Nobody Wants a Reboot!

Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers isn’t the reboot I was expecting. Chip ‘n’ Dale are a classic Disney chipmunk duo who have been around since 1943. I’ve seen many of their shorts, but I never really watched the Disney Afternoon show Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers. Like most 80’s cartoons, the show was formulaic, but fun. Although intended to be an Alvin and the Chipmunks style CGI reboot of the Rescue Rangers, the movie ended up going a very different route. The usually raunchy creative team behind The Lonely Island decided to make Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers the closest thing to a Who Framed Roger Rabbit sequel we’re ever gonna get. The opening is like a mockumentary with Chip ‘n Dale as actors who starred in Rescue Rangers before it got cancelled. Leading to Chip becoming a boring insurance agent and Dale trying to shed his comic relief image. I didn’t quite understand John Mulaney and Andy Samberg voicing Chip ‘n Dale, but their original squeaky voices are used as a joke.

The movie is very meta with a live-action world populated by more than just traditionally animated characters. Now there’s computer animation, claymation, puppetry, motion capture, and so many other unexpected forms of animation. When they grow apart, Dale receives “CGI surgery” and Chip stays the same. It’s bizarre seeing two different animation styles at the same time, but it gets weirder. Like Roger Rabbit, the movie includes more than just Disney characters in the background. Warner Bros, Nickelodeon, My Little Pony, and even DreamWorks characters are shown respect. Though it does feel wrong to see South Park and Beavis and Butt-Head characters acknowledged in a kids movie. Though not at the same level as Roger Rabbit, the movie does have a bit of an edge. The most hilariously unexpected inclusion is Ugly Sonic. Which is literally the ugly original version of Sonic trying desperately to make a comeback. Of course other non-animated facets of pop culture are acknowledged.

Chip ‘n Dale are brought back together when their old friend Monterey Jack has trouble with his cheese addiction. Tress MacNeille returns to voice Gadget, but Monty has Eric Bana as a convincing soundalike. Turns out Gadget ended up with Zipper and they’re left out of most of the movie. Instead Kiki Layne plays a human police officer named Steckler who helps the duo in investigating Monty’s disappearance. J. K. Simmons voices the claymation Captain Putty who doubts their abilities. After a trip to the Uncanny Valley, a Swedish Chef inspired muppet takes Chip ‘n Dale to meet the villain of the movie. It feels wrong, but the villain is actually a very bitter grown up Peter Pan voiced by Will Arnett named Sweet Pete. He intends to kidnapped animated characters, alter their appearance, and place them in low rent bootleg movies. Sweet Pete is joined by a Coca-Cola polar bear and Seth Rogen as a motion capture dwarf with lifeless eyes. Though the climax does bring back series antagonist Fat Cat in a very unusual way. Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers could’ve been another IP crazy mess, but it does have heart thanks to the duo mending their friendship.

Chip 'n' Dale Rescue Rangers

Chip ‘n’ Dale work together

The Master Emerald

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 gave fans exactly what they wanted. The first movie was fast paced fun, but it still needed to take aspects of the Sega franchise slow. Sonic and Dr. Robotnik were introduced, but not the rest of his supporting cast of animal companions. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is based on the video game of the same name. Along with parts of the third game. I’m still not a hardcore fan, but I did get excited seeing Tails in the mid-credits scene for Sonic the Hedgehog. In the second game, Miles “Tails” Prower is a genius two-tailed fox who can fly and teams up with Sonic. Ben Schwartz was a suitable celebrity voice for Sonic, but voice actress Colleen O’Shaughnessey reprises her role from the games and shows. It’s a little distracting, but I’m sure Tails was a late edition to the first movie. Making me wonder if there was ever an ugly version of Tails. Another promising fan favorite was Knuckles the Echidna.

Knuckles is an honor bound warrior with super strong spiked fists. The only previous reference to him were the Echidna tribe that took out Sonic’s owl mentor Longclaw. Although several tough celebrities would’ve fit, Idris Elba was a perfect choice. Knuckles is a major scene stealer thanks to his self-serious misunderstanding of Earth customs. Despite his dislike of sequels, Jim Carrey returns as a more video game accurate Dr. Robotnik. Sonic still calls him Eggman, but it’s mostly his long bushy mustache and bald head that’s accurate. Hopefully a fat suit comes later if Carrey doesn’t retire from acting. Robotnik leaves the mushroom planet with Knuckles’ help and they form an alliance that will obviously end in betrayal. Sonic tries to be a superhero, but he’s too reckless. The rest of the original human cast returns even though it feels like a completely different movie. After some fatherly advice, James Marsden’s Tom and Tika Sumpter’s Maddie head to Hawaii for her sister’s wedding. Maddie’s sister Rachel was funny before, but it feels like too much attention is given to her and her fiancée Randall.

Later it turns out he’s part of the video game accurate military organization G.U.N. Which is headed by the weird Olive Garden commander from the first movie. Robotnik’s creepily obsessive assistant Agent Stone and Green Hills deputy Wade are also give more attention. Yet Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is still heavily steeped in video game mythology. Turns out Tails tracked Sonic to Earth in order to help him in his fight against Robotnik and Knuckles. They’re all searching for the wish granting Master Emerald formed from the 7 Chaos Emeralds. On their way, Sonic and Tails bond in a dance battle and Knuckles joins them when betrayed. The action is just as energizing, but it’s still so surreal to see a live-action Robotnik mech fighting the Sonic trio on the big screen. Just as surprising is seeing Sonic go Super Saiyan Sonic. After eating a chilli dog, Sonic gives up that power, but gains allies in the process. Like before, hardcore fans will appreciate the mid-credits scene introducing Shadow the Hedgehog. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 may be a not so fast 2 hours long, but it blurs the line between video game and movie.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2

Sonic teams up with Tails and Knuckles

Preceded by: Sonic the Hedgehog

Gotta Go Fast!

Sonic the Hedgehog cracked the video game movie code. Sega has always been in competition with Nintendo. Sonic the Hedgehog was created in Japan to be the Super Mario Bros. of their video game company. Sonic became just as iconic with his superspeed and cool demeanor. I’ve played the side-scrolling original, but my brother is the one who played more games and watched all the animated shows. Sonic became so popular that a live-action movie couldn’t come fast enough. The 90’s would’ve been too soon, but the movie didn’t become a reality until 2020. Though I wouldn’t call myself a superfan, even I knew how awful the original design looked. The initial trailer featured a truly ugly Sonic with freaky humanoid legs, small eyes, white hands, and awkward proportions. Rather than ignore the immense fan criticism, Paramount actually delayed the movie just to re-animated the lead character. It’s a good thing Valentine’s Day 2020 was pre-Pandemic, because the change made Sonic the Hedgehog the best video game movie made at the time.

It’s a low bar, but I wasn’t really a fan of Detective Pikachu. The key was actually treating the lore with respect. Even memes are acknowledged. Sonic is high energy and fun-loving thanks to Ben Schwartz. Although he never had an owl mentor named Longclaw in the games, incorporating the golden rings into the story was a clever idea. Sonic uses the rings to portal to various locations. Most of his time is spent alone in Green Hills, Montana. Normally I hate the fish out of water angle in movies like this, but this was a rare time where I actually liked the original human characters. James Marsden is bizarrely typecast as a CGI animal’s human sidekick. Tom Wachowski is a small town sheriff who dreams of bigger and better things in Los Angeles. Tom is married to veterinarian Maddie played by Tika Sumpter. Most of her time is spent with her disapproving sister Rachel and niece Jojo. Sonic longs for friendship, but he inadvertently draws attention by causing an EMP. So the U.S. Government calls in his longtime archenemy Dr. Robotnik.

Jim Carrey seemed miscast, because Eggman is literally egg shaped with a bald head and long bushy mustache. Yet somehow Robotnik ended up being Carrey’s funniest role in a long time. He’s having a blast pressing buttons and dancing to “Where Evil Grows.” He plays off his lowly coffee brewing assistant Agent Stone well, but I think there’s too much of a rivalry between him and Tom. When Sonic loses his rings, the superfast hedgehog takes a slow-moving road trip with Tom to recover them. Along the way recreating the Quicksilver scene from Days of Future Past at a diner and quickly dispatching of Robotnik’s drones on the road. Callbacks include Sonic eating a chilli dog, getting his signature red shoes, and calling Robotnik Eggman because of his egg shaped drones. The climax is a fast paced race between Sonic and Robotnik using his quill to increase his speed. In the end, the power of friendship wins the day. After an out of nowhere Olive Garden tie-in and a pixelated credits sequence, Robotnik is revealed on a mushroom planet with his video game accurate design. Followed by a fan pleasing appearance of Tails (more on him later). Sonic the Hedgehog learned from it’s mistakes before even being released.

Sonic the Hedgehog

Sonic goes fast

Followed by: Sonic the Hedgehog 2

Rescuing the Joan

The Jewel of the Nile couldn’t keep the adventure going. Lacking the charm that made Romancing the Stone so enjoyable. Since Robert Zemeckis was busy directing Back to the Future in 1985, Lewis Teague had to take over. The Jewel of the Nile was plagued with problems from the start. Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner were forced to return, and Turner hated the script. Douglas had to do rewrites, footage was lost, crewmembers died, and the new setting was unbearably hot.

The Jewel of the Nile now takes place in the desert. It’s just not the same as the jungle. Jack T. Colton and Joan Wilder are still together on the yacht that he bought at the end of the first movie. Of course they have relationship problems which brings us back to square one. Joan gets kidnapped by an Arab ruler named Omar under the guise of writing his life story. When he turns out to be a terrorist, Jack must rescue her with unlikely help from Ralph.

Aside from Holland Taylor as Joan’s publisher, Danny DeVito is sort of redeemed as the smuggler. It’s in the desert that the titular “Jewel of the Nile” is revealed to be a person. A holy man played by entertainer Avner the Eccentric. Aside from a grounded airplane attack, the sequel doesn’t do much to stand out. The Billy Ocean song “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going” is the best thing to come out of it. Since The Crimson Eagle or Racing the Monsoon were cancelled, The War of the Roses is the closest thing to third installment. The Jewel of the Nile doesn’t shine nearly as bright.

The Jewel of the Nile

Jack and Joan in an African village

Preceded by: Romancing the Stone

The Quest for El Corazón

Romancing the Stone is an old fashioned adventure for the modern age. It’s basically Robert Zemeckis’ version of Indiana Jones. Bare in mind this was before Zemeckis was a beloved director. His previous failures made 20th Century Fox hesitant to accept his next project. Not only was Romancing the Stone his first hit film, it paved the way for Back to the Future and so many other modern classics. Romancing the Stone is a lot like an old adventure serial. Kathleen Turner is still very sexy in the role of romance author Joan Wilder. Wilder lives alone, but longs for the kind of man she writes about in her books.

She gets her wish when her sister Elaine is kidnapped by smugglers searching for a treasure map that she possesses. There are at least three separate parties who want the treasure. An untrustworthy Danny DeVito is the less violent antiquities smuggler Ralph. His cousin Ira is the one holding Elaine, but there’s someone worse than them. The murderous Colonel Zolo is a member of the secret police who hunts down Joan in Colombia with the intention of securing the treasure. Michael Douglas arrives later on as bird smuggling scoundrel Jack T. Colton.

Together Jack and Joan trek through the jungle, evade gunfire, and deadly crocodiles until they find El Corazón, which ends up being an emerald gem. Though it seems like Jack is simply romancing the stone from Joan, their passionate romance is helped by Douglas and Turner’s chemistry. Romancing the Stone is a 1984 film just like Temple of Doom with a hard PG that includes a steamy bedroom scene and a graphic dismemberment. The climax is so exciting that it gives Joan everything she needs to write her next book. Romancing the Stone has action, humor, and heart.

Romancing the Stone

Jack T. Colton and Joan Wilder at the waterfall

Followed by: The Jewel of the Nile

Human Nature

The African Queen is the original romantic adventure in the jungle. So many films have been inspired by it, but I never really knew what it was about. The African Queen is shot in full technicolor that really brings its African setting to life. It’s another Hollywood classic that wasn’t nominated for Best Picture, but did receive a lot of Oscar attention. John Huston was once again nominated for Best Director. The Oscar nominated Screenplay is based on the 1935 C. S. Forester novel of the same name. Although set during World War I, the primary difference between book and movie is making the Germans more villainous.

Aside from genuine African villagers and mostly unseen German officers, The African Queen is carried by two characters. Luckily they cast two of the biggest stars in Hollywood. This was the earliest I’ve seen Katherine Hepburn in her 5th nomination for Best Actress. Humphrey Bogart finally won Best Actor after failing to win for Casablanca and being snubbed for Treasure of the Sierra Madre. The latter was also directed by Huston and Bogie is just as gruff. Hepburn is British missionary Rose Sayer who loses her brother during a German attack. Robert Morley briefly plays “The Brother” who dies from shock.

Although Cockney British in the book, Bogie plays the Canadian riverboat captain Charlie Allnut. He offers her safe passage on the titular African Queen. Charlie is a more lively drinker and Rose is a more refined sophisticate, but all their humorous bickering leads to romance. Of course an unmarried couple cohabiting a boat was quite scandalous for 1951. Together they fix up the boat, travel through treacherous waters, and formulate a plan to sink the Königin Luise with makeshift torpedos. The African Queen set a standard for decades to come.

The African Queen

Charlie and Rose take the African Queen downriver

In the Land of Submarines

Yellow Submarine is a groovy mix of trippy visuals and songs by The Beatles. The late 60’s were far more psychedelic and experimental. The Beatles were apprehensive about making a third film after Help!, but they still needed to honor their three picture contract that began with A Hard Day’s Night. An animated production was a fair compromise since Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr didn’t need to physically appear until a quick live-action cameo. The Fab Four are all voiced by soundalikes, but you can’t really tell the difference.

Yellow Submarine sparked my curiosity the most since it was the closest thing to adult animation at the time. It has a cult following and even a LEGO set. The only real comparison is Fantasia, both for its abstract visuals and strong emphasis on music. Yellow Submarine takes place in the magical music loving world Pepperland where the villainous Blue Meanies attack. Old Fred takes the titular Yellow Submarine to Liverpool where he recruits the Beatles to save them. The band experience the Sea of Time, the Sea of Science, the Sea of Monsters, the Sea of Nothing, and the Sea of Holes until they reach the Sea of Green.

Yellow Submarine is a weird nonsensical adventure, but it gets weirder when they make friends with intellectual creature Jeremy Hillary Boob, Ph.D. voiced by Dick Emery. When they reach Pepperland, the Beatles fight the Blue Meanies with the power of music. The soundtrack includes way more hit songs like the titular “Yellow Submarine,” “Eleanor Rigby,” “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” and “All You Need is Love.” Yellow Submarine is a one of a kind experience.

Yellow Submarine

The Beatles in their Yellow Submarine

I Need Somebody!

Help! helped increase the popularity of The Beatles. Director Richard Lester was given a bigger budget that included more actors, more locations, and filming in color. Although Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr all admit the follow up wasn’t the best experience. Apparently they were high on marijuana half of the time. I’ve known about Help! for years since my parents had a copy of it on VHS. Much like A Hard Day’s Night, Lennon wrote the title song after Beatles Phase II and Eight Arms to Hold You were denied.

Unlike A Hard Day’s Night, Help! sort of has a plot. This time The Beatles are targeted by a religious cult who sacrifice people to their goddess Kaili. Ringo is singled out since he’s the one wearing the sacrificial ring. Help! is like a parody of spy films since Ringo’s ring is the McGuffin that everyone wants. John, Paul, and George all attempt to help their mate. Leo McKern is the cult’s psychotic leader Clang and newcomer Eleanor Bron switches sides to help the band.

The Beatles are also targeted by a scientist who seeks to rule the world with the ring. Help! is obviously more absurd and reliant on British humor. The movie is filled with slapstick gags and comedic on-screen texts. Each song feels more like it’s own music video since the Fab Four travel from London to the Austrian Alps and the Bahamas. Such new songs include the titular “Help!” and “Ticket to Ride.” Although it doesn’t quite compare to A Hard Day’s Night, Help! needed no help being a fun adventure for the band.

Help!

The Beatles go skiing

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Badges!

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre may be the finest depiction of greed ever put to film. This kind of story has been retold and parodied so many times, but nothing can top the original. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is based on the 1927 B. Traven novel of the same name. Director John Huston hit the ground running with The Maltese Falcon, but it’s The Treasure of the Sierra Madre that became his magnum opus. It’s another technically perfect movie with a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.

With the expectation of Best Picture (which went to Hamlet), The Treasure of the Sierra Madre swept the Academy Awards. Huston won twice for Best Director, Best Screenplay, and his own father won Best Supporting Actor. It’s truly baffling that Humphrey Bogart wasn’t nominated, since this is easily one of his all time best performances. Bogart plays one of three prospectors searching for gold in Mexico. The down on his luck Dobbs grows increasingly paranoid and wants all the gold for himself. Even if he has to betray and/or kill his comrades to keep it.

Tim Holt plays the much more neutral Curtin who tries to keep his friend on the straight and narrow. Walter Huston won for playing Howard. Howard is a classic cheerful prospector with the most knowledge about gold mining. He popularized the term “fool’s gold.” Dobbs is a definite villain by the end, but there’s an even bigger threat in Mexico. Gold Hat and his bandits are constantly on their tail. You may know them for the often misquoted line “We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!” The movie ends with a harsh, but justified lesson that greed will make a man go insane. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is pure gold.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

A boy tries to sell to Dobbs

The Adventures of Lovemore and Dash

The Lost City is basically Galaxy Quest if it were set in a jungle. The movie was only brought to my attention after I saw a trailer in theaters. It made me laugh, so I figured I’d go see it. Although I could’ve waited to see it on DVD or streaming, I miss those pre-pandemic days where I could see something brainless without thinking about it. Even the title The Lost City doesn’t try harder than it has to.

Loretta Sage is a disillusioned romantic adventure novelist who wants The Lost City of D to be her final book. Alan is her book’s hunky yet dimwitted cover model with a secret crush on her. When Loretta is kidnapped by an eccentric billionaire believing her book to be real, it’s up to Alan to rescue her. Imagine Anne Rice and Fabio if they were trapped in the jungle together. Sandra Bullock in a purple sequin suit is just as funny and attractive as she was in her younger days. I’m glad she hasn’t been cast aside like so many aging actresses.

Though she is significantly older than Channing Tatum, they both bring the same amount of energy to their respective roles. Daniel Radcliffe is younger than both, but I still buy him as the villainous billionaire. Loretta and Alan’s adventure is pretty basic and straightforward. Just to kill time, Da’Vine Joy Randolph has a subplot as Loretta’s publicist trying to find them. Not every joke lands, but Brad Pitt’s cameo as a stereotypical action hero is hilarious. The Lost City looks and sounds generic, but it’s actually sweeter after difficulty.

The Lost City

Loretta and Alan trek through the jungle