Barnyard makes you laugh till the cows come home. Well not really, I just wanted to milk a few cow puns. Mooove over Jimmy Neutron, because there’s a new computer animated Nicktoon in town. Unlike all the other animated Nickelodeon movies, I didn’t express an interest in going to see it. Mostly because it looked too weird to me. Barnyard is about a male cow. Not a bull, but a cow with udders and everything. You don’t have to be a farmer to know all cows are female. That’s just one detail though. The animation was also a little crude. That being said, when the Nick series came on, my brother and I scrambled to watch it. Thanks to Blockbuster, we watched Barnyard the same day as the pilot for Back at the Barnyard. Barnyard centers around a barn where animals stand and talk when no one is looking. Otis is a he-cow that just wants to party with his friends. Pip the mouse, Pig the pig, Freddy the ferret, and Peck the rooster. When coyotes kill his father, it’s up to Otis to grow up and defend the farm. I personally think the TV series is a vast improvement over the movie. The series has faster jokes, better voice acting, and is more loosely inspired by the movie. Kevin James lacks the energy of his successor. While characters like a pregnant cow named Daisy are replaced by an athletic cow named Abby. Most of the movie’s jokes are immature with rare flashes of wit. Barnyard is just udder insanity.
Hey Arnold!: The Movie brought everybody’s favorite football head to the big screen. To mixed results. Hey Arnold! was a personal favorite early Nicktoon for my brother and me. We really connected to the show’s urban slice of life comedy, romance, and drama. Arnold is a football headed kid who always looks on the bright side. He lives with his wacky grandparents in a neighborhood full of quirky friends. It’s a kids show that wasn’t afraid to have complex characters and mature storylines. I would highly recommend checking the show out, but the movie is a different story. Released in the middle of season 5, it was meant to be a TV movie titled Arnold Saves the Neighborhood. But then Nickelodeon movies became big hits, so they made it theatrical instead (earning their first PG rating). Which was a bad decision considering it wasn’t as original as the other planned movie. Hey Arnold!: The Movie is about Arnold and best friend Gerald trying to save their neighborhood from a greedy businessman by becoming kid spies. Meanwhile Grandpa and the Boarders set explosives under the roads. Even the poster was derivative of the Jimmy Neutron poster. Despite that, my brother and I were very excited to see the movie. Even though the trailer gave away a major character moment. Helga is a seriously underappreciated Nick character. Both for her complicated home life and love/hate relationship with Arnold. So to see her finally reveal her love for Arnold in the trailer, was just insulting to the fans. I’ll always love seeing my favorite Nicktoons on the big screen, but Hey Arnold!: The Movie was not the movie fans deserved.
Followed by: Hey Arnold!: The Jungle Movie
Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius earned Nickelodeon its first Oscar nomination. By giving us the best computer animated boy genius of them all. Jimmy Neutron is a kid with an knack for inventions. He’s got a super-powered mind, a mechanical canine (Goddard), and he rescues the day from sure destruction. My brother and I couldn’t get enough of it. Especially my brother and our cousins who ended up watching the movie on repeat one day. So obviously Jimmy Neutron was a cutting edge Nicktoon worth talking about. Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius introduces the day-to-day life of the boy with a big brain. Jimmy’s so smart that he’s able to build a rocket, a shrink ray, and a bunch of other kid friendly inventions. Despite his intellect, Jimmy is still a kid at heart. In his first adventure, Jimmy unintentionally makes contact with a race of eggy Yokians lead by the villainous King Goobot that abducts all the parents in Retroville. Right after sneaking off to a theme park and wishing they would disappear. The kids live out their adult-free fantasies, but it’s not long before they realize they need them back. All the kids get creative and convert each theme park ride into a fleet of interstellar warships. Jimmy is joined by his best friends: Llama obsessed Carl, Ultra Lord obsessed Sheen, intellectual rival Cindy, and music obsessed Libby. Their whole space adventure is completely illogical, but tons of fun. Although nominated in the first Best Animated Feature award, I’m not sure the movie would be today. It’s really more of an hour & a half pilot for the equally awesome TV series. Yet Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius is still a total blast.
March of the Penguins is the story of love, loss, and survival from the most unlikely creatures on the planet. I’m still not the kind of guy who flocks to documentaries, but March of the Penguins was unavoidable. It’s undoubtedly the movie that sparked the strangely specific penguin craze of the late 2000’s. With an Academy Award win for Best Documentary Feature, March of the Penguins became a nature film worth watching. Of course produced by National Geographic. As narrated by Morgan Freeman’s smooth and inviting voice, March of the Penguins tells the life changing journey of the emperor penguin in the unforgivably cold Arctic winter. Penguins are actually very interesting creatures. They’re great swimmers, but they’re not fish. They’re birds, but they can’t fly. Penguins live in harsh climates and are able to survive cold temperatures for long periods of time without fish. Despite its G rating, the documentary doesn’t hold back in showing every tragedy that can befall a penguin. The main focus is on how penguins mate, protect their eggs, and separately look after their chick. Let me just say that baby penguins are just so very adorable. March of the Penguins gave me a deeper appreciation for the unseen miracles that exist in nature.
Miss Congeniality 2: Armed & Fabulous is not runway ready. Which is why I didn’t watch it immediately after the first. Weeks after Gracie Hart stopped a beauty pageant bombing, her newfound celebrity status starts to interfere with her job. So instead of fire her, the F.B.I. makes her the celebrity face of the agency. Having her go on mid-2000’s talk shows. Miss Congeniality 2 makes the mistake of giving Gracie almost nothing to do for nearly the entire movie. Since she’s not aloud to be physical. It wouldn’t be too much of a problem if she was still undercover at Miss United States. Instead she’s just become shallow and heartbroken. I’m still annoyed by love interests breaking up with the main character off screen. Sandra Bullock can’t seem to hold onto her on screen boyfriends in a sequel (*cough* Speed 2). Regina King does her best, but her frenemy interactions with Bullock are mostly cringy. When she finally comes to her senses, Gracie and Sam go undercover as a showgirl and Tina Turner respectively. In order to find the kidnaped Miss United States and the William Shatner judge. The only fun scene in the movie is the two agents dancing along to “Proud Mary.” Other than that, Miss Congeniality 2: Armed & Fabulous is barely armed and less than fabulous.
Preceded by: Miss Congeniality
Miss Congeniality invites you to glide with the next Miss United States. With a simple premise that seems far fetched, but is surprisingly based on a true story. Where a female F.B.I. agent went undercover by posing as a beauty pageant contestant. Normally I wouldn’t consider watching a movie about beauty pageants, but my mom told me it was funny. Not that I don’t have an interest in the beautiful intelligent young women who compete in Miss America or Miss Universe. Sandra Bullock plays “unattractive” F.B.I. agent Gracie Hart. She’s clumsy with unbrushed hair, no table manners, and is fully content with being just one of the guys. It isn’t until the upcoming Miss United States beauty pageant receives a bomb threat that someone in her agency has to go undercover. And that agent is the newly dubbed Gracie-Lou Freebush. Since she’s the only one who looks good in a swimsuit. Of course it helps that she’s Sandra Bullock for crying out loud. Michael Caine teaches her all the ropes. Until she makes a stunning transformation. From there Gracie tries to blend in as Miss New Jersey. She gains a newfound respect for pageants and her self-defense training even comes in handy for her talent. Miss Congeniality is mostly held together by Sandra Bullock’s charming performance. Which is good because it has a somewhat predictable romance and not every joke lands. Not even with William Shatner as a judge. That being said, Miss Congeniality can still win over the hearts of many… and world peace.
Followed by: Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous
The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz is the second Muppet movie released in the 2000’s and the last television film released before the return to theatrical films. Since the popularity of Jim Henson’s Muppets had waned in the 2000’s, this was the only place to see them. Along with a few celebrity guest appearances. I remember my brother and I just being happy to see a new Muppet movie. The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz is done in the style of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Not the 1939 original like you might expect. It’s surprisingly faithful to the book. Apart from the Muppet cast and a few other flashy changes. Like The Wiz, Dorothy and her family are black. Ashanti can sing, but an actress she is not. Instead of returning home, Dorothy just wants to be a singer. Toto is replaced by a typically funny Pepé the King Prawn. The Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion are of course played by Kermit the Frog, Gonzo, and Fozzie Bear respectively. With Miss Piggy doing quadruple duty as all four Witches. The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz is an undemanding kids film, but their is an unusual amount of innuendo. The weirdest example being an extended cameo from Quentin Tarantino! The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz is strictly for those who want to see a Muppet version of The Wizard of Oz.
The Invasion is more invasion than body snatchers. In fact, this fourth and final version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers doesn’t even use pods. Instead the invading force is made to be a generic fungus-like virus that came from a crash landed spaceship. It’s just not as interesting if they’re not technically “pod people.” Emotionless husks yes, but pods they are not. Despite this I very briefly considered going to see the movie in theaters. Since my mom had shown us the original. I stress briefly because there was no way I was going to see it with all the changes that they made. It may have been PG-13 and had more high profile stars like Nicole Kidman or Daniel Craig, but I could tell something was off about it. The Invasion this time focuses on a mother trying to rescue her son. A gender swapped Dr. Bennell discovers something is wrong when Veronica Cartwright comes to her with the usual warnings. Then a group of not pods infects her in an overly disgusting way. So she now has to spend many sleepless days trying to blend in just to find her son. Another drastic change is the idea that there’s a cure. It ends The Invasion on an overly happy note. Even if it tries to suggest humans were better off without emotion. While the atmosphere is there, The Invasion is just too generic to live up to its legacy.
Remake of: Body Snatchers
The Trumpet of the Swan is the third and final children’s book written by author E.B. White. Yet unlike Stuart Little or Charlotte’s Web, it’s likely you’ve never heard of it. The same can be said for the 2001 animated movie. Which has the lowest reception out of any of the theatrically released E.B. White films. It’s from the same guy whose directed a countless number of Swan Princess movies. I guess he’s got a thing for swans. The Trumpet of the Swan is about a trumpeter swan named Louis (like Louis Armstrong) that needs a trumpet to speak, as well as attract a mate. His father steals one for him, so Louis sets out to earn enough money to pay it off. Louis’s trumpet makes him rich and famous. Effectively solving all his problems. The biggest criticism with The Trumpet of the Swan is its inability to follow the source material. If you know E.B. White you’ll be able to tell that they played things too safe. Although even the stuff that they did follow from the book is kind of weird. I get why this isn’t his most talked about story. The lesser animation studio shows as well. While the jazzy tunes aren’t all that memorable. The voice actors are probably miscast too. The Trumpet of the Swan plays one too many foul notes to make an impression.
Charlotte’s Web (2006) is the equivalent of a modern live-action Disney remake. Bare in mind that this is still a Nickelodeon movie. I just find the similarities to be too much to ignore. While E.B. White’s other story Stuart Little was first done in live-action, Charlotte’s Web was a different story. Instead they chose the easier route of animation. So several years later in a move that surely drew Babe comparisons, a live-action remake was released. I was immediately on board with seeing it, but I didn’t for a very frustrating reason. My brother’s fear of spiders made it impossible for us to go see the movie. Then I got really upset when he told me he saw the movie in school with no problems. Needless to say we watched the movie the very same day. Charlotte’s Web (2006) isn’t a musical. It also uses CGI for characters that are a bit trickier to train in real life. Specifically Templeton and Charlotte. Charlotte’s appearance is actually a lot less creepy than you’d expect. She only has 2 normal sized eyes with the other 6 being smaller. As I expected, Dakota Fanning plays Fern. She takes care of Wilbur until he’s old enough to go to Zuckerman’s farm. Although Wilbur maintains a child’s voice. The barn is made up of a surprising amount of talent with the likes of Steve Buscemi, John Cleese, Kathy Bates, Robert Redford, Oprah Winfrey, and Cedric the Entertainer. Julia Roberts is a pleasant surprise as Charlotte. And her web of messages for Wilbur is just as miraculous in live-action. Her death hit me just as hard as the original. Charlotte’s Web (2006) and its simple tale of a spider’s love for an innocent pig works in any medium.
Live-Action Remake of: Charlotte’s Web (1973)