A Dreamer Walking

Time’s Perspective

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on November 29, 2011

Time gives us perspective. I have been going over many of my notes from several years ago and realize I have a much different and more developed perspective on them now then when I first wrote them. Many of the things that didn’t make sense back then are making sense now.  This is one of the reasons I would suggest to take notes on interviews, movies, and behind the scenes features you watch, even if they are not as interesting to you or do not quite make sense at first. Time has a tendency to give us a new perspectives. Notes you might not have thought twice about when you first wrote them can turn out to be great revelations a few years later.

Glen Keane, One of the greatest animators of all time and the lead animator for Disney characters like the Beast and Tarzan, was mentored by one of Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men, Ollie Johnston. When Keane came to the Disney studio in the late 1970’s Ollie had already been working at at the studio for forty plus years. Ollie told Keane that Ollie had so much more to show him but he was not ready for it yet. This bugged Keane because he was an ambitious young artist and wanted to learn everything all at once. What Keane did not understand was, Ollie was not saying he wasn’t willing to show Keane all he had to offer. Keane just needed time to understand the bigger picture. Only over a great amount of time did Keane find the perspective that allowed him to learn. Slowly he began to realize that good animation was not about perfecting the technique as much as it was about getting inside the character he was animating and truly making that character come to life.

Steven Spielberg talked about how he needed to wait ten years before he could make Schindler’s List. He said he was just not ready in the early 1980’s when he was first introduced to the project. There was a curtain amount of maturing Spielberg needed to do before he was able to give the project the amount of respect it deserved.

This is a short point but a valuable one. We must be willing as filmmakers to look inside ourselves and understand what we are capable of and what needs more time to mature. I do not think it is smart to embark on our greatest visions right away. Sometimes we need to do a little growing before we are ready for curtain projects. Sometimes we need to perfect the small things before trying to tackle the big things. If you are a filmmaker devoted to pursuing your art form, perspective will come. In time you will be able to bring your great visions to life. However, let time give you the perspective and understanding needed to do your vision justice.

Risk

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on November 23, 2011

These days movies seem to be getting more and more formulaic. Superhero movies and sequels seem to be the only films that are given a big budget. It is becoming harder and harder to have any Hollywood studio support new and original scripts. What the executives want is a formula. They want to take out the “risk” factor. Recent movies like Adam Sandler’s Jack and Jill and the new Twilight film Breaking Dawn, are allowed to have weak scripts and be poorly constructed because the executives know the films have a fan base and will make a profit. Yet, slowly the movie business if fading. Hollywood’s formula’s are starting to backfire. Because 3D has been so over and poorly used in so many films the audience is loosing interest. Because the latest Superhero movies are getting more indolent and unbelievable the audience has started to stop caring. Because sequels have become less original and less creative the audience has began to decided just re-watching the original is more convenient.

When talking about the creation of Wall-E Andrew Stanton said he knew the film was going to be risky and that is precisely why he wanted to make it. What happened to this kind of philosophy? The visionaries of Hollywood are and always have been the people willing to take risks. In fact, the film business is directly related to risk taking. Why? Because there is no formula to good filmmaking. Film is an art not a product. We can not expect to create the same type of story again and again and have our audience stay interested. Walt Disney needed to take a risk when he created the first feature length animated film. Nobody knew if it would work. Many people thought it wouldn’t. They called it the “Disney folly” and said nobody would be willing to sit through a hour and a half cartoon. What drove Walt however was his belief in his art form and fellow collaborators. Walt had a vision. A vision that revolutionized the medium and helped keep the art form relevant.

George Lucas received a huge amount of skepticism when he embarked on creating Star Wars. There was no film really like it, yet he took the risk and invested everything he had into making the movie. Pixar was faced with a huge amount of doubt about the possibilities of computer animation. It took a visionary like Steve Jobs to believe in the film medium and invest millions of dollars into creating breakthrough shorts like Luxo Jr. and Tin Toy. Because of these peoples visions and their willingness to take risks cinema has advanced and stayed relevant for today’s audience. Yet, slowly the visionaries of cinema have been dying away, losing interest, or getting pushed out. The people who have taken over are those who are only interested in power and money. They are strangling the art form I have come to love- demeaning it’s true power and vanquishing it’s light. They no longer take risks because they are more concerned about themselves then the art form.

Risk is part of film business. I am not trying to say you should take risks just for the heck of it. What I want is for you to have a great enough vision that you are willing to pursue it no matter where it takes you. The medium of film is vast there is no end to it’s possibilities. Exploring the unknown is always risky. Yet, it is good for filmmakers to get out of their comfort zone. The reason Andrew Stanton liked the fact that his movie Wall-E was risky was because he knew the risk factor would force him to be at the top of his game. Risk heightens ones senses. Exploring the unknown is invigorating because you are going places no one has gone before. Risk opens yourself up to the possibility of loss. Yet, we can always learn from our failures. Risk also opens yourself to limitless possibilities. The willingness to take risks is vital if we want filmmaking to survive and thrive. Those interested only power and money will slowly lose interest in the film medium and desert it as being “finished”. Filmmaking is for those willing to serve the medium not those who want the medium to serve them. I know film, like any other art form, is never finished. The art form of film will always be able to show us new and wondrous things as long as there are visionaries willing to lead the way.

Charlie Chaplin- An Observation- The Outsider

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on November 17, 2011

The Outsider In most of his films Charlie Chaplin’s Tramp is on the outside looking in. Might this be the very reason we like him so much? The huge amount of empathy Chaplin creates through his Tramp character is unmatched in the history of film. The Tramp is universal. Even now, more then seven decades after the last movie staring the Tramp was released, there are people all across the world who instantly recognize the character with over sized shoes, a tight coat, and a small bowler hat.

Most of the Tramp’s empathy is ironically created because he is an outsider. Chaplin knew this and wasn’t afraid to create stories where the Tramp never really became the insider. Not all of Chaplin’s movies end with the Tramp being accepted. Most all of Chaplin’s movies show the Tramp going through a huge amount of rejection even if eventually he is accepted. We can learn from the way Chaplin uses the Tramp. A happy ending is not always the best choice. Sometimes a character is accepted the most by an audience through being rejected in his own world.

One of Charlie Chaplin’s most memorable scenes is when he does the “Roll Dance” using potatoes for feet and forks for legs. Although executed extremely well, what creates the admiration and empathy for the scene is not the Tramp’s superb execution of the dance. The scene starts with the Tramp waiting for the girl of his dreams to accompany him for a new years eve dinner. She promised she would come. the Tramp put in a tremendous amount of work to get everything ready. The Tramp waits so long he falls asleep. Suddenly we go inside the Tramp’s head as he imagines the party in front of him. He is having a ball of a time and to entertain his imagined guests he performs the “Roll Dance”. After finishing everyone cheers and it is the happiest moment in the film. This is contrasted with one of the saddest images, when the cheers slowly fad away to the Tramp sleeping at the table alone. Right then we know nobody is going to come. The context of this “Roll Dance” scene puts the moment in a completely different and more profound light. We cherish the scene so much more because we realize we are experiencing something everyone else has missed.

So often in Chaplin’s films we see the Tramp choose to be the outsider. He rejects his hope for happiness in City Lights by giving the blind girl money to regain her eye sight, even though he knows it means he will be sent to jail. The Tramp excludes himself from the rest of his factory workers in Modern Times by rebelling and going on a crazy rant destroying many of the factory machines. He stands up against a whole nation in The Great Dictator when he makes his speech on the importance of democracy and putting values like love and humanity above dictatorship and innovation. Each step he takes away from the “in” crowd and each selfless act he makes for the sake of others, represents a connection he creates with the audience.

The truth is I don’t think Chaplin ever really felt like he was part of the “in” crowd. He was a British man living in an American society. He was targeted as a communist and anarchist early in his career. Eventually he was driven out of America because of his beliefs by J. Edgar Hoover in 1952. As early as 1925 when Chaplin came out with The Gold Rush he was accused of being too old fashion with his comedy and film style. No scene expresses Chaplin’s feelings of isolation better then the scene at the end of his 1928 film The Circus. Only months before The Circus came out Hollywood produced it’s first talkie film. Already silent pictures were being described as “a thing of the past”. Yet, Chaplin felt he would do a disservice to his global audience if he made the Tramp talk. The premise of The Circus is that the Tramp gets involved with a traveling circus and almost by accident becomes it’s greatest star. In the movie the Tramp meets a girl who he falls desperately in love with. He also makes the circus famous through his comedy routines, much like the fame Charlie Chaplin created for Hollywood through the Tramp. Yet, in the end Chaplin loses the girl. The final scene is of the circus moving out leaving Chaplin’s Tramp behind. I believe this represented the emotional state Chaplin was in at the time. He was watching a entertainment industry he helped create pass him by through the creation of sound. In the end, the Tramp walks away toward the horizon, alone, with some of his greatest silent films yet to come.

Our job as filmmakers is to go our own way. At times others will walk beside us. However, there will also be times when we make decisions both thematically and professionally that isolate us and make us and the characters we create feel alone, like the outsider looking in. Sometimes it is the outsider looking in who has the best perspective. Sometimes it takes an outsider’s perspective to change the direction of those on the inside. Chaplin changed our perspective. With his little Tramp he gave us an understanding of what it feels like to be rejected. What it feels like to love someone and yet not be loved in the same way back. What it feels like to stand up against something that is wrong even though everyone else is silent or rejects us. This little outsider represents one of the greatest reasons I want to be in the film business. He has shown me that sometimes it’s the outsider’s voice that comes out the clearest. Sometimes it’s the people who need to fight through rejection, isolation, and criticism who make the greatest impact.

J. Edgar- Review

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on November 13, 2011

J. Edgar is a fantastic portrait of one of the most powerful men of the 20th century. The film spans more then five decades, yet the filmmakers seem to express exactly what they want without anything feeling rushed. Leonardo DiCaprio’s portrayal of J. Edgar Hoover is in my opinion the greatest performance of his life. He walks the delicate line between the image the public knows Hoover as being- a stuck up man set in his principles, and the J. Edgar hidden away from the public eye- a man deeply conflicted between a need to please a unbending authoritarian mother and wanting to follow his emotions for his life long companion Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer). The movie has and will be criticized for not being as thrilling or as epic as the public seems to think the name dictates. Yet, I am pleased Clint Eastwood showed restraint and let us get to know J. Edgar on a personal level rather then following the endless amount of speculation and exaggeration that comes with such a private and powerful figure.

Clint Eastwood’s delicate use of special effects transports us back to the 1920 and brings us through the 1960’s beautifully. Eastwood’s simplistic old school way of using the camera compliments these time periods. We are given a clear and rich environment for the story to take place. The film starts with J. Edgar in the 1960’s expressing his past in a favorable light, dramatizing events he took part in and putting himself into events he was never part of. When showing Edgar’s side of the story Eastwood creates noir look. The FBI is at times portrayed in the typical Hollywood light, far more dangerous and suspenseful then it usually was. However, the goal was never to thrill us with a bunch of gun fights between the FBI and the Mob. Instead, we are given a clear cut portrayal of how Edgar and the FBI rose to power.

It quickly becomes apparent that Eastwood is telling two stories of Edgar’s past, the one Edgar dictates to the young author who is writing his memoir and the more personal story of his relationship with his mother and Clyde Tolson. We begin to see Edgar’ flaws- how awkward he is with woman and how paranoid he is with those who don’t see eye to eye with him. Early in the movie Annie Hoover, played by Judi Dench, burdens her son Edgar in the only flashback of him as a child when she tells him, “you will rise to be the most powerful man in the country”. Annie is Edgar’s driving force. Judi Dench does a lot with little screen time. She represents a woman who was not given the opportunity to have power of her own so is living her life through the accomplishments of her son. Even at her deathbed she pushes Edgar to be strong and not give in. Annie bluntly forbids Edgar from indulging in his true feelings for his right hand man Clyde Tolson. This creates a tension between the two men that is carried all the way through the film. The chemistry between DiCaprio and Hammer is magnificent. The heart of the film is a love story between two men forbidden to express publicly their true feelings for each other.

J. Edgar is a story about a very flawed man who created a magnificent organization. It is easy to admire Edgar’s drive for excellence in this film. He is constantly refining the FBI, making it care more about order and the preservation of evidence. We see Edgar’s constant struggle with presidents in his career. The only president we actually have the benefit of seeing at any length however is Richard Nixon, played by Christopher Shyer. We also see Edgar interact with Robert Kennedy, played by Jeffery Donovan. Both actors portraying these two historical figures do a poor job. Richard Nixson is played as a stereotype rather then how the president would actually behave. Donovan’s unnaturally slurred Boston accent was a huge distraction and stopped me from connecting to his character. Yet, these two characters do not play huge roles and so do not interfere with the overall story.

In no way does the movie excuse J. Edgar’s blemishes. Hoover has a relentless ego that hurts his relationship with everyone around him. If he is questioned Edgar immediately assumes his opposer does not have America’s best interest at heart and begins to investigate him or her. He shows little affection for his life long secretary Helen Gandy (Naomi Watts) and is quick to accuse Clyde Tolson of not supporting him. Yet, with all the flaws we see in J. Edgar, there is a humanity few could have expressed as well as DiCaprio. The nuance of Dicaprio’s performance lies in the scenes when he is either alone or with people he trusts, where we can see the turmoil in J. Edgar’s heart. Most of Edgar’s inner feelings are expressed through looks rather then dialogue. We see a conflict in his mind when he is spies on President Kennedy, listens to his mom’s instructions, and when Clyde reveal the truth about who he is and what he really did in the 1930’s and 40’s.

Clint Eastwood’s simplistic piano score is perfect for this movie. His music was much more personal then a fully orchestrated score would have been. The movie does a fantastic job of jumping back and fourth between the 1960’s and 30’s-40’s. We are able to see the consistency of Edgar’s routine contrasted with the changing times. We see the relationship Edgar and Clyde have as old men and then are shown how they built their relationship. One distractions in the film was the old man makeup for specifically Armie Hammer. As a old man in the 60’s Hammer looks like he is wearing a mask that almost completely prohibits his ability to express emotion with his face. There are a few times where a little more expression would have done a world of good. Yet, the chemistry between the two actors overcomes this flaw and the last scene with Edgar and Cylde is one of the most touching scenes Eastwood has ever created.

Clint Eastwood is the master of underplay. His subtle touch to this Edgar story is what made this film work.  Eastwood embraced the eloquent screenplay of Dustin Lance Black and allowed his actors to dictate the direction of their characters. With his magnificent ability to trust the material and actors Eastwood gives us a film that is devoted to showing the heart of a deeply complicated man. Every scene increases our understanding of who J. Edgar is and the conflict that drives him away from those who love him and toward his ambitions to create a safer America. J. Edgar Hoover is loved and hated by many, this film does not take a side. Instead, it gives us insight to a man who thought he was untouchable.

Charlie Chaplin- An Observation- His Way!

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on November 10, 2011

When Charlie Chaplin wanted to work everyone around him needed to want to work. When Chaplin wanted to take a few months off it didn’t matter how inconvenient it was for everyone else, he would take a few months off. I am sure Chaplin’s “my way” mentality didn’t help in very many of his marriages. Frankly, he was spoiled. He was able to do something he would never be able to do in today’s cinema. He told actors exactly how to act. He hired nonprofessionals to be the leading ladies in his films because he didn’t want them to think for themselves when it came to acting. He wanted to do all the thinking for them. Chaplin’s greatest co-star and arguably his greatest collaboration of all time was with Jackie Coogan, the five year old boy who played with him in The Kid. Why was Jackie Chaplin’s best collaboration? Jackie was said to be a born mimic, and could copy exactly what Chaplin showed him.

If he could Chaplin would have played each of the roles in his movies. His obsessive nature not only drove him to perfection but also everyone around him. He would explain exactly what he wanted to not only the stars of his films but the extras as well. He shot take after take after take in order to complete his vision. He once talked to a co-worker about his frustration with Virginia Cherrill, the leading lady in City Lights, how she did not understand the art of lifting a flower. They shot the scene where the Tramp first meets the blind woman, Cherrill, several hundred times. Chaplin was never truly satisfied with Cherrill’s performance. He needed his actors to be both physically and emotionally dedicated to him. Chaplin was not satisfied with the actors just physically getting into the performance, he wanted to feel their performance and have it inspire his acting.

If the actors weren’t completely involved with the performance Chaplin would waste little time with them. He was known for changing actors mid way through production. In City Lights Chaplin finally had it with Virginia Cherrill when she kept him waiting on set one day and fired her. This happened toward the end of a two plus year production. Chaplin realized later he couldn’t afford to re-shoot all of her scenes so he needed to rehire her for twice the cost.

Chaplin’s “my way” philosophy got him into a lot of trouble. It drove up the cost of production and made it so he only made movies every few years. Chaplin didn’t know exactly what he wanted when he began shooting his films. What drove him was the search for perfection. He needed everyone on his side. Yet, he needed to figure out the story himself. He did not have a bunch of writers and gag men helping him. The film for the most part was Chaplin’s discovery. When Chaplin couldn’t think of any ideas he would stop, even if it was in the middle of production. Some of his crew talked about how he would sometimes stand in the middle of the set for hours thinking while the rest of the crew stood there waiting for an idea to spark. Sometimes Chaplin would leave the set and not come back for weeks, leaving his crew at the studio to entertain themselves. Cherrill said she was bored for the majority of the City Lights production. For the most part she was left at the studio to play cards and read books. It took Chaplin two years and eight months to create City Lights, only one hundred and eighty days was spent actually shooting on set.

Many people might say that Chaplin had an ego problem. He got caught up in being the star and thus was not willing to have things be anyone else’s way but his. This for the most part is true. Chaplin, like so many stars then and now, wanted to be in the spotlight. Unlike now, Chaplin was able to have almost complete control over his projects. This resulted in a lot of inconvenience and even more frustration from actors and crew who did not like being told exactly how to do their jobs. However, I also believe this “ego” of Chaplin’s is what drove him forward to create some of the greatest and most controversial films of all time. While making City Lights Chaplin was ridiculed and told the movie would fail because he wasn’t willing to make it a talkie. Yet, City Lights opened to both critical and public acclaim and is now hailed as one of the greatest silent films of all time. Very few people in the 1930’s were willing to attack the manufacturing companies for their inhumane treatment of the hard working lower class. Yet, in Chaplin’s film Modern Times, he shows the cold heartlessness of the industrial era where workers in the manufacturing companies are treated more like cattle then human beings. Chaplin was one of the only people in Hollywood willing to stand up against Hitler and the Nazi Party before America went to war. He put all his chips on the table when making The Great Dictator, financing the project himself and willing to go into bankruptcy if the film failed. Chaplin made a stand in his famous speech at the end of The Great Dictator, that seems to only become more relevant as the days go by. Chaplin was begged to take the speech out of the film. The critics criticized him for ending the film on too serious a note. And, the right wing accused him of supporting communism. Yet, all this criticism didn’t matter to Chaplin because he made his movies his way. If he believed in something he would dedicate himself to it no matter how inconvenient his stance might be. Now, that “ego problem” is something to admire.

Charlie Chaplin- An Observation- The Key to Comedy

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on November 6, 2011

You know if you threw all Charlie Chaplin’s gags into a montage you probably would be rolling on the floor laughing before it finished. However, many great gag artists filled the screens in the silent era. Critics credited Harold Lloyd  with just as much creativity in his gags as Chaplin. And, Buster Keaton in my opinion might have been better. Keaton did things that stuntmen these days wouldn’t do. The gag in and of itself didn’t make Chaplin stick out. Charlie was the best comedian of the silent era and one of the greatest comedians of all time because he was able to generate a huge amount of sympathy and affection for the gags he pulled off. Most of this sympathy and affection was directed toward the legendary character that he often portrayed, the Tramp.  The Tramp was not the everyman character Harold Lloyd tried to portray and he definitely wasn’t known to be a stone face like Buster Keaton. Chaplin’s character almost always was living on the edge just trying to survive. The Tramp drew immediate sympathy because he represented the poorest of the poor in our society. The childlike heart and the ability to wear his emotions on his sleeve is what won over our affection for the Tramp. Even in this generation, almost a hundred years since the Tramp first appeared on screen, few children or adults can avoid being entranced by the amiable smile the Tramp gives when trying to get out of trouble or the poignant image he creates when going through tough times.

Chaplin’s makeup and costume perfectly expresses the sympathetic character he wants to be to his audience. His face is perfectly framed with the dark eye shadow, centered mustache, and tilted hat. His costume is abstract, he wears over sized pants and shoes, and a too small hat and shirt. Even though he represents the poorest of the poor in our society, the Tramp tries to make himself look like an established gentlemen with the cane he carries, the ripped up gentlemens gloves he wears, and his black felt bowler hat. The Tramp creates for himself along with the unwavering optimism for life he has, attracts us to his character. We invest in the Tramp because he is both visually and emotionally appealing. When we are invested in the Tramp as a character we become all the more interested in the scenarios he gets himself into and the gags he is able to pull off.

Chaplin’s gags stand out because they often give us a greater understanding of who his Tramp character is. Gags like, the Tramp trying not to starve through eating his own shoe in the The Gold Rush or the Tramp trying to save the depressed rich man from suicide in City Lights, separate Chaplin from his peers. Even at the point of starvation the Tramp is still optimistic he will survive. He treats the shoe like an upper class dinner, taking it apart piece by piece until the man next to him becomes envious of how much Tramp enjoys himself. The irony that comes with a completely broke man- the Tramp, trying to convince a extremely rich man not commit suicide is funny in and of itself.

Chaplin found humor in more then how he could pull off a fall or sell a punch. Chaplin figured out you don’t need to be in danger to pull off a gag. Sometimes Chaplin found humor through completely changing our emotions in the middle of a scene. One of the Tramp’s greatest gags is in City Lights when he meets the blind flower girl for the first time. Chaplin first wins over our heart through creating sentiment with the revelation that the flower girl is blind. Then Chaplin goes a step further when his Tramp character, even though dirt poor, is willing to let the girl keep the extra money for the flower he just purchased. Not knowing the Tramp is still there the girl washes out her flower bowl while the Tramp simply gazes at her beauty. At the most romantic point of the scene Chaplin completely changes the scenario as the blind girl unknowingly throws a bunch of water into the Tramp’s face. Plenty of gags involve people getting splashed with water. The reason why this gag rises above is because of the way Chaplin sets it up. He created a sympathy and affection for the scene in general. We were completely involved with what was happening on screen, completly in love with both characters, before Chaplin went to the punchline.

Chaplin’s humor succeeds because it goes beyond just a good laugh. His humor gives us joy that warms our hearts. He created in the Tramp a character that represented a part of us all. We can relate to the low parts in the Tramp’s life and are encouraged and find joy in the Tramp’s optimism. In real life Charlie Chaplin was a multimillionaire. He owned his own studio, a huge mansion, and was one of the most famous men in the world. Yet, the real Charlie Chaplin was always struggling with insecurities. He was always deathly afraid of not being adored and he went through many marriages and even more affairs. I think Chaplin would even admit he was never as happy as the Tramp. The Tramp’s gags encouraged us and allowed us to realize that happiness does not come from money or fame. Rather, happiness comes from finding the light in the darkest of times and most stressful of situations. Chaplin’s key to great comedy was through not making the gag more important then the character or story he was telling. Gags can be repeated but there will never be a character like Charlie Chaplin’s Tramp again.

Puss In Boots- Review

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on November 2, 2011

Puss in Boots is a movie full of beautiful locations, fantastic animation, and above par action sequences. At the beginning of the film it even feels like we have a more charismatic main character then what we had for the original Shrek series. However, Puss did not go very far in the movie. He is basically used in the same way he is in the Shrek films, as a character who entertains through some clever and some sub par jokes and a lot of action. The characters around him are given the responsibility to carry the arc of the film and sadly they don’t do much with it.

From the beginning of the film I realized that the character with the greatest arc was not going to be Puss. The reason being Puss was already a very developed character who showed no signs of going anywhere. This is one of the problems that comes with making a sidekick become the star of a film. The majority of sidekicks are created to be one note characters. Their job is to enhance the depth of the main character. In the Shrek series Puss’s job was to entertain while helping to develop the arc of the main character Shrek. Now sense in this film Puss is the main star, the creators needed to either figure out a fatal flaw in Puss that could be worked out through a story, or keep Puss as a one note character and have him be the reason for change in one or more of the characters around him. The creators chose the latter.

In Puss in Boots Puss’s story isn’t much. There is nothing inwardly unique about who he is as a character. He is  the typical misunderstood hero. His main goal is to reclaim his honor and help out the mother and town that adopted him as a kid. The arc of the story laid entirely on Puss’s childhood friend Humpty Dumpty, voiced by Zach Galifianakis. Zach did nothing to make Humpty likable for me. Humpty seemed like a shallow sidekick for most of the movie and an even (spoiler) shallower villain when he betrays Puss in the third act of the story. Through a ten minute flashback showing Puss and Humpty’s childhood, we see that Puss and Humpty were once good friends. Both had a sense of adventure and both were treated as outcasts. Humpty’s ambition was to get away and find the magical beans that would lead to a great amount of treasure. I saw that Humpty was a smart guy and dedicated to his mission, however this did nothing to attract me to his character. Humpty is nothing but greedy through the majority of the film, he even has a hard time allowing Puss to be friends with him as a kid. Eventually his friendship with Puss goes sour when Puss is accepted into the community. Humpty turns to crime and based on some unfortunate events Puss is mistakenly caught as an accomplice to Humpty. This leads to Puss becoming an outlaw while leaving Humpty to get caught by authorities and thrown into jail.

We hear about Puss’s childhood through him telling it to Kitty Softpaws. Kitty Softpaws is an accomplice to Humpty who tries to recruit Puss to help them get the treasure up the magic beanstalk. Kitty falls to sleep while Puss tells her about his childhood. I wonder why the film creators thought we would care about Puss’s back story if the character he was telling it to didn’t even care? We get the feeling something is up when all the characters come together. Puss shows resentment because Humpty gave him a bad reputation. Humpty doesn’t seem sorry and still seems to resent Puss’s charm. Kitty doesn’t seem like she cares for any of the characters, just the treasure at the top of the beanstalk. None of them have very admirable reasons for doing what they are doing. Even Puss wants to get the treasure so HE can get his reputation back, not because he thinks the town or his mother really needs the money.

Because the reason for the adventure is shallow, the action and danger of the adventure doesn’t seem nearly as thrilling. They do go up the magical beanstalk and they do run into trouble while trying to find the treasure in the castle in the sky, but who cares? Yes, these sequences will entertain you a little while they unfold because of the talented animators and background artists at Dreamworks, but the thrills are gone as soon as the scenes are over.

The crude humor in the story seems to constantly stop us from connecting to the characters. There are several shallow sexual oriented jokes in the film, obviously targeted toward the older audience. One of Dreamworks’ greatest problems is the people in charge never trust their story enough to avoid making fun of someone, using sexual innuendo, or throwing in an absurd comment that only gets a nervous or shallow laugh. Kitty Softpaws makes fun of Humpty while he changes clothes. Puss gets a old man aroused when cleaning himself. And, Puss constantly boasts about his ability to attract woman. The shallow humor did nothing to further the story and only made us think less of the characters.

The ending of the film is extremely predictable and unbelievable. Humpty Dumpty ends up betraying Puss. The whole adventure was set up by Humpty so he could get his revenge. However, the back stab is seen a mile away. There is no reason given for why Humpty apologizes and he is obviously still angry at Puss. The most outrageous part however is Humpty’s sudden change of heart at the end of the film. After the years of planning in prison and spending most of the movie getting Puss to fall into his evil plan, we have ONE scene where Puss talks to Humpty and convinces him to change his ways and not destroy the town they both grew up in. Humpty is suddenly sorry and sacrifices himself at the end to save the town. The problem is Puss was not a strong enough character in this film to really create a believable change in Humpty Dumpty, let alone to do it in just one scene. The ending was cliche and completely unearned. Of course it needed to happen because someone in the movie needed to express some type of growth. However, because the ending was not earned the audience leaves the theater with hardly any impact by the one and a half hours they spent watching the movie.

If you are interested in vegging out, I would suggest you watch Puss In Boots. It has enough humor and talented enough artists working behind the scenes to satisfy the audience who just wants to sit down relax and not really think for ninety minutes. But for someone who wants to be stimulated and think while watching a film, Puss In Boots is hard to bear. Dreamworks Animation has some of the greatest artists in the film industry at their studio. Many of their talents are wasted in this film. They have the talent to inspire and influence generations of kids, but instead are made to create mediocre storylines designed to make the quick buck. The story is weak and much of the crude humor dates the film. There is nothing in Puss In Boots that hasn’t been said before, and in better ways. I want to see films from Dreamworks where the visionaries behind the story are as talented as the creators bringing it to life.