Archive for the ‘Children’s’ Category

The young lion prince is welcomed into the world with a big fanfare, but not all are happy in the kingdom with the future king. As Mufasa raises his young son Simba, his brother Scar is planning the fall of both his brother and nephew. Along with the hyenas, Scar aims to trick Simba into danger. When Scar’s plan ends in success, he convinces Simba to run away and then commands the hyenas to follow and kill him. Although Simba has escaped, he feels lost and finds himself adopted into friendship with a pair of outcasts. Meanwhile, the kingdom is taken over by Scar and hyenas with no relief in sight.

Starring: Matthew Broderick (Adult Simba), James Earl Jones (Mufasa), Jonathan Taylor Thomas (Young Simba), Jeremy Irons (Scar), Robert Guillaume (Rafiki), Rowan Atkinson (Zazu), Nathan Lane (Timon), Ernie Sabella (Pumbaa), Whoopi Goldberg (Shenzi), Cheech Marin (Banzai), Jim Cummings (Ed), Moira Kelly (Adult Nala), Niketa Calame (Young Nala), Madge Sinclair (Sarabi)

This film created in 1994 has seen multiple re-releases as each generation of kids since the original release has been given a chance to experience this classic movie. The original film featured a talented cast of voice actors. Leading the group is James Earl Jones as Mufasa. “Remember who you are. You are my son, and the one future king.” Lines like this one became part of our cultural history. Simba was actually voiced by two actors, Jonathan Taylor Thomas (young) and Matthew Broderick (adult). Each added something to the character’s personality, with Thomas having the playful, naive spirit and Broderick dealing with the moral dilemma of self versus community interest. Jeremy Irons serves as the evil Scar, with an ability to project a sense of dominance and instill a sense of fear through his voice.

Disney has a knack for creating cultural staples in film between their classic animated features and more recent Pixar features. With the Lion King, the movie seems to be one of the few that truly covers all ages and interests, with multiple releases, a Broadway show based after the original film and an ability to catch people emotionally with every viewing. The most recent release in 3-D may not make a significantly different impact with the updated technology but the classic film is completely intact. Since the movie was created prior to the 3-D revolution, there are some environmental elements that include some depth but nothing that pops out of the screen. While I anticipated scenes like the boneyard and the canyon to be perfect scenes in 3-D, they only had a little bit of depth added to the viewing experience.

While the re-release is truly meant to be a reset for the new Blu-Ray and 3-D home releases, seeing the film in the theater (even with only a limited window) is an experience reminiscent of my younger days. It is a story that truly can stretch across generations and deserves to be saved for each new generation.

Dan’s Rating: 5.0/5


The world’s greatest super villain, Gru, is getting upstaged by a dorky newcomer who successfully stole a pyramid. In an attempt to get ahead and trick the upstart Vector, Gru decides to adopt three girls and get them to sell the villain some “cookies” to break his way into his fortress. Along the way, he learns what it means to care for someone and starts developing a closer connection to humanity around him. But as he starts to warm up to the girls, he becomes challenged in his plan to steal the moon and must find a way to see if he can balance both priorities.

Starring: Steve Carell (Gru), Jason Segel (Vector), Russell Brand (Dr. Nefario), Miranda Cosgrove (Margo), Julie Andrews (Gru’s mom), Will Arnett (Mr. Perkins), Kristen Wiig (Mrs. Hattie), Dana Gaier (Edith), Elsie Kate Fisher (Agnes)

Supplying the voice is Steve Carell, star of The Office and several feature films. Similar to when Mike Meyers supplied a British presence for Austin Powers, Carell dives into an eastern European accent to give the character a devious and calculated demeanor. He provides a strong voice performance and delivers more than a few witty lines. Jason Segel plays the role of Vector. He provides a dorky tone to the goofy presence of the character on screen. As the old Dr. Nefario, Russell Brand cleverly plays the role older than his actual age causing the viewer to not recognize it is him. The lead child, Margo, was voiced by Miranda Cosgrove, young star rising on the Nickelodeon network.

There are a number of items that make this a smart and enjoyable movie. The most significant of which are the clever comedic reliefs, the minions. They have their own language (which everyone seems to understand) and are completely loyal to their leader. There was an iPhone app created to translate the minions as you watch the movie. Many kid’s movies have their gimmicks, but this one provides a strong on screen element. The message of the importance of family was fairly obvious, but the presentation of an evil genius finding love  with three orphan children was a nice twist to bring the villain into a more relatable light. The three girls were incredibly cute, in particular the youngest with her innocence and perfect lines.

This is simply a fun family movie that provides good voice talents and an entertaining storyline. Get caught up in the 3D excitement and minion madness.

Dan’s Rating: 4.0/5

The story of Rapunzel has gotten a makeover. Locked away in a tower, Rapunzel has only her chameleon, Pascal, to keep her company. Shielding her from her magical past, Mother Gothel has taken control over almost every aspect of her life. While away from the tower, thief Flynn Rider makes his way up the tower to escape from the both the palace guards and his former partners, coming face to face with the long-haired captive. With her birthday approaching and the interest in experiencing the floating lights, she convinces the thief to escort her to the castle, even though it defies Mother Gothel’s rules. With the heat still on, the unlikely pair must work together to escape the pursuers and experience her wish.

Starring: Mandy Moore (Rapunzel), Donna Murphy (Mother Gothel), Zachary Levi (Flynn Rider), Ron Perlman (Stabbington Brother), MC Gainey (Captain of the Guard), Richard Kiel (Vlad)

The movie includes both strong voice talents and singing elements. Mandy Moore’s music background provided her with the confidence to deliver the innocent performance and breath life into each of her songs. Starting with her first features “When Will My Life Begin” and “I See the Light,” she brings Disney more back its roots, similar to the Princess and the Frog of the previous year. Tony award winning actress Donna Murphy provides great presence as the movie’s villain but falls short with her musical features. Zachary Levi adds numerous comedic elements as the movie’s antihero, delivering clever quips and challenging the naive nature of Rapunzel.

The interesting element of this movie in comparison to the previous year’s classic-themed Princess and the Frog is the combination of both older and newer elements. The movie was released in 3-D, which is certainly a popular trend (though not necessary to enjoy the story). The animation style was computer generated, which follows much more closely to the success exhibited by the partnership between Disney and Pixar. The musical elements of the movie are what make for some debatable perspectives. While Disney tends to include a more musical element for their traditional movies, a lot of their recent success has been more focused in solid story lines, captivating animations and memorable characters. With a voice talent like Mandy Moore, you give yourself the possibility to include songs but there is truly no need. The story is different enough from the original version that is makes for some entertaining elements. There were some songs that were solid and engaging, but some were not significant to the movie’s potential.

I honestly enjoyed the overall movie, in particular the playfulness of the sweet girl and the unsuspectingly, light-hearted thief.

Dan’s Rating: 3.5/5

In a land of violence and mayhem, a young viking who just does not seem to belong searches for his place and his father’s love. Hiccup seems to be the kid who is too smart for his own good, making inventions to help his village manage attacks by a swarm of dragons. One day when testing out an invention, he strikes a unique dragon which he later names Toothless. As they begin to test each other’s intentions, they continue to develop trust and friendship, while keeping their involvement secret from his father and strong-willed warrior Astrid. With the threat increasing from the local dragon population, Hiccup looks to try creative ways to save his people. Can he trust in his new relationship with Toothless and can he show Astrid the softer side to dragons?

Starring: Jay Baruchel (Hiccup), Gerald Butler (Stoick the Vast), Craig Ferguson (Gobbler the Belch), America Ferrera (Astrid), Jonah Hill (Snotlout), Kristen Wiig (Ruffnut)

The voice talents of this film are fairly entertaining. Jay Baruchel has the greatest amount of “screen” time and provides a solid performance of a confused kid who is trying to play to the interests of his father. Complimenting Baruchel is a cast including Gerald Butler as Stoick the Vast, Craig Ferguson as Gobbler the Belch, America Ferrera as Astrid, Jonah Hill as Snotlout and Kristen Wiig as Ruffnut. Each of them represent the strongly focused viking personalities of fight, defend, win.

The great thing about many modern animated features is the ability for people of all ages to connect with them. Besides the voice talents, the story has a number of comedic elements that both appeal to all ages and have more mature elements for parents and older patrons to enjoy. Coming from the children’s series dealing with vikings and dragons, this adaptation combines elements of the first two books into one tale that introduces the concept of training dragons to the viking village. Author Cressida Cowell actually approves of this rendition of the story as it flows together well. Post-Shrek, this film helps to keep Dreamworks in the mix for strong animated feature production.

I was not sure about seeing this movie originally but felt the story, voice acting and comedy provide an entertaining experience.

Dan’s Rating: 3.5/5

The first movie saw Andy’s toys getting used to a newcomer. The second one was an adventure to save Woody from the toy collector. The third movie brings everyone’s favorite toys back to the big screen for one more adventure. Woody, Buzz and the gang have had a full life with Andy, but with the coming departure to college, their time together is soon at an end. Mysteriously finding themselves at Sunnyside Daycare, they get the chance to meet a number of new toys and have a whole class of kids to play with. Even with this perfect new opportunity in front of them, Woody quickly realizes his anxiety with being separated from Andy and desires the try anything to get back to him. Still, something seems odd at the new digs and Andy’s toys begin to learn there is something sinister about the leadership at the daycare.

Starring: Tom Hanks (Woody), Tim Allen (Buzz Lightyear), Joan Cusack (Jessie), Ned Beatty (Lotso), Don Rickles (Mr. Potato Head), Michael Keaton (Ken), John Ratzenberger (Hamm), Estelle Harris (Mrs. Potato Head), John Morris (Andy), Jodi Benson (Barbie), Blake Clark (Slinky Dog), Emily Hahn (Bonnie)

The animation between the first and third movies is like night and day. The first movie was excellent for the time it was released, but the third movie has a crispness and detail rivaled by few animated features. Tom Hanks and Tim Allen bring like to the main characters and are as animated in their vocal presence as the animation on screen. Michael Keaton’s role as Ken and Jodi Benson as Barbie have a great back and forth love dialogue that plays both to the longtime relationship of the toy couple in real retail life and the more recent split between Mattel’s pairing. Ned Beatty, Wallace Shawn and Don Rickles all provide a great compliment to the great cast and story.

When thinking about sequels (especially the third of a series), the quality of the film struggles to live up to the original. With the new trend of 3D, there was also the fear of the movie relying too much on the technology and not considering the value of the story. Neither of these things were issues for Toy Story 3. Thinking about the lifecycle of toys, ending up in a daycare was a great way to extend the story to finish the trilogy. Combining that with the real life experience of a child leaving home for college, this movie delivers great humor and even better emotional connections with finding the best way to say goodbye.

Personally, there is little room for improvement with this movie. I got teary eyed both times seeing this film in the theater with the great combination of story, life connections, music by Randy Newman and perfect voice talents by the lead actors.

Dan’s Rating: 4.5/5