Frozen II (2.5 Stars)
How to Train Your Dragon: Hidden World (2.5 Stars)
I Lost My Body (4 Stars)
Klaus (3.5 Stars)
Lion King (2 Stars)
Missing Link (2.5 Stars)
Toy Story 4 (5 Stars)
There is an assumption among many adults that animated films are really only for children. While it is true that many of them are for kids, moviemakers have also learned that they can make a bit more money if they turn the film into something that attracts the parents as well. So, in many cases, an animated film will operate at several different levels with characters that might appeal to younger audiences, but often with some complex themes and sometimes even dialog that is designed to capture the attention of the parents. If the whole family wants to go to the movies, then the movie has to appeal to everyone.
A couple of this year’s animated feature films succeed at that. In particular, Klaus and Toy Story 4 fulfill that promise by providing stories and characters that both kids and adults will find attractive and interesting. I gave the movie 5 Stars (the highest possible rating) because of both the technical skill of the computer generated animation and the terrific story line about finding purpose in life and how the role of parenting changes as children age. This is probably the last in the Toy Story series but should be required viewing for anyone who is a member of a family.
Klaus is an origin story for, well the man we know with a slightly different spelling. As such it provides an interesting tale and one that is not only emotionally satisfying, but that also answers a lot of questions about the man himself – questions you might not have known to ask. From a technical standpoint, it uses an intriguing style that seems to combine the best aspects of computer generated backgrounds with more intimate hand-drawn characters. This movie was a surprise to me and I suspect it might be for you.
Four more of these movies were more traditional animated films and three of them were sequels which didn’t quite live up to their predecessors. Frozen II has more enhanced computer technology, but ends up delivering a darker story that is maybe a bit more than the characters can support. How to Train Your Dragon: Hidden World is full of stunning and imaginative scenes – the brief sequence inside The Hidden World has an impact like Fantasia – but the storyline is choppy with a lot of loose ends. It is time to put this series to bed. And, of course, the remake of The Lion King has already been well panned. Despite the musical talents of people like Beyoncé, the computer imagery in this one is too perfect – so much so that the fact that the animals talk, sing, and dance becomes just a bit too creepy. They shouldn’t have let this one out of the can. Finally, The Missing Link is a stop-motion animation film, which is an entirely different way to make a movie. Some of the backgrounds are excellent, but the story line – that we can get along with all kinds of people – might be a bit to simplistic for adults. This one is one just for the kids.
And that leaves I Lost My Body, which is definitely not for kids. Sometimes animated films are created just for adults with no intention for family viewing and this is one of them. It is the story of a hand that becomes detached from its body and begins a journey to find its rightful home, attached to its body. During the journey, it encounters multiple problems, some of them funny, and others profound. In my review, I described this film as a puzzle because of all the disjointed elements looking for proper resolution. Not everyone will like this film, but it is recommended for the adventurous.
Last year’s animated films included a similar mix of family, children, and adult entries. Isle of Dogs was a unique film with a dominating musical score and an interesting story about abandonment and rejection. Spider-Man: Into the Multiverse is a cartoon version of a comic-book action movie that serves as a kind of origin story. It also uses a different animation styles for each of the main characters. It will appeal to comic book aficionados as well as students of animated films. Incredibles 2 and Ralph Breaks the Internet are two more family oriented films, but I particularly like the latter movie because of the intriguing visual way it represented the internet. Mirai is a Japanese movie with intriguing animation, but I couldn’t figure out who the intended audience was for the story – it didn’t come together in a meaningful way.
So there you have it, a smorgasbord of different animated movies with different styles and stories. Hope this helps you decide which ones make sense for your own viewing.