On the Open Road

A Goofy Movie is the goofiest, most heartfelt father/son adventure you’ll ever see. Unlike DuckTales, Goof Troop was never a major Saturday-morning cartoon. It only lasted 2 seasons and I honestly never knew it existed for a long time. So how did A Goofy Movie gain a stronger cult following than DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp? Although Scrooge McDuck is an icon in his own right, there’s no beating a classic character like Goofy. His goofy antics have been a mainstay of Disney since the early 30’s. Along with his popular How to… series, Goofy became something of an everyman with a job and family in the 50’s.

Goof Troop similarly turned Goofy into a single father with a son named Max. Since A Goofy Movie was made in the middle of the Disney Renaissance, soon to be fired Walt Disney Studios chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg gave it the same treatment. Turning Goofy into a loving father just trying to connect with his son. Even though Walt Disney Feature Animation worked on the movie at the same time as The Lion King, no one believed in the project. Making it the second Disneytoon production. A Goofy Movie wasn’t an instant hit, but thankfully my generation has given it a second chance…

A Goofy Movie

Goofy on the road with Max

A Goofy Movie is just as much a childhood favorite as the rest of the Disney Renaissance. My brother and I watched it on VHS before it was cool. Something about A Goofy Movie really speaks to millennials such as myself. Maybe because it was one of a few contemporary Disney movies made in the 90’s. A Goofy Movie is filled with 90’s slang, pop songs, modern technology, and celebrities like Pauly Shore. Sure it’s dated, but timeless at the same time. A Goofy Movie picks up years after Goof Troop when Max is an average 14 year old dog. Jason Marsden replaces Dana Hill a year before her untimely death. Marsden gives Max all the attitude and awkwardness of a teenager. His biggest fear is turning into his father. Which is especially embarrassing when his dad is literally Goofy. Although strangely asked to tone down his goofy voice, Bill Farmer manages to make Goofy sincere without losing his “Hyucks.” Cartoony antics are maintained, but the story remains relatable. Goofy also remains a single father, but Pete is a different story.

In Goof Troop, longtime Disney villain Pete was Goofy’s brutish neighbor with a son named P.J, a daughter named Pistol, and a wife named Peg. Only Jim Cummings and Rob Paulsen return as Pete and P.J. in order to enforce the themes of fatherhood. Pete rules by fear, while Goofy prefers affection. All Max wants to do is impress his crush Roxanne. Roxanne has nerdy friends like Stacey and is just as shy as Max, but she does return his feelings. Max & Roxanne are honestly one of the cutest Disney couples. It’s literal puppy love. With the help of his friends, Max manages to put on a concert at his school dressed as their favorite popstar Powerline. Singer Tevin Campbell voices Powerline as a cross between Michael Jackson and Prince. P.J. is still Max’s best friend, but they’re joined by Bobby aka Pauly Shore as himself. Wallace Shawn voices the mildly villainous Principal Mazur who worries Goofy to the point of starting a father/son fishing trip. Max doesn’t want to go, but he makes things worse when he tells Roxanne he’ll be at a Powerline concert. A Goofy Movie is a particularly wacky road movie with references to Walt Disney and cameos from Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.

Even a movie as zany as this isn’t exempt from creepy Disney moments. The opening is a dream turned nightmare that somehow manages to make Goofy’s laugh scary. Goofy taking Max to a corny hillbilly possum show always upset me when I was younger. Goofy later tries to bond over teaching Max the perfect fishing cast, but it only succeeds in finding a vicious, albeit rambunctious Bigfoot. Leading to a genuinely heartfelt connection ruined by Max changing the map. As they start to compromise over the things that they enjoy, Max starts to have second thoughts. When he doesn’t act on them, it leads to an appropriately goofy father/son talk that sends their car off a canyon, plunges them in a river, and nearly takes them over a waterfall. Max performs a perfect cast and Goofy takes his son to the concert. Ending with Max telling the truth, getting an innocent kiss from Roxanne, and fully embracing his dad.

A Goofy Movie may have outsourced its animation, but I honestly can’t tell the difference between other Disney movies of the era. The open road feels grand and concerts feel like actual events. A Goofy Movie is a contemporary musical with a seriously underrated soundtrack. “After Today” highlights the high school experience and Max wanting to stand out. “Stand Out” is a fun Powerline single that helps Max get noticed. “On the Open Road” gives Goofy his silly showstopper, while the “Lester’s Possum Park” theme is just cringy. “Nobody Else But You” is the right song to bring Goofy & Max together. Until the much more energetic and catchy “I 2 I” performed by Powerline on stage. A Goofy Movie took a forgotten show and made something special out of it.

A Goofy Movie 2

Max sings to Roxanne

Followed by: An Extremely Goofy Movie

Ring of Fire

Walk the Line falls head first into the burning ring of fire that was Johnny Cash’s life. Like most great biopics, it walks a fine line between historical accuracy and cinematic flourish. I was never the biggest Johnny Cash expert, but I do love his classics like “Ring of Fire” and “I Walk the Line.” As well as his later more melancholy hits like “Hurt” or “The Man Comes Around.” The latter songs I only know thanks to Logan. Walk the Line is where director James Mangold first explored his appreciation for Johnny Cash. I learned so much about his often somber ups & downs that I was never aware of.

How he dealt with the tragic loss of his brother, fought for his father’s approval, and experienced substance abuse. Joaquin Phoenix nails a more subtle country accent, but sings with the exact brass-baritone of Cash. Just as authentic is Cash’s persistence at becoming a successful singer. He goes from gospel to country, becomes “The Man in Black” by pure happenstance, and does it all in Memphis, Tennessee. Since Cash became something of an outlaw, it only made sense to start the movie at the Folsom prison where he performed.

Just as important is the love story between Johnny Cash and his wife June Carter. Depicting a romance between a married man is tricky, but Ginnifer Goodwin is given just as much attention as Cash’s first wife Vivian. As their marriage falls apart, Johnny and June slowly grow closer. I didn’t know much about fellow country singer June Carter, but Reese Witherspoon absolutely deserved her Best Actress Oscar win. Phoenix should’ve won too, but there’s just something about June’s comedy hiding her inner struggles. Walk the Line honors multiple one-of-a-kind talents.

Walk the Line

Johnny Cash performs with June Carter

Just Sing

Trolls World Tour is the best Troll 2 I’ve seen. Even if it did inadvertently harm the film industry for years to come. Like most DreamWorks Animation sequels, Trolls World Tour likely would’ve came and went if it was released exclusively to theaters. When the pandemic struck, Trolls World Tour became the first major movie simultaneously released on a streaming platform. So my brother and I were forced to watch the sequel from the comfort of our home. Turning the movie into a bigger success that nearly lead to a ban of Universal films for AMC theaters. Although Trolls World Tour isn’t really worth the extra attention, it is another surprisingly strong sequel that doubles the fun of the original. The computer animation is even more colorful with trippier images that would’ve been cool to see on a big screen.

Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake are back to sing their hearts out. Since the soul focus of World Tour is the music. Turns out the Trolls are really one group in a tribe of Trolls defined by musical genres. There are Pop Trolls, edgier Hard Rock Trolls, aquatic Techno Trolls, winged Classical Trolls, centaur-like Country Trolls, and the Funk Trolls that look like the out of place giraffe creature Cooper. Plus more niche genres like Smooth Jazz, Yodeling, K-Pop, and Reggaeton. Poppy & Branch sort of hit the reset button since the latter constantly tries to confess his love. While Poppy makes a few poor decisions as the Queen of the Pop Trolls. She personally confronts Queen Barb of the Hard Rock Trolls with Branch and Biggie’s help. James Corden is promoted along with a few other returning cast members.

The Bergens are reduced to cameos. Leaving room for more voices like Rachel Bloom as the feisty Barb, Ozzy Osbourne as her father, Kelly Clarkson as the Country Troll mayor, Mary J. Blige as the Queen of the Funk Trolls, and Sam Rockwell as a helpful guide named Hickory. The diversity in music makes for a fun soundtrack that takes advantage of even more hits. Troll music is threatened when Barb seeks to unite everyone under rock. Although she seems like the villain, this is 2020. Of course the real enemies are circumstances from the past that no one can control. Though it’s not as annoying since the ultimate moral is embracing differences. Ending with a not as catchy final song that melds all genres called “Just Sing.” Trolls World Tour rocks without even trying.

36. Trolls World Tour

The Troll tribes united

Preceded by: Trolls

Can’t Stop the Feeling

Trolls shouldn’t work as well as it does. I’m not trolling when I say Trolls is the most surprisingly fun original DreamWorks Animation project in recent memory. After Home gave me too many red flags, I very nearly skipped Trolls as well. I remember thinking it was very bizarre to make a movie based on the creepy troll dolls I had when I was a kid. The colorful approach and poppy soundtrack made it seem less like something I needed to see in theaters. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw it anyway. The computer animation is simple, but vibrant like a glittery pastel scrapbook come to life. All trolls retain the trademark tall colorful hair of their namesake. Along with a big nose, big ears, and often exposed butt.

Trolls are an overly happy race that do nothing but sing, dance, and hug. Their natural enemy are a fictional race called Bergens that believe in eating Trolls to be happy. The celebrity voice cast is a mix of musically talented entertainers and frequent animation collaborators. After Pitch Perfect, Anna Kendrick was the perfect upbeat choice for sweetly naive Troll Princess Poppy. Her fellow Trolls are voiced by the likes of James Corden and Gwen Stefani, but they aren’t given a lot of attention. There are big Trolls, small Trolls, glitter farting Trolls, and an odd Troll that looks like a giraffe. All of Poppy’s partying attracts the attention of evil Bergen chef Chef voiced by Christine Baranski. So Poppy is forced to team up with her overly cautious polar opposite Branch voiced by returning DreamWorks collaborator Justin Timberlake.

Their journey is fraught with pipe cleaner spiders and sarcastic clouds. Although most jokes are juvenile, it’s too creative not to laugh out loud. The Bergens are led by the easily fooled young King Gristle Jr. voiced by Christopher Mintz-Plasse. Poppy, Branch, and the rest of the Trolls use everything they know about happiness to keep from being eaten. Including help lovesick scullery maid Bridget voiced by an unrecognizable Zooey Deschanel. Until they’re all betrayed by a zen Troll fittingly voiced by Russell Brand. Poppy & Branch of course come to together in the end through the power of music. As a jukebox musical, Trolls is full of catchy hits. The catchiest song is easily the Best Original Song nominee “Can’t Stop the Feeling.” As kid friendly, party filled DreamWorks movies go, Trolls can’t stop my feeling of enjoyment.

31. Trolls

Poppy and Branch sing

Followed by: Trolls World Tour

Meow

Cats (2019) is a jellicle failure for jellicle cats. As popular as the Broadway show is, I always wondered why they didn’t make a movie sooner. The 1998 play put to film doesn’t count. I figured it would be some kind of anthropomorphic animated movie, but no one could’ve expected what we actually ended up with. Despite the combined talent of T.S. Eliot, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Academy Award winning director Tom Hooper, Cats bombed hard at the box-office. It’s truly a spectacular catastrophe with nightmarishly bad special effects, a 19% on Rotten Tomatoes, and a Razzie for Worst Picture. I find it laughable that Cats was seriously released around Oscar season. Even with his experience on Les Misérables, Hooper completely misses the mark. The use of humanoid cat people is both disturbing and uncomfortable. I know the original show was vaguely sexual, but this feels like a furry’s dream come true. Making me seriously question the “kid friendly” PG rating.

The CGI fur never looks right on anyone. It got to a point where the movie was re-released to fix glaring technical errors. Just as bad is the bizzare setting that dwarfs every cat in a giant stage-like moonlit city. To be fair to the show that I’m not the biggest fan of, Cats does cast the right people for each part. The songs are already good, but even those aren’t safe from new renditions. The non-plot is sort of ditched to tie each musical cat introduction together with cringey cat puns. Victoria the White Cat is essentially the lead played by ballerina Francesca Hayward. Robert Fairchild has some attention as Munkustrap, but Laurie Davidson is for some reason given an added subplot as magical Mr. Mistoffelees. James Corden and Rebel Wilson are particularly bad with their forced comedy as Bustopher Jones and Jennyanydots. Her scenes are especially disturbing with the inclusion of human faced mice & cockroaches. Skimbleshanks, Mungojerrie, and Rumpleteazer really feel tacked on in a movie.

Singers like Jason Derulo made sense for Rum Tum Tugger, but he ends up feeling like a cat pimp. Taylor Swift is surprisingly good as the sultry Bombalurina. She’s partially responsible for the Oscar bait song “Beautiful Ghosts.” Idris Elba is much more present as the villainous Macavity, but his brown fur makes him look naked. Not even the respected Sir Ian McKellen and Dame Judi Dench are safe. Although forced to drink from a milk bowl, McKellen is okay as the theatrical Gus. There’s nothing wrong with Dench playing a gender swapped Old Deuteronomy, but her solo is off-putting when she stares directly at the audience. Even with the restraint of bad CGI, Jennifer Hudson puts her all into Grizabella the Glamour Cat. Especially with her rendition of “Memory.” The cult-like Jellicles take her to the Heaviside Layer and I’m reminded just how wrong the story is. Cats has to be seen to be believed.

Cats 2019

Cats

Memory! All Alone in the Moonlight!

Cats (1998) has a bit of a reputation on Broadway. Although I was once a theater kid, I never really appreciated one of the longest-running musicals of all time. Composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber and based on T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, it seems you either love or hate Cats. The 1998 movie is simply the play put to film with more effects and several returning cast members. I distinctly remember watching a VHS tape of Cats when I was 4.

I only remember being a combination of confused, creeped out, and bored to death. I don’t even remember how vaguely sexual the cats are. In case you’ve never seen the musical, Cats doesn’t really have a straightforward plot. It’s 100% singing, loosely tied together with various Jellicle cats wanting to be reborn in the Heaviside Layer. Don’t try to make sense of it. The stage is a more extravagant moonlit junkyard where each colorful cat is musically introduced. Each of them dressed in wild cat makeup and unitards.

There’s the ballet dancing Victoria the White Cat, storytelling Munkustrap, all-knowing Old Deuteronomy, seemingly lazy gumbie cat Jennyanydots, fun loving Rum Tum Tugger, fancy fat cat Bustopher Jones, cat burgling Mungojerrie & Rumpleteazer, aging theater cat Gus, mischievous Macavity, flirtatious Bombalurina, railway riding Skimbleshanks, magical Mr. Mistoffelees, and sad former glamour cat Grizabella. Between all of those funny names are some genuinely catchy songs. I have a lot of personal favorites, but nothing beats Elaine Paige performing the showstopper “Memory.” Cats is still an acquired taste regardless of medium.

Cats

Cats

One Ring to Bring Them All and in the Darkness Bind Them

The Return of the King is the final animated adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien’s work. Since Ralph Bakshi was overwhelmed by the response to his incomplete version of The Lord of the Rings, Rankin/Bass jumped at the opportunity to finish it. Sadly, The Return of the King was very much a sequel to The Hobbit (that’s not confusing at all). A Best Picture winner of 11 Academy Awards this is not. Since the TV special was every bit the crudely animated unnecessary musical that The Hobbit was. Scenes from the 1977 film are used along with Orson Bean voicing both Bilbo and Frodo.

The 1980 film actually starts with elderly Bilbo celebrating his birthday after the One Ring was already destroyed. A very annoying minstrel sings the story of Frodo and his nine fingers. We pick up right where The Two Towers ended, but neither Bashki, nor Rankin/Bass depicted Frodo’s encounter with Shelob. Instead Frodo is already kidnapped by overly cartoony orcs. Leaving a fairly dignified Sam to come to Frodo’s aid. It really feels like a Hobbit sequel based on how much attention is given to the hobbits in comparison to everyone else.

Despite the title, Aragorn is barely in the movie to return as the king of Gondor. Legolas and Gimli are surprisingly never seen. Arwen is still absent, but at least Eowyn gets her female empowerment moment. The Battle of Minas Tirith is vaguely intense with Gandalf, Pippin, and eventually Merry fighting off orcs. It’s just Frodo and Sam avoiding Sauron’s eye atop Mount Doom that takes up most of the 1 hour & 38 minute runtime. The green Gollum from The Hobbit attacks Frodo, but his accidental destruction of the Ring is due to clumsiness. Frodo then departs to the Grey Havens in an ending with almost no weight to any of it. The Return of the King tries its best, but thankfully Peter Jackson came along to make the story a masterpiece.

The Return of the King

Frodo uses the power of the Ring

The Greatest Adventure

The Hobbit is the first on screen foray into the world of Middle-earth. Long before Peter Jackson brought J. R. R. Tolkien’s work to life, Rankin/Bass of Christmas special fame created their own animated TV special in 1977. My brother remembers seeing the movie, but my memory is practically non-existent. The Hobbit is a simple adventure just as the book intended. Not bloated into three overly long 2 hour movies. Although Rankin/Bass created the special, the very crude animation was done in Japan. By the company that would become Studio Ghibli no less.

The Hobbit simplifies a lot of the original story while remaining very faithful to the book’s British pleasantries. The animation meant keeping it kid friendly with musical songs from the book. Orson Bean voices Bilbo Baggins and John Huston voices Gandalf. If you know The Hobbit, then following the 1 hour & 30 minute story is easy. Bilbo is very quickly sent on an adventure with Gandalf, Thorin, and his Company of Dwarves. When Gandalf disappears we never know where. Their adventure takes many familiar stops in the Shire, Rivendell, Goblin-town, Mirkwood, Lake-town, and their final destination at the Misty Mountain.

Where they hastily battle hungry trolls, fearsome goblins, vicious wargs, and the magnificently eloquent dragon Smaug. Bilbo also has an extended confrontation of riddles with Gollum where he finds the One Ring. Gollum and most of the creatures have a very unique design, but nothing is more strange than their green interpretation of the woodland elves. When Smaug is quickly defeated by the man Bard, the Battle of the Five Armies is mostly implied. Ending with a hint of Lord of the Rings to come. The Hobbit has a crude charm that’s interesting to revisit after seeing three big-budget adaptations.

The Hobbit 1977

Gandalf, Bilbo, and the Company of Dwarves

Truly Outrageous

Jem and the Holograms is truly outrageous (and not in a good way). I knew almost nothing about the Hasbro cartoon Jem. Until I watched 3 episodes and was immediately drawn to the pastel music video adventures. Jem is the Hannah Montana of her time, but she does not fit a modern setting. Jem is unapologetically 80’s with her big pink hair and MTV style songs. G.I. Joe: Retaliation director Jon M. Chu may claim to be a lifelong fan, but he really misses the mark. It looked exactly like every cliché filled rising band movie ever made as soon as I saw the trailer.

Jem and the Holograms is barely recognizable apart from the colors and outfits. This is the first non-horror Blumhouse movie I’ve seen, but it’s no less horrific. For some reason they use YouTube videos in place of a soundtrack, shoot it with shaky cam, and put way too much emphasis on social media. They actually tricked Jem fans into shooting videos that made it look like they liked this botched version of the character. Jerrica Benton, her sister Kimber, and foster sisters Aja & Shana are all unrecognizable unknowns. Only 80’s icon Molly Ringwald and Juliette Lewis are name actresses.

Lewis for whatever reason plays a gender swapped version of seedy Starlight producer Eric Raymond. Jem’s love interest Rio isn’t already her boyfriend and don’t get me started on Synergy. Instead of a holographic synthesiser, 51N3RG.Y is a small robot connected to an unwanted father related mystery. The Jerrica/Jem alter ego is all wrong with no holograms to back it up. Apart from a few contagious songs, they seriously needed to lighten up with this moody unoriginal mess. Not even a last minute Misfits cameo could keep Jem and the Holograms from selling out.

Jem and the Holograms

Jem and the Holograms

We’re Off to See the World

My Little Pony: The Movie (2017) is the iteration I actually care about. It might surprise some people to know I’m a Bronie, but I’ve loved My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic ever since I gave it a chance while it was gaining popularity. The generation 4 reboot added so much depth, character development, and world building to the traditionally girl centric Hasbro toy line. It’s honestly one of my absolute favorite animated shows of the 2010’s. Can’t say I was expecting a theatrical movie to come out of it, but Friendship is Magic was just that successful. Even in an age that’s nearly abandoned traditional animation or big screen continuations of a TV series, My Little Pony: The Movie shines. While normally Flash animated, the film required a more three dimensional look. It helps to make Equestria more immersive than it’s ever been before.

Although the Mane 6 have certainly had better adventures after 7 seasons, The Movie does feel high stakes. The reviews aren’t glowing, but you really have to be a fan to appreciate it. Everything begins with a friendship festival held by magical Princess of Friendship Twilight Sparkle. Her position and braininess are put to the test as she faces certain doom. Fortunately her friends Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, Applejack, and Fluttershy are always by her side. Along with Spike of course. Everypony’s personality, sense of humor, and character choices are intact. They’re friendship is just put to the test thanks to the sudden arrival of warships. Since the Mane 6 retain their talented voice actresses, a large celebrity voice cast fills in the rest.

Emily Blunt is Tempest Shadow, a ruthless unicorn commander with a broken horn. Michael Peña is her less than funny cohort, but Liev Schreiber is the menacing new villain the Storm King. He steals Princess Celestia, Luna, and Cadence’s magic in order to rule the land. It’s enough to make the ponies leave Equestria in order to find help. These places are unusual, but it is a fine change of pace. They meet Taye Diggs as a smooth cat con-artist, Zoe Saldana as an awesome bird pirate, and Uzo Aduba & Kristin Chenoweth as royal Hippogriffs turned Seaponies. Earth Ponies, Pegasui, and Unicorns were kept from the original series, but Seaponies were never done before. The final battle brings everypony together in order to defeat the Storm King and restore peace. An epic finale that concludes with a Sia pony singing an original song. The music is very much on par with the series. My Little Pony: The Movie is pure magic.

My Little Pony: The Movie

The Mane 6 prepare for battle