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 154: Missing Link 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. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

SPOILER TALK HEADS UP!: Due to a certain joke occurring in the movie, I am going to be talking about one of the most important scenes of the film, and talking a little bit about where I stand with the situation.

As I sit here and type this review, a cloud of sadness and frustration looms over me. Not because of the movie I’m reviewing itself; it’s because of the current state of what thrives and dies within the current Hollywood theatrical film climate. It’s this uneven balancing act between the studios and the audiences to make this dance work, because when both forces aren’t synced up, good films end up falling by the wayside. People want original ideas and films, but then don’t go to see them, and instead, go see something that is based on a pre-existing property. However, studios need to know that not every film they release needs to be making billions, or cost $300 million. Because of the current climate, certain films seem to be popping up less and less on the big screen, but then flourish on streaming services. Maybe stop-motion animation should join that list due to today’s review, Missing Link. Directed and written by Chris Butler, Missing Link is the next film in Laika’s long line-up of beautifully-crafted stop-motion features that garner high praise, but sadly, underperform or bomb. Missing Link seems to be suffering from that scenario as of writing this review. Maybe this film’s box office was more elusive than the Missing Link himself. Let’s see what’s up!

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The story revolves around Sir Lionel Frost, voiced by Hugh Jackman. He is an explorer who seeks out legendary and mythical monsters to prove that they exist. His main goal is to join this Adventurer’s club, but is constantly rejected for lack of proof of his adventures. One day, after getting back from another adventure, Lionel finds a letter that says that the individual in the letter is Big Foot, and tells Lionel to meet him in the Pacific Northwest to find him. Once getting there, Lionel meets the Big Foot in question, Mr. Link, who later goes by Susan, voiced by Zack Galifianakis. Susan asks Lionel to take him around the world to where the Yetis live, to help him find his own kind, and to find his place in the world. Along the way, the two are joined by Adelina Fortnight, a widow and old love interest of Lionel, voiced by Zoe Saldana, and avoiding the grasps of Lord Piggot-Dunceby, voiced by Stephen Fry, and Willard Stenk, voiced by Timothy Olyphant. Can Lionel help Susan find his people? Will Lionel make it into the club?

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I think what I love the most about this movie, is how laid back it is. It’s a grand adventure, but it feels smaller in scale, due to how intimate the story is. For me, what makes the low-key charm of the film work is the chemistry between the three main characters. I know when the first trailer for Missing Link came out, people were worried, for some reason, that Laika was going to give up on their identity to be more mainstream. Well, to all of the skeptics out there, I was right, and had nothing to worry about! The character interactions in Missing Link always felt natural, especially the scenes with Lionel and Susan. They hold this movie together, and they work off each other well. Both characters have the same goal of being accepted and being a part of a community, but they cleverly show off the difference between the two. Susan wants to find the Yetis, because he is the last of his kind, and wants to find his way in the world, and being with the Yetis might help him, because they are “relatives”. Lionel wants to join this adventurer club for the sake of doing so, because he was told “no”. One is obviously more selfish than the other. Both characters though share that drive of wanting something so much, that it hurts when they aren’t able to get it. It also deals with themes of identity and looking at the bigger picture. While I know some were disappointed that Lionel is Laika’s first adult protagonist, because they think kids really want to see themselves as the heroes, I like him. He’s entertaining and enough of a jerk that you don’t just hate his guts throughout the entire film. Susan, voiced by Zack Galifianakis, is easily the most likable character. Either because of the writing or great directing, Zack makes Susan a very funny character. I know it’s easy to label Galifianakis as the inept weirdo comedy relief due to the Hangover trilogy and other films, but I think he has proven that he can be more than that, and this film is a great example of it. A lot of the humor is very witty and British in tone, and I think that makes it a more watchable film for the years to come. People will be coming back to this one more than any Illumination or Blue Sky comedy. It shows how smart comedic writing that’s not loud, fast, and pop-culture-focused can work. I also adored Zoe Saldana as Adelina Fortnight. She was a strong, fiery female who would always call out Lionel for his buffoonery, and it’s one of the few animated features that have the male and female lead not end up together. Good! Not every animated feature needs to have the male and female lead get together.

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Of course, I can’t talk about this film, without talking about the gorgeous animation. This is easily the most ambitious animation Laika has done. You just see the blood, sweat, and tears put into the detailed environments, the characters, the movements, how smoothly everything moves, and the colors. It’s a beautiful movie to look at and be amazed how a lot of it was made by hand with very little CGI used. Even if you aren’t fully on board with the film or its characters, you can’t deny that the animation is well done. The voice cast is, to no surprise, good! I know there is this push for more voice actors to take lead roles, but you also have to understand that most casual movie audiences don’t know who famous voice actors like Tom Kenny, Jim Cummings, or Tara Strong are. That’s why they use celebrities, and while sometimes you can’t separate the actor from the character, here they do a good job with their respective roles.

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I think the biggest issues this film has can be attributed to a few different criticisms. The first one revolves around the villains. I get what they were going for with Piggot and Stenk, with them being villains that you would have seen back in the old action adventure movie days, but they are easily the weakest characters of the film. They are played well by Stephen Fry and Timothy Olyphant, but they are a touch too simple. There was also another tired male prisoner joke in the film. It’s short, but I’m getting tired of seeing this joke being used. I also wish they did more with the Yetis. They aren’t in the film much, but are more of an obstacle that the heroes have to overcome than actual characters. It’s a shame too, because Emma Thompson, who voices the lead Yeti, probably has the best joke in the movie. It seems like sometimes, Laika has a problem with their third acts with how they are paced. There is also a joke that I have seen split people down the middle about when Mr. Link decides to go by the name of Susan. It’s a touching scene, but I can see why it sparked some debate if it’s unintentionally hurtful due to the fact that Lionel will sometimes, either accidently or the script forgot to make that change, will call Susan, Mr. Link. I have heard many opinions on the gradient of this discussion, and I don’t really have a fully-fledged opinion. I don’t think it’s as bad as others make it out to be, but I’m not dismissing the fact that it could be taken the wrong way. I think it’s unintentional in its execution. While I loved the chemistry between the characters, I wish there was maybe one more scene with the characters bonding. It’s one of the few times a film that’s 95 minutes long, could be almost two hours due to how laid back and enjoyable it is.

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While I am mad that people are not seeing Missing Link, and are instead going to see Pet Sematary and Little, and Laika not having enough resources for marketing, I still love Missing Link. It might not be Kubo and the Two Strings or Coraline, but I love this movie. Heck, I love all of Laika’s movies. If people truly desire and want new or original stories and films, then they need to not hesitate on seeing films like Missing Link, because it’s stop-motion. Go see the film, and if you love it, that’s awesome, and if you didn’t find it to be impressive, then that’s okay as well! What matters is, is that you went to see and supported an original property. I can’t wait to own this flick on blu-ray when it comes out. Well, while we wait to see how enjoyable or cynical Ugly Dolls is in May, let’s check out one of DC’s newest films with Justice League vs. The Fatal Five. Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed it, and I will see you all next time!

Rating: Criterion/essentials