The Other Side of Animation 211: Lava Review

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(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!)

I love the foreign animation scene. I think it’s one of the most fascinating scenes to look at in where animation is going. You can find stuff that’s for kids, older kids, teens, young adults, adults, and whoever you want to cater to. The US is still in the same zone of shows or films either created just for kids or just for adults, but those lines are crossing and bleeding into one another more and more. It might be shocking to see something like Infinity Train in 2019, a show aimed at kids, but with a much more adult tone in terms of storytelling and themes, but it’s every other film or show in some foreign animation scenes that have that tone or outlook in how their stories are told. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any bad films. Let’s not beat around the bush here, while many animation fans may only think the US has put out some of the worst animated films, you can find some that are of equal or even worse quality everywhere. If a film can be made anywhere, then a bad film can come from anywhere. So, that is what leads me to today’s review of Lava.

Directed by Ayar Blasco and produced by Crudo Films, this foreign animated film is from Argentina and made itself known to me at the Annecy 2020 Online event in the Contrechamp section of the festival. It was not widely loved, and now has its official US release with the help of Rock Salt Entertainment. Listen, I will be as respectful as I can be, but be aware that no matter where the film is from, I will judge them on equal footing. Let’s get started, shall we? 

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Lava tells the story of Debora, dubbed by Janeane Garofalo, a tattoo artist who is going through life and not going anywhere. One night, she comes back home and realizes her friend has invited over two guys, her friend’s boyfriend and a guy who she has met before, but her roommate doesn’t realize that. One night, they are watching a crummy show, the power goes out and then weird images appear on the screen. After that happens, the world gets invaded by these giant cats and aliens. Well, it is up to Debora and her friends to find a way to save the world and survive this weird calamity. 

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It’s hard to talk about this film and not talk about the animation quality. Listen, I know not everyone can be like Disney, and it’s an impossible task to think every film needs to look as good or spend as much money as a Disney or Pixar film. It’s not possible. However, when your film looks like it could have been found on early Newgrounds or early Adult Swim during April Fools, then that’s a huge problem. The animation looks so lackluster, cheap, and lacks anything that I would consider good. The mouth movements are clunky, the movements look incredibly stiff and wonky, and it doesn’t look polished. On one hand, while you could maybe compare this to other films with simplistic art styles like On Gaku: Our Sound, the difference is On Gaku: Our Sound is good. It’s one of my favorite animated films from last year, and while it’s very simple looking, it executes its visuals with the same polish and perfection you would see in more big-budget animated features. I think the only place Lava‘s visuals could be acceptable is at film festivals, because otherwise, this would get laughed at if it ever hit a mainstream theater. The last bit of the film is just a bunch of small skits that really come off like they were a part of early Adult Swim or some random Adult Swim program that was only on for a day and then got kicked off the schedule rotation. I would admire it more if there was a bit more polish, but it comes off like someone who got way too ambitious for their first animation project and had only been in animation classes for one week. What’s even worse is that this isn’t the director’s first animated project, and that just makes this all look worse because it doesn’t look better than their last animation effort. 

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We have seen bad animation get carried by clever writing and storytelling, but you don’t get that here. It’s supposed to be a parody of cataclysmic disaster films, and it kind of has an interesting gimmick and some commentary about technology, but due to the mediocre visuals, whatever commentary this film’s script does have is lost among the rambling dialogue and bad sound mixing. I have seen this film twice now and whether you are watching this with subtitles or a dub, it’s not good no matter how you slice it. I know we are in a pandemic still, but there is no excuse for how bad the mics and recordings are in the English dub. Everything sounds so echo-filled, and it sounds like everyone was recording their lines off of their computers and not some proper mic set up. It’s like they spent whatever budget they had with bringing this film over on one star, and while I do like Janeane Garofalo, she adds nothing and neither do the other English voice actors. The acting in this film has the same stilted energy seen in the Tom & Jerry 2021 film. When we get to those skits at the last stretch of the film, the voice acting just gives up and sounds like 12-year-olds failing an improv bit. The music wasn’t great either. This entire movie’s commentary, story, and writing all go through one ear and out the other.

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For right now, Lava sits at the very bottom of my Best to Worst Animated Films of 2021 list. I found this film boring, not all that funny, and whatever creativity is there is botched by bad storytelling and an incredibly bad dub. It has maybe a joke here or there that works, but I really can’t find a reason to watch this film. If you are curious about South American animation, then give it a watch. I think there are a few better films to watch like Tito & the Birds, but even with this scathing of a review, I don’t want people who are curious about it to not watch it. It’s widely available on most on-demand/rental platforms. Next time, we will be talking about a much better movie with Raya and the Last Dragon


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: Blacklist 

The Other Side of Animation 50: Underdogs 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. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

 

Well, we are here yet again with another GOYA Award winner. I never made it my intention of criticizing/talking about this award system from Spain so much, but yet, it gives me a lot to talk about. When we live in a world where the movie-going individual has found admiration, respect, and love for animated films from overseas, it’s amazing how many clunkers there are that try to essentially be a DreamWorks, Disney, Pixar, or any of the riffraff that isn’t those big three. You can definitely find some interesting stories with some of these films, like with today’s target, the Argentina/Spain collaboration, Underdogs. This film, which is also known as The Unbeatables in the UK, and Metegol in Argentina, Underdogs has a very, peculiar history of being brought over to the states. It was fully translated, dubbed by celebrities, and was (and still is) being distributed by The Weinstein Company here in the states. Unfortunately, it kept being pushed back multiple times in 2015, but a week before its actual release, it was pulled from the release schedule and is now on Netflix and is now available on DVD. Boy, doesn’t that sound frightening? It sounded like The Weinstein Company made a very big mistake in investing in this movie, which is why they released it when no one even remembers or cares about it. It kind of screws over the big stars they brought on board for this, like Ariana Grande, Katie Holmes, John Leguizamo, Nicholas Hoult, and Mel Brooks, to name a few. Then again, I haven’t heard one interview where they talked about it. So, did they want to make sure no one saw this for a reason? Is it a huge disaster? Well, let’s see what the damage is.

The story revolves around a young man named Jake, voiced by Matthew Morrison. He lives in a small town where he works at a bar as a busboy. One day he gets into an encounter with the town bully, Ace, voiced by Nicholas Hoult, and challenges him to a foosball game. Jake beats Ace at a game, and humiliates him in front of everyone in the town, and impresses his love interest, Lara, voiced by Ariana Grande. Seven years pass, and Ace returns to the town as one of the biggest soccer players in the world. Ace, being one who doesn’t take losing lightly (even when that loss happened seven years ago!), he decides to buy the town and ruin everyone’s’ lives. Jake falls into despair, and due to the miracle of lazy scriptwriting, a tear falls from his face onto a foosball figure and brings it to life. This horrifying little individual is Captain Skip, voiced by Taran Killam. He decides to help Jake beat Ace at soccer, and save Lara. Can Jake and his team of tiny foosball players (who don’t really do much but provide slapstick comedy and force the humans to do all the work during the actual soccer match) save the day?

To be honest, I can see why this film was, how you say, quietly shown the door. The animation is not very good. Part of that reason is that a lot of the character designs are unappealing and quite frankly ugly-looking. Sometimes, a design doesn’t translate well from paper to CGI. There is a reason why Pixar and Disney have a set style for their characters, because they are appealing to look at. The only times the animation gets decent is during the soccer sequences, and even then, it’s still not impressive in the slightest. It’s like watching an action anime where you know the entire budget went into the action sequences, and what little was left went into making the other elements of the film passable. The resolution of the textures is just painful to look at. The voice acting was also very spotty, where the dub didn’t match the lip movements, and the actors didn’t care that they are getting paid to, you know, act! It’s like they went with a practice take, and didn’t need anything else! It doesn’t help the film either that the plot is not focused. It has boring characters, a romance that isn’t earned, and probably one of the most pathetic villains I have ever seen. Oh yeah, let’s talk about one of the top 5 most pathetic villains in all of cinema. Ace loses a foosball match, leaves for seven years, comes back, and basically ruins the small town because he was humiliated by that one match. How much of a pathetic waste of air do you have to be to have that ruin your entire life? Heck, the logic in this film makes no sense. Why would an entire town be afraid of one punk kid? It’s not like there isn’t a police force there, you see policemen, why didn’t they just billy-club the punk for being a terror of the town, and send him to jail? Why is there a magical tear in this movie? How do the other foosball players come alive when they weren’t hit by a magical plot item? Why was there genetic mutation going on, and yet is never brought up again? This entire film tries to pretzel itself with all these ideas to make sense, but it ends up with a pretzel with too many twist and turns. It’s also overbaked, and sits like a rock inside your belly when you eat it. There is zero satisfaction with watching this film from beginning to end. You just don’t freaking care about anyone, since the film doesn’t take time to develop anyone outside of one-dimensional tropes. It ends with a Rocky-style “the bad guy wins, but everyone loves the underdog!”, but it’s so boring, tired, and again, it doesn’t feel earned, and yes, you don’t even care!

So, was there anything I liked about this movie? Well, I sort of liked the little foosball players. Granted, most of the time, they were annoying, and John Leguizamo, god bless him, was trying, but he came off as grating most of the time. That being said, those little guys were definitely much more interesting than the actual humans. I also liked one joke, but that is not a sign of positivity in a film that isn’t funny or at all watchable.

Funny enough, the biggest piece of praise you can give this film is that it was smart enough to stay straight-to-DVD. They didn’t pull a Norm of the North and shove it into theaters, which I think was the original idea. Luckily for The Weinstein Company, they should know that I knew about the movie, and will make sure they, and everyone else, knows that they released a terrible movie. It’s easily the second worst animated film I have seen in 2016. Again, the only reason it’s not number one with Norm of the North, is because The Weinstein Company knew they would get crucified for releasing this waste of time on the big screens. I don’t get how this became popular, besides it being popular in countries that treat soccer as a religion. This is just pure garbage, and no, this might not have been an American-made film, but saying “I shouldn’t be criticizing this film because it was super popular in other countries” is pure ignorant bullocks. There are so many films from foreign countries that have come out over here, and were and still are amazing. The only reason this film was at all popular was because it is focused around a sport that everyone else treats like it’s the only thing worth living for. Plus, Spain and South America have made amazing animated films, like Boy and the World and Wrinkles, so there is no excuse for “it’s a country not known for animation”, since there have been amazing films that can quite frankly be better than what we make here in the states. Avoid this movie at all cost, and not even for a bad movie night. Just don’t waste your time on this horrendous excuse for animation. You know what? After watching so much schlock, I’m going to do as many positive film reviews as possible, so next time, we look at The Painting. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed this review, and I hope you don’t buy this movie. See you all next time

Rating: The Worst/Blacklist