A Dreamer Walking

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.

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on January 23, 2011

I watched Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World the other day. I think it highlights both the skill that I see coming with this generation of filmmakers and the greatest weakness of this generation of filmmakers.

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World was a extremely inventive movie. We are taken on an abstract ride through a world that can only be expressed through the medium of film. In the movie Scott Pilgrim is a twenty three year old with a very low self esteem. He is going out with a seventeen year old who he does not really like. He is also still trying to get over being dumped by a popular music star from more then a year ago.

The movie is flashy and loaded with special effects. Edgar Wright, the director of this film, tries to express the movie like a video game. At times almost every noise heard is expressed through bold font. If there is a knock on the door or ring of a phone, we get the sound literally spelled out for us. Usually the sounds in the movie remind you of of arcade rooms from the 80’s and early 90’s. When introduced to new locations or new characters we see a small title card pop up giving us their name and basic function. For example: when we are introduced to Scott’s roommate Wallace Wells, under the title of his name we see “roommate”, under that “25 years old”, and under that we see “Status: 7.4/10”.

About ten minutes into the film we are introduced to one more character, Romona Flowers. Romona is the girl of Scott’s dreams. Quickly Scott loses all interest in his seventeen year old girlfriend and goes after Romona. However, Scott soon finds out that if he wants to date Romona, he needs to fight and defeat her “Seven X’s”. The “Seven X’s” consist of people Romona has gone out with in the past. From this point on Edgar really plays the movie like a video game. Every time a boyfriend or girlfriend (she went out with one girl in her past) comes to face Scott they dramatically announce their arrival with some title cards expressing who they are and their basic fighting ability. After this we see a big “VS.” pop up on screen between the two opponents. Scott then is able to use anything he could get his hands on to defeat the “X’s“. Amazingly Scott inherits expert kung fu skills making most of the fights very entertaining to watch. After the “X’s” are defeated they blow into handfuls of coins and a big “K.O” looms over where they once were.

I found the expressionism very interesting. I liked seeing sound effects expressed through stylized font. I liked the exaggerated fight scenes where we literally saw characters get thrown through walls and thousands of feet into the air. However, all this does not necessarily make for a good movie. You need to fall in love with the story and the characters if you want the movie to go any farther then the highs you can get from playing a video game. For me, the story and characters were extremely shallow.

Why is it that a movie done in such a unique and expressive way, could only go as deep as a Saturday morning cartoon show? The relationship between Scott and Ramona is never really explained. There is nothing that seems to get us interested Ramona except for the fact that she looks hot and dyes her hair different colors every week and a half.

Because the characters can not express themselves very well, there are scenes where we just get a lot of yelling and low blow humor. We see a very disturbing character in Scott’s roommate Wallace. Wallace is gay and he seems to not have any morals when it comes to sexuality. Wallace will sleep with any man even Scott’s sisters boyfriend. There are times where he has three partners in bed at once. In almost every scene Wallace is trying to get his hands on some man. Of course this is all done for comic relief, but I really want to know why someone like Wallace is supposed to be funny?

As I said, Scott does have some epic battle scenes where he is fighting for his girl Ramona, but it is hard to understand why. Scott never really explains why he likes Ramona. The truth is Scott does not seem to know why he likes Ramona and he does not spend any time trying to figure it out.

The movie is also full of cliche’s. We of course have the time where Scott thinks he has lost Ramona forever. Then he decides to go and fight to get her back, which results in him getting within a inch of victory and then “unexpectedly” falling to defeat. But never fear, he  miraculously gets up from his defeat to beat the very cliche villain who wants Ramona for himself.  The result is all the good guys say they have learned their lesson, however it is very hard to understand exactly what they have learned. Scott gets Ramona and they walk into the next “level”, most likely to live happily ever after.

The filmmakers of this generation seem to think that they should just be able to say , “These two are in love”, and expect the audience to buy into it “hook line and sinker”. Maybe that is the case for the majority of audiences these days. We don’t need to go deep anymore. Shallow if fine, as long as we have a few laughs and see some cool special effects. The reason why immoral people like Scott’s roommate Wallace are funny is because we really do not care what that portrayal is saying about the homosexual life style, we just care that it’s “funny”.

In Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, cool fonts try to hide shallow characters and special effects try to conceal a cliche plot line. In essence, the breakthroughs of the movie are used as a cover up for the weak story. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is a perfect example of a “cool movie” that is quickly forgotten. And, along with Scott Pilgrim Vs. The world, this generation of filmmakers will be easily forgotten if we do not choose to put story and vision ahead of cool camera moves and special effects.