The Other Side of Animation 203: Charming 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!)

Recently, it seems like I have discovered a subsection of animated films that all have one thing in common, they were all in distribution limbo. This means that they originally had a plan or even a distributor to bring over to the states, but something kept them from coming out until much later. This might be a distributor going bankrupt, a controversy giving the film in question a toxic vibe, or the film couldn’t find a distributor. It happens all of the time, and for the sake of this review, I’m talking about newer films that are in this category. Seriously, Animal CrackersDuck Duck GooseRed Shoes and the Seven DwarvesCharmingGnome Alone, and you get the idea. Sadly, while I do support the idea that every film should get a chance to be seen, I think some sit in limbo for a reason. For example, let’s talk about what can be considered Vanguard Animation’s “best” film, Charming

Directed by Ross Venokur, produced by John H. Williams, and finally brought to the states by Netflix, the film was produced by Vanguard Animation, Cinesite, and 3QU Media. It was supposed to be released back in 2017, but came out in 2018 in Spain, Europe, and Africa. Finally, on January 8th, 2021, the film came onto the Netflix service with very little fanfare. Sadly, that is the fate of many of these films outside of Animal Crackers, which had much more success. It doesn’t help either that a lot of this film’s marketing was relying on the fact that the producer worked on Shrek, a franchise that stopped being a thing back in 2011. After a while, you wonder why other films try to be like Shrek when everything was at peak form with Shrek 2 back in 2004. Anyway, what does Charming have to offer for a fantasy comedy? Well, let’s dive right in. 

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The plot of this film is as such. Prince Charming, voiced by Wilmer Valderrama, has been cursed, where women keep falling for him but he feels hollow and in no way shares the same feelings back for every woman. He has until his 21st birthday to break the curse by finding a woman who is his one true love. He is sent on a journey to conquer the curse by his father, King Charming, voiced by Jim Cummings. To help him on this journey, Charming runs into a thief named Lenore, voiced by Demi Lovato, who agrees to help him on this journey, but is contracted by an outside force to do so. Can the two break the curse and also avoid the grasp of the evil queen Nemeny Neverwish, voiced by Nia Vardalos? 

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So, this film’s entire gimmick is that since Prince Charming is a character in multiple fairy tale stories, what if he was all one person? Well, with that kind of gimmick, you could see a lot of potential with a satisfying story and great jokes. Sort of like last year’s Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarves, it feels like a fantasy comedy that’s almost there, but the overall experience is still undercooked. The jokes are there, the sequences are there, but it doesn’t go as far as something like Shrek 2, and even if I wasn’t constantly thinking about a classic fantasy comedy, Charming still feels underdeveloped for that genre. Some characters could have been easy points for comedy. For example, the fairy godmother is voiced by John Cleese, who is nowadays not the greatest person because of his offensive opinions. So, do they do something funny? Well, they have him speak in a faux female voice. That’s not funny. They could have easily let him talk in his normal speaking voice and it would have been funnier than what we got. Granted, any potential of enjoyment of seeing him is gone due to the goodwill he lost, but still. It would have been something. Another example is the equally problematic giant cannibals that the leads run into. Cultural appropriation aside, which is its distinct problem, they have a character who’s a prophet with one blind eye, so her prophecies are only true half of the time. Well, sadly, we have another case of the prophet being played by Sia. Outside of Sia’s recent pushback for her awful comments, her character is only half-realized. They make the prophet quirky, but not much else. Again, there are a few funny lines, but that’s not enough. We also have a villain who isn’t interesting or compelling. She does nothing, and leaves no real lasting impression. 

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It’s frustrating because there are some decent moments and elements of the film. The character chemistry between Charming and Lenore is solid, the animation, for Vanguard’s standards, is probably their best looking visually, and the song Trophy Boy, by Patrick Stump is a real bop of a song, and as I said, the music is solid. The comedy is the strongest element of the film, and while it feels like there are so many missed opportunities with this film, I still found myself laughing a couple of times. Not as much as Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarves, but still more so than most mediocre animated comedies. However, that is the biggest problem. Even when the film is at its best, it falls short. 

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The animation might be better than most Vanguard Animation films, but it still looks cheap with weird physics and movements. It’s a film that doesn’t hide its small budget well. The character designs aren’t all that appealing, and the, well, charming chemistry between the two leads is still undone by terrible and tired tropes that we have seen so many times before. The voice acting is decent, but outside of some of the voice actors attached to this film, the celebrities didn’t do much for me. The jokes might hit a couple of times, but they still fall flat most of the time. I might like the song Trophy Boy, but every other song? I don’t remember the other ones. 

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The overall foundation of the film is not solid enough to hold an entire story, and the writing, animation, and comedy aren’t strong enough to make this a wholly satisfying experience. It’s more frustrating than bad. I can tell by the time this year is done, this won’t be my choice for the worst animated film of 2021 though. I wish it was better because if it had a more cohesive base for jokes and comedy, we could have had a hidden gem. I can see this film may be getting a small cult following, but otherwise, there are better fantasy comedies out there. You could watch Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle or Heaven’s Design Team, and the instant classic, Shrek 2. Oh well, next time, we will be talking about the newest film from an acclaimed studio, and I can’t tell you what it is. Oh well, you will have to find out what it is when it comes 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: Lackluster 

The Other Side of Animation 170: Arctic Dogs 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!)

Okay, let’s get this out of the way. This review is about Arctic Dogs. Directed by Aaron Woodley, produced by Assemblage Entertainment, AIC Studios, and Ambi Media Group, and distributed by Entertainment Studios, this is yet another film in a long line of films to make ya wonder how on earth this got into theaters. Originally announced back in 2015 as Arctic Justice: Thunder Squad, this CGI animated feature was set to release January 2018. Unfortunately, the first distributors of this venture, Open Road Films, went bankrupt, and then the film was picked up by Entertainment Studios, the same distributor that put out 47 Meters Down, the sequel 47 Meters Down: Uncaged, Chappaquiddick, The Hurricane Heist, Hostiles, and the classic horror film you forgot existed, Friend Request. Word of mouth among the animation community spread as the founder of Entertainment Studios, Byron Allen, took interest in animation, but had no real idea or concern about what went into making profitable animated features.

Even after promising a proper marketing plan for this flick, and being released November 1st when films like The Addam’s Family was starting to lose its legs in theaters, Arctic Dogs bombed at the box office. Reportedly on a budget of $50 mil, Arctic Dogs has, as of writing this article, only brought in $3 million. It is now the spot holder for the biggest failure to open in over 2,000 theaters, or so some comments and articles have made out. So, we have an animated film that took forever to make, being greenlit by people who never worked in animation, being distributed by a guy who has no money left in this film distribution venture, directed by a guy with already one animation bomb in his filmography, having to deal with questionably intelligent people above him, and it bombed hard, opening in 10th place. Yeah, let’s just pick up our plate of vegetables your mom told you to eat, and get this over with.

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Our story revolves around an arctic fox named Swifty, voiced by Jeremy Renner. He dreams of becoming one of the mail delivery dogs that are the talk of the town and the cream of the crop. Unfortunately, due to his size, he is constantly told that he can’t be a delivery dog by his boss, Magda, voiced by Anjelica Huston. He ends up working the assembly line with his pal PB, voiced by Alec Baldwin and Lemmy, voiced by James Franco. One day, he gets tasked with taking a package by his fox friend Jade, voiced by Heidi Klum to a base way out in the tundra. Swifty ends up encountering a walrus scientist named Otto Van Walrus, voiced by John Cleese. Swifty finds out Walrus’ evil plan, and it is up to him and his friends to find a way to prevent Walrus from destroying their home and the world using “BAD Gas.”

The biggest hurdle with dealing with films like Arctic Dogs is that there is not a whole lot to talk about with worthwhile substance to it. There are only so many times you can say, there is nothing to this movie!  Arctic Dogs is an animated film that lacks ambition. Animation-wise, the film looks better than most of the low-grade flicks that somehow end up in theaters, but for a film that supposedly cost $50 mil, I’m finding it hard to believe that it cost that much. Maybe a lot of it went to the cast, which explains why the animation is so lifeless. There are low-grade textures, stiff movements, incorrectly executed physical comedy, and the film lacks the small animation details that would have given it more blood pumping through its veins. It’s one of those animated films that give CGI animation a bad name. It also doesn’t help that the designs are boring as tar. There is no life to them, and they look like stock assets in an animation program. Walrus looks the best, but it’s not enough to save a bland looking film. You can make great looking animation done on a non-Disney/Pixar budget, but it takes really good art direction to pull that off, and that isn’t the case here. It may somehow have cost $50 mil to make, but the film’s visuals tell you otherwise. Even the concept art for this film looked better.

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So, the animation is of poor quality, but what about the characters and the cast? Surely, you can make up for a bad animated feature with good writing and memorable characters? Yeah, no you can’t. Maybe a better writer could have done more with this film’s climate change commentary, but there is no substance to it. The characters are all boring family film archetypes, and no one stands out as memorable. Jeremy Renner is probably the biggest get for this film, but this is not a good performance for him. The way he talks and acts in the film makes me think this was meant for a younger actor like Zac Efron. It also doesn’t help that he has some hefty abuse allegations against him right now, so, yeah. The rest of the cast is also not very compelling. James Franco is sleepwalking through this flick, Heidi Klum’s character could have easily been played by a voice actress with more energy, and I almost like Alec Baldwin’s take on PB, but then I remember how invested he was in films like The Boss Baby and Rise of the Guardians, and realize that he, like Franco, sleepwalks through the film. It’s even funnier seeing Angelica Huston in the cast, as of the reveal of this film’s existence, she was bad-mouthing older actresses for being in stuff like Poms, while she considers herself as an “art-only” actress. Yeah, explain to me how this soulless animated film is art, ya hypocrite. John Cleese is the only one having any fun, but that’s because he’s playing a 1-dimensional villain and is the only one to have fun with his character.

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The writing and pacing of the film are whiplash-inducing. The film has such a stop and start way of going about its scenes, that it felt like the story had to pause for jokes, then story, then clunky bonding dialogue, story, joke, story, the lead character looks like a giant jerk, and so on. It never felt fluid or made me want to invest in what was going on. I would love to know the process of writing this script because it comes off like it was very “this is our first major film script”. Nothing about the dialogue feels like there was an effort to make it witty or clever.

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When I saw Arctic Dogs, I wondered whether it was going to be worse, or on par with Wonder Park, the film that has held my worst animated film of 2019 spot since March. I had to ask myself if being more ambitious, but failing every step of the way was better or worse than setting out what you wanted to do, but being completely bland and forgettable. Well, I have to say, Wonder Park has now been dethroned by Arctic Dogs. I couldn’t stand Arctic Dogs. I feel badly for any trouble the director and animators had to deal with while working on this film, and please do not go after them if you did not like this film. It’s not as bad as other cheap-animated films you see slide into theaters for no reason, but it’s not too far off as being one of the worst examples of such. I would say avoid this movie, but since no one is seeing it, you are already doing so. Save your money and wait for Frozen II and Spies in Disguise. Well then, I need something to liven up the mood a bit. I honestly had a hard time choosing what to review next, but how about we review some Netflix films next? I think that sounds like a good idea! Let’s talk about the new Holiday-favorite film, Klaus.

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: The Worst/Blacklist