I Am for Making Friends

Ron’s Gone Wrong got it right. The moment I saw the trailer for Ron’s Gone Wrong, I thought it was a rip-off of The Mitchells vs. the Machines. I know that’s impossible, but they are very similar. Both are computer animated 2021 movies about the dangers of technology and social media obsession. It can’t be a coincidence that Olivia Colman also happens to voice a character in both films. Even the young black tech creator is basically the same. The difference is B-bots. B-bots are sleek spherical smartphones that make friends for kids and have no plans of overthrowing humanity. The villain is actually an evil corporate businessman trying to cover up a glitch in the system.

While The Mitchells vs. the Machines won me over immediately, I was a little more hesitant of Ron’s Gone Wrong. It’s technically a Disney movie, since 20th Century Studios made it with a new animation studio called Locksmith Animation. Although it looked harmless, I wasn’t sure about the crude animation reminiscent of Arthur Christmas. Ron’s Gone Wrong is similar to other “boy and his robot” movies, but its message is universal. Barney is a socially awkward rock loving middle schooler voiced by Jack Dylan Grazer at the height of his fame. He’s the only kid without a B-bot, but all that changes when his old fashioned father and cooky grandmother from the old country get him one for his birthday.

Ron is a typical defective robot voiced by Zach Galifianakis. Ron’s Gone Wrong is immediately funny the moment he’s on screen. What makes Ron stand out are his computing errors, violent tendencies, and ability to buy alcohol. Surprisingly adult for a kids movie. Barney learns to appreciate Ron’s differences and they eventually grow together as friends. Even Ron’s vlogger crush Savannah and prankster bully Rich learn the value of friendship. Ron’s Gone Wrong doesn’t shy away from the dangers to technology, but there’s a good compromise in the end.

Ron's Gone Wrong

Barney hangs out with Ron

Connected

The Mitchells vs. the Machines is your typical family road trip that happens to include a robot apocalypse. Sony Animation is still very hit or miss, but The Mitchells vs. the Machines is a hit that deserves way more attention. It’s got Gravity Falls writer Mike Rianda as the director, The LEGO Movie directors Phil Lord & Christopher Miller as producers, an all-star comedic cast, and the unique animation of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. The latter was apparent the moment I saw the first trailer with the painfully generic title Connected.

The Mitchells vs. the Machines is a much better title that reflects the film’s creativity. I knew Into the Spider-Verse would inspire similar animated movies, but the comic book style only works for superhero movies. So the animation is more so inspired by internet memes, doodles, pop art, and even a little live action. It’s another heavily detailed work of art that should’ve been on the big screen. Unfortunately, the Pandemic led to its eventual release on Netflix…

The Mitchells vs. the Machines

The Mitchells drive away from the robot apocalypse

The Mitchells vs. the Machines is a perfect combination of original and familiar that feels like it was made especially for me. And not just cause it features songs from random YouTube videos of the 2000’s like “Nyan Cat” or “Numa Numa.” Like me and my family, the Mitchells are weird and quirky. Katie is a college bound teenager who loves niche movies, making funny videos, and wants to go to film school. Abbi Jacobson is similar to her Disenchantment character Princess Bean since both her and Katie are ambiguously queer.

I’m glad the movie doesn’t call attention to it, because the theme can be interpreted multiple ways. Katie and her dad begin to drift apart due to her unusual interests. Rick is her father who hates technology and loves nature. Danny McBride is funny, but he has a lot of range in the more emotional scenes. The movie is mostly about their relationship, but the rest of the family helps them open up. Linda is a supportive mother who encourages everyone with gold stars. I already know what to expect from Maya Rudolph. Linda is also jealous of her seemingly perfect neighbors voiced by real life married couple John Legend and Chrissy Teigen.

Aaron is an awkward kid with an obsessive love of dinosaurs. My only nitpick is Aaron’s distracting grown up voice provided by the director himself. Aside from the strong bound he has with his older sister, Aaron also develops a back and forth crush on their neighbors daughter who also loves dinosaurs. Monchi is the weird cross eyed dog who completes the Mitchell family. Unlike most animated movies, Monchi is voiced by the real life Doug the Pug. The road trip is supposed to strengthen the families relationship, but a robot uprising seems to come out of nowhere. Eric André voices your typical hip young tech company owner responsible for a device that everybody owns.

PAL is like Siri or Alexa if she turned on mankind. Olivia Colman has the right kind of trusting British voice for the AI. PAL Max robots are like giant smartphones with a sleek design and the ability to trap people in a force field. The Mitchells are humanity’s last hope as they avoid detection in their broken down station wagon while searching for a kill code. The action is a lot of fun, but the comedy is literally laugh out loud hilarious. Abrupt cutaway gags are hysterical and jokes about tech obsession are both funny and relatable.

There’s also a particularly humorous scene involving feral Furby’s. The funniest characters are a couple of malfunctioning PAL Max robots named Eric and Deborahbot 5000 who side with the Mitchells. Though the movie is longer than most animated movies, it’s all worth it to bring the Mitchells together in the end. The Mitchells vs. the Machines should’ve won Best Animated Feature, but the Academy Awards are still fixated on Disney. Luckily Sony managed to sweep most other major award shows. The Mitchells vs. the Machines is weird in the best possible way.

The Mitchells vs. the Machines 2

The Mitchells walk away from an explosion

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

A Leap of Faith

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is often considered the greatest Spider-Man movie ever made. Many call it a game changer. One of the best animated movies, if not best movie period. Into the Spider-Verse holds a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes and actually managed to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. If you don’t count Big Hero 6, that makes Into the Spider-Verse the first Marvel movie to win the Oscar in that category. It was a rare instance of Sony beating Disney. An impressive feat considering Sony Animation just made The Emoji Movie one year prior. I can honestly say I never understood this level of hype surrounding Into the Spider-Verse.

Much like Black Panther released the same year, it is a little overrated. Spider-Man is my favorite superhero, but my feelings have always been complicated. I’m already against Sony’s stranglehold on the Spider-Man franchise, so I didn’t see the point in making a theatrical animated movie. Even if it was made by The LEGO Movie creators Phil Lord & Christopher Miller. Despite the admiration, Into the Spider-Verse is the lowest grossing Spider-Man movie. Similar to Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, I’m not sure audiences knew how to get excited for an animated superhero movie. Especially when MCU Spidey was already in full swing. I was prepared not to like Into the Spider-Verse, but I have warmed up to it overtime…

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Spider-Man teams up with Spider-Man and Spider-Woman

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse went a vastly different route than some might’ve expected. Sony probably expected another traditional Spider-Man adventure, but Lord & Miller wanted to explore the Spider-Verse. Something only animation could accomplish. The idea of a Spider-Verse is actually a lot older than people think. The earliest alternate version of Spider-Man was Ben Reilly, the Scarlet Spider. A clone version of Spider-Man that inspired several different Spider-People in comics over the years. My earliest introduction to the concept was the Spider Wars arc in Spider-Man: The Animated Series. Where Spider-Man was joined by many unique Spider-Men from alternate dimensions. Including the Scarlet Spider, a billionaire Spider-Man with an iron suit, a half mutated Spider-Man, Spider-Man with Doc Ock’s tentacles, and an ordinary human Spider-Man from the real world.

The Spider-Verse was further explored in the video game Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions. The game included the Amazing Spider-Man, the Ultimate Spider-Man, Spider-Man Noir, and Spider-Man 2099. It was enough to inspire the 2014 comic book storyline “Spider-Verse.” I only ever read the Miniseries that featured most of the characters from Into the Spider-Verse. With the exception of Miles Morales. I’ll be the first to admit I never cared for the character. The 2010’s were a low point for comic books that arguably started with the creation of Miles Morales. The half black, half Puerto Rican Spider-Man was created in 2011 after Spider-Man died in the Ultimate universe. I’m biracial myself, but Peter Parker will always be Spider-Man to me. Regardless of story quality, it always felt like Marvel was trying to be PC with their biggest icons.

Putting Miles front and center in Into the Spider-Verse was one way to increase his appeal and possibly prove me wrong. Into the Spider-Verse has a lot more effort put into it than Sony was used to. Animators were tripled just to accomplish Lord & Miller’s vision of a living comic book. Characters are still very stylized, but state of the art computer animation is blended with hand drawn comic book illustrations. The frame rate is also decreased in a mildly distracting way. Into the Spider-Verse feels like reading a comic book with the inclusion of comic book panels, thought boxes, onomatopoeia for action, and even approval from the Comics Code Authority. Every Spider-Man introduction includes their comic book and breezy narration from the character.

The first Spider-Man is Peter Parker from what can be considered the Ultimate universe. He’s basically an amalgamation of every Spider-Man ranging from the 60’s cartoon to the Sam Raimi films. Except with minor differences like having blonde hair and blue eyes. The similar looking Chris Pine voices this version of Spider-Man since most of the cast is made up of former or future superhero actors. The lead Spider-Man is Miles Morales voiced by Shameik Moore. He feels right for the part since he’s as young as Tom Holland and already played a black nerd in the movie Dope. The main difference between Miles and Peter (besides race) is their family dynamic. Miles has two living parents who love and support him. Brian Tyree Henry is likeable and complex as Miles’ police officer father Jefferson Davis. Luna Lauren Vélez doesn’t have much to do as Miles’ nurse mother Rio Morales, but she does speak Spanish.

Jefferson has the usual distrust of Spider-Man and just wants his son to stay out of trouble. Miles is smart, carefree, and listens to “Sunflower” by Post Malone & Swae Lee, but he also does graffiti and doesn’t want to attend a prep school. His biggest influence is his Uncle Aaron Davis effectively voiced by Oscar winner Mahershala Ali. He teaches him the “shoulder touch” to use on a girl he likes at school and they do graffiti in a subway. It’s there that an unstable spider bites Miles, but he barely reacts to it. His transformation is funnier than most incarnations since he can’t silence the voice in his head and sticks to everything. The girl from before introduces herself as Gwanda and an awkward encounter forces her to cut part of her hair. Since Spider-Man is real in his universe, Miles finds out about his powers from True Life Tales of Spider-Man comics that his roommate reads.

Ganke Lee is Miles’s best friend in the comics. He wasn’t given any speaking lines, since Ned from Homecoming is practically a carbon copy of the character. While investigating the spider, Miles stumbles upon a fight between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin. I’m a big fan of the original Ultimate Spider-Man comics, but I never liked the giant monstrous goblin version of Green Goblin. He’s also given bat wings and a long tongue for some reason. Their battle is interrupted by the movie’s big bad the Kingpin. Probably the only time we’ll ever see Spider-Man fight Kingpin on the big screen. Speaking of big, Kingpin is seriously exaggerated with enormous proportions and a small head. Liev Schreiber gives him a thick Italian accent and sympathetic motivations to save his wife Vanessa and their son. Though he’s still ruthless and does plan to bring them back with a Collider machine that taps into the multiverse.

For the short time he’s on-screen, Spider-Man manages to encourage Miles before being viciously beaten by Kingpin. Miles is pursued by the Prowler throughout New York City. The original Prowler was the misunderstood Hobie Brown, but the Ultimate version turns out to be Miles’ Uncle Aaron. Something he doesn’t find out until later. The whole city mourns Spider-Man including his wife Mary Jane Watson. MJ is still a redhead, but she is voiced by Zoë Kravitz. Miles honors the fallen hero by purchasing a Halloween costume from another fallen hero. Stan Lee’s cameo as a store owner is poignant since it was his first cameo since passing away. His philosophy of anyone being behind the mask is a major theme in the movie. Miles tries to live up to Spider-Man’s legacy, but he has to visit Peter’s grave for guidance. The scene was actually shown as an end credits scene for Venom.

The second Spider-Man is Peter B. Parker from what might be considered Earth-616. He’s the closest to the Spider-Man we all know and love. Except this Spidey is older, fatter, more jaded, and divorced from Mary Jane. Although I felt like they were mistreating the character, it is undeniably funny. Tobey Maguire was originally considered for the role, but it would’ve been too distracting. Jake Johnson is a fair compromise since he does sound like an older Spider-Man. Peter visits Miles at the grave and they swing around in a cartoony chase scene with the police. Miles takes Peter back to his room where he reluctantly decides to mentor the young hero. Since the multiverse is slowly being ripped apart, they plan to stop the Collider with a flash drive that Peter calls a “Goober.” They infiltrate Kingpin’s research facility where Peter continues to give Miles lousy advice.

Another primary difference between Miles and Peter is the former’s ability to emit bio-electric “venom blasts” and turn invisible. I’m not sure why he has those additional powers in the comics, but it is an interesting change of pace. While at the facility, Peter is discovered by a quirky female scientist voiced by Kathryn Hahn. She turns out to be Dr. Olivia Octavius, otherwise known as Doctor Octopus. There’s never been a female Doc Ock in the comics, but I’m fine with it as long as this is an alternate reality. She has the goggles and tentacles, but they’re made of tubes instead of mechanical. Miles manages to get the kill code by disappearing. Leaving Peter to fight Doc Ock until they escape. Miles learning to swing in the forest with one of Peter’s web shooters is a nice way to strengthen their bond.

They’re rescued by the first and only Spider-Woman in the movie (and I ain’t talkin’ Jessica Drew). The mysterious girl from before reveals herself to be Gwen Stacy herself. Spider-Gwen is another recent 2014 comic creation who became popular in a short amount of time. Gwen is so defined by her death that I never had a specific problem with her superhero alter ego. Like the rest of the costumes, Gwen’s white, purple, and black hooded spider suit is exactly the same as the comics. Her origin is also practically word for word. This version of Gwen was in a band, bitten by a radioactive spider, and witnessed the death of her best friend Peter Parker. Hailee Steinfeld is just right for a teenager like Gwen. The only reason she was around longer is because she was thrown into last week. Her popularity also meant more screen time.

The three of them decide to visit Aunt May in order to find answers. Lily Tomlin is an odd, but feisty May Parker who knows all about her nephew’s identity. She takes them to what can only be described as a Spider-Cave. A headquarters with its own Spider-Computer, hall of costumes, and even the Spider-Mobile. Although Peter, Miles, and Gwen are given the most attention, there are still three Spider-People we haven’t even met yet. They’re a little last minute, but they make the best of the short time they have. Spider-Man Noir was created in 2009 as a black & white Great Depression version of the hero. Nicholas Cage is the biggest scene stealer with his old fashioned 1930’s accent. It was actually Cage’s second animated superhero role after voicing Superman in Teen Titans! Go to the Movies.

Peni Parker is the most obscure Spider-Person who appeared in the same 2014 comic as Spider-Gwen. She’s a young Asian girl with a psychic link to a spider controlling a mech suit named SP//dr. Kimiko Glenn does her best and Peni at least stands out for her Anime design. Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham is the character I most looked forward to seeing. I knew about the anthropomorphic cartoon pig for years since he’s as old as 1983. I wanted to love Spider-Ham, but I honestly think he’s the weakest link. I know comedian John Mulaney is trying to do a Looney Tunes homage, but his voice and jokes just feel off. Spider-Ham does have further appearances in cartoon shorts. With all of the longtime Spider-People slowly disintegrating, it’s decided Miles has to be the one to stop the Collider.

When their expectations overwhelm him, he disappears and learns the truth about his uncle. Miles returns to Aunt May’s house where a sinister fight breaks out. Doc Ock and Prowler are joined by Tombstone and Scorpion. Tombstone is a fairly standard version of the villain voiced by albino Black Lightning actor Krondon. Scorpion is a lot weirder with mechanical scorpion legs, a tail, and Mexican accent likely influenced by Homecoming. Their fight is messy, but it ends tragically when Miles reveals himself to Prowler. Into the Spider-Verse maintains its PG rating, but it does push the boundaries sometimes. Kingpin shoots Miles’ uncle right in front of him and they have an Uncle Ben moment in a nearby ally. I couldn’t help but tear up at the death even though I was trying not to like the movie. All Spider-People have motivational deaths, but Miles’ still needs a leap of faith.

Peter’s inspirational words and his father reaching out to him are enough to finally motivate him. Miles spray painting his own black Spider-Man costume and leaping from a building in street clothes is a pretty epic hero moment. The gravity defying web slinging can only be accomplished in animation. Meanwhile, the Spider-People infiltrate an event hosted by Kingpin. Peter runs into this universe’s MJ and it starts to give him second thoughts about staying behind. Miles makes his heroic entrance at the Collider. Heroes fight villains as the machine turns the world upside down in the most colorful abstract way possible. Miles says a tearful goodbye to his fellow Spider-People and takes care of Kingpin himself. Using his own style, Miles manages to defeat the crime lord and disable the machine.

Miles reconciles with his dad and gets him to trust Spider-Man at the same time. The final introduction by Miles reinforces the message that anyone can be Spider-Man. I’m still not completely behind the message, but adding a tribute to Stan Lee & Steve Ditko was a nice touch. The after credits scene includes another Spider-Man who was too iconic to be left out. Oscar Isaac voices Miguel O’Hara, aka Spider-Man 2099. A future version of the wallcrawler given a gadget that lets him hop between dimensions. His first stop is the 1967 animated series where he recreates the Spider-Man pointing meme. Into the Spider-Verse is filled with easter eggs that hardcore fans will likely appreciate. Though I’m far from calling it a masterpiece, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is an admirable celebration of the quintessential Marvel superhero.

Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse

The Spider-People hide in Miles Morales’ room

Followed by: Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Part One)

Stone vs. Bronze

Early Man is late to the game. What do cavemen and soccer have in common? Absolutely nothing, but Aardman decided to make a movie about it. Of course they do call it football since it’s a British production. After Chicken Run and Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, studio founder Nick Park made Early Man his next project. I really think Aardman needs to choose their projects more carefully. Between The Pirates! and Early Man, no original concepts come close to what came before. It’s an enjoyable cave adventure, but not exactly Oscar material.

Which is why I’m glad it wasn’t one of many stop-motion animated movies nominated. It’s alright to be average every once in awhile. The animation is up to the usual standard, but it does look goofier than usual. This time the talented British cast consists of the mostly unrecognizable voices of Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hiddleston, Maisie Williams, and Timothy Spall. Early Man takes place during a semi-modern Stone Age. Dug thinks big as he hunts with his pet boar Hognob and fellow dimwitted cavemen & women.

When their land is threatened, Dug discovers a much more evolved civilization from the Bronze Age. The eccentric and greedy Lord Nooth keeps everyone distracted with soccer matches. Apparently cavemen invented soccer, so Dug challenges the ruler to a high stakes game. He gets help from a lovely Bronze Age vendor named Goona and manages to teach his tribe how to play. Early Man is a funny romp, but I’m still not a big enough fan of sports or cave people to get properly invested.

Early Man

Dug, Hognob and Goona gather footballs

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

For the Glory of Merlin, Daylight is Mine to Command!

Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans is not the epic conclusion it should’ve been. DreamWorks Animation has made several TV spin-offs of their movies over the years, but Rise of the Titans is the only movie spun-off from a TV series. The Tales of Arcadia trilogy is the brainchild of Guillermo del Toro. His sympathetic monsters and gothic style are apparent even in a children’s show. Though intended to be live-action, computer animation was the only way to pull off a series full of trolls, aliens, and other magical creatures. Arcadia Oaks is the mecha for supernatural activity. Streaming on Netflix; Tales of Arcadia consists of the 3 season Trollhunters, 2 season 3Below, and 1 season Wizards. Each show is rich with complex lore, mature storytelling, terrific character development, awesome action, and a great sense of humor.

I was so hooked that I watched all 88 episodes in the span of 8 days. My brother and I watched them separately, but we were both ready to watch the big finale together. Rise of the Titans begins with a lengthy recap for anyone who didn’t watch the shows. Tales of Arcadia featured an all-star cast from the beginning, but the animation has noticeably gotten more ambitious. Elemental Titans rising from the Earth sparks a globetrotting adventure that starts epic enough with everyone working together to fight the evil Arcane Order on a runaway subway train. Characters from Trollhunters consist of chosen Trollhunter Jim Lake Jr, his magical girlfriend Claire, jokester best friend Toby, academic troll mentor Blinky, troll muscle AAARRRGGHH!!!, and reformed changelings Strickler and Nomura.

Characters from 3Below consist of Akiridion-5 alien Queen Aja, her brother Prince Krel, battle ready bodyguard Varvatos Vex, and helpful alien Stuart. Characters from Wizards consist of wizard apprentice Douxie and his black cat familiar Archie. Plus reformed bully Steve and his less nerdy Creepslayerz friend Eli. Although Rise of the Titans tries to imitate the Avengers, 1 hour & 46 minutes is just not enough time for a well deserved conclusion. Character arcs either feel rushed or disrespectful to everything they went through. Heroes die, but really it’s the ending that ruins everything. Through a series of complicated reasons, the Trollhunter travels back in time to undo the entire franchise and make the goofy sidekick the new chosen one. Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans needed more time.

Trollhunters Rise of the Titans

The residents of Arcadia unite

A Game of Cat and Mouse

Tom & Jerry brought the iconic duo back to the big screen after nearly 3 decades. It not so surprisingly ended up being another mess. I’m glad HBO Max was an option, because there’s no way I would’ve suffered through it in theaters. The 90’s animated movie where they’re practically side characters who talk was pretty bad, but I’ve heard nothing but terrible things about their many direct-to-video films. Tom & Jerry was in development hell for years.

First Warner Bros. wanted a fully live-action movie like Alvin and the Chipmunks. Then they wanted a fully computer animated movie. Finally they settled on a Who Framed Roger Rabbit style world where all animals are animated in the real world. Tom, Jerry, Spike, Toots, Butch, and even Droopy Dog are all computer animated, but made to look traditionally animated. However off-putting it is, director Tim Story does have some level of respect for the classic cartoons. Tom and Jerry are kept silent and do fight as violently as possible.

Their antics are just bogged down by poop jokes, cringy modern slang, and an entire live-action storyline I couldn’t care less about. There’s also a lot of urban influence that feels out of place. Chloë Grace Moretz plays an event planner at an upscale hotel who recruits Tom to hunt Jerry in order to keep a celebrity wedding on track. It’s remarkably unfunny and proven comedians like Michael Peña, Colin Jost, Rob Delaney, or Ken Jeong don’t make it any funnier. The antics of Tom and Jerry are not enough to save Tom & Jerry from being an iron to the face.

Tom and Jerry

Tom and Jerry fight

Zoo-Wee Mama!

Diary of a Wimpy Kid (2021) is Disney once again shelling out anything they own the rights to. Live action Diary of a Wimpy Kid movies were all but over after Dog Days was released in 2012. I think The Long Haul meant well, but nobody wanted to see new actors only 5 years after the third movie. Since Jeff Kinney’s book series is just too popular, Fox wanted to keep it relevant no matter what. Even after Disney acquired the rights. Aside from the short film Class Clown, the only animated Diary of a Wimpy Kid project would’ve been Cabin Fever.

When that fell through, Disney chose to reboot the entire series with computer animated movies on Disney+. I don’t know what it is, but somehow Diary of a Wimpy Kid (2021) feels like the most contractually obligated movie they’ve made up to this point. Although the Disney brand is all over it, this “feature film” is only 58 minutes long. So much of the book is cut out that it almost feels abrupt when it ends. Events are streamlined to almost exclusively focus on Greg Heffley and Rowley Jefferson’s friendship.

So they only include the big wheel accident, Halloween, sleeping over at Fregley’s, Zoo-Wee-Mama! comics, and of course “the Cheese Touch.” Wrestling, Christmas, the school play, and just about everything else is cut. Even mom, dad, Manny, and Rodrick are barely in the movie. It doesn’t help that the cast is almost entirely unknown. Then there’s the animation. Despite having these perfectly good 2D illustrations, Kinney went with 3D animated characters, and it just doesn’t look right. Diary of a Wimpy Kid (2021) isn’t exactly the fresh start it could’ve been.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2021

Greg and Rowley makeup

Animated Reboot of: Diary of a Wimpy Kid (2010)

Pigeon: Impossible

Spies in Disguise is the unceremonious final film from Blue Sky Animation. Despite already owning Pixar, Disney ended up obtaining the rights to Blue Sky with their 20th Century Fox acquisition. Only to shut the studio down a year later. My brother and I saw Spies in Disguise on Christmas blissfully unaware that it would be the last. Although it’s a strange way to end Blue Sky’s run, I’m glad I ended up enjoying their last movie. Spies in Disguise is surprisingly based on an ameteur computer animated short on YouTube called Pigeon: Impossible (watch the short here).

The movie is given high quality computer animation, but nothing fancy. The plot instead makes Agent Walter Beckett a super smart boy genius and turns the pesky pigeon into a spy in disguise. The always charismatic Will Smith essentially plays himself as the self-proclaimed “World’s Greatest Spy” Lance Sterling. He has a variety of gadgets, spy cars, and takes out the Yakuza with little effort. Since Tom Holland is literally everywhere, it was only a matter of time before he did animation. Walter works with Sterling at the agency H.T.U.V. hidden under the Washington Monument. The young scientist pushes for colorful non-lethal gadgets.

I honestly wasn’t sure how I felt about the movie until Walter transforms Sterling into a pigeon. The absurd situation is laugh out loud hilarious. Sterling blends in with a gang of comical pigeons and sticks with Walter until he gets his body back. All the while H.T.U.V. thinks he’s a traitor to the organization. Rashida Jones voices one of many semi-serious agents who hunts Sterling down. Ben Mendelsohn not so surprisingly voices the Bond-esque villain Killian who plans to conquer the world with era appropriate drones. Walter and pigeon Sterling end up bonding on their wacky spy adventure and learn to accept unique ways of solving their problems. Spies in Disguise flew in at just the right time.

14. Spies in Disguise

Agent Sterling (pigeon) and Walter (human)