Working at the Car Wash

Shark Tale is the movie equivalent of “Sleeping with the fishes.” Next to Antz, the second most obvious DreamWorks Animation copycat movie is definitely Shark Tale. It only came out a year after Finding Nemo, but it’s obvious which one is better. Shark Tale is objectively the worst DreamWorks animated movie ever made. It has a serious identity crisis that mixes everything that worked for Shrek with serious adult themes, a celebrity cast, and lowest common denominator pop culture references. Think “gangster” meets “gangsta” with anthropomorphic humanoid fish people. I know it’s technically bad, but I still really enjoy Shark Tale even now. Not enough to think it deserved a Best Animated Feature nomination (it was a slow year), but I was 9 when my dad took my brother and I to see it. So it was still a prominent edition in my DVD collection. Even though it took me several years to fully understand the bizarre amount of mob movie references.

I wasn’t even into hip hop at the time, so my main draw was Will Smith. He bares an uncomfortable resemblance to his bluestreak cleaner wrasse character Oscar. Smith does his thing, but I’m sure he’s just as embarrassed as most of the other celebrities in the movie. Shark Tale is at least 60% fish puns (Katie Current for example). Complete with fish themed real world advertisements. Oscar is a lowly tongue scrubber at the local Whale Wash. He uses get rich quick schemes in an effort to reach the top of the reef. Renée Zellweger brings her usual best to angelfish Angie. The typical nice girl coworker secretly in love with the lead. Most fish give Oscar a hard time including his boss’ right hands Ernie and Bernie the Jamaican jellyfish. Despite being a kids movie, several gangster movie/TV heavyweights lend their voice to shark mob families. Robert De Niro is shark Don Lino and Martin Scorsese himself voices Oscar’s pufferfish boss Sykes. Oscar’s biggest problem is getting in deep with loan sharks and having to pay back his boss at the seahorse track. Which attracts the attention of Angelina Jolie as sexy lionfish gold digger Lola.

The plot kicks in when Oscar’s story intersects with Don Lino’s sons Frankie and the far less fearsome Lenny. Pre-Po Jack Black voices gay metaphor Lenny who just wants to be a vegetarian. He also dresses like a dolphin later on if it wasn’t obvious. When Frankie is killed by an anchor, Oscar takes credit as the “Sharkslayer.” Turning him into a rich somebody, but when Lenny swims back into his life, they become unlikely friends and keep the lie going. Until the mob catches up to them and the lie comes out. Ending in another big Shrek or Shrek 2 style party complete with a hip hop version of “Car Wash” sung by fish Missy Elliot and jellyfish Christina Aguilera. Apart from some genuinely fun bits like the shrimp scene, it’s mostly a bunch of unnecessary gross out gags. The computer animation has the underwater look, but it’s actually pretty ugly to look at. Fish faces will probably creep out the uninitiated. The hip hop soundtrack has several classics, but it’s just as out of place as everything else. Shark Tale is a fishy guilty pleasure that DreamWorks probably wants to forget.

6. Shark Tale

Oscar makes a plan with Lenny

Ogre Babies

Shrek the Third is the royally designated third installment in the ever growing Shrek franchise. I continued to enjoy all DreamWorks Animation movies regardless of quality, but even at 11 I couldn’t pretend to enjoy Shrek the Third. It wasn’t half the classic that Shrek or Shrek 2 were. Similar to the closely released Spider-Man trilogy, the first movie is great, the second movie is better, and the third movie is a complete disappointment. Shrek the Third has its moments, but their mistake was forgetting what made Shrek so good in the first place. There’s an overreliance on childish humor, pop culture references are more cringy, and the soundtrack isn’t that memorable. My brother and I were still on board and Shrek the Third was actually the last movie our dad took us to see as a chaperone. Even though we were starting to see movies by ourselves at that point, my dad still wanted to see what came next for Shrek. I’m not sure if it’s the director change, but Shrek the Third barely feels like the same franchise. Even with Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, and Antonio Banderas returning, none of them are as funny as usual.

Naturally the next choice of villain has to be Rupert Everett returning as Prince Charming. He’s on a quest for revenge against Shrek for killing his Fairy Godmother mother and taking his kingdom from him. So Charming devises a plan with other fairy tale villains at the Poison Apple to seize the throne. Villains include Captain Hook, the Evil Queen, Rumplestiltskin, enchanted trees, dwarfs (for some reason), and other ugly stepsister Mabel voiced by other talk show personality Regis Philbin. Another problem with Shrek the Third is their over reliance of celebrity voices outside of the main cast. Meanwhile in Far Far Away, Shrek is forced to do kingly responsibilities with his wife Fiona, Donkey, and Puss in Boots’ help. Donkey’s dronkey babies are featured characters now too. Since Shrek is still just an ogre, he’d much prefer someone else be king. After Frog King Harold’s seriously drawn out death, Shrek, Donkey, and Puss set out to find the remaining heir. King Arthur of course. Things just get complicated when Shrek and Fiona’s marriage makes the next obvious progression. As Shrek deals with the nightmare of being an ogre father, Fiona is having her own ladies only party. The most on the nose Disney jab by far is the somewhat unflattering use of various Princesses.

Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Amy Sedaris, and Cheri Oteri join the cast as Snow White, Rapunzel, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty. In a group that also includes Queen Lillian, Doris, and already familiar fairy tale creatures Gingy, Pinocchio, the Three Little Pigs, and Big Bad Wolf. Their material is especially lame, but the badass scene with the Princesses is pretty fun. Rapunzel is unsurprisingly working with Charming since she wasn’t a Disney Princess at the time. All the while Shrek, Donkey, and Puss visit Worcestershire Academy where we’re treated to a whole bunch of Arthurian high school jokes. There’s teenage Gwen and Lancelot, but Shrek is only here for Artie. Justin Timberlake does his thing, but he was really more singer than actor at the time. Artie’s main purpose is helping Shrek explore parenthood. They get help from a cooky Merlin voiced by Eric Idle who accidentally causes Puss and Donkey to switch places. It doesn’t add much. The climax is Charming attempting to assassinate Shrek live on stage. Artie uses diplomacy to turn the villains to good and Dragon finishes off Charming. Ending with Shrek and Fiona having ogre triplets back at the swamp. The only moderately memorable song is Puss and Donkey singing “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” during the credits. The computer animation has an old fashioned charm, but most of it was wasted on a lackluster story. Shrek the Third should be kept far far away from the franchise.

10. Shrek the Third

Shrek and Fiona get dolled up

Preceded by: Shrek 2 & Followed by: Shrek Forever After

Far Far Away

Shrek 2 is the first of many DreamWorks Animation sequels. After a minor slump of poorly performing traditionally animated movies, Shrek 2 became the highest grossing animated movie at the time. With a nearly billion dollar box-office gross. Ensuring the studios exclusive focus on computer animation for years to come. If Shrek is the Toy Story of DreamWorks, then Shrek 2 is their Toy Story 2. Even after 3 years, Shrek 2 managed to be a rare sequel that matched or even surpassed the original. Ogre mania was in full effect once again in 2004. The only major Shrek media at the time was the Universal attraction Shrek 4-D.

Which took place immediately after the first movie with the ghost of Lord Farquaad haunting the cast. With that plot thread out of the way, Shrek 2 made an effort to do something different. While at the same time polishing its computer animation. So they did a fairy tale take on Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Sensing a hit, the three main stars Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, and Eddie Murphy all requested a raise. Shrek 2 doubled the Disney parodies, pop culture references, and songs on its contemporary soundtrack. While remaining sincere enough to earn another Best Animated Feature nomination. They lost to Pixar again, but that doesn’t make Shrek 2 any less of an accomplishment…

4. Shrek 2

Shrek, Donkey, and Fiona travel to Far Far Away

Shrek 2 was every bit the childhood favorite Shrek was. It was just a prominent edition in my DVD collection instead of VHS collection. Since 3 years passed, I was 8 years old when my dad took my brother and I to see Shrek 2 in theaters. I remember the experience a lot better since there was a couple of chatty old ladies in the audience. That didn’t take away from the absolutely hilarious sequel. It helped that I was older and able to pick up on pop culture references a lot better. This time there’s way more than just friendly jabs at Disney. Once upon a time, Princess Fiona was cursed by a witch to become an ogre every night. What we don’t know is that her parents made a deal with a Fairy Godmother to have Prince Charming rescue her. Right off the bat I recognized Rupert Everett’s devilishly charming voice as Prince Charming. Like Fiona, Charming is another direct critique of Disney Princes. Since Charming is a pompous airhead who only cares about his looks. He’s a little late in saving Fiona when he discovers the Big Bad Wolf in her place.

Shrek and Fiona are already well into their honeymoon at the Witch’s gingerbread house. Shrek farts his way back into our hearts with a romantically gross honeymoon with appearances from Little Red Riding Hood, the Little Mermaid, fairies, dwarfs, and parodies of The Lord of Rings and Spider-Man. It’s a delightfully cynical sequence set to the catchy tune of Best Original Song nominee “Accidentally in Love” by Counting Crows. Unlike most fairy tales, Shrek 2 takes place after happily ever after. Shrek and Fiona are happily married, but face relationship problems when they receive a royal invitation from the King and Queen of Far Far Away. Of course Donkey is still around to talk everyone’s ear off. Shrek reluctantly takes the far far away trip in their onion carriage to see the In-laws. It’s just as awkward as you’d expect. Adding to the already perfect cast are the respectable John Cleese and Julie Andrews as King Harold and Queen Lillian.

They’re admittedly shocked to see Fiona married to an ogre, but the Queen isn’t dismissive like the King. Their royal feast is a hilarious comedy of errors made better by Donkey’s presence. Unfortunately, it’s not what Fiona was hoping for. So she unintentionally contacts her Fairy Godmother with a tear. The Fairy Godmother is quite the character. She’s showy with a demanding attitude and treats her job like a business. I’m not too familiar with Jennifer Saunders, but she was perfectly cast as the normally good fairy with an ulterior motive. Turns out the Fairy Godmother is Prince Charming’s mom who made a deal with the King in exchange for his own happily ever after. The King reluctantly honors their deal by hiring a sleazy hitman to wack Shrek. He enters the Poison Apple full of fairy tale villains like Captain Hook, enchanted trees, the Headless Horseman, and one of the ugly stepsisters. Doris is made funnier by her masculine appearance and Larry King voice.

The King hires a shadowy figure with a Spanish accent and has Shrek meet him in the forest. Shrek tries to make an effort with Fiona’s parents after reading her diary full of “Mrs. Fiona Charming” passages. Shrek and Donkey instead come face to face with the biggest scene stealer in Shrek 2. Puss in Boots is an existing fairy tale character who actually faced an ogre in his story. Antonio Banderas turned him into an adorable orange swashbuckling latin lover cat with a feathered hat, sword, and cute little boots. Puss is by far the best new character since the original trio. He humorously attacks Shrek, but melts his heart with his signature cat eyes. Donkey is understandably threatened by another talking animal companion. Fortunately Puss was just what their duo needed. Shrek is willing to do anything for Fiona, so he uses Donkey’s tear to contact the Fairy Godmother.

They travel to her potion factory with hopes of making Shrek the man of Fiona’s dreams, but the Fairy Godmother is definitely the villain of the story. Instead they break into her potion stash and Puss obtains “Happily Ever After” potion. A potion that’ll make you and your true love beautiful. Shrek and Donkey take the potion with gassy results. “Better out than in I always say.” I’ll never forget my shock when they both wake up the next day. Shrek is turned into a handsome human and Donkey is turned into a majestic stallion for the remainder of the movie. Fairy tale lasses faun over Shrek and he’s finally accepted by villagers. The spell was also an opportunity to get Fiona back to human form. Unfortunately, Prince Charming got to her before Shrek did. Fairy Godmother manipulates Shrek into leaving and wallowing in the Poison Apple. However, things change when they discover Godmother’s plan to force Fiona to fall in love with Charming using a love potion.

The royal ball is a star studded affair hosted by Joan Rivers herself with the likes of Hansel & Gretel, Tom Thumb, Thumbelina, and Sleeping Beauty as guests. Meanwhile, Gingy, Pinocchio, the Three Little Pigs, Big Bad Wolf, and Three Blind Mice are all at the swamp watching the show on the Magic Mirror. They turn to a hilarious parody of Cops called Knights where Shrek, Donkey, and Puss are maced by a pepper grater and sent to the dungeon. One Mission: Impossible parody later, the fairy tale posse frees the trio with the help of Pinocchio’s lady’s underwear. The next plan is to use Gingy’s relation to the Muffin Man to bake a giant gingerbread man named Mongo. The action packed climax is full of great jokes like the Starbucks gag and Mongo’s Godzilla roar, but it’s made better by the best rendition of “I Need a Hero” ever recorded. Every fairy tale creature uses their skills to get the Fairy Godmother’s wand. It seems like it’s too late when Charming kisses Fiona, but luckily the King made the right decision. He sacrifices himself to deflect Fairy Godmother’s magic onto her and he’s revealed to have been the Frog Prince all along.

The Queen still accepts him for who he is and so does Fiona. Shrek and Fiona turn back into ogres, but Donkey doesn’t have much of a choice. It’s still a fiesta though, so Puss and Donkey team up to deliver another infectious final party number of “Livin’ La Vida Loca.” And they once again lived happily ever after. Until a mid-credit scene cameo for Dragon that reveals why she was absent. Turns out Donkey and Dragon somehow managed to have mutant dragon-donkey babies. The weirdness doesn’t stop there. The DVD also came with a bizarre American Idol parody short called Far Far Away Idol. Where Simon Cowell himself has you vote on performance’s done by the movie’s fairy tale contestants. Shrek 2 can’t touch the original, but it is a major improvement. The computer animation is so much better with a much larger cast of humans. Existing characters like human Fiona are polished a bit with a more refined appearance. Hair, clothing, and Puss in Boots’ fur were given the most attention to detail. Far Far Away is a great new location that sets up an even more epic conclusion. Shrek 2 accidentally became the most successful computer animated DreamWorks movie ever made.

5. Shrek 2

Shrek travels with Donkey and Puss in Boots

Preceded by: Shrek & Followed by: Shrek the Third

What are You Doing in My Swamp?!

Shrek is the greatest subversion of fairy tales I’ve ever seen. Although it’s technically their fifth production and second computer animated film, Shrek will always be the poster ogre for DreamWorks Animation. Since Shrek was the first animated movie to win the much needed Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Making them genuine competition for Disney and Pixar. I may have grown up loving all things Disney, but DreamWorks was never far behind. Despite the obvious heated rivalry between the studios. Shrek! was originally a crudely drawn children’s book by William Steig.

Steven Spielberg himself bought the rights with the intention of making it a traditionally animated movie. Former disgruntled Disney chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg promptly acquired the rights to Shrek and intended to make a computer animated movie with Chris Farley as the ogre. When Farly passed away, the role was recast instead. So fellow SNL star Mike Myers took over and the rest is history. The humorous spin on fairy tales may take several jabs at Disney, but Shrek works because they never forget to tell a sincere story with a genuinely lovable unlikely hero. We have Shrek to thank for popularizing innuendos in kids movies, pop culture references, and upbeat pop music soundtracks for animation…

2. Shrek

Shrek explains layers to Donkey

Shrek was a very prominent edition in my VHS collection growing up. The tape included a fun karaoke short film. I was 5 when Shrek came out in 2001, but I remember every detail of seeing it. My dad took my brother and I to see it in theaters and we’ve been watching it non-stop ever since. We bought Shrek toys, merchandise, and I frequently quoted the movie around the school yard. Shrek is practically the animated movie of my generation. Since its inspired countless memes and a large internet presence. DreamWorks really knew what they were doing when they created Shrek. Once upon a time, there lived a beautiful princess trapped in a castle guarded by a dragon awaiting true love’s kiss. At least that’s how it would start if Shrek wasn’t the one reading the fairy tale.

With a flush of a toilet we’re given one of the greatest animated character entrances of all time. As Shrek goes about his gross morning routine to the tune of “All Star” by Smash Mouth. Shrek is the most iconic ogre of all time. He’s a fantasy creature that hasn’t gotten much attention in the past. Shrek is large with distinctly green skin, trademark horn ears, a snazzy fairy tale outfit, and is far less hideous than his book counterpart. Although Chris Farley gave it his all, Mike Myers will always be Shrek. Using his signature Scottish accent was a stroke of genius that made Shrek an even bigger icon worthy of imitating. Like most ogres, Shrek spreads fear and just wants to be left alone in his swamp home. Until fairy tale creatures end up on his doorstep.

All well known fairy tale creatures are outlawed by the kingdom. There’s the Seven Dwarfs, Tinkerbell, the Three Bears, the Three Little Pigs, and even Gepetto giving away a lying Pinocchio. I love Disney, but I can’t resist a good joke at their expense. The most out of place creature is a certain talking jackass named Donkey. Eddie Murphy is no stranger to voicing animated comic relief, but his comedy stylings are perfectly suited for the adult edge of DreamWorks. When Shrek and Donkey literally run into each other, it starts one of the funniest buddy duos in animation history. Their initial meeting is so quotable that Shrek was also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay. A rare Oscar acknowledgment for animation. Shrek sees Donkey as just another annoyance at first, but they’re forced to be together when his swamp fills up with even more fairy tale creatures. Including the Three Blind Mice, the Big Bad Wolf, the Good Fairies, and so much more.

They’re all thrown out of the kingdom by the villainous Lord Farquaad. A not so subtle jab at current Disney chairman Michael Eisner. Farquaad is a diminutive little creep who hates fairy tale creatures and wants to be king. John Lithgow makes him all the more hilarious with his torture of poor Gingerbread Man Gingy. Their “Muffin Man” exchange is comedy gold. Farquaad uses the Magic Mirror to find a princess à la The Dating Game. His choices are Cinderella, Snow White, and the original Princess Fiona. His scene stealing minion Thelonious helps him make the obvious choice. Farquaad’s kingdom is a further jab at Disneyland complete with mascot and an annoyingly catchy “It’s a Small World” parody. Shrek starts to win over the crowd when he and Donkey beat a bunch of Farquaad’s knights pro wrestling style.

Although his only intention was getting his swamp back, Shrek is instead sent on a quest to rescue Princess Fiona. Shrek and Donkey eventually make it to the dark and spooky castle. The Dragon seems like a major threat, but all that changes when Donkey discovers she’s a girl dragon. Starting one of the weirdest interspecies relationships in movie history. Shrek makes it to the tallest tower, but an ogre wasn’t exactly what Fiona was expecting. Of course the most Disney jokes come from Princess Fiona. Whether she’s exploding a bird with her singing or awaiting true love’s kiss. However, Fiona is a tough sassy princess with a red braid and signature green dress. Cameron Diaz rounds out the early 2000’s cast with some of her best work yet. Fiona judges Shrek for being an ogre until she overhears him talking to Donkey at night. Shrek has layers just like an onion and only wants to be accepted.

So Shrek and Fiona start to bond over their shared grossness. Gross out gags work really well when the lead character is an ogre. Fiona shows another side of her when a French Robin Hood tries to sweep her off her feet, then sings his impromptu theme song. One Matrix parody later, Fiona shows off her unexpected fighting skills. They may be an ogre and a human, but Shrek and Fiona’s unconventional budding romance is genuinely sweet. Until sundown ruins it for the both of them. Since it turns out Fiona secretly becomes an ogre every night. A misunderstanding keeps them apart, but Donkey talks some sense into Shrek, and Dragon helps them stop the wedding. Farquaad is finally defeated when Dragon eats him and the spell is broken with true love’s kiss.

Except the twist is Fiona remaining an ogre and both of them accepting each other for who they are. A big fairy tale party breaks out as Shrek and Fiona are married to the infectious tune of “I’m a Believer” and they lived happily ever after. Shrek has a strong story, hilarious jokes, and an awesome soundtrack, but none of it would’ve mattered without equally amazing animation. The computer animation has aged surprisingly well since 2001. The Pacific Data Images animation used by DreamWorks was pretty much on par with Pixar. The difference was how realistic they tried to make hair, fur, clothing, and skin. Although humans can be a bit rough at times, they make up for it with several well rendered fairy tale backgrounds and locations. Shrek is a pop culture phenomenon that put DreamWorks on the map.

3. Shrek

Shrek bonds with Princess Fiona

Followed by: Shrek 2

Prom Tonight!

Not Another Teen Movie is the answer to the non-stop teen movies made around 1999. Since I absolutely love cheesy cliché filled teen movies, I knew I needed to see Not Another Teen Movie. Even though modern parody movies are usually terrible. It’s a guilty pleasure that’s better if you marathon all the major teen movies being spoofed like I did. They cleverly call out clichés and assign a different teen stereotype to each character. While at the same time relying on raunchy jokes and toilet humor. Similar to Scary Movie before it. The main parody is She’s All That. Chyler Leigh is Janey, the clearly attractive uniquely rebellious girl who wears glasses and a ponytail. Chris Evans is Jake, the popular jock dealing with football problems.

That’s where Varsity Blues comes in. With Billy Bob himself spoofing his own character. Jake’s other friends are the blonde jerk and token black guy who spouts catchphrases. Janey’s father is a poor alcoholic like in Pretty in Pink and her brother Mitch mostly parodies American Pie with his friends. Since they’re all trying to lose their virginity before prom. Mitch’s crush parodies Can’t Hardly Wait complete with house party. Janey’s desperate weirdo friend parodies 10 Things I Hate About You. Jake’s sexually charged blood related sister parodies Cruel Intentions. Jake’s ex is a mean girl cheerleader that parodies Bring it On. Complete with more obviously stolen dance moves.

A much older woman parodies Never Been Kissed. Along with a more disgusting parody of the Cruel Intentions kiss. The raunchiest joke is the sexy foreign exchange student being completely naked. The most memorable joke will always be Chris Evans doing a gender swapped parody of the whipped cream scene from Varsity Blues. Future Captain America everybody. The strongest part of Not Another Teen Movie are the unexpected cameos. Including Paul Gleason doing a humorous recreation of The Breakfast Club and “Teen Queen” Molly Ringwald calling out her own clichés in an airport. I can do without the gross out gags, but the rest of Not Another Teen Movie really understands ridiculous teen movies.

Not Another Teen Movie

Jake attempts to seduce Janey

No Humans Allowed

District 9 puts a science fiction spin on “illegal aliens.” Based on the short film Alive in Joburg, first time director Neill Blomkamp sought to make an alien invasion as realistic as possible. By using themes of xenophobia and segregation. Along with parallels to South African Apartheid. Although Peter Jackson produced District 9, his original intention was to make a Halo movie. When that didn’t work out, weapons were recycled and Blomkamp decided to expand on his short film instead. District 9 has a very unique portrayal of aliens landing on Earth.

Instead of America, Prawns land in Johannesburg with the sole intention of seeking refuge. So they receive it in the Prawn only slums of District 9. The cast of unknowns and documentary style is so convincing, you’d swear Prawns were real. Prawns are unsightly cockroach-like aliens that love cat food and speak in clicks that humans are somehow able to understand. Although humanity is meant to fear them, the Prawns are more sympathetic than any human in the movie. Blomkamp’s buddy Sharlto Copley plays MNU alien affairs agent Wikus. He’s mostly indifferent to the Prawn struggle, but all that changes when he’s exposed to alien goo.

Wikus has a very unexpected mutation that makes him the target of cannibalistic Nigerian gangs and rogue mercenaries in District 9. Wikus is still kind of a jerk, so I connected with Prawn scientist Christopher Johnson and his son a lot more. Christopher’s primary goal is to fly up to his spaceship and save his people, but he does promise to cure Wikus (in 3 years!). The Prawn weapons are impressive and lead to an explosive conclusion that I’m still waiting to see a sequel for. While District 9 was definitely worthy of a Best Picture nomination and underrated compared to other 2009 alien movie Avatar, the rough South African style can get really uncomfortable. Exactly what makes District 9 so effective.

District 9

Wilkus evicts a prawn

I’m Allergic to Cinnamon

The Game Plan opens the playbook of love. Fatherly love that is. Before his acting career really took off, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was starring in kid friendly family movies. The Game Plan was his first family comedy, but last movie to include his wrestling name. It was apparently the last Disney movie under the Buena Vista name as well. I didn’t watch The Game Plan when I was younger since I wasn’t a fan of football or the “Tough guy cares for child” trope. It’s cute, but not something I would’ve enjoyed when I was a kid.

Joe Kingsman is a player on the field and off. He’s an Elvis fan and star quarterback with a carefree bachelor lifestyle. The Rock does his best to maintain his charisma. He’s gonna need it when the scene stealing daughter he never knew winds up on his doorstep. Peyton is adorable, but Disney star Madison Pettis isn’t always convincing. Even by precocious kid standards. They get into the usual father-daughter antics.

She puts his bulldog in a tutu, bedazzles his stuff, and humorously gives him an allergic reaction to cinnamon. Joe teaches Peyton all about a football game plan, but there’s actually not much football in the movie. More time is spent on Joe learning ballet for his daughter. The Game Plan is a bit overly long and gets pretty serious near the end. If you’re fine with a predictable playoff, then The Game Plan may still be a game for the whole family. ❌⭕❌⭕

The Game Plan

Joe celebrates his big win with Peyton

Wolf Pack Abs

The Twilight Saga: New Moon set werewolves back in almost the same way. Stephanie Meyer found herself so attached to the story she created, that New Moon was written before Twilight was even published. Her sudden appreciation for Jacob Black caused her to give him way more attention. The title New Moon refers to the darkest time of day and darker theme. The flower petal book cover is mostly meaningless. Twilight was still so popular that every sequel was set for consecutive release. New Moon was just given the pre-title The Twilight Saga for general audiences. The new Golden Compass director Chris Weitz gave New Moon more of a golden color palette. The sequel was even harder to ignore, but I continued to only see it on DVD. While teenage girls continued gushing over Edward Cullen, another attractive monster came along to establish an engrossing love triangle. Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart once again win the MTV Movie Award with their passionate kiss, but they’re just as bland as ever. Although Bella and Edward are still obsessively in love, they suddenly break up after a bloody incident on her birthday. Jasper can’t control his thirst, but it doesn’t stop Alice from becoming even better friends with Bella.

Carlisle and Esme are still caring protectors, while Rosalie and Emmett are downplayed a bit. Alice is the only vampire Bella writes to since she completely shuts out her human friends Jessica, Mike, Angela, and Eric. Charlie is still a scene stealer, but he also has to deal with his daughter’s constant night terrors. Bella is easily the worst in New Moon. Since she shuts down after Edward leaves and turns to life threatening situations in order to hallucinate seeing him. Poor human Mike tries to woo Bella with the stupidly titled movie Face Punch, but the only person that makes Bella feel better is Jacob. The biggest draw for female fans was the suddenly ripped Taylor Lautner. Jacob is almost always shirtless since he’s revealed to be a werewolf. The New Moon portrayal of werewolves is “unique” to say the least. Vampires continue to have a strong presence, but it’s really their turn in the moonlight. Bella and Jacob form a genuinely believable bond despite Lautner also being a terrible actor. We learn that all werewolves are from the Native American Quileute tribe. So it’s at least good for giving those actors a chance in a major movie. The most high profile actor being Graham Greene as Charlie’s friend Harry Clearwater.

Unlike their natural enemies, werewolves are warm with enhanced strength and become giant CGI wolves when angry. Just try not to think about the fact that they always rip out of their clothes, yet still end up in shorts. Jacob’s pack leader is Sam Uley. His scarred fiancé Emily shows Bella what her life would be like if she chose Jacob. Though the pack maintains a treaty with the vegetarian Cullens, they don’t hesitate to kill Laurent and hunt a vengeful Victoria. But that’s not all we see of the vampires. Edward believes Bella to be dead, so Alice returns with a vision of Edward killing himself in Italy. It’s there that we learn all about vampire politics. The Volturi maintain a law that prevents vampires from being exposed to the world. Among its primary members are Michael Sheen as their eccentric leader Aro and Dakota Fanning grown into the evil pain inducing Jane. Bella dramatically chooses to die for Edward. Ensuring her transformation into a vampire. Jacob isn’t happy about that, but Edward proposes to Bella anyway. New Moon is just like Romeo & Juliet, but no one should aspire to this love story.

3. New Moon

Bella leads Jacob on

Preceded by: Twilight & Followed by: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

Still a Better Love Story than Twilight

Twilight set vampires back for nearly a decade. Starting the trend of attractive modern vampires with deep romantic feelings. A far cry from the irredeemable monsters they were in the past. Stephanie Meyer got the idea of a vampire falling in love with a human girl from a dream. The book was named Twilight after the partially darkened time of day. With the iconic cover being hands holding an apple that represents the theme of Forbidden Fruit. Twilight is perhaps the most embarrassing phenomenon to occur in the late 2000’s.

It was a YA best seller that so many teenage girls I knew were obsessed with. So a movie was quickly made just as the saga finished in 2008. Meyer was kept as a close consultant with Thirteen director Catherine Hardwicke and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg maintaining a female presence. Unlike Harry Potter, I was at least old enough to make my own decision about seeing Twilight. Being 13 at the time, I knew I couldn’t ignore the craze forever. So I personally watched it on DVD not long after its release. While I wouldn’t call myself a Twihard fan, Twilight is still genuinely mesmerizing in a good, but mostly bad way…

1. Twilight

Bella realizes Edward is a vampire

Twilight condenses its 500 page story, but manages to stay faithful to the novel. To the point that overly poetic narration from series lead Isabella “Bella” Swan will become a very common plot element. Bella is one of the most unlikable heroines in all of literature. Though she’s meant to be an average 17 year old with insecurities, Bella’s decisions make her seem more selfish and/or obsessive. Kristen Stewart guaranteed Bella would stand out since her unique mannerisms are always on display. Stewart is so awkward with her almost painful line delivery, hair touching, sighing, and vacant expressions. Though I had seen her in at least 3 other movies, Twilight was when I realized how bad her performances can be. Bella moves from her sunny home in Phoenix, Arizona to the constantly overcast Forks, Washington. Leaving her enthusiastic mother to stay with her old fashioned police chief father Charlie. Billy Burke easily gives the most underrated performance with his deadpan fatherly attitude.

Although Bella is fairly attractive, the sudden barrage of boys wanting to ask her out is hard to believe. Poor Mike never stood a chance and neither does Eric or Tyler. Bella’s only girl friends are the chatty Jessica and shy Angela. I knew Christian Serratos from Ned’s Declassified, but most people forget this was Anna Kendrick’s first recognizable role. Long before joining the Bellas, Kendrick was introducing Bella to the Cullen family. The Twilight portrayal of vampires is “unique” to say the least. All vampires are beautiful with mostly gold eyes and pale skin. Although the ghostly blue color palette makes everyone look pale. After his brief but crucial role in Harry Potter, Robert Pattinson earned the affection of millions of screaming fans as the 17 year old looking Edward Cullen. While at the same time being hated by almost every serious vampire enthusiast.

Edward is overwhelmed with thirst for Bella’s blood, but he softens up after their next biology class. It’s not until the pivotal moment when Bella is nearly crushed by a car that he shows his supernatural abilities. Edward is impossibly fast and strong, his skin is pale white and ice cold, but he’s not like other vampires. It’s only after the iconic woods scene that we really find out what that means. These vampires don’t have fangs, can blatantly be seen in mirrors, are only killed through ice-like dismemberment followed by burning, and sparkle in the sunlight. Easily the most ridiculous thing Twilight ever did to vampires. But at least they make up for it by giving vampires superpowers. Apart from super speed and super strength, some vampires possess unique gifts. Edward can read everyone’s mind except Bella’s.

Their mutual infatuation sparks a romance for the ages. Represented by a series of intense stares and Edward creepily sneaking into Bella’s room to watch her sleep. Not to mention the fact that Edward is over 100 years old. The obvious warning signs aren’t enough to keep Bella away though. Not even when her childhood best friend Jacob Black warns her about the Cullens. Jacob is a Quileute Native American living on a Reservation with his wheelchair bound father Billy. Even with long hair I recognized Sharkboy himself Taylor Lautner. Though Jacob’s role is small with only vague mentions of his tribe’s connection to wolves. It’s really all about the Cullen family who live in a cool glass house and consider themselves to be vegetarian. Since they only live on animal blood. Carlisle is the family patriarch and trusted town physician effectively played by Peter Facinelli. Esme is the family matriarch affectionately played by Elizabeth Reaser.

Their “children” are Alice, her mate Jasper, Rosalie, and her mate Emmet. Ashley Greene stands out the most since Alice is infectiously high spirited and possesses the useful power to see into the future. Friend of the director Nikki Reed is more hostile towards Bella as Rosalie. While Kellan Lutz is just right for carefree meathead Emmet. Jackson Rathbone only stands out for Jasper’s difficulty with controlling his human blood thirst. Other than that, the Cullens are a pretty normal family. They just have to move a lot, never go out in the sun, and continually attend high school. Which makes no sense the more you think about it. Edward and Bella only share one passionate MTV Movie Award winning kiss, but Edward risists giving in to his urges for as long as he can. Until a game of vampire baseball (which is impossible to take seriously).

Although they were set up early in the movie, the villains arrive almost at the last minute. Cam Gigandet is James, a highly skilled vampire tracker and leader of his nomad coven. Rachelle Lefevre is his alluring mate Victoria and Edi Gathegi is the more refined Laurent. When James catches Bella’s scent, he does everything in his power to hunt her. Including trick her into thinking he’s holding her mother at her childhood ballet studio. The Cullens do their best to protect Bella, but she still ends up cornered. Edward comes to the rescue just as James bites her. Although Bella could’ve become a vampire right then and there, Edward sucks out the venom with enormous difficulty.

Just in time to attend the prom and receive a cryptic message from Jacob. In the end, Bella is still determined to become a vampire and forever be with the vampire she loves. Obviously, Twilight isn’t a romance to aspire to. Not just because it’s between a vampire and human. So many memes have been made about how literally anything is a better love story than Twilight. I still wouldn’t deny Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson’s chemistry. Which carried over into real life. The humor also works whether intentional or not. But I think the music probably had the most work put into it. From the piano theme “Bella’s Lullaby” to the Pattinson sung “Let Me Sign.” Plus Edward recreating the book’s apple cover in the cafeteria is fun. Twilight sank its teeth into cinema whether we liked it or not.

2. Twilight

Bella sees Edward sparkle

Followed by: The Twilight Saga: New Moon

Beware the Darkseekers

I Am Legend is the third and only adaptation to bare the name of Richard Matheson’s original novel. Another adaptation after The Omega Man was in development ever since the 90’s. Many bankable leads and directors came and went, but ultimately I Am Legend was made in 2007. Legendary military scientist Robert Neville is now played by the always charismatic Will Smith. I was intrigued by I Am Legend since I was still a big Smith fan. Maybe I was just too young, but the aggressively bleak tone depressed me for awhile after I saw it. Not that I should’ve expected a virus wiping out 90% of Earth’s population to be joyful.

I Am Legend was still a box-office hit with a committed one-man performance from Smith. Neville experiments to find a cure and tries to maintain his sanity alongside his sole German Shepherd companion Sam. The empty New York City is full of animals to hunt, mannequins to talk to, and even a Batman v Superman banner that predicted the future. After vampire-zombies and mutants, I Am Legend blends both creatures together to create the Darkseekers. Animalistic nocturnal zombie-like albino mutants with gaping mouths rendered in really terrible CGI. The horror helps them appear more threatening in quieter moments.

Neville has some moments of levity, but the bleakness doesn’t let up for a second. SPOILER ALERT! His wife and daughter (played by a young Willow) are killed in an evacuation helicopter, they rip your heart out by infecting his dog, and don’t get me started on the ending. An enraged Neville is rescued by a surviving Anna and her son Ethan. They talk of a secret camp where Neville can cure the rest of the surviving humans. Instead of accept a new race that’s capable of human emotion like the much better alternate ending, the monsters are simply blown up with Neville sacrificing himself and passing his cure onto Anna. I Am Legend is too bleak for repeat viewings, but it is a well executed portrayal of a future to avoid.

I Am Legend

Robert Neville and Sam wander New York