The Other Side of Animation 171: Klaus 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!)

When it comes to films centered around the holidays, I’m very picky about which ones I want to watch. I’m especially picky when it comes to Christmas movies. I don’t hate them, because my family has a slew of Christmas classics we love to watch, but much of the time, most films based around a holiday like Christmas aren’t great. So many are either try-hard, cornier than a monster made of corn, or unintentionally mean-spirited. It doesn’t help either that most Christmas-related fare gets shoved into romance films that Hallmark makes all of the time. Like making any movie, all you need to do is focus on writing and story, and you should be good! That’s why when I find a Christmas movie I adore, I support it with all of my strength, which is why I’m tackling Netflix’s Klaus!

Directed by Sergio Pablo, and animated by SPA Studios, it was picked up and distributed by Netflix, and released November 8th in the US to pretty positive reviews, and will be getting an Oscar push for this year’s award season. It’s also the first original animated-feature for the streaming service. I was personally excited about the film, and I only got more excited when I saw the behind-the-scenes event at Animation is Film. So, what do I think about this festive new film? Well, let’s get to that part of the review!

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Our story focuses on a young man named Jesper, voiced by Jason Schwartzman, an individual who has no real drive in life who would rather lay around and be lazy since his father is wealthy. After trying to get kicked out of the postal academy his father enrolled him in, his father has a different idea. Instead of falling for Jesper’s shenanigans, he sends Jesper off to the furthest place on the map to a small town called Smeerensburg to be that town’s postman. Unfortunately for him, Jesper quickly finds out that Smeerensburg is the unhappiest place on earth, with two rival clans of families that have been fighting since the literal dawn of time. Jesper only has one year to make a functioning postal service in this town, or else he’s cut off from his family’s money. Can he change his ways and make a living postal service work in such a wretched town? What about this mysterious woodcutter, voiced by J.K. Simmons, at the end of the island, and the woodcutter’s mysterious barn of toys?

As the marketing, the behind-the-scenes event, and the story have revealed, this is an origin story for Santa Claus. It’s essentially, a modern-day and better-animated version of the Rankin-Bass classic, Santa Claus is Coming to Town. I don’t mind that, because it’s a pretty straight forward origin story for the jolly red man. It’s about the origins of a fictional character told through the view of a young man learning to be a better person, and how a nice gesture creates another nice gesture. That theme, by the way, is why this movie is so good! I always enjoyed themes like this, because, while it might be a simple one, it sticks with you. I mean, when has an act of meanness ever inspired someone to work with you or do something mean to someone else? It doesn’t take that much effort to do something kind and caring. The theme sticks with me more, because of the premise of the town Jesper is in. It’s a town that has had a long-standing rivalry bred by toxic and hateful behaviors and traditions. One an act of kindness starts in the town, it spreads and everyone becomes better people, and they get rid of the traditions that were brought upon them by the previous generations.

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In terms of the characters, I enjoyed my time with them. Sure, Jesper can be a little annoying at first, but since he’s another in a long line of “whiny individuals that redeems themselves in the end”, I find him to be one of the better versions of this character. He does start as a jerk, but then realizes what his good deeds lead up to, and he’s written better than most of these types. The other characters also ooze and flow with charm and personality. A lot of it is who they got for the roles and the animation, but I loved the characters. From Rashida Jones’ Alva to Will Sasso and Joan Cusacks as Mr. Ellingboe and Mrs. Krum, the film is full of amusing characters. I also adored J.K. Simmons as Klaus. They give him a lot of pathos in who he is, and Simmons puts in another fantastic performance. Even Norm Macdonald as Mogens, the boatman, has a lot of character to him. The villains are especially deviant as, while they are joke villains, there is a bit more imposing and threatening to their centuries of hatred and ignorance that makes them threats. As for the comedy, I remember busting out into laughter many times due to the delivery of the jokes, and I’m sure everyone had fun playing these characters. The jokes range from mostly physical and visual gags, but the dialogue is kept timeless as to not add any pop culture references to date the script. Some lines may feel a touch more modern, but it’s in the way that the Emperor’s New Groove has more modern-sounding dialogue, but still fits the setting.

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The animation though, we have to talk about it! This is one of the most visually splendid films of 2019. It’s pure 2D animation goodness. Sure, some parts may have used a tiny bit of CGI, and yeah, it’s a lot of digital coloring and lighting, but due to how talented the team of animators is, and how much passion and little details are put into the final product, the result is a film that feels like Christmas. You look at the lush landscapes and the bitter cold town that Jesper is stuck in, and you feel like you are there. The film feels grand in scale as the cinematography brings you into this world. It’s a film with a visual presentation that I would have loved to have fully seen on a big screen.

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I love this movie, and it’s not just because it’s 2D animation. However, I do have some very minor complaints about it. First off, the pop songs. Now, the main soundtrack to Klaus by composer Alfonso Aguilar Gonzalez is incredible. What’s forgettable and just okay are the pop songs in the film, and while one of them is played as a joke that works, the other ones heard are okay, but nothing special. I wonder if this was a thing that Netflix requested, because if you took out the pop songs, you would miss nothing. They don’t ruin the scenes they are in, but they stick out.

I wish there was more time for Jesper and Alva’s relationship to bloom. They have decent chemistry, but I wanted there to be more time for the two to spend with each other instead of the film relegating her to be the love interest in the second half of the film. It almost makes me wish they didn’t end up together, but their chemistry was cute. They also pull the third act “liar revealed” gag, and while it’s not the worst trope I know, and it is a bummer it was used, it still makes sense in a way? Like, I wish animated films and films in general would stop using this trope, but as long as they are executed well, I don’t mind seeing them in the film.

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Normally, I temper my hype, because I always go into a movie ready to be disappointed by it, but Klaus was worth all of the hype, and it is worth getting all of the support it needs to help bring back interest in 2D animation to the theatrical scene. I highly recommend everyone who has Netflix to watch this movie right now, and constantly during the holidays. It’s a new Christmas classic, and one I would put on par with The Nightmare Before Christmas. In terms of animated Christmas movies from this decade, I would argue that it’s better than Arthur Christmas, but that’s just me. Now then, we got our Christmas movie out of the way early, how about we jump into some DC comic book movies for a while? I need to catch up on them, but before we tackle Batman vs. TMNT, I got a screener to review first, and that will be a surprise to you and me with how this next film turns out!

 

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: Criterion/Essentials

The Other Side of Animation 88: My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea 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!)

To me, there is no real surprise to going to the movies these days. Since so many films are coming out, and Hollywood isn’t becoming too risky with its big budget films, there is just no real reason to go to the theaters. Yes, indie films do balance that out with telling more diverse stories and taking more risks, and not every film needs to be original, but at the same time, I want to be surprised. I don’t want to sit there knowing what exactly is going on, or walk into a movie knowing what the big twist or story points are going to be. That’s why I loved going into and coming out of My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea. This newly distributed GKids animated film was directed by comic book writer and artist, Dash Shaw, and boasted a solid cast, including Reggie Watts, Jason Schwartzman, Maya Rudolph, Lena Dunham, and Susan Sarandon. So far, it has had a pretty positive reception, with only a few people being split on the overall film. Where do I fit into that group? Well, let’s find out.

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The story revolves around two best friends, Dash, voiced by Jason Schwartzman, and Assaf, voiced by Reggie Watts. They run a school paper with their editor Verti, voiced by Maya Rudolph. After some shenanigans with Dash being jealous of Assaf and Verti going out, calling out Assaf in a new editorial, and getting in trouble with the popular girl, Mary, Dash finds something rather shocking. The school is building a new roof-top gymnasium, but the principle is ignoring building code, and the high school, well, sinks into the sea. Dash must get his friends, Assaf and Verti, out of there alive, alongside popular girl Mary, voiced by Lena Dunham, and a rather awesome lunch lady named Lunch Lady Lorraine, voiced by Susan Sarandon. Can they make it out alive? Can this film give you vast amounts of LSD-rich visuals?

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First off, let’s talk about the animation. When the trailer for this film came out, everyone was criticizing it for its less-than-stellar animation. To be fair, if you are not used to other styles of animation, I can understand the confusion, since it doesn’t look like a Pixar or Disney quality film. Personally, I have started to follow the philosophy of “I don’t care how much your budget is, it’s what you do with it that matters more”. You can be as pretty as you want to be, but if your overall experience has lackluster storytelling, execution, and characters, pretty animation won’t cut it. If it was all about looking nice, Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur wouldn’t have bombed. My Entire High School is more style over lazy animation. It might not have fluid movements all the time, but it has charm and personality. This isn’t like where GoodTimes Entertainment attempted to make a theatrical quality film with a $10 Mil budget with Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer: The Movie, and obviously spent it on hiring big time celebrity actors instead of putting out high quality animation and having celebrity voice work at the same time.

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Personally, I never felt distracted by My Entire Highschool’s visual style, and got very comfortable with the film because of the film’s other strength, it’s writing. While indie dialogue can become hit-or-miss, I felt like the writing and characters for the film were very strong. I liked the dark comedy sprinkled throughout the film, I liked the chemistry between the characters, and I liked how punchy the dialogue felt. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but Dash Shaw found a way to make the quips and lingo coming from the characters feel natural. I can see why some people are calling this a modern day John Hughes film, since it has that tone and vibe down from something like The Breakfast Club. I also liked the characters. Sure, Dash doesn’t become a likable character at first, and I wouldn’t personally go as far as he does on some things, but I honestly felt like he acted more like a realistic teenager than most teens you see in movies. How many times have you been jealous and spiteful because of sudden change? Or how about how you felt like you were the greatest thing imaginable? To me, the characters came off more realistic than anything else. It also shows off how hollow and rather toxic school communities can be, due to how the different groups of students can damage one another. It’s also a satirical approach to a disaster movie, since while natural disasters can be scary and very damaging events, it’s darkly humorous that a principle would be so inept in budget spending that he would rather risk making more money and ignore safety code to justify a roof-top gymnasium than making sure the school didn’t collapse. It’s dumb and unrealistic, but how immensely over-the-top have most disaster movies been?

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If I had to complain about something, it would be that the LSD-style images near the third act can become a bit too much at times. I don’t have any trouble dealing with flashing images, but there was one scene where it almost became too much. It’s one of the few times I could think of where the visuals and indie style almost becomes distracting. I mean, yes, the animation is very different, and I think that helps it stand out, but when the indie vibe becomes too in-your-face, then that’s a problem.

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I know this movie will probably be on a base-by-base situation in terms of overall enjoyment, but I really loved My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea. It had great laughs, vibrant visuals, a good sense of humor, and the actors did a wonderful job bringing the characters to life. I thought it would be a while for something to top The LEGO Batman Movie as my favorite film of the year, but for now, it has topped it. I’m sure things might change in the future with upcoming GKids releases and other releases, on top of rewatching these films for the end of the year list, but for now, I have a current favorite animated film of 2017. Sadly, it’s getting close to the 90th review so how about we look at a movie Netflix didn’t bother to advertise for obvious reasons with Sahara? Thank you for reading my review. I hope you all enjoyed the article, and I will see you all next time

Rating: Go see it!