Happy Monday to you all! As I am still furloughed and my six-year-old is back at school four days a week, what better way to spend my time than by watching Disney’s most recent offering, Artemis Fowl. I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t even aware of the book series existence, let alone read any of them, so I had no idea what to expect from the film. When I first saw the title advertised, my instant thought was that it was another Star Wars spinoff. I was pleasantly surprised when I realised that it wasn’t. Not that I have anything against Star Wars films, I just don’t intend to review or even watch the new ones when they are realeased. I think the last offering from that franchise that I watched in full, was Episode 1: Phantom Menace, about a year after it came out. So, *checks IMDB*… Fuck! 2000?! 20 years ago, then. Suffice to say, if anyone wants to discuss the latest offerings, I tend to refer them to my brother or my dad. As always, I just heinously digressed. Back to Artemis Fowl.
Based on the book by Eoin Colfer, Artemis Fowl is the story of… Artemis Fowl (Jr, to be precise). A twelve-year genius/prodigy who’s father (Artemis Fowl Sr) gets kidnapped by a fairy (I mean various synopsises say it’s a fairy, although their voice and demeanour didn’t seem overly fairy-like). Artemis has to devise a plan, requiring other creatures from the fairy realm, to help get his Dad back. That’s the story in a nutshell.
Now, as I said, I haven’t read the books. However, looking at the reviews for the film IMDB, I’m quite glad that I haven’t. Those that are lovers of the series seem to hate the film as it is so far from the story in the first book. I think that this is similar to how Harry Potter fans felt after those films came out (although not quite as hateful). I hadn’t read the Harry Potter books until, I think, Order of the Phoenix was released in the cinemas and, as I had nothing to compare them to, I loved the Harry Potter films and thoroughly enjoyed Artemis Fowl. I can see where the book lovers are coming from though. It was quite vague in parts, which I’m sure is where the books would fill in the gaps. However, despite not knowing the characters, I enjoyed the casting choices. Current Disney-darling, Josh Gad, is great in every role he plays and his portrayal of giant dwarf thief (he is a giant dwarf that is a thief, not a big guy that steals dwarves, I should clarify), Mulch Diggums was no exception. It was nice to see Colin Farrell not playing a bad guy for a change and he is very easy on the eye, so his presence in the film as Artemis Fowl Sr, was appreciated by me and my daughter. Judy Dench was Judy Dench, so no complaints there.
In conclusion, I enjoyed the film a lot and can’t wait for the sequel, which was nicely set up.
Misguided Husband (should just call him Ben really, shouldn’t I) had a little business meeting (with each other) the other day and decided that my feedback on his reviews should come at the end of that review and not at the beginning of the next one. This is the crossover post, as I don’t want to dismiss the Sleeping Beauty review… which I personally think was his best review yet. If you haven’t read it, please do.
I did think he’d enjoy that one a little more, but he didn’t hate it and we did get the My Three Mum’s song, so… swings and roundabouts.
Onto 101 Dalmations and I’ll catch you again shortly.
Synopsis for ‘101 Dalmatians’:
“Delightful family film in which 99 really cute puppies spend half of the movie’s runtime, desperately trying to avoid being heinously murdered and skinned! With villains that receive virtually no penance for their attempted cruelty as well as relentless tobacco abuse, 101 Dalmatians is sure to delight both adults and young children alike!”
But of course the synopsis on IMDB and every other movie website doesn’t say this, because then who the hell would watch it? Of course even without a synopsis like that, I didn’t want to watch the film, because I’m a Disney-cynic who is watching through every Disney film to find out exactly which of their films an average adult dude would find enjoyable without the bias of any childhood nostalgia. Oh, and because my wife has made me… For the record, we’re on film sixteen now. I’ve liked one film and tolerated around three more (considering we’ve had plenty of relatively unknown oddities, propaganda travel films and deer-snuff, this is actually quite a success). So the odds of me enjoying this motion picture are fairly slim even before we delve into a healthy slice of attempted puppy skinning.
The big problem with this film is just how much of its eighty minutes, is spent building up drama about something we KNOW will not happen. I mean, could you imagine if Cruella De Vil had succeeded in her plans? If she had, people would never even mention the mummy-murder from Bambi in tear-jerking Disney scenes. People would just say, “remember when that psycho woman drowned some of the cutest puppies ever animated and skinned them in front our childhood eyes? I don’t, but my therapist reckons it’s a key reason why I fear interpersonal contact and why I like to peel labels of bottles whilst crying.” Even Bambi would never go THAT far, so any rational adult is left with a sense of inevitability with how things will play out. That’s not to say a film with a largely inevitable plot cannot be good. It’s just that for me personally… this film… isn’t really.
Cruella De Vil. With that name, her parents never gave her a chance. When your family name contains ‘devil’, adding ‘cruel’ to the forename is asking for trouble. Either that, or her maiden name was ‘Cruella Smith’ and she subconsciously seeked out a husband that could befit her first name better? Either way, I reckon it would be nice to mix it up or swerve the audience by calling your villain ‘Aurora Feelgood’ or ‘Suzy Sweetie-Pie’.
How can you doubt this woman now?! She now looks like a good egg and sounds like a delightful woman who really wants to fuss some cute little dogs or at worst a slightly pervy old lesbian. A Suzy Sweetie-Pie would surely never skin a puppy. So when it transpires that Suzy Sweetie-Pie does indeed have desires of skinning baby canines for winter garments, the audience is well and truly shook. Or perhaps, just maybe, I’m overthinking this? I have to find something to think though, because this film clearly isn’t going to help me out.
Cruella (or Suzy as she’s now known, only by me) leads me onto the thing that I find unforgivable in this movie. There are two things that we have to see, on our screens before the end of the film , as a result of Cruella’s evil intentions. These are non-negotiable. The first is that the puppies, the adult dogs and the owners are happily reunited by the end, safe in the knowledge that the threat is now null and void. The second is that we see the perpetrators of grotesque villainy suffer a horrific fate, preferably with extreme pain and/or death, or even just honest to goodness imprisonment for our delectation. Now, the bad buys having a minor car crash and getting a bit of snow on them IS NOT A FUCKING COMEUPPANCE!!!!!!! Where’s the perverse joy in her suffering that we, the viewers, so desperately crave? And as a result, even though the puppies, dogs and owners are indeed reunited at the end, what’s to say that Cruella and the two bad dudes don’t just show up at the house after the films finished, and take the puppies at gunpoint?!
The second thing that really stood out to me in this film was the animation. It’s different to the Disney that I’ve been used to so far. I’m not an artist or a professional animator, so I can’t tell you the technical reasons or names for why or how it’s different, but if there were differences in prior films, they never really stood out. This time however, it’s a glaring step forward. Or more accurately, a giant saturated step back. The vibrancy of colours from previous films has gone and everything looks slightly grim. Combine this with the plot and everything felt cold. On top of that, everything looks so…. drawn. Everything looks like it has a pencil outline. I just don’t like it. This is very much just my personal opinion. It’s like the animators (who I’ve complained about a few times for their self-indulgent tendencies) wanted to really make sure you know that they were good with a pencil.
I’ve said this before, but I would much prefer my Disney film to be stupid and illogical as it gives me so much more to work with than a film that I can only describe as “meh”. Regardless of quality, or how much I like a film, I want plenty of “why the fuck is that happening?” moments like we had in the last film ‘Sleeping Beauty’. Although, not always to my taste, at least kept my attention and gave me plenty to say. What those films give, and what this film didn’t, is 101 reasons to care.
When I was watching this film with Ben, it did occur to me why I hadn’t watched it as much as some of the others, growing up. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good film. It just drags a lot. I did enjoy the Twilight Bark scene, although Ben started groaning everytime it continued longer than expected… and it did go on for a loooong time. Again, I’ll absolutely agree with him about the puppies being cute. They are adorable. Almost makes me want to get a dalmation!
I wasn’t wrong, was I. Knew he wouldn’t like Peter Pan. I know my husband (#smugwifealert). I’ve noticed, however, that Ben tends to warm towards the films with cute and/or sassy animals. He liked Jiminy Cricket and, despite not being massively keen on the overall film, he did like Dumbo and Timothy Mouse. Which leads me to our next Disney classic, Lady and the Tramp.
Based on a magazine story, “Happy Dan, The Cynical Dog”, 1955’s Lady and the Tramp, follows an American Cocker Spaniel, ‘Lady’, who lives with her upper-middle class owners, ‘Jim Dear’ and ‘Darling’. A beautiful, well-behaved dog, Lady is loved and pampered by her owners. However, when ‘Darling’ has a baby, Lady starts to feel pushed out. She meet’s a stray dog named ‘Tramp’ and, after a traumatic experience one day, they run off together and Tramp shows her what life is like on the other side of the picket fence.
I know that Ben does vaguely recall seeing this film as child and enjoyed it, but whether he’ll feel the same seeing it 30 years later as an adult, I don’t know. I think he’ll like it, as Lady is cute (particularly as a puppy) and Tramp has that sassy attitude that he enjoys in Disney animals.
Lady and the Tramp is another of my favourite Disney films and I would watch it over and over as a child. It has a good, strong storyline, beautiful animation and fantastic characters that you can really get behind (another factor that Ben likes in a film). There are only a handful of songs, which in a film based on animals works well for me. It also has, arguably, the most romantic scene in any Disney film (I mean, who hasn’t tried to recreate the iconic spaghetti kiss… even if it was with strawberry bootlaces!). I feel that there’s very little to dislike about this film (besides maybe the casual racism regarding the Siamese cats).
P.S. Just watched the live action and I will be reviewing it in due course, so stay tuned for that.
Things have been finally starting to look just a little bit more auspicious for this cynic of all things Disney, to the point where I can now say I’m just cynical of ‘most’ things Disney. These tentative steps in a direction that Kerry has been desperate for, for over a decade now, were helped to a large degree, by ‘Cinderella’ and ‘Alice in Wonderland’. These steps were not helped by ‘Peter Pan’. But where I had deep-rooted aversions to ‘Peter Pan’ that were carried over from childhood (and no amount of “Mermaid Lagoooooun’s” could change that), 1955’s ‘Lady and the Tramp’ is a rare Disney entry, in that not only did I watch it in childhood, I also really liked it. I was very young at the time, and therefore have literally no recollection of anything that happens in the film, but I’m at least hoping that there are still some positive connotations deeply engrained in my subconscious that will give me a more positive eighty minutes or so than that I had to endure our previous time out… 🤞
The usual Disney choir on sedatives opens up the film, before we join a snowy scene in a posh neighbourhood. A dude is giving a box to his wife as a Christmas present. Not just a box obviously. She opens it and there’s a puppy inside. It’s fricking cute. I need to point out right now that I’m a beta-male that’s comfortable in my skin, and I HATE bravado. I’ll still enjoy sports and ‘manly’ things, but I like cute baby animals and have no problem going “aww” once in a while. So I’m very happy to watch this adorable puppy frolic around, and as long as I don’t have to witness her traumatised face as her mother is savagely murdered, I’ll be happy. As this is Disney, my confidence is low. I don’t recall being emotionally scarred by this film in childhood though. But saying that, my anxiety disorder must have come from somewhere, who knows what I’ve repressed? I really hope she wasn’t in that box for too long. That’s a shit way to present a puppy.
The couple go to bed and put the puppy in her bed in one of the downstairs rooms. They named her ‘Lady’ for some reason. Probably because if they called her something like ‘Twinkle-Toes’, the film would be called ‘Twinkle-Toes and the Tramp’. And that’s a shit name. ‘Rhubarb and the Tramp’. Just doesn’t convey that she’s a posh dog. No, Lady is a very convenient name. A good choice. Lady, however, doesn’t like being downstairs, so with some good manipulation and howling, she ends up on the bed “just for the night”.
We then switch to her being a bit older, but still sleeping on the bed which is a nice way to show that she continued to get her way. After that, we get a good chunk of the usual Disney ‘go-to’ of largely plotless meanderings show cute animals being… cute. I used to sit there impatiently waiting for some sort of plot development during these moments, but after discovering that ‘development’ usually involved mummy-doe-murder and donkey-slave-children, I’ve stopped waiting, and now just sit back and watch the animals do their thing. In this case, chasing a rat.
Lady is bought a nice collar with a badge on it, that she is very proud to wear. She goes and meets up with a couple of her friends from the other big houses. Jock, who is the world’s most stereotypically Scottish dog ever, because he is a Scottish Terrier, and Trusty, an old Bloodhound who seems to only pretend to have a good sense of smell. They talk about how Lady now has a ‘Badge of Respectability’. When her male owner returns home she races back excitedly and jumps at him, whilst barking excitedly. This is something that I LOVE in this film. The way we switch seamlessly between dogs interacting like humans would, as well as seeing things from their perspective, then switching to dogs acting like dogs normally do whenever humans are around with a traditional dynamic. They do this perfectly and it’s funny as well as feeling natural.
We now head to some railroad tracks where we meet another dog. I have deduced that he is The Tramp. He has a chat with some cute little puppies in a shop window and scabs some food from a nice if somewhat overly exuberant and generic Italian restaurant owner. Then he breaks some other dogs out of a dog-pound van, escapes capture himself and finds him the posh suburbs of town. I’m liking this dog. He’s got balls (probably literally as he’s a stray so likely unneutered), a lot of character, but also a lot of warmth too. He seems like a good egg.
Lady is sad because she was called “that dog” and is being ignored by her owners. She calls them Darling and Jim Dear as that’s what they call each other, so that’s what she assumes their names are. A nice touch. I’ve realised that I’m so far being far more positive about the details of this film than any other I’ve reviewed so far. It’s also less ridiculous than most of the films I watched so far too. Trusty and Jock tell her about, in their words, “the birds and the bees”. Well, they tell her that Darling is pregnant, anyway. They weren’t giving her an impromptu sex-ed class or anything. Tramp appears in the garden to warn lady that she will be basically ignored now that there’s a baby on the way. Jock and Trusty try to reassure her.
Darling is desperate for a girl and is (recklessly in my opinion) only knitting pink things. Jim Dear wants a boy. After the baby is born, we get our first song. Well I say it’s the first song, Lady starts singing about the new baby as she goes up the stairs, But Kerry says that it doesn’t count as it’s not a full song and isn’t on any albums. I dispute this, and say we’ve had our first song twenty-eight minutes in. As we get a ‘proper’ song a mere three minutes after, it doesn’t really matter and either way, I’m happy the first song is so far into the film. I wonder if there will be a correlation between number of songs and how much a film pisses me off? I might make a spreadsheet at some point to find out. I like spreadsheets.
As Darling and Jim Dear are going away for a few days, Aunt Sarah is looking after the baby and Lady for a few days. I learnt in Media class back in the day, that a lot of films (especially ones made in America), follow a classic pattern of:
equilibrium → disruption → resolution → new equilibrium (that’s often even better than the first one).
To be honest with most American films, between disruption and resolution you could probably chuck in ‘cheesy-as-fuck-montage’ too. We’re at the disruption stage here, therefore Aunt Sarah is a bit of a battle-axe, and has two cats. So let’s play a game: Based on this film, does Walt Disney prefer dogs or cats?
It’s a close call that can only be separated by a dash of horrifically sadistic evil.
Lady tries to stop the cats eating the goldfish and tearing shit up and in the commotion that follows, she gets the blame. As a result she’s taken to the pet shop for a muzzle. Even though they attach it, the positive is that she escapes. She gets chased by three stray dogs after running into the rough part of town, but Tramp saves her and their journey to ‘hooking up’ can begin.
I’ve said it before, but I really like Tramp. Best character in Disney so far for my money. The princesses, Snow and Cinders were nice but a bit weak. Peter Pan was a bit of a bellend as were Mr Toad and Ichabod. Donald Duck is a sex-pest who I’m happy not to watch ever again, and the less said about José-bloody-Carioca the better. Pinocchio was a just a gullible fool. The Princes have had zero personality. Bambi, Dumbo and Bongo were all cute enough, but the animals in this film are far above them because they also have bags of charisma.
Next, we get some beaver eating. Specifically, eating the straps on Lady’s muzzle. What a helpful beaver. Following this, Tramp shows Lady the benefits of being a stray and his tricks for getting food. He takes her for an Italian. The one owned by that stereotypical and exuberant dude I mentioned earlier. He’s very nice but a little batshit crazy. It may just be me who thinks that. It may seem perfectly sane to some people that when two trampy dogs turn up outside your restaurant, the logical thing to do is light some candles, serve them up a portion of your house speciality and SERENADE THEM WITH YOUR FUCKING ACCORDIAN! It’s a lovely gesture though. The speciality in question is spaghetti and everyone knows this scene. It’s beautifully done.
The next scene is them, awakening on a hill somewhere the following morning. We all know what happened. And as they’re dogs, we can safely say that alcohol wasn’t a factor in that decision, so no regrets all round. Tramp tells ‘Pidge’ as he likes to call her about the joys of being free. Life without fences rather than life on a leash. He makes a damn good point. Obviously being free involves scaring the crap out of chickens, so that’s what they do. Unfortunately after being chased away, Lady gets caught by the Dog Warden and taken to The Pound.
Now Disney clearly likes to try and ruin everything they touch in some way (just my experience, don’t yell at me), and they have a bloody good go now, using a couple of their preferred methods of torture, namely, hideous songs and animal death. Firstly, the dogs in the pound literally howl a rendition of some famous song I vaguely recognize. It’s unpleasant. What’s more unpleasant is that they felt it necessary to have one of the dogs destroyed, just so we, the viewer, can never fully escape from reality and all the misery that accompanies it. I do understand that the grisly demise of most of the Pound’s residents is a good plot device to make us really worry about Tramp’s capture later on, but still… a little escapism please. A couple of the stray dogs in The Pound are the two that Tramp freed from the Dog Warden’s van, earlier in the film. They’re jealous of Lady’s collar as it means she’ll basically get out alive. The dogs are, however, digging a hole so they can escape. Clever dogs. Lady is informed that although he is very cunning and good at avoiding capture, Tramp is, in fact, a right old slut. Must make that night on the hill feel a bit icky…
Once Lady is collected and brought home, she is tied up outside. She, as well as Jock and Trusty, give Tramp the cold shoulder when he turns up and essentially slut-shames him. A bit later a rat sneaks into the baby’s room and because Lady’s tied up, she can’t catch it. Fortunately Tramp is obsessively hanging around and goes after it. This doesn’t go very well. They trash the bedroom, get the blame, Lady gets locked up and Tramp gets taken off to the pound. It doesn’t go very well at all…
Remember the whole equilibrium → disruption → resolution → new equilibrium thing I was talking about earlier? We’ve had quite enough disruption and now that shit needs to be sorted out. So Darling and Jim Dear return and with Lady’s help, discover the rat. They realise that she and Tramp were trying to help. Now Aunt Sarah looks like a right dick. I was hoping she gets some sort of gentle comeuppance like her cats clawing her eyes out, but alas that never happens. So now the dogs chase down the Dog Warden’s van, with the help of Trusty’s sense of smell which turns out to be fine after all. Trusty and Jock scare the horses causing the van to tip and Tramp is saved. But oh no! Trusty is under the cart and motionless. Is he dead?! Fortunately, it turns out he’s not. A big thank you so much to Disney for resisting the temptation to murder something.
So we get a happy ending of Tramp living at the house with Lady and clearly enjoying a life surrounded by fences and, judging by their 4 puppies, much humpage. Oh, and a gift from Aunt Sarah at Christmas which now makes me thankful that the cats actually didn’t scratch her eyes out… But this leads me nicely into my one small criticism (not including the destroyed dog at the pound) that I found. It’s not so much a criticism so much as something that doesn’t quite sit right with me. I’m a big believer in freedom, and I’m slightly uncomfortable about the notion of ownership. I get that dogs and cats are domesticated and therefore seemingly prefer things that way, but as demonstrated, (rather bluntly) in this film, a dog that is no longer owned by a human will ultimately be, quite literally, destroyed by a human. So although being owned is a far happier ending to being put to sleep, the fact the ‘happy ending’ involves Tramp embracing the confines of fences and collars, it suggests that the writers are portraying it as worse for him to be the freedom-loving-dog-who-don’t-need-no-man beforehand. But to be honest, as this is the first Disney film I genuinely enjoyed, I’m inclined to say fuck it, and just appreciate the fact I’ve finally enjoyed Disney…
Because I did genuinely enjoy it. And I really liked it. I’ve quite liked a few of the previous ones, but this is the first time I actually felt like I was watching one of these films because I actually wanted to, and given the choice, wouldn’t just go upstairs. Or to the pub. The two ‘lead’ characters (pun unintended) were both warm, likeable and full of personality which meant I was really rooting for them. The supporting characters were good, the plot was good and the Disney-isms of the early films that have made me roll my eyes film after film, were scaled back or absent altogether. For Disney and me, it’s fourteenth time lucky, which is actually quicker than I expected… Although nothing’s permanent. Sleeping Beauty is next…
Additional: Ok so this is a few days later and last night, Kerry put on the Lady and the Tramp live-action remake. This caused me a problem, but a good problem. I was going to score the original LATT 9/10. But then I watched the remake and realised that I liked that a lot more (apparently a lot of other people didn’t, but I’ll get to that in the future). And then it dawned on me that I’ve maybe spaced the scores on the films I watched so far, a little bit too widely, especially on the upper end, and I’m forgetting that modern films tend to be a lot more well-rounded and better presented…. So I need to be slightly more reserved and a bit less ‘Amazon product reviewer where everything is 1 or 5 stars’. So maybe ‘Cinderella’ should be a 7 instead of 7.5 for example, and ‘The Reluctant Dragon’ 6 instead of 7 etc. That being said, I’d still give Bambi 1/10…. With that in mind though, I still say for this film:
I predicted that Ben would enjoy Alice in Wonderland. It’s random and he (like myself) love random humour. I thought he would find Alice more annoying than he did, though.
So, onto Peter Pan. Disney’s adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s 1911 novel, Peter and Wendy, follows the adventures of the Darling children (Wendy, John & Michael), as they are taken to Neverland one night, by Peter Pan. Peter is a boy who never grew up (literally, not just some kind of man-child). Once in Neverland, they meet pirates, mermaids and fairies, amongst others. I don’t think I need to go into much more detail, as most people know the story well.
I’m not sure if this one will be Ben’s ‘cup of tea’ as, despite him being a Harry Potter superfan, he’s not really into fantasy and traditional fantasy characters. He’ll hate Wendy. Probably won’t like Peter, actually. Oh well, I might be wrong. We’ll see.
Personally, I did enjoy the film and watched it many times as a child, but it’s not one that I tend to enjoy as much now (however, I do like the Tinkerbell film franchise otherwise). I find Peter to be very arrogant and I don’t find it easy to get behind an arrogant protagonist.
For those of you who aren’t British or are too young to remember, there was a kid’s TV show in the 1980’s (and 70’s, but I’m too young to remember) called ‘Rainbow’. It featured a man in a bear costume, a gay hippo and the full-body puppet interpretation of a BDSM gimp mask that happened to be shacked up with a full-grown man in a rainbow house. But why am I starting a review about my experience watching 1953’s Peter Pan by telling you this? Well, there are two reasons.
The first reason is that during the 1980’s I watched ‘Rainbow’ a lot. It was one of my favourite shows when I was young. Now, in one episode the full-grown man, Geoffrey, takes George (the gay hippo) and Zippy (walking gimp mask) on a trip to the theatre. To see Peter Pan. Thanks to YouTube, I’ve found the episode, and you can watch it here. It’s worth a watch, just to see how batshit-crazy British kid’s shows used to be, and to see the taxi driver’s uncomfortable reaction to being excitedly told by a full-body gimp mask that he’s going to watch Peter Pan… You see the thing is, that both puppets were so excited about seeing Peter Pan at the theatre, that it was mentioned about three-hundred times in the first five minutes (sometimes hilariously too). So my 5-year-old self is thinking, “Holy shit, Peter Pan must be amazing!” (probably not word for word). But alas, when we see parts of the play throughout the episode, my 5-year-old self, started to think “Fuck me this is boring!!!” (probably not word for word). As a result, I have always had real negative connotations with Peter Pan, and when I saw the list of films that Kerry was going to make ask me to endure watch, as part of this Disney project, this was not far behind Bambi in the hierarchy of ‘movies that I was dreading appearing next on the list’.
The second reason I’m telling you all about Rainbow, is that ‘Peter Pan’ did not hold my attention very well. It’s a popular film, and I’m very nervous about crapping on a film beloved by many passionate Disney fans, but try as I might, I just could not get invested in this story. So talking about ‘Rainbow’ is a great way to boost the word count to cover the gaps in detail where I should be discussing the film. Clever huh? I’m sorry.
The intro is the usual Disn…. Ok, look, I’m reviewing my thirteenth film now, can I just tell you when one of the intro’s sounds different or breaks from the norm, so I’m not just repeating myself every time? Thanks. I realised when watching the intro credits, that the name I spotted a few films ago ‘Ub Tweeks’, is actually ‘Ub Iwerks’, and I misread it. It’s still a fantastic name none-the-less (I’m now resisting making jokes about how I messed Ub. I hope if his children read that then they didn’t get all Ub in arms about it. Ok I really need to stop this).
Right, so we are in England again, which means once again, we have stereotypical English ‘tea and cucumber sandwich’ posh accents everywhere. Mr and Mrs Darling are going out for the evening. They have three kids, two young boys, John and Michael, and a daughter called Wendy. I am informed Wendy is supposed to be around the age of thirteen. I call bullshit here. She looks and sounds like she’s twenty-three. Plus there’s the fact she doesn’t want to grow up, so I can only conclude that she actually is indeed a twenty-three-year-old that is in unhealthy levels of denial about aging, and still sleeps in a nursery with her younger brothers. Wendy keeps filling her brothers minds with tales of ‘Peter Pan’, much to her father’s disquietude (I’ve been waiting some time to use that word) and chagrin (I’ve been waiting to use that too). They also have a dog called Nana, who continues Disney’s trend of animals that have capabilities that are somewhat above what one might usually expect from them. It can clean, serve drinks, spell words with blocks as well as look after the children. So yeah, slightly advanced for a canine.
Because of these Peter Pan stories, Mr Darling says it’s time for Wendy to have her own room. Not because she’s twenty-three. There’s an unattended shadow kicking around which is understandably disconcerting to all. After the parents leave, Peter Pan enters to retrieve the shadow, as it’s his and he left it behind. Ok then. He tries to reattach the shadow with soap. Ok then. Wendy decides to sew the shadow back onto Peters shoes instead. Ok then. Peter Pan is joined by Tinkerbell, who throughout large portions of the film, is struck down with a severe case of resting bitchface. More on that later. Wendy speaks to Peter Pan like they’re old friends, which is kind of weird seeing as they’ve never met.
Peter Pan likes Wendy’s stories about him, and so she doesn’t have to move out of the nursery which would stop her telling them so easily, she must go with him to Neverland, so she won’t grow up. Wendy does the responsible thing you should do, when a strange flying boy tells you to leave the house at night and go to an unfamiliar land. She agrees and insists on bringing her very young brothers too… So she brings in John, who in another lifetime was the first-choice actor for the Harry Potter series, and Michael who can barely even talk yet, to go on this inexplicably reckless mission. At some point, Wendy also tries to kiss Peter, much to Tinkerbell’s disquietude and chagrin (using these words twice is too much then?), which is somewhat forward, even for a twenty-three-year-old.
But how to get there? They can’t fly. No problem he says, just think of a very happy thought and you will. Wendy picks the obvious happy thought; “I’ll think of a mermaid lagoon!” Didn’t see that one coming. But the way she says ‘Mermaid Lagoooooun’ is spectacular:
Fun Fact: It is physically impossible to say Lagoon in a more upper-class English manner. It’s phenomenal.
The other boys think of something happy as well, but I don’t know or care what as I’m too busy replaying “Mermaid Lagoooooun” in my head over and over again. But alas, it doesn’t work, because of course it doesn’t. Fortunately there is another way to create one’s ability to fly:
You spank pixie dust out of a Fairy’s arse. Then throw it over the children you want to make airborne. Simple. Phew. With that sorted, off they go.
At this point we get the first song since the opening credits. Whereas Cinderella was warbling after 3 minutes, and Alice after 3½, in Peter Pan they kindly wait 18 minutes before we get our first delightful ditty. It’s a new thing that I am tracking to see how long it takes. I would go back through the first 10 films to make my research more thorough, but that would mean putting on the first 10 films again. So I’ll stick with what I’ve got.
With the very best of intentions, Michael throws pixie dust over Nana, who is now tied up by a rope outside (because Disney loves to skate the line between super-evolved, human-like wildlife and animal cruelty), but because she’s tied up by a rope, she cannot fly with them…. And as a result nearly garottes herself.
They arrive in Neverland, where the excitement and adventure of the story can really begin! And where my concentration goes off a cliff. Adventures and high drama involving pirates really isn’t my bag. I never liked any of the Pirates of the Caribbean films. My tastes seem to be quite different to that of most humans I’ve discovered. We go aboard a pirate ship, where there are some annoying and ugly pirates, unsurprisingly. They all bully a servant dude. His name is Mr Smee. If you’re a presumably single servant to some bad dudes AND you’re called Mr Smee, you haven’t really been dealt the best hand. Captain Hook is looking at a map. Ah! In the North-East of the map is Mermaid Lagoooooun! Excellent. He wants to know where Peter Pan is, as the reason he has a hook for a hand is that during a previous fight with Peter Pan, a crocodile bit his hand off. The crocodile also swallowed a clock at some point, and now stalks Hook, whilst ticking. And I thought normality would resume after Alice In Wonderland. A very entertaining moment occurs when some dude starts singing and because his voice is extremely annoying, Hook decides to deal with that issue by shooting him. That was funny. You wouldn’t have shit like that in modern films. It’s also lucky Snow White never went on vacation to Neverland, as she would have been full of lead within the first hour. Another fun moment is Smee shaving a seagull’s arse, by the way.
Peter Pan shows up with “some scurvy brats” and shit’s got real. Tinkerbell goes on the attack. I’ve seen nothing but feistiness and attitude from her so far. Then my attention completely goes…
I refocus to find Peter Pan, Wendy and Co in a hideout with a load of boys. Apparently, they’re the ‘lost boys’. And Peter Pan is banishing Tinkerbell for trying to trick the boys into shooting Wendy. So I’m informed that Tinkerbell has her own film series and is usually nice but even though I know that she is jealous of Wendy because she fancies Peter Pan, that is seriously, SERIOUSLY dickish. As in unforgivable! Also, bearing in mind that Peter Pan is a teenage boy, and that Tinkerbell is the size of a hand, I’m not sure how a relationship like that could ever work… Oh. Right. Also, I’m waiting for Peter and Wendy to get down to business. And it’s perfectly fine to wait for that as because even though he has never grown up, he is still probably technically about forty-five, and she is obviously twenty-three.
Then we find John leading some Lost Boys to hunt for Indians, I’m not sure why. Although my concentration is going in and out and I’m very bored, the film does itself no favours by explaining shit really badly.
Time for some racism! At least the film has deemed that it’s time for some racism. We have Indians of a native variety, who are apparently “cunning but not intelligent”… They are also made to look gormless. They kidnap the boys, I’m not really sure why, as my concentration has once again wondered. Ah brilliant, its Mermaid Lagoooooun!!!! It’s lovely that Wendy doesn’t have to just think about the Mermaid Lagoooooun, now she’s in Neverland she can actually VISIT the Mermaid Lagoooooun. The mermaids only have shells or hair covering their breasts and I find it slightly arousing… 😳 I think I just said too much. The mermaids seem to love Peter, and just like Tinkerbell, they are jealous of Wendy. They try to force Wendy into the water. When she protests, Peter replies, “They were only having a little fun, weren’t you girls?”. One of the lovely mermaids replies, “We were only trying to drown her!” That made me laugh. I like them. After they disappear from the screen, my concentration wonders off yet again….
I refocus sometime later, to find Peter Pan and Hook fighting, which should have resulted in Hook being eaten by the Crocodile… but he doesn’t get eaten by the Crocodile. To explain why, and also to fill the void left in this review by me losing interest throughout the last ten minutes, I have created a new game called ‘Disney fucking with physics’, where you have to drink every time Disney… fucks with physics. I will present a few examples of this frequent occurrence for you now
Donald Duck discovers that even after the rope he was clinging to breaks, he doesn’t have to immediately worry, thanks to “Disney fucking with physics”.
The way water falls, Disney style.
Captain Hook however, with his ability surf on a crocodiles mouth, run on water and….god knows what he’s doing in that third picture, is to be commended for taking “Disney fucking with physics” to the next level, and will probably leave me inebriated by the end of the film. Thank you Hook.
Wendy is worried about Tiger-Lily. Who the fuck is Tiger-Lily?! My god, I should really pay attention, but I’m bored! I stop the film to be brought up to speed on exactly what the hell is going on. No wonder I didn’t pay much attention, this really is not my type of film. And I quite enjoyed Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland. It’s looking like I won’t be three for three for appreciating the Disney films of the fifties…
All the good guys are hanging out with the Indians. I notice that John can translate for the Indians. It’s very convenient. It’s a bit like when that kid in ‘The Mummy Returns’ can really quite fortunately, fluently read hieroglyphics. My god I hate that film. Aside from these convenient plot devices that I’m picking up on, I’m not entirely sure what’s going on, so whilst we’re on the subject of Native Americans/American Indians, and I have some time to kill, let me tell you about my friend’s cats.
He once told me, “We have three cats. The first is called ‘Apache’, named after the famous American Indian Apache tribes.”
“The second is called ‘Sioux’, which is named after the famous groups of Indian tribes that went by that name.”
“The third is called ‘Trevor’.”
Hook tricks Tinkerbell into telling him where Peter Pan is, then traps her. Resting bitchface, attempts murder AND is also stupid then. Wendy sings a song. My that’s annoying. Then the kids get kidnapped. Hook gives them an ultimatum to become pirates or walk the plank. They decide they won’t sell-out and become pirates. Oh, and by the way, Hook sends a bomb as a present to Peter Pan and Tinkerbell escapes and saves him with a second to spare. Almost forgot that part!
After jumping off the plank, Peter Pan catches Wendy, saves the kids, fights Hook, meaning we have more ‘Disney fucking with physics’ joy, and finally forces Hook to face the ultimate comeuppance: He makes him say that he is a Codfish. Take that Hook…. Um, ok. Wendy then wakes up by the bedroom window and who knows if it was real or a dream. Personally, I think that I don’t care.
For me, this was probably a good film for kids, and probably a decent film for a lot of adults…. who are not me. I wonder if we are supposed to like Peter Pan. It’s just that I find him to be a lot like one of the popular boys at a high school. Very confident, has a lot of girls throwing themselves at him (and mermaids and fairies in this case) totally up his own arse and to be honest, I thought he was a bit of a dick. In fact, there was no one in the film that I particularly liked. Even Wendy I found to be annoying and too dumbly sycophantic towards Peter. I’ve spoken a few times about my need for a strong protagonist (a Zack Morris if you will) in a film, and not for the first time, I found this Disney film lacking.
I really want to try and enjoy each film I watch, and I love how there are so many really passionate Disney fans out there, and I genuinely don’t want to shit on a much-loved film (except Bambi) for the sake of it. This is one of those times, a bit like with Pinocchio, where I just don’t get it. I found the plot slightly patchy at times and several characters in a full film seemed to undergo less character development than Nana the dog did in the first ten minutes. I just found I didn’t care about ANYTHING that happened. It’s just not for me. Maybe this is a prime example of a Disney film that will divide the fanatics from the cynics? I’m sure (hopeful) that there will be plenty of future entries that will make me applaud Disney and allow me to enjoy some (perhaps rare) synergy with its passionate fanbase, but Peter Pan isn’t it. At least, together, we can all still enjoy a good Mermaid Lagoooooun.
In a general life update, we have just had our planned trip to Disneyland Paris cancelled, due to the Covid-19 outbreak. On the upside, we get to rebook up until 15th October for the same price, so we will be going in the Summer Holidays instead! Silver-lining – better weather. I appreciate that having a trip to Disneyland Paris postponed is a real first-world-problem, but obviously I would much rather that than risk spreading a virus that can kill those with underlying health conditions. Additionally, though, seriously stop panic buying! It’s fucking ridiculous. Rant over.
I am absolutely delighted at how much Ben enjoyed Cinderella. I expected him to like some of the films that we have coming up, but I didn’t expect him to be so enamored with a Disney Princess! Result!
Now, onto Alice in Wonderland. I am so excited to see what he makes of this one, as it is bat-shit crazy and I think he’ll be amused by the randomness of it.
Based on the ‘Alice’ books by Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland follows the title character’s trip down the rabbit hole into an entirely different dimension, where animals can talk, flowers can sing and every character appears to be completely crazy and without any sense of logic to their actions. It has characters that you will never forget, such as The Mad Hatter, The March Hare, The Cheshire Cat and The Queen of Hearts. So let’s see what Ben thinks of it.
In my opinion, it is amazing. It is truly one of the classic Disney greats. The creative team must’ve really enjoyed themselves with the script, as some of the lines are utterly astounding and the animation is truly beautiful. If you are planning on showing a Disney classic to someone that is a Disney virgin, I would highly recommend showing them this one.
Cinderella succeeded in making this Disney cynic at least a bit less apprehensive about continuing this journey through the Animation Studios films. Much like the post-war era that houses the Animation Studios films that we’re currently trawling through, there is now some optimism and hope going forward, with dreams of peace / good films, as opposed to the previous decade which was overshadowed by war / The Three Caballeros.
So 1951 brings us Alice in Wonderland. Oh boy. It’s hard to know where to start. I’m once again going to have to deviate from the normal ‘say the ridiculous things I see’ approach that I usually take to reviewing these films. I mean, I attempted to write notes during this film whenever something inexplicable happened, but within fourteen minutes my arm cramped up and my pen literally exploded (not literally). It was at this point I realised that I needed a change of tactics here, as this is no normal movie. My god is that an understatement. What’s the point of trying to find WTF moments in a film that is designed to be WTF, in some fantastical WTF world?
Furthermore, trying to note-take in a film like this, is contrary to how a film like this is supposed to be digested. By that, I mean the viewer is supposed to either be a child with an imagination that is yet to be restricted by the confinements of the conditioned grown-up mind, or a student that is so off their face on narcotics that if they’re not totally transfixed by the pretty colours, or transcending to a place where the random sequence of events is processed in some life-altering way, they would probably be convinced they are a werewolf or trying to eat the fridge. As I cannot revert to a childlike state, and also think that the kids telling stories of that time dad went strange, watched ‘Alice In Wonderland’ and kept them awake all night howling at the moon, may be viewed by some as somewhat inappropriate. I had to find a different approach.
I found this approach at around the twenty-five-minute mark. With my pad and pen set aside, I sat back and stared at the screen, with my body relaxed and my eyes slightly glazed, and let the experience vigorously penetrate my mind. Almost literally a ‘mind-fuck’ if you will. But by attempting to stop the forces that are compelling me to question and resist, as well as allowing the film to create its very own psychedelic haze around my brain, I’m in some way mimicking both the demographics I mentioned above and everything starts to make sense. Sort of.
After I watched ‘Bambi’, I entered what would become known as the ‘post-Bambi’ phase of my existence, where all joyous things were slightly darker around the edges and happy events were / are interrupted by the faces of scarred fawns (and now also cute little oysters, but I’ll come back to that later). If this review seems even more skittish and unfocused than usual, this is because I’m now in a phase known as ‘post-Alice-In-Wonderland’, where clocks are fixed with tea and jam (this bit is amazing, which I’ll come back to later as well) and animals have inanimate objects for faces. I apologize for my meanderings, but a surreal film deserves a slightly surreal review, so grab half a cup of tea and firework cake containing a mouse attached to an umbrella and go with it…
When I studied art at school, I was fascinated (well, reasonably interested. I know I paid attention rather than doing my usual staring out of the window until the bell rings at least…) by the surrealists, particularly Salvador Dali. I found it curious that, to me at least, despite all the pieces being things that were either not where they were supposed to be, with what they were supposed to be or they were supposed to be, some ideas seemed to make sense and others seemed forced. Some works felt tenuous and others, surprisingly, didn’t. For me, the same rings true with the scenes of ‘Alice in Wonderland’. Despite the absurdity of ‘The Madhatter’s Tea party’, there feels like cohesion and direction in amongst the chaos. I fricking loved this part of the film and it’s definitely my favourite Disney segment so far. I especially love the Mad Hatter proclaiming that the rabbit’s clock is exactly two days slow. The problem is apparently caused by the wheels inside it. His attempts to fix it involve pouring tea on it and spreading jam, butter and mustard (sorry, not mustard, that would be silly; lemon) inside it. I know it’s a famous scene and I can see why. But for every Madhatter’s tea-party however, there’s a story about ‘curious oysters’ or playing cards singing about ‘painting the roses red’ that didn’t hit the same spot. And that’s just my opinion. I’m sure every scene will float different people’s boats.
There are a few things that occur in this film that require extra attention, so let’s return to the start. It’s notable, just like in the adventures of Mr Toad from a few films back, that Alice and her mother are SO English, that the film must have been produced in America. That stereotypical ‘tea and cucumber sandwich’ English that Americans go crazy for. Sorry, apparently this is her sister, not her mother. Ok… I find that hard to believe. Let’s be honest here, this is her ‘sister’, which is basically just how people in Victorian times would cover up a pregnancy outside of marriage. Alice is bored of normality and wants her own world full of nonsense. Within 4 minutes she’s singing and taking to birds. Why is there always so much singing and talking to birds? She spots a white rabbit that is late for something and decides to follow him, without really giving a satisfactory reason of why she feels she has to. One can assume that the ‘what the fuckness’ of this occurrence would cause most of us to do the same though, so I’ll let her off. She runs after him with her cat in tow, and then we reach a moment that I feel needs to be discussed here. After chasing the rabbit into an unpleasantly tight warren, she falls down a seemingly bottomless hole. The normal reaction of falling down a seemingly bottomless hole would usually involve much screaming, cursing with perhaps a small amount of soiling oneself. The reaction to falling down a seemingly bottomless hole, will never be, and I repeat, never be TO LOOK AT YOUR CAT AND HAPPILY WAVE AT HIM WHILST EXCLAIMING “GOODBYE!”
Another thing that pissed me off: Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum. I’ve heard the names many times, mostly when two people are being particularly stupid, but never knew really who they were or from where they were referenced. At least now, when someone mentions them, I can now say “Ah yes, I know them! They’re from Alice in Wonderland! Fuck me, they suck!” There are two reasons for this suckiness (goddamn spellcheck, leave me alone!) in my opinion. Firstly, the way they won’t leave Alice alone is too reminiscent of “the nutter on public transport”. By that, I mean the dude who comes and sits next to you on the bus or train and repeatedly talks at you, pays no attention to your lack of engagement, and invariably ends up telling you exactly why the police were in the wrong to have an arrest warrant for him. The second reason is the story they told about “The Walrus, The Carpenter and The Curious Oysters”. I don’t like this story. Here are the oysters:
They’re cute little oysters. Innocent and… well, curious. Just like babies with their shell bonnets in their shell cots. They have happy smiles and big wide eyes; these creatures have been almost humanized and possess all the traits that people biologically find adorable and feel compelled to protect. The walrus eats them. The fucking walrus eats them all alive. We’re not at Bambi levels of “hey, let’s fuck you all up for shits and giggles”, but we still have another example of Disney joyously using animation as a vehicle for sadistic dickery. You can tell when something pisses me off as the cursing increases dramatically. I’ve cursed quite a lot in twelve Disney reviews…
At one point not long after, Alice walks into a Rabbits house, goes up to his bedroom and steals one of his biscuits. Not only throughout this film, does Alice react to the absurdity with almost soulless ease, she, at times, also really oversteps the mark in what would be considered socially acceptable. The biscuit makes her grow to the size of a house, which is problematic as she’s in a house, which results in her wearing the house like some sort of weird armour. She has no one to blame but herself. That being said, when a big bird comes along and starts singing about “smoking the blighter out” and generally showing zero compassion or interest in her safety, I can’t help but feel that they should be a bit nicer. But that is a recurring theme of this movie; It seems that most of the people she encounters are complete and utter arseholes. I think that this is supposed to interpreted that the moral here is ‘even if it is more exciting, nonsense isn’t necessarily better or for that matter, nicer’. Or ‘anything outside the norm is bad’. Hmmm, not sure how I feel about that.
After Alice eats a carrot to shrink herself, but manages to shrink herself too much (I’ve almost completely stopped overthinking occurrences like this even in this relatively early stage of the film), we get our next example of arsehole-ness. The flowers ridicule Alice for being weedy, and one flower lifts up her skirt. Not cool.
Speaking of not cool, the Queen of Hearts. I really hate the Queen of Hearts. I know you’re supposed to hate her because she’s a dick, but I find I hate her in a way that makes me want her gone from my screen rather than being compelled to see her comeuppance. The other problem with this segment is that including a stronger and slightly more defined plotline here (at least compared to the previous segments) exposes the lack of depth throughout the film as both its strong point, and its weak point. Let me explain. The lack of substance really worked to the films advantage for most part, as not being given motives or understanding, the ‘wheres’, ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ of people/animal’s actions made them that much more random and for, most part, funny. When you start including at least slightly more lucid plot points, such as a sham trial from a bad-tempered queen, that lack of depth makes it a damn sight harder to stay invested in how it plays out. I would have been happier if Alice had just met more good-natured lunatics that were involved in harmless meaningless shenanigans, such as the Mad-Hatter for example…
Elsewhere, Alice part-sings and part-cries her way through a song that I will skip through whenever I watch the film again, a caterpillar makes letters and shapes out of smoke from a shisha pipe and we have a mischievous cat that can turn invisible and stand on his own head. Events that are no more and no less absurd that happenings throughout the rest of the film.
In all, watching this film can certainly be classed as ‘an experience’. It’s not quite the sort of princess fairy-tale, cute animal in peril, nor Donald Duck squawk fest, that I have mostly been exposed to so far, but it was certainly unique, most definitely unforgettable, and in several parts enjoyable. Especially when Tweedle-Dee, Tweedle Dum and the Queen of Hearts were not on my screen anyway…