Everybody Loves Samba

Rio is one big party filled with color and passion. It was a passion project envisioned by Brazilian Blue Sky Animation director Carlos Saldanha. Which is why it feels like a love letter to the country. Rio is the polar opposite of Ice Age (no pun intended), but it was originally meant to be about a penguin lost in Brazil. Until an oversaturation of penguin movies reworked the project. Although I was 15 at the time, Rio is just too much fun. I even ended up playing the Angry Birds tie-in. Despite the risqué nature of Rio de Janeiro, Saldanha insisted on a G rating. Rio doesn’t skip on the Brazilian butts, but it does put just as much emphasis on the samba, football, and of course Carnival. Computer animation brings the city to life with vibrant colors and beautiful birds.

Rio is about a blue macaw that ends up in the cold climate of Minnesota where he’s domesticated to the point of being unable to fly. The endangered macaw appropriately named Blu is taken back to Rio with hopes of mating him with a female macaw named Jewel. Although Pixar is the undisputed king of computer animation, this was a rare instance of Blue Sky beating them to a similar idea (not counting Ice Age: The Meltdown). Pixar’s Newt was also about saving a species in captivity, but Rio forced them to cancel the project. Despite the cast not being very Brazilian, everyone gives a spirited performance. Jesse Eisenberg turns Blu into an intellectual fish out of water. Anne Hathaway has all the free spirited energy to voice Jewel.

Jamie Foxx and will.i.am give the movie some flavor as the samba obsessed yellow canary and red-crested cardinal duo Nico & Pedro. George Lopez adds some much needed latin love as friendly tucan Rafael. The only non-bird companion is Tracy Morgan as helpful bulldog Luiz. There’s also Leslie Mann as Blu’s nerdy owner Linda and sole Brazilian actor Rodrigo Santoro as scientific bird nut Túlio. They’re joined by a Brazilian orphan voiced by Jake T. Austin. Blu and Jewel end up chained together on a crazy adventure where they flee a bumbling band of smugglers, kleptomaniac monkeys, and Jemaine Clement as eccentric cockatoo villain Nigel. Of course Blu and Jewel become love birds on their journey across Rio. As cute as the story is, it would be nothing without the music. All songs make me wanna dance, but only “Real in Rio” was Oscar nominated. Rio is as infectious as the samba.

7. Rio

Blu and Jewel fly over Rio

Followed by: Rio 2

Going Extinct

Ice Age: Collision Course is when the franchise finally went extinct. With the exception of shorts and specials, it almost seemed like Blue Sky Studios was done making Ice Age movies. Three movies were released between Continental Drift and Collision Course instead of one. Since I was 21 at the time, I was officially done with the franchise. Marking the only Ice Age movie I didn’t see in theaters (and for good reason). Collision Course is an awful unfunny fall from grace that doesn’t make any sense. Not to mention all the cringey pop culture references. As I said in my Ice Age review, every sequel is in some way inspired by the ice cave sequence from the first movie. Piranhas are briefly featured in The Meltdown, dinosaurs are prominently featured in Dawn of the Dinosaurs, and the sloth evolution can be interpreted as Sid’s family in Continental Drift.

The final frozen object was a flying saucer that was clearly meant as a one off joke, not an entire movie! Collision Course tries to sound smart with voices like Neil deGrasse Tyson, but the plot abandons what little logic the franchise had left. Scrat’s entire acorn chasing subplot involves him finding a flying saucer, launching into space, accidentally creating the solar system, and sending a meteor hurtling towards Earth. The herd seems to get bigger with every passing film. Now including Manny, Sid, Diego, Ellie, Crash, Eddie, Peaches, Granny, and Shira. Manny and Ellie are concerned with Peaches leaving the herd with her goofy fiancée Julian voiced by Adam DeVine. Diego and Shira briefly discuss having cubs. Sid finally finds love, but it’s more rushed than any of the other romances.

Crash and Eddie continue to be stupid, while Granny continues to annoy everyone. Louis isn’t even mentioned, but Buck unfortunately returns to be just as insufferable. He leaves the lost world to help the herd prevent their apocalypse. Aside from being chased by three forgettable flying dinosaur villains, the herd faces meteor showers, a ridiculous electrical storm, and discover a geode palace full of immortal animals. Remember when the first movie was about returning a baby? Jesse Tyler Ferguson voices the irritating yoga obsessed Shangri Llama and Jessie J continues the singer tradition of voicing Sid’s bubbly love interest Brooke. I couldn’t even bring myself to care whether the herd survived yet another world ending event. Ice Age: Collision Course is like an asteroid that explodes upon impact.

12. Ice Age Collision Course

Scrat in space with his acorn

Preceded by: Ice Age: Continental Drift

Scrat’s Odyssey

Ice Age: Continental Drift kept the endangered franchise from going extinct. Blue Sky Studios maintained a tradition of releasing a new Ice Age sequel after every original movie. After Rio, I was practically done with the prehistoric franchise. I was 17 and very nearly skipped seeing the fourth installment in theaters. Until I learned about the Maggie Simpson short film The Longest Daycare. Luckily Continental Drift is a minor return to form for me. The 3D effects are obnoxious, but the computer animation is more realistic than its ever been. The story is an attempt to go back to basics. Even if it is done in the most ridiculous way possible. Continental Drift refers to Scrat causing Pangea to split apart after falling to the Earth’s core. If that wasn’t bizarre enough, Scrat spends most of his time following a trail to the lost acorn abundant city of Scratlantis. Along with directly affecting the plot, Scrat ends up stuck in the same seafaring adventure as the rest of the herd.

Manny, Sid, Diego, Ellie, Crash, and Eddie got bigger when Peaches was born. Save for a quick cameo, Buck’s absence is one reason I like this movie better. Dawn of the Dinosaurs is barely referenced and Sid even points out that it didn’t make sense. Manny shifts his concern to his now teenage daughter Peaches. Keke Palmer joins an all-star cast that’s come a long way since the beginning. Josh Gad voices his first animated character Louis. An awkward molehog friend of Peaches with a crush on her. Even though she’s more interested in popular mammoth Ethan. I like the direction, but adding pop stars like Drake, Nicki Minaj, or Jennifer Lopez does feel a little desperate. Sid mostly wants to prove he isn’t a screw up. The sloth family that abandoned him finally make an appearance only to ditch their overbearing Granny voiced by a mostly funny Wanda Sykes.

Manny, Sid, and Diego are stuck with Granny on an iceberg boat that separates them from civilization. Their adventure is an obvious take on Homer’s Odyssey, right down to the use of sirens. Meanwhile, Ellie leads Peaches and the rest of the prehistoric animals to safety. Crash and Eddie are mostly around to be stupid. The first true villain since the first movie is Captain Gutt. A humorous primate pirate leading a scurvy crew of celebrity voiced animals. Peter Dinklage is joined by the likes of Nick Frost as an elephant seal, Aziz Ansari as a rabbit, and Rebel Wilson as a kangaroo. J.Lo voices Gutt’s sassy female saber-toothed tiger first mate Shira. I immediately knew that meant Diego was finally getting a love interest. Their adventure takes them across the sea through storms, an island inhabited by adorable hyrax, and away from the aforementioned sirens. It’s a fun journey even though it ends the way you’d expect. The songs are still catchy, but Ice Age: Continental Drift is beginning to show its age.

8. Ice Age Continental Drift

Captain Gutt captures Manny, Sid, Diego, and Scrat

Preceded by: Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs & Followed by: Ice Age: Collision Course

Can You Say… Hero?

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood keeps the message of Mr. Rogers alive. Although Won’t You Be My Neighbor? seemed like enough, the documentary was quickly followed by a biopic. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood was just as welcomed and touching in an entirely different way. Rather than follow his life story, Mr. Rogers is more of a supporting character to the man who wrote an Esquire article about him in 1998. “Can You Say… Hero?” was written by Tom Junod, but the movie is framed more like an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

Right down to a classic PBS filming style and Neighborhood of Make-Believe props standing in for the city. Despite playing so many real life individuals already, Tom Hanks seamlessly pulls off the iconic red sweater. He still sounds like himself, but his soft speech pattern is pure Fred Rogers. Earning him another Best Supporting Actor nomination. Matthew Rhys plays the fictional Lloyd Vogel. A cynical writer loosely based on Junod who questions whether Mr. Rogers is genuine or not.

Lloyd himself deals with becoming a new father and coming to terms with the father who abandoned him. So Mr. Rogers uses his puppets, philosophy, and teachings in order to help him. Susan Kelechi Watson is Vogel’s wife whose more optimistic as a childhood fan of Mr. Rogers. Chris Cooper is Vogel’s father trying his best to connect with his son. Mr. Rogers manages to get through to Lloyd and teach a message of forgiveness along the way. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a beautiful film for these trying times.

Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Mr. Rogers changes his shoes

A Little Kindness Makes a World of Difference

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? came out at just the right time. It warms my heart to know someone as wholesome and innocent as Mr. Rogers can still be embraced in the cynical world we live in. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is a rare documentary that struck a chord with the general public. Making it the highest grossing biographical documentary of all time. I knew I wanted to watch the film even though I was really young when I watched Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

Director Robert Neville covers the entire life of Fred Rogers. From humble beginnings as an awkward imaginative child to his discovery of public television. As well as his strong Christian beliefs that fueled his philosophy to love thy neighbor. He took a quieter approach to children’s entertainment and never talked down to kids. We learn all about his puppets like Daniel Striped Tiger and other recurring characters in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

Although Mr. Rogers launched an educational children’s program, the movie doesn’t stray from the more PG-13 topics that he faced. Even questions of alleged homosexuality are explored. I was really surprised to see parodies like Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood brought up, but I understand wanting to cover everything. I knew he was radical, but Mr. Rogers talked about death, fought against racism, and welcomed a disabled child. Mr. Rogers may have faced controversy, but he never stopped believing in children. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? reinforces his message that everyone is special.

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Mr. Rogers with Mr. McFeely

There’s a Leek in the Boat

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 isn’t quite as fresh as the original, but it’s still a tasty adventure. Although the book was followed by a sequel called Pickles to Pittsburgh, this sequel picks up right where the movie left off. Phil Lord & Christopher Miller are replaced by a different directing duo that also have ties to Sony animation. The computer animation is just as vibrate with even more crazy cartoony antics. Almost the entire cast returns with Bill Hader as inventor Flint Lockwood.

Anna Faris returns as his presumed girlfriend Sam Sparks, James Caan as his more understanding fisherman father Tim, Neil Patrick Harris as his monkey Steve, Andy Samberg as redeemed bully “Chicken” Brent, and Benjamin Bratt as Sam’s more fleshed out cameraman Manny. Terry Crews replaces Mr. T as Officer Devereaux since the latter hasn’t done much since the first movie. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 isn’t as simple as food raining from the sky. The plot is a bit over complicated with a more obvious villain plotting to steal Flint’s food machine. Fellow SNL cast member Will Forte previously voiced a recurring townsperson, but now he’s promoted to Flint’s flexible scientific idol Chester V.

He manipulates Flint by moving the town and making him question his friendships. Kristen Schaal is also on Chester’s side as his intelligent talking orangutan Barb. Flint and the gang are closer than ever when they all go on a mission to find the FLDSMDFR. The sequel is basically The Lost World with constant food puns. Swallow Falls is now populated by foodimals like a cheese spider, tacodile supreme, Tim’s pickle friends, and the adorable Barry the strawberry. Of course there’s a message about respecting the new ecosystem that’s just unique enough to work. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 is a second helping of fun.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2

Sam presents Barry to Flint

Preceded by: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

One Wacky Ride

Pee-wee’s Big Holiday returns to the basics of the franchise. Pee-wee Herman hasn’t been relevant since Pee-wee’s Playhouse ended in 1990. Paul Reubens continued to find work, but inappropriate 1991 & 2002 controversies kept the innocent character away even longer. In the meantime, Reubens planned a comeback with 2 distinctly different scripts. Can’t say I was expecting a new movie as late as 2016, but I wasn’t too grown up to enjoy it. Reubens partnered with Judd Apatow, Netflix, and a first time director who understood how Pee-wee could work in the modern age.

Starting with partial de-aging and makeup to make Reubens youthful again. Pee-wee’s Big Holiday is basically Pee-wee’s Big Adventure right down to the cross country road trip. Pee-wee once again enjoys his colorful playhouse and friendly town residents. This time his problem is needing to take a holiday. The plot is just as bizarre as before with actor Joe Manganiello being the one who pushes Pee-wee to leave. Some read it as gay subtext, but I don’t think of it that way.

Everything revolves around Pee-wee desperately trying to go to New York in order to attend Manganiello’s birthday party. If that wasn’t weird enough, the movie opens with Pee-wee saying goodbye to an alien. Like Big Adventure, Big Holiday is filled with colorful characters that Pee-wee encounters on the road. There’s a trio of sexy criminals, a chipper salesman at a snake farm, a farmer and his love starved daughters, giant hairdressers, a lady with a flying car, a crazy mountain man, and the Amish. Pee-wee is a little rusty, but he can still bring the laughs. Pee-wee’s Big Holiday is a welcomed return to childish things.

Pee-Wee's Big Holiday

Pee-wee on the open road

Preceded by: Big Top Pee-wee

Pan was Panned

Pan is a complete disgrace to the Peter Pan name. It’s honestly one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. An honor I only give to movies I hate on a personal level. Since I’m such a big Peter Pan fan, Pan was bound to anger me. Which is why I make the joke about Pan being panned by critics and audiences. Pan is a pointless prequel turned nonsensical origin story. Although I’ve tried to forget the movie, I remember every little change that annoyed me. Period director Joe Wright sets the film during World War II where Peter is an orphan left by his mother Mary played by Amanda Seyfried.

Levi Miller looks like Peter Pan, but this Peter is annoying, unimaginative, and no different from Oliver Twist. Pan is just another chosen one story where Peter gets his name from a pan flute that he wears. Peter and other lost boys are taken to Neverland by pirate kidnappers. There’s not much magic when all ships can fly, most of Neverland is a mining colony, and CGI fills in the rest. Pirates force children to mine for fairy dust. Hugh Jackman makes a fool out of himself as an extremely cringy Blackbeard who sings “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Blitzkrieg Bop.”

Since Blackbeard is the villain, James Hook is a charismatic miner played by Garrett Hedlund with no evil intentions whatsoever. There’s even an annoying line at the end about Peter and Hook always being friends. All mermaids are Cara Delevingne and Tinkerbell is just a random fairy with no personality. The worst offender is Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily. Most people focus on her playing a Native American, but it’s also the fact that she’s older and a love interest for Hook. Pan doesn’t have enough faith, trust, or pixie dust to make it fly.

4. Pan

Peter rides with Hook

Not in Smurf Village Anymore

Smurfs: The Lost Village still isn’t smurfy enough. Although successful, the 2 live action Smurfs movies were equally terrible. The Smurfs 3 was planned, but a more faithful computer animated movie was made instead. Only 4 years after The Smurfs 2. I’ll admit it’s off-putting to see another Smurfs movie with a completely different cast after so little time past. Now Mandy Patinkin is Papa Smurf instead of the longstanding Jonathan Winters. It’s still Sony Animation, but the character designs are more like the comic/cartoon. It once again follows Smurfette and the circumstances surrounding her creation by Gargamel.

I wasn’t surprised to learn it was written by women. Since the titular lost village is not so surprisingly populated by female Smurfs. Defeating the purpose of Smurfette being special. Ironically other pop star Demi Lovato voices her. The rest of Smurfs Village is once again voiced by celebrities with little to no screen time. They continue to stick with only a small group of Smurfs. This time it’s Joe Manganiello as the macho Hefty Smurf, Danny Pudi as a standard Brainy Smurf, and Jack McBrayer as a more annoying Clumsy Smurf.

The uncreatively named female Smurfs would all blur together if not for their celebrity voices. Namely Julia Roberts, Michelle Rodriguez, Ellie Kemper, Ariel Winter, and Meghan Trainor. Rainn Wilson is a more evil, less funny Gargamel with Azrael and his vulture Monty by his side. His motivation is the same old same old. Smurfs: The Lost Village is technically better than the other movies, but that’s not saying much. The animation is generic, the humor is bland, the adventure is cliché, and Smurfs almost never replace words with “smurf.” Smurfs: The Lost Village should’ve remained lost.

Smurfs The Lost Village

The Smurfs meet new Smurfs

Just Smurfing with You

The Smurfs 2 is a piece of smurf that’s even more painful to get through. The Smurfs was a big hit, because of course it was. Blame it on nostalgia and relentless marketing to children who didn’t know any better. I avoided both Smurfs movies when they came out, but my brother saw the sequel in theaters for some reason. Director Raja Gosnell and the entire cast returns for what became the most poorly received Sony Animation movie at the time. The Smurfs 2 doubles down on everything bad about the first movie. It’s still set primarily in the real world, Neil Patrick Harris continues to hijack most of the movie, and the Smurfs are reduced to only 6 primary villagers.

Katy Perry gets top billing as Smurfette. Her origin of being created by Gargamel to trap the Smurfs is fully explored. Hank Azaria is once again mistreated as a Gargamel who now wants to rule the world with Smurfs. Gargamel is also a famous magician in Paris with Azrael by his side. He creates his own horribly unfunny version of Smurfs called Naughties voiced by Christina Ricci and J. B. Smoove. While they try to make Smurfette naughty, Papa Smurf, Brainy Smurf, Clumsy Smurf, and Grouchy Smurf try to rescue her. This was sadly Jonathan Winters final time voicing the wise Smurf leader.

The pointless Gutsy Smurf is replaced by the mostly useless Vanity Smurf voiced again by John Oliver. Anything involving Pat Winslow and his family drama is especially cringy. His wife does an out of nowhere Breakfast at Tiffany’s impression, his son Blue is played by a very inexperienced Jacob Tremblay, and Brendan Gleeson is forced to transform into a duck as his not so cruel stepdad. There’s little to no magic when the sequel is almost the exact same premise as the first. Save for a relatively catchy Britney Spears song, The Smurfs 2 is a smurfing mess that thankfully ended the franchise.

The Smurfs 2

Smurfette celebrates with the Naughties

Preceded by: The Smurfs