The Other Side of Animation 623: The Bob’s Burgers Movie Review

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keep the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)


Honestly? It’s surprising that it has taken this long to get a Bob’s Burgers movie. Since the franchise started in 2011, it has pretty much been one of the go-to examples of adult animation that doesn’t heavily rely on raunchy humor, ultra-violence, shock jock sensibilities, and everything else that has given adult animation a bad reputation. Sure, by now, we have had shows like Arcane, Primal, and Legends of Vox Machina show that there can have varied results with adult animation, but since we are still going to get something like the upcoming Farzar, the best you can do is try to craft an experience that can make yourself stand out from the rest in the adult animation genre. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done, and yes, you could argue that the creators of the other similar shows Central Park and The Great North feel too akin to Bob’s Burgers, but they tend to be executed in different enough ways to still feel refreshing, despite the common spirit and writing of the three shows. Now then, how do you take a show like Bob’s Burgers with a distinct flow that differs from something like The Simpsons and turn it into a movie? Well, you do so with flying colors! 

The film is directed by Loren Bouchard and Bernard Derriman, written by Loren Bouchard and Nora Smith, and produced by Bento Box Entertainment, Wilo Productions, and 20th Century Animation. We join the ever-lovable Belcher family that includes Bob Belcher, voiced by H. John Benjamin, Tina Belcher, voiced by Dan Mintz, Eugene Mirman as Gene Belcher, John Roberts as Linda Belcher, and Kristen Schaal as Louise Belcher, as they begin to prepare for summer. This includes getting their loan handled, Tina finally asking Jimmy Pesto to be her summertime boyfriend, Gene getting his new instrument ready for a summertime performance, and Louise going through some personal self-discovery matters.  Unfortunately, things don’t go as planned. Tina can’t talk to Jimmy Pesto Jr, the bank declines the loan situation, and Louise, worst of all, is called a baby. They try to make all of the things go well for the four of them until a huge pothole opens up right in front of the restaurant that threatens to shut down Bob’s Burgers. Can the family figure out what’s going on? Why was a dead body found deep in the hole? Who is exactly behind all of this?

So, we have yet another animated show getting the film treatment, but what actually works about this flick? Well, while it does have a lot of those elements that you see in franchise films with the bigger budget for the visuals, and maybe a celebrity here or there to voice the characters, the overall size of the story and scale of the film is small. It’s actually refreshing, because the film literally takes place in only a few blocks of the show’s setting. No plot of the family traveling the world or the government showing interest in this one town for some reason, or an alien invasion. It’s a story about the parents finding a way to save their home and restaurant, Louise’s arc of overcoming her fears, Tina wanting to finally ask out her crush, and Eugene wanting to be the big pop star hit at the carnival. Of course, two of these plots take up most of the run time, but the fact they were able to make this all work and be able to pack so much charm and wit into the writing makes for an extremely entertaining experience. Even if it isn’t a full-blown musical, the few tunes they do have are executed in a way to add substance to the overall story and perfectly encapsulate what the characters are going for. The world and story might be small, but to everyone involved in the film’s plot, it’s world-ending levels big. That’s the beauty of the film. They did some major additions to the overall vibe of the show to make it work on the big screen, but they also kept the spirit of the show and what made it special at its core. You don’t usually get that with many films based on TV shows. 

On the animation and technical side of things, the film does look pretty good! It’s definitely a more fluid take on the characters that you should expect with film adaptations. While there are a few points where you can tell there are 2D characters walking alongside CGI backgrounds that result in some wonky compositing, it’s very rare and the visuals are pretty consistent. The designs were very approachable and making them look appealing and filled with the appeal was never going to be a problem for this show’s visuals. What’s also nice about the animation is that everyone, even during the big musical sequences, doesn’t act out of place or move like they are from a Disney Fantasia. Everyone dances like how normal people do. The Lucky Ducks sequence is a great example of this where it’s still well-choreographed, but it has its Bob’s Burgers appeal in how it looks. Voice cast-wise, while there are some big names, the real draw is always going to be the main cast of H. Jon Benjamin, John Roberts, Kristen Schaal, Dan Mintz, and Eugene Mirman. The rest of the cast is also perfect, with Larry Murphy as the Belcher’s lovable patron and friend, Teddy, Kevin Kline as the detached landlord Calvin and his brother Felix, voiced by Zach Galifianakis, and a slew of other actors reprising or playing minor roles that include Jordan Peele, Paul F. Tompkins, Stephanie Beatriz, and Jenny Slate, to name a few. The music by John Dylan Keith and Loren Bouchard is great and has the small town charm of the show, and the musical numbers by Loren Bouchard and Nora Smith are limited with only four songs, but the three that are available on the soundtrack have a whimsy about them that definitely reminds me of something from The Muppets. Even with everyone basically being voice actors/actors first, they do carry the tunes well! It’s just another part of the appeal of the franchise. 

 Now, one of the few criticisms I have is that the film does tend to focus more on Bob and Linda, and Louise’s story arcs than Tina and Eugene’s story arcs. Not that it’s a bad thing due to how the former three characters have a much more substantial story going on saving the restaurant and overcoming personal fears, but Tina gets the school crush arc and Eugene just wants to perform at the festival. Not that those two plots are bad, but there isn’t much to them. The film also gets a little long at 100 minutes? Personally, the film would have felt a little tighter around 90 minutes, but the fact that there is so much humor from the dialogue to visual gags shoved into each scene, that it almost fixes the pacing issues in the third act. Even by this point, everyone knows who the villain is, and while he has a few funny moments, he’s partly forgettable. Just a small road bump to get to the Belchers. 


While it may be more of what you love about the franchise, it shows that this franchise can do films, and if they would like to do more in the future, then that would be swell. It’s a fun, breezy, and delightful romp that everyone should go see if you already are going to or have seen Pixar’s Lightyear, but need something before the incredible The Sea Beast. I’ll definitely be picking up this film in the future when it hits Blu-ray, and if you love animated films with an indie charm, then you will love this film. Next time though, we are going to check out Chris Williams’ new Netflix animated feature of epic proportions, The Sea Beast


Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 262: Pompo the Cinephile Review

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keep the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)


At this moment in time it definitely feels like the film industry doesn’t actually like movies. Granted, it may be due to the success of films like Everything Everywhere All At Once, The Bad Guys, and The Northman, but if you watched the Oscars a month or so back, well, the tone and vibe of it all tells a different story. Like, sorry that people want their favorite entertainment to be taken seriously and yet the industry keeps dumping on the talented hard-working people that make the films that award shows like the Oscars “love”. Yes, we have seen films that are all about their love of cinema, but they sometimes come off as hollow and were there for awards and not much else. It’s rare when you get a film that, while maybe flawed, has the passion for someone who loves film. To make these types of films not become shallow experiences, you need to be able to poke at both the good and the bad, and sometimes, that results in films like Pompo the Cinephile


This film was directed and written by Takayuki Hirao. It’s based on the manga by Shogo Sugitani and was produced by CLAP. The story follows an assistant who works under the famed Nyallywood producer Pompo, dubbed by Brianna Genitella. She is famous for her work of releasing B-grade movies that are hugely successful. The assistant is named Gene Fini, dubbed by Christopher Trindade. One day, he thinks about how Pompo should make a more serious film, and ends up finding a screenplay for such a film on Pompo’s desk. He is then assigned by Pompo to help produce, direct, and pretty much helm this project all in one go. Along with the help of Pompo and a young up-and-coming actress named Natalie Woodward, dubbed by Jackie Lastra, can Gene craft a masterpiece and learn to find the secret and passion for filmmaking? 


So, let’s not beat around the bush, a couple of early reviews for the film were not positive. Understandably so, the film is not well told, the cast of colorful characters aren’t fully memorable, it can be a touch messy pacing-wise, and some aspects of the film hit differently, both for good and for bad. However, after watching the Oscars fiasco that was bad no matter how many want to put the blame of it on the slap, this film’s story and the experience hit differently. Yeah, this is one of those situations where watching it after certain events really recontextualizes the overall story of the film. Instead of coming off as a messy uneven film, it’s a film that shows the passion that drives filmmakers, and is unapologetic in showing how the passion can drive and or hurt someone, or absolutely stop projects flat if the right or wrong decision is made. It shows the love for film, but also the brutality of making one. You simply can’t release a 10-hour movie and call it a day. You need to make it flow fluidly from point A to point B. It needs to fit a certain runtime that will make audiences of all kinds happy. Maybe setting up a shot a certain way can help elevate the emotional punch of a scene. It’s a film that loves to discuss these details, but also loves to call out certain filmmakers or aspects of filmmaking, like the jabs at filmmakers creating 2-hour films instead of what Pompo describes as “the perfect length”, which is 90 minutes. It’s funny because the film itself and the marketing portray those runtime gags and trailer edits in the exact way seen in the film. The film itself is literally 90 minutes and that’s a fairly funny meta gag. Still, even with its story that’s all about the celebration of cinema, the editing, and what have you, it still gives you a story with a cast of likable characters to follow and it does capture the joy and ethereal vibes that you get with watching movies, seeing certain shots unfold, and that one magical moment that makes you love movies. It’s a corny, but charming ride with how Gene learns and approaches certain shots with how the story is told. 


Animation-wise, the film looks great. It has an appealing mix of more typical modern character looks, but a sprinkle of what can be labeled as retro. Pompo has a fantastic design, and you can see why her visual look has a mix of the more modern, but retro vibes with how pop art she looks. The backgrounds once again take some inspiration for the detailed cityscapes of Makoto Shinkai’s work, and the character movements are given plenty of detail and expressive reactions to certain situations as they arrive in the story. The English voice cast is great as well, with Brianna Gentilella, Christopher Trindade, Jackie Lastra, Anne Yatco, Kenneth Cavett, Jonah Platt, Gavin Hammon, Brock Powell, John H. Mayer, Michael Sorich, and Thomas Bromhead to name a few. They tend to capture the personalities from Pompo’s sharp-witted mannerisms, Gene’s awkward but fiery passion for filmmaking, Natalie’s humble hardworking newcomer persona, Mystia’s outward bombshell look that hides a clever individual, and you get the idea. Kenta Matsukuma, the composer, might not have too much under his belt with work ranging from Black Clover, God Eater, and Real Girl, but he brings a pretty solid soundtrack. It isn’t the most memorable effort, unless you consider the theme songs which were written by other people, but he does get the job done with what kind of mood or stage the soundtrack needed to set. 



Now, as for criticisms, there aren’t that many, but the ones that are there do stand out. The music itself isn’t the most memorable, and one can assume that due to this being his first major film score, it’s why the overall soundtrack isn’t the most memorable. As mentioned above, the overall story has some small pacing issues and some story beats go the distance in stretching the suspension of disbelief in how they were able to pull off certain moments. Some characters also feel like they were there for the sake of some crucial story moments or to fill space. They aren’t completely pointless due to their connections with the main characters, but otherwise, they don’t do much. 

Yes, Pompo the Cinephile is not perfect, and yes, if I did see this film before the whole Oscars fiasco and some other unexpected events in the film industry unfolded, the reading of this experience would be different. However, it has a lot of charm and passion of a film lover who may not know everything about films but enjoys the medium so much. Unfortunately, unlike Belle, it didn’t get a huge release but will be coming to Blu-ray and DVD on July 12. If you want to see something that has more love of the movies than the entire award season industry, then give this film a watch! Now then, due to how little is coming out, let’s talk about something that has been a long time coming. Next time, we will be talking about the first film in the popular comedy franchise with Bob’s Burgers the Movie




Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 255: Human Resources Review

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keep the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Heads up: I was able to watch this film via a screener sent to me from Netflix. I received no other form of monetization other than the screener. Thank you Netflix for this opportunity.

Out of all of the shows that get people hot and bothered on Netflix, Big Mouth gets people the most bothered. The iconic adult comedy that revolves around the life of a bunch of kids going through the disastrous and horrifying time of puberty with the help of monsters and creatures representing different sides of the human condition has split viewers down the middle. Some love this raunchy comedy for what it’s tackling with puberty, sex, gender identity, and relationships. On the other hand, many do not care for it due to how it’s yet another crass raunchy animated comedy that supposedly skates by with an artificial approach to said topics mentioned in the previous sentence. It doesn’t help that other shows got canceled while Big Mouth was able to fester. Luckily, shows like Tuca and Bertie were able to find new life on other services, but you get the idea. People who hate adult animation and comedies tend to point to this one being the worst of them all as it lingers grossly on the service. And now Nick Kroll and his creative team have a spin-off show that focuses on the monsters at hand. Now then, let’s make a trip to the third floor to Human Resources

This new show was created by  Nick Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, Kelly Galuska, Mark Levin, and Jennifer Flackett. This takes place in the world of the creatures that inhabited Big Mouth. We follow a group of different creatures including love bugs, anxiety mosquitos, logic rocks, hormone monsters, depression kitties, addiction angels, and you get the idea. We follow them through their daily lives as they help deal with the problems, minute and personal. 

So, with this being a spin-off to Big Mouth, expect a lot of the same elements that defined the iconic yet polarizing series. Comedy-wise, expect this to be fairly raunchy with so many sex jokes, swearing, and essentially, a small army worth of innuendos and visual gags. There will be nudity and some fairly graphical moments with violence and sex, but at this point with adult animated comedies on the streaming service, you should expect there to be no real limitations. As we have seen with shows like The Prince or HOOPS, being crass, shocking, offensive, and or in bad taste is not enough to make shows good, due to how you need something else to balance out the crass, cynical, and or mean-spirited nature of the art you are offering to viewers. Like how Big Mouth has a flawed if not admirable path of talking about the ugly side of puberty and coming of age with its kid characters becoming teens, Human Resources focuses more on the adult side of the lifespan. Granted, that sounds weird since this show is reliant on you loving the monsters and creatures that helped out the humans in the original show. 

Luckily, there is substance to this show. We see themes and storylines dealing with friendships, workplace situations, trust, dealing with loss and grief, toxic traits, the unpredictable reasons behind being in love, the battle between love and logical thinking, self-love, complicated relationships, sex, and you get the idea. The show does give a lot of characters time to bounce off of one another, and while your tolerance for these characters will make this series enjoyable, there are a few likable characters including Randall Park as Peter the logic rock. Everyone does a good job working off of one another, and while the crass humor is, say it with this critic now, the ride-or-die element of your tolerance for the story and how it all unfolds, there are a few really solid jokes and gags. 

Animation-wise, this show has the common adult-animated comedy visual look caused by problems that originate with bad production cycles made by giant studios and companies not giving the teams making these shows the time they need. As usual, people in the animation industry need new deals, so make sure you show support with stuff like #NewDeal4Animation, #StoryCraftUnite, and #EqualPay4EqualPaint. While it may not have the most appealing designs, there are a few designs that are fun to look at. I love the logic rocks and the need demons the most. It also seems like some moments in the show were able to breathe a little more and have a more fluid feel.  The voice cast is also pretty good with a great cast of comedic and character actors. You have Aidy Bryant, Nick Kroll, Maya Rudolph, David Thewlis, Keke Palmer, Pamela Adlon, Randall Park, Ali Wong, Thandie Newton, Bobby Cannavale, Jemaine Clement, Maria Bamford, Rosie Perez, Henry Winkler, and even guest appearances from Hugh Jackman, Helen Mirin, Lupita Nyong’o, and Janelle Monae to name a majority of a really stacked cast. 

Now, in terms of criticisms, with most comedies, the humor is hit-and-miss, and, well, that’s no different here. A lot of the humor can be a touch much. It has musical moments, but sometimes it can feel too chaotic onscreen all at once.  Some of the comedy even goes down to just yelling, and it’s not fun to watch when everything is going bananas on screen. It also has issues from time to time of balancing out the crass comedy and its more sincere moments. Sometimes the morals hit, and sometimes the comedic punchline or gross-out joke tends to take away the emotional punch. Yes, these characters can be deplorable and gross, but shows like this need to be careful with wanting to have their cake and eat it too. 

While your mileage will very much vary with this spin-off, Human Resources offers a more human experience to the adult animation landscape. If you like Big Mouth, but more for the times it hits more human themes and the creatures involved, then you will probably enjoy this show. If not, well, you can go watch something like Undone on Amazon Prime or Primal on HBO Max for your adult animated needs. Now then, next time, we will be taking a good look at Pixar’s Turning Red

Rating: Go See It! 

The Other Side of Animation 254: Child of Kamiari Month

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

With the Oscars once again dismissing and ignoring the Japanese animation side of things, stagnating as usual with what they actually nominate over what they should be nominating for awards, let’s keep reminding ourselves that not getting nominated doesn’t mean the film in question isn’t good. Who’s favorite film is actually ever in the Best Picture category? Anyway, just because the award shows announce their nominees, doesn’t mean films stop getting made. More movies are going to come out and they will continue to be interesting, good, bad or everything in-between, no matter the awards they are or aren’t given. So, let’s get down to it with one of the first animated films of the year with Child of Kamiari Month

This film was directed by Takana Shirai, written by Ryuta Miyake, Tetsuro Takita, Toshinari Shinoe, and was produced by Liden Films. The story revolves around a tongue girl named Kanna Hayama, dubbed by Mia Sinclair Jenness. Her life has been upended due to the death of her mother and she has lost her passion for running. That’s a touch unfortunate because she is also participating in her school’s marathon with her supportive dad being there. Sadly, due to the emotional baggage that she has been carrying, she doesn’t quite do well at the marathon, and runs away before her father can help comfort her. She runs to a shrine that she walked past with her friend the other day, and while there, her mother’s keepsake starts to activate. Time slows down around her and she realizes that something is up. Kanna can see the spirits that inhabit the shrines now! She encounters a talking bunny spirit named Shiro, dubbed by Luci Christian, who comes just in time to help her with an encounter with an oni boy named Yasha, dubbed by Mark Allen Jr. After the encounter, Shiro tells Kanna that she must go on this journey across Japan and gather the offerings from different spirits for Kamiari Month, a mystical holiday that is a celebration of the gods and spirits. Reluctantly, Kanna accepts the quest to traverse all over Japan to get all of the different gifts and complete the run. 

So, a recurring theme seen in so many foreign animated films that have been covered in multiple reviews and brought over to the states has been the main character going through some kind of coming-of-age story of getting over their grief or dealing with the loss of a loved one. It’s not an original concept, but they execute it well, with a much smaller-scale story about Kanna dealing with the loss of her mom and the growing depression and bitterness that has been caged up inside of her since that incident. The other side character that starts out as a rival to Kanna, the oni boy Yasha, has his own arc and reasons for wanting to do the run for Kamiari Month to regain the honor of his family that was dragged through the mud and banished from the heavens above. It’s a quieter experience as a couple of the montage sequences are just visuals set to music. The overall story might have some wonky and familiar elements, but it’s a good reminder, as usual, that not every film needs to be a groundbreaking mind-blowing experience. Sometimes, you just need to dial back your expectations 

The animation is pretty solid. It’s not super-flashy, and personally, when you are coming out after Belle, Josee The Tiger and The Fish, and Words that Bubble Up Like Soda Pop, it doesn’t quite compare to those, and not every film needs to, but don’t expect this to be on the same level as those films or upcoming films like Bubble and Drift Away. It does have some nice flourishes like when they encounter a giant dragon god, and when the film wants to have some distinct visual moments, it does deliver on those aspects with some waterloo flourishes that have elements of those Japanese ink paintings. The voice cast is also pretty rock solid with Mia Sinclair Jenness, Mark Allen Jr., Luci Christian, Kirk Thorton, Keith Silverstein, and Michael Sorich all bringing their usual top-level talent. 

In terms of criticisms, the film takes a lot of time to talk and explain everything about Kamiari Month. It’s not well-paced, because instead of spreading out everything throughout the runtime, they upload a ton of exposition about the lore and how everything works, and it becomes a bit much. Once you get past the film’s first 15 or so minutes, it ends up flowing much better, but you have to be careful about doing that story build-up upfront. It’s because most will be ready to switch to watching something else if the story is not paced well. It would be better if they were able to spread everything else around the run across Japan as they were doing it instead of wasting so much time in one spot to save money and time on new environments. 

While not perfect, and Netflix once again not promoting this film that they spent money on outside of a single trailer, Child of Kamiari Month is a solid spiritual experience of getting over loss and becoming spiritually stronger. Personally, Sing a Bit of Harmony is the better of the two Japanese animated films released this year so far. Luckily, it was able to get some attention on Netflix and on the web before it got buried or overlooked by Studio Wit’s upcoming animated feature Bubble that’s coming out on Netflix in April. If you need something to watch and to get your anime fill that’s not a weekly TV series, then definitely give this show a watch. Next time, we will be talking about a new spin-off series based on one of Netflix’s most controversial and popular series.

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 253: The Cuphead Show Review

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Heads up: I was able to watch this film via a screener sent to me from Netflix. I got no other form of monetization other than the screener. Thank you Netflix for this opportunity.

Despite the loaded and complicated history of the rubber hose animation aesthetic, the visual look has always been a favorite among fans of art and animation. When animation visual styles go through trends, there is always this yearning for an older visual look, and while I think some of the yearnings for more nostalgic-fueled visuals can sometimes lean into some very toxic attitudes, you can see, on a visual level, why people would want to see creators and studios bring back a classic look to new shows. Of course, when you tackle something with rubber hose animation, it’s the art style you have to be the most careful with, due to how some of the design decisions made during the early days of animation have some racist undertones. Luckily, with Studio MDHR and their hit game Cuphead, they were able to translate the iconic visual style into one of the most graphically impressive experiences of the previous console generation. Of course, when a game like this gets as big as it does, then you know a show is not too far behind. Well, let’s get started then! 

Animated by Lighthouse Studios, executive produced by Chad and Jared Moldenhauer (the two who created the game), and it’s developed by Dave Wasson for Netflix. The two different directors involved for this first batch of episodes are Adam Paloian and Clay Morrow. The story follows the wacky and shenanigan-filled adventures of Cuphead and Mugman, voiced by Tru Valentino and Frank Todaro. They go all around the Inkwell Isle encountering the individuals that live there and of course avoiding the evil grasp of The Devil, voiced by Luke Millington-Drake. Along the way, they interact with their elderly caretaker Elder Kettle,  voiced by Joe Hanna, the lovely Miss Chalice, voiced by Grey Griffin, and you get the idea. 

So, while there was a “plot” in the original game, it was very straightforward. The world was vast and full of a lot of interesting-looking characters. The one thing the game was not, was story-focused. Since that is the case, how on earth do you turn this show into a TV series?  With how there wasn’t too much lore and world-building put into the main game, it wouldn’t make sense to make it more story-driven, so instead of going the route of some story-driven shows, they went the route of the more recent Animaniacs and Looney Tunes direction, making more episodic shenanigan-filled adventures. Some episodes have some pseudo-ongoing story beats, but they are usually wrapped up within the second part, and the first batch of episodes ends with a cliffhanger, so it will be interesting to see where they take the rest of the episodes. The main focus for the episodes is putting Cuphead and Mugman in a situation and the hijinks ensue. They feel very old school with how they set up stories and jokes, but they bring a more modern-day sentimentality to the overall vibe and humor, so it never feels dated or going fully against the time period the show’s animation style is from. A lot of the jokes and set-ups are delightfully charming, and that’s because they were able to give the characters more concrete personalities for our heroes to work off of. Not that the characters didn’t already have them in the game, but they were mostly told through one line of dialogue or through their animation via their movements. Some of the stories have the typical “oh, this was a big misunderstanding” plot set-up or “I’m brave because I got this special item that’s not actually special, but it makes me feel brave”, but the dialogue and the lines they offer are what help elevate it to be more than just shorts going through the motions. With all that said, the character they do give these individuals is delightful, and The Devil might be my favorite character alongside his grunt and King Dice. 

Now then, with the animation, there has been a controversy about how the animation itself is not purely or strickly like the video game. Listen, you can dislike how polished the linework is for the show’s visuals, but the fact of the matter is that doing super old-school 2D animation is costly and time-consuming, and knowing the current landscape of animation production, they were never going to be able to do pure 2D visuals like the old-school days. Heck, the developers of the game revealed they had to remortgage their home to make the game, due to how costly it was to make said game with super slick 2D animation. With what the studio had with whatever production schedule they were given, The Cuphead Show looks really good. It might use a mix of 2D and maybe some animation rigging, but the fact that the visuals look as good as they do and how they were pretty much able to copy and keep the game’s visuals the same is impressive. They even use some filter or graphical techniques to give off the impression of the multi-layer camera effects the older Disney films had. It’s a visually impressive show that stands out from other animated offerings on Netflix. The voice cast is also pretty great, with the already mentioned names above with Tru Valentino, Frank Todaro, Joe Hanna, Luke Millington-Drake, Grey Griffin, Wayne Brady, and the rest of the cast is spot-on with the characters they portray. They even have a few musical moments and they are real bangers that bring back the musical styles of the old Betty Boop cartoons. 

Overall, The Cuphead Show succeeds with its adaptation from video game to animated series, and we already know there are going to be 48 episodes, so we are getting more. Now, Netflix, I’m happy this show is a success, but you better pay the teams that made this show the money they are owed, because with the current landscape of the animation industry revealing how much worse people who work in animation are paid compared to live-action is disheartening and maddening. It would be a shame to find out if you all didn’t give this team their due. Anyway, you can enjoy the first “season” on Netflix on the 18th, and if you like old-school cartoony-style shows, then you will love this show. Now then, let’s tackle a film that Netflix barely covered and advertised with Child of Kamiari Month

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 251: Belle Review

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

It’s interesting to observe the steady rise in popularity of certain animation directors from Japan. For a good long while, it used to be just Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata taking up all of the attention from overseas audiences. It wasn’t until 2016 that Your Name by Makoto Shinkai received the same attention. It wasn’t until 2017 for Masaaki Yuasa with his combo of Lu Over the Wall and The Night is Short, Walk on Girl. The hope for the future is that with the acclaim of A Silent Voice, Liz and The Blue Bird, and The Heike Story, Naoko Yamada will be next alongside Mari Okada with her film Maquia: When the Promised Flowers Bloom and her work on O Maidens In Your Savage Season. For now, it’s finally Mamoru Hosoda’s time in the spotlight. Sure, he has had it before with his acclaim for films like Summer Wars and Wolf Children, but mainstream audiences are mostly going to know him as the director of the Oscar-nominated Mirai. Even now though, how can you trust more casual movie audiences to actually go out and see a foreign animated feature when there are barely any theaters playing them? Luckily, GKIDS and Hosoda have gone all-in with his newest film, Belle. 

Written and directed by Mamoru Hosoda himself, the story follows Suzu, voiced by Kaho Nakamura and dubbed by Kylie McNeill. She’s a distant individual who feels alone in the world due to the depression that surrounds her after the death of her mother at a young age. She currently lives with her dad, but is pretty reclusive to anyone who isn’t her friend Hiroka. She even grew displaced with her hobby of singing and music due to how it was her mother who was supportive of it. One day, she decides to join the massive social media world known as U, an online space that scans a photo of you and turns you into who the “real” you really is. She goes by the name of Belle and ends up picking back up her singing under her new online persona becoming a massive hit. Unintentionally, with all that comes with fame and popularity online, her path is crossed by an entity known as Dragon, voiced by Takeru Satoh and dubbed by Paul Castro Jr. Who is this mysterious individual and what will Belle/Suzu’s fate unfold into if she decides to find out who this Dragon really is? 

It’s been said on record that Hosoda was inspired by Disney’s 1991 Oscar-nominated Beauty and The Beast, and the film uses a lot of the themes and elements of the original story. Though honestly?  I wouldn’t truly call it a Beauty and the Beast story in the more traditional sense. There are themes about love and family, which is what a lot of Hosoda’s films are based around, but this time, he sort of goes off the beaten path with how much this film is tackling. It deals with themes of loss, love, connection, coming of age, becoming stronger in a metaphorical sense, abuse, identity, and especially social media with how it warps and changes individuals. It might have some similar elements to Summer Wars, but people expecting Summer Wars 2 should really not go in expecting that. 

The only thing similar is how the film takes place in a social media world, but it doesn’t feel rehashed or recycled. People forget how long ago Summer Wars was and how social media has absolutely changed from 2009 to 2021. It’s more of a story of Suzu’s growth as an individual, and you can see how that progresses from the start to the finish of the film. Belle is full of small character beats of set-up and pay-off that are frankly, so well executed. Some reviews say there was too much going on, but the story never felt like it had too much on its plate. As previously mentioned, there are small little visual story beats that set up the overall story that you can miss if you aren’t paying attention. The overall story is extremely touching and shows how human connection and love can help each other get through life and grow stronger as individuals. 

Animation-wise, Hosoda made sure it was clear that there would be a lot more CGI used alongside his studio’s incredible 2D animation. There seems to be this weird technophobic reaction to anytime someone uses CGI, and that’s a shame, because the CGI here is used well. It might not match what Disney or what US studios are doing, but it has a distinct look that has the same level of high quality CGI used by studios like Studio Orange. It helps that a majority of the CGI is used while in the virtual social media world, and it’s all incredibly stylized. The characters are expressive and the movements never feel awkward or clunky. It also helps that Jim Kim, who designed multiple characters for Disney hits like Frozen and Encanto, designed the look of Belle herself. Even Cartoon Saloon helped out with the backgrounds in U, and it leads to a mixture of some of the best visuals of the 2020s so far. That doesn’t mean everything amazing was pushed into the CGI,  because the 2D is also great as usual, with some fantastic designs, expressions, and when the film wants to be funny, comedic animation. 



It’s Studio Chizu, so of course, it was going to look great, but the acting is also so good. The original language version and the English dub are quite possibly some of the best in recent memory. You can tell the actors on both versions worked hard to hit the big emotional scenes and are compelling outside of those scenes. Both the Japanese and English actors for Belle had their breakout roles in this film. The rest of the cast includes some really big names on both sides like Takeru Satoh, Jessica DiCicco, Hunter Schafer, Wendee Lee, Barbra Goodson, Ben Leply, Shota Sometani, Paul Castro Jr, Kylie McNeill, Chase Crawford, Manny Jacinto, David Chen, Lilas Ikutah, Ryo Narita, Brandan Engman, Tina Tamishiro, Andrew Kishino, Kenjiro Tsuda, and you get the idea. What’s fun about the English dub is that while there are some recognizable names, they aren’t the biggest celebrities around like some of GKIDS previous endeavors with casting celebrities for their films. It’s a dub filled to the brim with character actors and voice actors, which is the best. However, one thing that could have crippled the film is the quality of the songs that were performed by Kylie and Kaho respectively. Well, they are bangers! There might not be many songs for the lead to perform, but what they lack in quantity of songs, they definitely make up for in the quality of songs. The songs play an important role for each part of the story in which they are introduced, and they will stay with you for the rest of time once you leave the theater. The music is, like the visuals, a collaborative effort by Miho Sakai, Yuta Bandoh, Ludvig Forssell, and Taisei Iwasaki. It offers a vibrant offering of tunes that are just as fun to listen to alongside the musical moments. 

Belle is simply put, a powerful experience, with its outstanding visuals, engaging story, and musical moments all wrapped up in one of the best animated films of 2021. It truly deserved its 14-minute standing ovation at Cannes as well as the multiple award nominations and wins under its belt. It’s this reviewer’s personal favorite film of 2021 alongside The Mitchells vs. The Machines. It’s now time for Mamoru Hosoda to have the same level of acclaim and attention that Hayao Miyazaki has enjoyed over the years. If you can watch this film safely, please do check it out. It’s an experience unlike any other in animation. Next time, we will look at the Funimation co-produced and distributed Sing a Bit of Harmony

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

Rating: Essentials 

The Other Side of Animation 249: Flee Review

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Heads up: I was able to watch this film via a screener sent to me from Neon. I got no other form of monetization other than the screener. Thank you Neon for this opportunity.

When you watch the film festival scene, there are always going to be films that take up the spotlight. It doesn’t matter if the end product is actually well received outside of film festival circles, once they catch the hype bug, the hype doesn’t stop, no matter what films they compete against in any other festivals in which they are played. It’s a shame, because it does seem like film festival reactions tend to skew the reactions of the film, and once it shows up in one festival and wins the main prize, it’s going to do so over and over again until it gets its full non-festival release. It even happens if a lot of the films were better received outside the festival circuit. Anyway, this isn’t an editorial talking about the dread and nauseous issues with film festival reactions, but instead about one of the films that have swept awards left and right as it journeys across state and country lines to become one of the biggest films of 2021, Flee

Directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen, this story follows Amin Nawabi, who tells his recently untold history of fleeing Afghanistan to Denmark as a refugee. The documentary and interview follow the challenges, the scares, the life-changing moments, and the journey of who he is throughout the voyage. 

Let’s talk about the film’s animation first. This has been a real contingent point for viewers and critics about how the animation is not up to par with other animated films. Yes, the film’s animated visuals are mostly higher quality animatics for the movements with fewer frames and some are very much just storyboard stills. If you had to compare it to another film’s animation style, it’s similar to how Josep executed its visuals.That’s why many prefer it as a documentary rather than an animated film. Honestly, the animation has such an atmosphere and is drenched in such emotional vibes that it works more in its favor than if it had something akin or similar to a more traditional 2D animated feature. People seem to forget that many of these projects from overseas don’t always get the biggest budgets. Plus, if the visuals still give you the intended mood, then who cares if it doesn’t have super crisp Akira-style animation. The acting is pretty solid, but the best parts are where Amin is talking with the interviewer or his boyfriend about the story, and it has a lot of shades of the Story Corp discussions since those are all animated shorts and stories about people with a story that is important to them. 

Plus, this is a dark story. The fact that all of this stuff about people just struggling to survive from war and violence is still going on today. It’s a film that really gives you a reset about what you are dealing with as you watch our lead’s journey and the hoops they had to jump through, the horrors that they have seen, the violence, and you get the idea. The story even follows the aftermath of his journey and the psychological and emotional turmoil that has affected his relationships and his current mindset. It’s a documentary that has a more human side to the overall story, and it reminds you that the people who are dealing with these horrific incidents and their journey for safety are human. It’s a story that hits hard, due to everything that is going on these past few years. 

While the hype for this film is mostly worth it, the film itself would have been great even without the hype from its many wins during the festival circuit. It’s a powerful and intimate journey through one person’s survival and the experience that led him to become the person he is now. It’s an extremely touching film that whenever Neon decides to expand its wide release, everyone should go watch it. It’s not the flashiest animation-wise, and you will definitely feel uneasy about the world and how some of these horrific events happen, but sometimes, you just need a good dose of reality and to remember that this is going on in the real world and beyond your TV screens. Now then, next time, we are going to talk about the Netflix mini-series, The House

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 246: My Sunny Maad Review

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)


Heads up: I was able to watch this film before its recent release via a screener sent to me by Totem Films. I got no other form of monetization other than the screener. Thank you, Totem Films.

When the Oscar submission list reveals the 20+ animated films every year, there are the obvious front runners that are probably going to take up those five spots at the major award shows. Personally, I think they should do more than five, but that’s just me. You will then see many films that are there to fill the list up, films that have no chance, and some of these films that are sadly a mixture of everything. There are a few gems in this year’s lineup that should have a chance but are sadly not going to have the chance to make much of an impression, due to incompetent film voters that aren’t going to vote for anything other than what are the safe bets. Imagine a year where none of the major studios got nominated and all of the films that were nominated were from smaller studios and distributors. Sadly, that won’t happen, which sucks because films like My Sunny Maad, despite some hiccups here and there, deserve to have been seen by more voters and viewers alike. 

Directed by Michaela Pavlátová, the story follows Herra, a Czech college student in Prague, who is looking for something more fulfilling in her life. That all changes one day when during class, she meets an Afghan man named Nazir. After a little time passes, Herra and Nazir get married and move to Kabul to live with his family and start a new life of opportunities during the late 2000s. This includes dealing with living under the Taliban rule, inner personal family and political drama, and adopting a boy. Will Nazir and Herra be able to make it through the hurdles through which they will have to jump? 

So, within the past few years, we have had a slew of animated films that have taken place within Kabul or the middle-east like 2017’s The Breadwinner and 2019’s The Swallows of Kabul. Funny enough these three films are all based on books, and all three are directed by women. So, what does this film offer to the animation and film-going experience? One of the film’s biggest strengths is that it has a slice-of-life approach to a story that has our characters dealing with discrimination, racism, personal family, and societal problems, all while being under the rule of the Taliban. The characters themselves are complex, and although there is no real traditional three-act structure in the more familiar sense, you are invested with the characters and their plights. While the film is about 80 or so minutes long, they find time to let the entire family be the focus up until the very end, and that really helps keep the pace going and for the audiences to feel like they are getting to know the individual family members. The film itself takes place during the late 2000s and will reference multiple incidents during that time period, including the death of Osama Binladen. Even when the film got dark and depressing at points, there were still plenty of scenes of love and everyone living their lives. The film absolutely gets that the combination of happiness and getting over tough hurdles is what comes with life, and it doesn’t revel in the cynical or the misery like some films would. 

Animation-wise, it does look good. While there will be a few moments that got the least amount of time put into it, and sure, it doesn’t have the same artistic beauty as The Swallows of Kabul and The Breadwinner, it has its own beauty in how much you get out of the character’s animation and acting. Even if you don’t see the many micro-emotions and details that you would see in major studio productions, you still get what the characters are thinking about and what’s going through their head, which is due to great directing and whoever was in charge of the shots’ execution. The pseudo sketchy look might have more of a digital 2D look, but it definitely has vibes of what you would normally see during Disney’s 70s era that had a more sketch design to the visuals. The voice acting is great. This film may or may not get a proper dub, but one thing that is more noticeable than most foreign films I have seen is that some parts are bilingual. There are a few stretches of the film where they do speak multiple languages. It’s rather impressive since from an observation of the credits, the actors in question did everything themselves. Special shoutout to Zuzana Stivinova, who is fantastic as Herra. That’s very rare when productions have actors who can be bilingual. Music-wise, it’s composed by Sacha and Evugeni Galpherine who bring in a very atmospheric vibe to the overall film. 

If there was one thing to criticize the film for, it’s that the overall story ends rather abruptly. The film has a great story and final act, but the way it just ends is fairly underwhelming. The problem with these types of “no recognizable story structure” is that they are always going to find themselves with an ending that is either rough or undercooked. Granted, a lot of this film has intentionally uneasy answers and decisions, so in many ways, the ending does make sense. You simply want to see the people in the film be okay. Also, on a personal note, I wonder how the ending plays out now, especially with what has happened in recent events in the world outside of animation and cinema. 

While it might not be the major award contender during the upcoming major awards, My Sunny Maad is an absolutely touching and intimate experience that once again proves why animation is such a powerful form of storytelling. So far, as of writing this review, My Sunny Maad has no real US distributor but is being distributed overseas via Totem Films. Let’s hope it gets some kind of US release because it’s one of the better films of 2021. If you can find some way of watching this flick, do so. Now then, next time, we will be talking about Sword Art Online Rebuild. Oh, wait, sorry, I meant Sword Art Online The Movie -Progressive- Aria of a Starless Night

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

Rating: Go See It! 

The Other Side of Animation 233 – The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf Review

imageedit_7_7427123647.png

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)


Heads up: I was able to watch this series before its recent release via a screener sent to me by Netflix. I got no other form of monetization other than the screener. Thank you, Netflix.

When a ton of different kinds of similar films come out in one year, you want to stand out and be able to stay on your own two feet against the competition. There is nothing worse than being the film that you reference in a negative way when you are comparing it to the film that may be similar but is the better option. This happens from time to time with certain years in animation. Why should anyone choose the subjectively weaker option, when you have something subjectively better offered to you? In this case, this year we have two different action fantasy films that take place in their respective franchises. You have the famous Demon Slayer: Mugen Train, which is the sequel film to the first season of the shonen action franchise, and now we have the prequel film to the Netflix live-action series, The Witcher with The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf. 


Directed by Kwang ll Han, written by Beau DeMayo, based on the book series by Andrej Sapkowski, and produced by the legendary Studio Mir, this is a prequel story that takes place decades ago before our lovely Geralt takes the mantle as the main character. So, what do we get instead of a story following a baby Geralt? Well, you should heighten your senses and get your silver sword ready for what I’m about to review. 

imageedit_3_7932946725.png

Our main hero for this story is Vesemir, voiced by Theo James, an infamous swashbuckling Witcher and future mentor to the franchise’s main character Geralt. Vesemir is going about his days as a monster slayer, who is hated among monsters and humans alike. I mean, technically, no one likes Witchers and there has been tension among his kind due to the growing tension between humans, the dwindling number of monsters, and their futures. During one night, Vesemir encounters a truly unique version of a monster known as a Leshen, and that sets him off on his journey to find out exactly what is going on, who is behind these weird new experiments, and will he and his kind be able to survive?

So, with this being a prequel story to the main events of the TV series, how does it handle the overall story of Geralt’s mentor and his days as a younger Witcher? I think one decision that was well executed was the fact that you can pretty much sit down with this film and not have seen the live-action show or played the games, and get an understanding as to what the story is about, and the dark fantasy world in which they live. It has a sort of typical fantasy thriller experience, and you can understand who was behind what exactly, before the twists are revealed, but because the dialogue was this great mix of camp and charm, and the overall story is morally grey, it makes for a fun romp to experience. The world of The Witcher is dark, morally grey, and unforgiving. While I call Vesemir the hero of our story, he has some skeletons in his closet that make him a flawed hero. Like I said though, you are easily roped into the story as you do see the complexity of this world’s politics. What you find out about the origins of the Witchers isn’t great, but you can see their perspective in how one becomes a Witcher and how they try to survive in a world full of discrimination and hatred, and how that can corrupt anyone. Now, with all that said, the film knows it’s an action flick, and Vesemir, while having his serious and dry moments, is mouthy. He has some very action movie one-liners and is cocky, but in a fun way. He also has a sincere heart for himself and for the people he cares about. It results in a film full of some mild cynicism, but a lot of heart. It might have a script that can be a bit blunt at times with its commentary, but it never bothered me, and with some lessons and themes, it’s good to be blunt about certain things. Now, if you are wondering if you will ever see Geralt, you will, but don’t expect to see him in any real meaningful way. This is Vesemir’s story, and he’s a fun lead character. It’s one of the few prequel stories where I feel like it tells a good story that never made me think about “well, why should I care about anyone here since it’s a prequel?”. Anytime a prequel can make me say that, they are on my good side. 

Now, for the presentation, this is Studio Mir, and while the overall animation looks like a better-budgeted Avatar: The Last Airbender episode, it looks great. There is a reason why Studio Mir is a highly sought-after studio for action shows and why so many studios try to copy their direction in crafting visuals and action. There is a lot of slick action choreography and camera work to make this some of the best action seen this year. It’s a film with a ton of satisfying action and gore on screen that makes for a visceral, but fun romp! Since this is a film based on the Witcher series, you should also expect some pretty good music as well! It’s composed by Brian D’Oliveira who was a composer on games such as Sackboy: A Big Adventure, Journey to the Savage Planet, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Resident Evil VII: Biohazard, Tearaway, and Papo & Yo. He brings this mix of European folk with some middle-eastern sounding tunes. The voice cast is also pretty good. You have Theo James as our lead character, Lara Pulver, Graham McTavish, Mary McDonnell, Tom Canton, David Errigo Jr., and Matt Yang King, to name a few of the actors seen in the film. The cast feels like they would fit right into either the live-action series or the third game. 

While I love this film overall, I do have some minor gripes. Tetra, while being a sinister villain, is not all that interesting. They fill the void with some literal last-minute backstory that connects her to an incident told offhand about the conniving nature of the Witchers. It’s not handled the best. The side characters also don’t leave an impression. You tend to forget their names, and they seem to be there to either fill out more of the world or to get killed. I think I would have liked to have seen them get fleshed out more. Maybe it’s because of the length of the film itself, but I would have loved this film to be two hours so you can give more time for the side characters to be expanded upon and to add more action. 

Even with the minor gripes, whether you are a fan of the franchise or not, The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf is a good fantasy action film that I think fans and newcomers can easily jump into with ease. Now, do I Like this more than Demon Slayer: Mugen Train? I think in some ways, Nightmare of the Wolf is better, but only because Mugen Train requires you to watch the first season to get the full enjoyment of the film. You don’t need to watch the Netflix Witcher series to enjoy Nightmare of the Wolf. Still, I”m happy to have so many action animated features this year, and I’ll be happy to see so many get made. Now then, I think it’s time to talk about a film that I meant to review a few months back, but, well, I wasn’t able to for one reason or another. It’s time we take a look at the Funimation exclusive The Stranger by the Shore

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!




Rating: Go See It! 

The Other Side of Animation 232: Cryptozoo Review

imageedit_1_2363553276.jpg

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)


Heads up: I was able to watch this series before its recent release via a screener sent to me by Magnolia Pictures. I got no other form of monetization other than the screener. Thank you, Magnolia Pictures.

PARENTAL HEADS UP: There is some nudity throughout the film. This film is not for kids and more for older teens to young adults and above. The viewer’s discretion is advised. Enjoy the review!

Back in 2017, for what felt like half a year, Dash Shaw’s My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea was my favorite animated film of that year. 2017 was a rather middling year for animation since it seemed like all of the best films were saved for 2016 and 2018. It didn’t have many standout films until the latter half of the year, and that was when I felt like the year finally had some competition. To me, if I like or hate your movie, I want to at least feel like I’m getting something different or distinct, and not just be some bog-standard film that was made for the sake of making something. When you are someone like Dash Shaw, well, you are bound to leave an impression with his vibrant visuals and distinct writing. That’s why I was super pumped about the fact he had a new movie coming out, and was in pain that I wasn’t able to check it out during Sundance and Annecy, but luckily, I got a screener and am able to check it out now! This review will be about Dash’s new movie, Cryptozoo. 

 

Like I said above, this film was written and directed by Dash Shaw. It had its world premiere at Sundance back in January 2021 winning the festival’s Innovator award, competed in the Contrechampe section at Annecy, and will be distributed in the states by Magnolia Pictures. So, with Dash bringing us another abstract and wild experience, what do I think of this new surreal trip? Does its busy visuals drag down the film or do I gel with it like peanut butter and jelly? Let’s take a look and a visit to Cryptozoo

The story takes place in a world where cryptids exist alongside humans. Our main character is Lauren Grey, voiced by Lake Bell. She has made it her life’s goal to find, capture, and protect cryptids in a zoo/animal sanctuary-like environment after encountering one at a young age. Along with a rich widow named Joan, voiced by Grace Zabriskie, she is assisted by a medusa named Phoebe, voiced by Angeliki Papoulia, and is on a quest to find a mystical creature/cryptid called a Baku, an entity that is known for eating dreams both good and bad. They have to get it before it falls into the grasp of the military and a ruthless individual named Nicholas, voiced by Thomas Jay Ryan. Can they get the Baku before it’s too late? 

imageedit_9_8468020508.jpg

So, let’s start with the obvious, the animation is bonkers. While it might flow and feel like papercraft with very stiff and limiting animation, you can tell this was an artistic decision and not a budget or limitation. Again, just because it’s not made by Disney or had the budget of a Pixar film, doesn’t mean animated films on smaller budgets or teams look worse. There is such a thing as art direction. It reminds me of a lot of those papercraft animated features from Russia, but done with more modern tech, and is combined with some proper 2D animation to give this film an extremely wild visual flair. You can not say this film looks like any other animated film out there. It looks like a bunch of clipart and detailed cutouts. It’s a trippy film as well, using a ton of psychedelic visuals to express different story beats and a mood that I can only compare to films like Foam Bath from 1979. The voice cast brings a more grounded vibe to film than the more comedic Sinking into the Sea. It helps that you have a pretty good cast with Lake Bell, Micheal Cera, Angeliki Papoulia, Zoe Kazan, Grace Zabriskie, Peter Stormare, Louisa Krause, Thomas Jay Ryan, and Alex Karpovsky.

imageedit_11_2932959720.jpg

However, we have seen features with amazing animation fall flat under the story and writing department. It’s not uncommon to find films that do so. Luckily, while the visuals may be a bit much for the eyes at points, the story is substantial enough to keep you invested. It has an indie feel as we see the commentary about how our protagonists and antagonist plan to use the cryptids for their use. Sure, Lake Bell’s character might be doing the right thing by wanting to help protect and save the cryptids, but the film and script want you to see it from a different point of view with the zoo/sanctuary setting. To be clear, it’s not saying both sides are equally bad. The villain is obviously in the wrong with how they obtain cryptids by force or through the blackmarket dealings. It’s more that it’s painting it all in a morally grey way rather than trying to fence-sit on the topic at hand. You can pull a lot from how the cryptids are represented here in the film, and I’m glad the film decided to have an ambitious tone to its experience. Yes, some stories do and should need very straightforward stories, but when you get to mix it up a little via something that’s not so clear cut, then you can have a more distinct journey. You still have to be careful, but I felt like Dash Shaw did a good job portraying the two sides of humanity and the cryptid situation. 

While the visuals may be a touch overload at times, and the dialogue is calm and beefy, Cryptozoo is unlike any other animated film out in 2021. It might not be my favorite, and its major award season chances are probably going to be in the lower bracket of getting nominated, but I think it deserves a chance. It will be out on demand and will have a small theatrical release on August 20th, and I think everyone should check it out! If you are looking for something distinct, then you will be delighted to know that this film is truly worthy of the word unique. Now then, we will be hopping back over to Netflix, and will be checking out the new Netflix action fantasy film The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf. 



Rating Go See It!