughters, and those adorably mischievous little yellow helpers. If you’ve seen the first trailer, you’ve already met the film’s best feature – ’80s teen TV star turned supervillain Balthazar Bratt (voiced by South Park co-creator Trey Parker),  but you’ve also seen the film’s best scene. The remaining 88 minutes often feels like filler. Continue reading “Despicable Me 3”

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Gnomeo & Juliet (2011)

Here’s something you don’t see every day: a comic, computer-animated take on Shakespeare’s tragic love story, played out between garden gnomes involved in the middle of a turf war, soundtracked by the songs of Elton John and Bernie Taupin. That it works so well is largely thanks to an extraordinary cast of recognisable voices – you won’t find Maggie Smith and Ozzy Osbourne on the same cast list, outside of an as-yet-unproduced Downton Abbey/Donington Castle crossover – led by James McEvoy, Emily Blunt, Jason Statham and Michael Caine – and a near-constant sense of madcap invention keeps it moving at runaway lawnmower speed.

★★★ DH