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

Come on, Vámonos! Everybody, Let’s go!

Dora and the Lost City of Gold is better than it had any right to be. As a 5 year old kindergarten who loved all things Nickelodeon, Dora the Explorer was difficult to ignore growing up. Luckily I was still watching Nick Jr. at the time. Aside from Blues Clues, Dora the Explorer was one of the most iconic Nick shows for little kids. It taught children basic Spanish and how to be adventurous. Never in a million years did I think it deserved a live action movie. CollegeHumor actually turned the idea of a grown up Dora starring Ariel Winter into a joke 8 years before the official movie was released (see that trailer here). It only got weirder when Michael Bay’s name was attached to the project.

Thankfully he was never involved, but hispanic actress Isabela Merced was cast as the titular explorer 2 years after her forgettable role in Transformers: The Last Knight. Although a 16 year old Dora attending high school felt wrong, Merced manages to capture her youthful optimism. At least the opening honors the show by playing the infectious theme song. It’s the only time we see a 6 year old Dora, her 8 year old cousin Diego, Backpack, and the Map in live action. Dora’s adventures are all in her imagination, but Boots is still a blue CGI monkey and Swiper is still a talking CGI fox. Both characters have the unlikely voices of Danny Trejo and Benicio del Toro respectively. Other animal characters from the cartoon can only be found in an unexpected animated hallucination sequence.

The mostly original cast of characters aren’t entirely unwelcome. Well known hispanic actors like Michael Peña and Eva Longoria play Dora’s explorer parents. When they’re kidnapped, Dora explores a path to the lost Inca city of gold. She’s joined by a grown up Diego from the series Go, Diego, Go! that I never watched. Plus two additional high schoolers who are only there to point out how crazy everything is. Eugenio Derbez plays their adult guide who not so surprisingly turns out to be the villain. I’m not always found of self-aware cartoon adaptations, but jokes about Dora talking directly to the audience are hilarious. Dora and the Lost City of Gold could’ve been a made-for-TV original movie, but it was bueno enough to enjoy on the big screen.

Dora and the Lost City of Gold

Dora goes exploring

The Secret of the Unicorn

The Adventures of Tintin is Indiana Jones for kids. Tintin is a young journalist and globetrotting adventurer created in 1929 by Belgium cartoonist Hergé. His adventures took him all around the world, but many of his older stories are extremely dated. For decades Tintin stayed relevant with a series of European comic books, radio shows, cartoons, video games, and feature films both live-action and animated. Although I’m American, I knew about Tintin for many years. Mostly thanks to references made on The Simpsons and Arthur. So a major Hollywood motion picture didn’t surprise me too much. What is surprising is the impressive amount of talent connected to the movie. Hergé believed Steven Spielberg was the perfect director for a faithful Tintin movie after seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark. It took several decades of development, but Spielberg finally honored his dying wish.

I’m not sure he was expecting a computer animated motion capture film shot in 3D. Which technically makes The Adventures of Tintin the only animated Spielberg movie. Although mo-cap directors James Cameron and Robert Zemeckis visited the set, it was actually producer Peter Jackson who made the suggestion. That way the movie could somewhat creepily recreate Hergé’s artwork with photorealistic animation. Most comic characters are present including Tintin, his faithful dog Snowy, their crusty companion Captain Haddock, and bumbling police duo Thomson and Thompson. The latter two were voiced by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost since Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish wrote the film. Jamie Bell already proved himself to Jackson after appearing in King Kong. Andy Serkis was already a mo-cap expert, but now he had a chance to be funny. Snowy is entirely CGI and doesn’t speak since it would’ve been too distracting.

Although Tintin is a PG rated Nickelodeon movie, they aren’t above intense gun-toting action or Haddock’s comedic drunkenness. The plot draws heavily from the comic The Secret of the Unicorn. An adventure where Tintin meets Haddock and they both search for a lost ship connected to Haddock’s ancestor. Daniel Craig plays the British villain who constantly pursues the heroes. They face great dangers by plane, by boat, and by motorcycle. A motorcycle chase is particularly thrilling since it’s animated to look like one take. Unlike most adventure films, the treasure isn’t exactly found by the end. A sequel directed by Peter Jackson has been talked about for a long time, but nothing has come of it. Tintin was just a moderate success that only managed to win the Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature. Shockingly, the only Oscar nomination it got was Best Original Score. Rango (another 2011 Nickelodeon movie) ironically won Best Animated Feature in its place. The Adventures of Tintin is a perfectly fine adventure that needed more name recognition.

The Adventures of Tintin

Tintin and Snowy read about the Unicorn

In an Adventure with Scientists!

The Pirates! Band of Misfits is the first stop-motion Aardman film since Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Since stop-motion takes so much time, the studio stuck with computer animation for Flushed Away and Arthur Christmas. Although I appreciate the dedication, The Pirates! is a Sony production that wasn’t exactly the return I was expecting. CGI is still partially incorporated for impossible shots in the open sea. The Pirates! is adapted from a series of British novels. The first book’s title In an Adventure with Scientists had to be changed for American audiences.

The primarily British cast includes Hugh Grant, Martin Freeman, Imelda Staunton, and David Tennant. Even with such a talented cast, Band of Misfits is a pretty basic pirate adventure with a pirate captain simply known as Pirate Captain. His loyal crew is just as simple with the exception of a woman disguised as a man. The captain’s only goal is acquiring enough gold to win the coveted pirate of the year trophy. Until he and his crew wind up in an adventure with scientists. Like other Aardman productions, The Pirates! is pretty edgy with stabbing jokes, nudist jokes, and a joke about leprosy that had to be removed.

I expected modern slang, but I didn’t expect Queen Victoria or Charles Darwin to have such a crucial role in the story. Darwin is paired with a monkey butler and seeks the captain’s dodo bird for scientific recognition. His presence is uncomfortable since I’m strongly opposed to evolution. I know Queen Victoria probably wasn’t a saint, but she’s treated like an absolute monster who wants to eat the extinct animal. The Pirates! Band of Misfits is a good effort that will likely appeal to a small demographic.

The Pirates Band of Misfits

The Pirates

Diving Without a Parachute

Uncharted is a video game adaptation several years in the making. Sony wanted to make a movie based on the Naughty Dog title ever since the first game was released. It makes sense since Uncharted has always felt very cinematic. The action/adventure franchise is a PlayStation exclusive popular for its classic treasure hunting premise. Most people would think Lara Croft is the quintessential video game explorer, but Nathan Drake is pretty cool too. My brother made sure we played Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune before the movie came out. Uncharted had a decade long development cycle that went through a revolving door of directors, writers, and stars.

Directing duties eventually went to Ruben Fleischer, but Nathan Drake was a different story. Although Nathan Fillion was born to play Drake, Sony went with their golden boy instead. Tom Holland is way too young for the part and calling the movie a prequel doesn’t make things better. Mark Wahlberg was another choice to play Drake, but he was instead cast as himself playing Drake’s ill-fated mentor Victor “Sully” Sullivan. Sully doesn’t even get his trademark mustache or cigar until the very end. Another important part of the game left out is Nathan’s main love interest Elena Fisher.

She’s instead replaced by later love interest Chloe Frazer played by Sophia Ali. Nathan Drake searches for the Magellan expedition treasure that his brother Sam was looking for. Sully and Chloe betray Nathan at every turn, but he manages to find the gold by the end. Antonio Banderas and Tati Gabrielle play villainous treasure hunters who also end up betraying each other. Despite a bizarre lack of gun use, fight scenes are pretty good. The central action scene are the perilous airplane crates that appear in the third game. Uncharted is as cliché as any other treasure hunt, but it is entertaining.

Uncharted

Nathan Drake holds on to crates

Prince Dastan and the Quest for the Time Dagger

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was Disney’s first attempt at trying to recapture the success of Pirates of the Caribbean. Both are rated PG-13 with swashbuckling action/adventure. Disney also enlisted Goblet of Fire director Mike Newell and even made dated LEGO sets for the movie. The difference is Prince of Persia being based on a video game. Something I wasn’t aware of when I decided to go see the movie by myself. The 2003 Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is considered to be one of the greatest video games ever made. I never played or even heard of it beforehand, so I judged the movie without expectations.

Prince of Persia is actually one of the more entertaining video game adaptations, but just as flawed as the rest. The unnamed Prince is given the name Dastan and Jake Gyllenhaal was chosen to play him. Gyllenhaal is more than capable of doing a big budget action role, but the Prince is basically Aladdin if he were Persian. Gemma Arterton and Toby Kebbell have the same problem as Dastan’s love interest and brother respectively. Ben Kingsley and Alfred Molina are the only actors who fit as the obvious twist villain and untrustworthy mentor figure respectively. They do manage to capture the action of the game with a heavy emphasis on jumps and parkour. The adventure kicks off when Dastan retrieves a magic dagger from an enemy kingdom.

Like the game, the dagger contains the “Sands of Time” which allow the user to travel back in time for one minute. A useful power that isn’t used as often as it should be. Prince Dastan goes on the run with the shrewish Princess Tamia in order to stop a plot to take over the Persian kingdom. Along the way fighting snake henchmen, spike throwing assassins, and his own uncle with a very cliché motivation. Like most time travel movies, the solution to undo everything kills a lot of character development. Regardless of quality, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time has more effort put into it than most movies based on video games.

Prince of Persia The Sands of Time

Prince Dastan evades enemies

If Secret Agents were Guinea Pigs

G-Force is all about a team of elite special agent guinea pigs. It’s one of many movies I regret seeing in theaters. Considering I was 14 at the time, why would I go see something clearly meant for little kids? I guess I thought it would be the next Cats & Dogs. Of course I was equally disappointed with The Revenge of Kitty Galore released only a year later. The CGI used on the animals is literally the only good thing about G-Force. Which makes sense considering the one-off director is a visual effects artist.

The all-star voice cast consisting of Sam Rockwell, Tracy Morgan, Penélope Cruz, Jon Favreau, Nicolas Cage, and Steve Buscemi isn’t enough to save the movie. G-Force are the most bland generic stock secret agents I’ve ever seen. Darwin is the leader without a personality, Blaster is the unfunny comic relief in charge of transportation, and Juarez is the “tough girl” that everyone fauns over. Speckles is their mole cyber intelligence expert with a deep dark secret that you can easily figure out based on his species. Mooch is a mute gadget equipped fly that does recon for the team.

There’s also Zach Galifianakis as their scientist trainor, Will Arnett as the agent sent to take them in, and Bill Nighy as the villain plotting to take over the world. Their mission is to stop an uprising of appliance robots, but this is a Disney movie. So they’re taken to a pet store with even more potty humor and pointless side plots. Hurley is Darwin’s long lost brother who farts around messing things up. Bucky is a hotheaded hamster and there’s also a trio of idiotic mice. Much like Disney, I like to pretend G-Force never happened.

G-Force

G-Force

Am I Not Turtley Enough for the Turtle Club?

The Master of Disguise is easily one of the worst comedies ever made. If not one of the worst movies of all time. Holding a rare 1% on Rotten Tomatoes (thanks to a single delusional critic). Yet somehow it wasn’t nominated for a Worst Picture Razzie. Bad movies from the 2000’s were a special kind of awful, but hating them is always tricky for me. I was 7 when The Master of Disguise came out. The trailer was all over the place and certain quotes were unavoidable. I only saw the movie once in school, but I wasn’t crazy enough to think it was good. The Master of Disguise is another Happy Madison production that Adam Sandler pawned off to a desperate comedian. Dana Carvey is normally hilarious on Saturday Night Live, but he should never be made the lead of anything. The entire 1 hour & 20 minute “movie” feels like a series of SNL skits strung together.

Basically an excuse for Carvey to play a variety of goofy characters with ridiculous voices. In case you’re wondering how hard they’re trying, the titular “Master of Disguise” is named Pistachio Disguisey. The clueless Italian waiter learns from his grandfather the magical ways of becoming another person. As well as slap fight while constantly saying “Who’s your daddy?” They manage to drag Harry Gould and James Brolin into the movie as his grandfather and kidnapped father respectively. Not to mention a variety of dated celebrities that the father disguises himself as. Data himself Brent Spiner plays the over-the-top villain Devlin who has a constantly repeating fart joke that happens whenever he laughs.

Since it’s a Happy Madison movie, of course Jennifer Esposito plays Pistachio’s hot love interest. Another uncomfortable running gag is Pistachio’s fascination with butts. The obvious selling point are the disguises that range from offensive to lazy to stupid to somewhat redeemable. Pistachio becomes an Indian snake charmer, a horny old woman, Tony Montana, Captain Quint, a literal pile of crap, a German, a sauve Brit, a cherry pie, and President Bush. The most infamous disguise will always be his baffling turtle costume for the Turtle Club. Despite the mercifully short runtime, the movie continues to drag on with endless bloopers and outtakes. If I’d seen it more as a kid, maybe I would call it a guilty pleasure, but The Master of Disguise is an unfunny movie to despise.

The Master of Disguise

Pistachio Disguisey in his turtle suit

Believe the Impossible, Discover the Incredible

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island kept the adventure going without Brendan Fraser. It’s kind of a low move, but it does represent the division between 2000’s Hollywood and 2010’s Hollywood. When Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008) came out, Brendan Fraser was a safe box-office draw. When Journey 2: The Mysterious Island came out in 2012, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was on the verge of becoming a major box-office draw. This was his first jungle movie since The Rundown, but far from his last. Journey 2 is also the second sequel to add him in a starring role.

An older pre-Hunger Games Josh Hutcherson is the only returning actor. Even his mother is recast with the more well known Kristin Davis. The Rock plays Sean’s charismatic pec-popping stepfather Hank who has useful Navy experience. As the subtitle suggests, Journey 2 now brings Jules Verne’s book The Mysterious Island to life in the real world. Except this island is also inspired by Treasure Island and Gulliver’s Travels. Sean’s grandfather Alexander Anderson is a fellow Vernian who sends him a message. Michael Caine would honestly say yes to anything at this point.

Sean and Hank travel by helicopter to the mysterious island. They’re accompanied by Vanessa Hudgens as Sean’s strong-willed love interest Kailani and Luis Guzmán as her goofy pilot father Gabato. Just like the book, giant animals are small and small animals are giant. We see giant bees, lizards, and birds rendered with mildly better CGI and somewhat less obnoxious 3D. They discover the lost city of Atlantis, but have to leave before the island sinks. Although I wasn’t expecting it, they do find a way to include Captain Nemo’s Nautilus. Despite the movie teasing a sequel based on From the Earth to the Moon, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island is just another kid friendly adventure.

Journey 2 The Mysterious Island

Hank, Sean, Kailani, and Gabato on the mysterious island

Preceded by: Journey to the Center of the Earth

World Within a World

Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008) is more 3D experience than movie. The late 2000’s were filled with movies marketed mostly for their 3D effects. Aside from Around the World in 80 Days (2004), Jules Verne novels haven’t had too many major theatrical adaptations in recent memory. All the obnoxious in your face 3D made Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008) look bad the moment I saw it. While the CGI is bad and does resemble a video game, it’s really not that bad. In this adaptation, the book Journey to the Center of the Earth turns out to be real.

Vernians study the work of Jules Verne in order to find his discoveries. Brendan Fraser stands in for Professor Lidenbrock as original American volcanologist Trevor Anderson. I don’t buy Fraser as a scientist, but it is nice seeing him as the action hero. 2008 is sadly one of his last years as a leading man. A young Josh Hutcherson plays Trevor’s somewhat rebellious 13 year old nephew Sean. Trevor recklessly brings Sean along on his journey to the center of the Earth. Where they hope to find answers about their deceased brother/father.

The helpful Icelandic guide is now a beautiful and very competent young woman named Hannah. Anita Briem is so young that I wasn’t sure who she was supposed to end up with in the end. Much like the book, the center of the Earth is fraught with peril. Aside from the usual dangers, the group has to deal with high speed mine carts, waterslides, carnivorous plants, and viscous prehistoric piranhas. The dinosaur they face is simply a T-Rex. At least bioluminescent birds are friendly. Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008) is an hour and a half adventure that doesn’t overstay its welcome.

Journey to the Center of the Earth 2008

Trevor, Sean, and Hannah ride a dinosaur jawbone

Followed by: Journey 2: The Mysterious Island