The Other Side of Animation 89: Sahara 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!)

When I choose a film to watch, I try not to go directly into the film with a sense of “oh man, I’m going to hate this film”. Who wants to go into a film knowing it’s going to be bad? I said in my previous review that I like to be surprised. If it turns out to be a good or bad movie, that’s up to the film, and what I take away from it. That’s how I go into every film, and it was no different with the newly released Netflix-distributed film, Sahara. I knew about this CGI-animated film from France since the end of last year, but was intrigued when I saw Netflix was going to distribute it. I was a bit concerned when they didn’t really advertise the film, and after watching it, I understand why. Let’s dive into the desert with Sahara.

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The story revolves around a cobra and a scorpion, who feel out of place with the colony of other snakes they live with. The cobra named Ajar, voiced by Robert Naylor, decides to try and fit in with the snakes that live within the oasis on the other side of the valley. Unfortunately for him, the snakes in the oasis are pretty high class, and have a rather strong defense system. He and one of the oasis snakes escape the boundaries of the environment, and end up bonding with one another. That is, for a few seconds, as a snake charmer kidnaps the oasis snake. Ajar, along with the Oasis’s snake’s lazy obnoxious brother, must go save the “love” of his life before she ends up in a worse situation.

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Yeah, as much as I love foreign animation with their focus on story and characters, with different art styles and styles of animation, Sahara definitely doesn’t feel like one of those amazing films I talk about on my site. It becomes very obvious, outside of the rating for this film, that it’s meant for very little kids. Even if this was meant for younger kids, I can’t imagine someone like my niece sitting through this boring film. I don’t think I have ever felt so bored with an animated film from France since forever. None of the characters are very fleshed out, and they end up getting stuck with very basic character traits. Ajar is your generic lead character, Pitt the scorpion is your nervous safety-reliant friend, the female lead has no real character to her, and even the villain isn’t a super terrible guy. He’s not a good guy or anything, but the villain of this film feels forced. That’s also a problem when one of the characters you follow has a very hipster/surfer bro-style of talking that sounds way off from the original French dub of the film. Yeah, that’s another problem, the English dub is terrible. It’s not poorly done, but I feel like they either got the wrong voice director, or the actors weren’t putting their all into it, but a lot of the characters in this film were annoying to listen to. Especially that brother to the lead female, he is by far the most annoying character I have seen so far in 2017. First off, how does he have a blonde wig? Why does he talk like a surfer? Why is he a pot addict? Yes, it’s technically not pot but pollen, but it’s the same thing in terms of context. How do these characters reference things like Batman and Robin when they are snakes in a desert? I made it halfway through the film before I paused, switched to the French dub, and watched it with subtitles. You can tell that the French actors were putting more into their performances than the US cast.

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The film also loves to include a slew of characters that have no real purpose for the film. None of them push the narrative along, they don’t have much in terms of personalities, and sometimes, they are entirely 100% objectively pointless. For example, Pitt gets a scorpion girlfriend. Why? Because they needed a love interest in the last 20 minutes for him. Why? Because heaven forbid, we get any animated films these days that don’t rely on a romance between characters. You have bullies that never show up again, a cult of bugs that don’t show up again, and a family of scorpions that were way too willing to let their daughter go along with Pitt on the adventure that you never see again. And you have these security birds that only appear in the beginning of the film, and I swear one of them probably dies in the desert. I wouldn’t mind all of these pointless and boring main and secondary characters if they had any real chemistry. There is no convincing chemistry and charm between any of the characters. The two leads don’t even have romantic opportunity together; they fall for each other in a matter of seconds. Give Disney some credit, they at the very least, give the leads three or more days to do such a thing. It’s so weak and poorly executed that it’s eye-rolling.

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Did I like anything about this tale of snakes? Well, that’s one thing I can give credit to for this film. It is about an animal that you don’t see as leads in an animated film very often, and are not villains. I also like the animation and designs of the characters. It looks generic by US animation standards, but it looks way better than most foreign CGI fares. Even the humans have good looks to them that remind me of the Illumination Despicable Me look. I also found the movements to be fluid, and maybe that’s because most of the characters are snakes, but I think that’s pretty commendable that they put more detail into the animation. The colors are also very nice, because even though it is the desert, there can still be a lot of different colors, from the vibrant plants to the different skin or scale tones of the animals that live there. It was also nice to see the film was willing to take breaks every now and again to let the characters breathe. It’s nice to see that since a majority of animated films from the states tend to be very hyper and comedy-focused; this one could take its time for viewers to breathe and to slow the plot down. It doesn’t fix any of the issues with the plot, but having some atmosphere is nice.

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I still stand by my opinion that a lot of foreign animation is leagues better than a majority of the films made in the states, but this is one of the few times where I consider this one of their blunders. It’s not the worst animated film from France by any means, but it makes you wonder why the heck Netflix picked it up, and why it was even made. It has nice animation, but nice animation can’t save a film from its lackluster characters and story. If you really want to see this, for the love of animation, please watch it in French with English subtitles. It’s one of the few French-animated films that I have seen that felt like they weren’t even trying. Well, that happens from time to time. Thankfully, Sahara is way more watchable than what is quite possibly my worst animated film of 2017. You will just have to wait to see what that is next time. Thanks for reading!

Rating: Lackluster!

The Other Side of Animation 70: The Ice Age Series 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!)

It’s funny, when I promised to do a notoriously terrible animated film for every 10 reviews, I always wanted to talk about easily one of the worst animated films of all time, Delgo, due to how long it took to make, and how little money it made back. However, it seems like notoriously bad movies like popping up and pushing back that review. For example, since it’s the holidays, I wanted to talk about a series that has become infamous for overstaying its welcome and becoming worse after every sequel, The Ice Age movies. The flagship franchise of Blue Sky Studios started out with a competently made movie back in the early 2000s, but then as time went on and there were more sequels to the series, it was becoming apparent that they were getting worse in terms of overall quality. I also wanted to talk about them on a base-by-base situation, but after watching them all, I decided to talk about them in one massive review for the holidays. Now then, let’s dive into this over decade-long franchise.

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I think I’ll give a small synopsis for each of the films. The first film is about a group of odd fellows with a mammoth named Manny, voiced by Ray Romano, a sloth named Sid, voiced by John Leguizamo, and a saber-tooth tiger named Diego, voiced by Denis Leary. The three end up having to take care of a human baby, and set out to bring it back to the tribe while avoiding a cult of dodo birds, and Diego’s gang of other prehistoric cats.

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The second movie, Ice Age: The Meltdown, has the gang trying to escape a massive flood while also coming across another mammoth named Ellie, voiced by Queen Latifah, who at first thinks she is an opossum along with her two brothers, Crash and Eddie, voiced by Seann William Scott and Josh Peck, who are actually opossum. All the while, they are stalked by large prehistoric sea monsters that were unfrozen in the ice.

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The third film, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, came out in 2009, and has Manny and Ellie dealing with the upcoming birth of their first child. Sid, on the other hand, accidentally finds some eggs that happen to have T-Rex babies in them. The mother T-rex, who somehow survived the Ice Age and the extinction, finds the newly hatched kids and takes them and Sid back to an apparent underground world where dinosaurs have somehow survived for years after the extinction. As they journey into this new world, they run into this nutty survivalist weasel named Buck, voiced by Simon Pegg, who decides to help them while avoiding a giant dinosaur that is stalking them.

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The fourth film was Ice Age: Continental Drift which came out in 2012. This story has Manny having to deal with his daughter, Peaches, voiced by Keke Palmer being a rebellious teenager, and Manny being an over-protective father. This is when the continents are separating, thanks to the actions of the iconic character Scrat, voiced by Chris Ledge. As a result, Manny, Sid, and Diego get separated from the rest of their friends and family. Oh, and they now also have to deal with Sid’s grandma, voiced by Wanda Sykes. As the crew gets separated out in the ocean, they run into a group of pirates run by an ape named Captain Gutt, voiced by Peter Dinklage. Can Manny and his buddies get back to their loved ones before Gutt causes trouble? Oh, and Diego encounters a female sabre-tooth tiger named Shira, voiced by Jennifer Lopez, who is part of Gutt’s crew.

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The most recent film, Ice Age: Collision Course came out July 22, 2016. The plot for this film has to deal with Manny trying to get over the fact that his daughter Peaches is getting married to this quirky male mammoth named Julian, voiced by Adam DeVine. On top of this, Manny also has to deal with his and Ellie’s anniversary, when all the while a giant meteorite is heading down to earth that can possibly destroy it. If there wasn’t enough going on, Collision Course brings back fan favorite character Buck, who actually helps the gang with their trouble, avoiding a group of flying dinosaurs named Gavin, Gertie, and Roger, voiced by Nick Offerman, Stephanie Beatriz, and Max Greenfield.

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Okay then, now that we’ve got the plots out of the way, let’s talk about some of the few positive elements on which to commend this franchise. While the first film might not age well in animation, and you can really see how some of the later films biggest annoyances would be birthed from this one movie, it still holds up as a decent animated film. It had atmosphere, characters with actual personality, depth, and was able to be quiet for more than a split second. There is a great scene in the later part of the film where you get a bit of why Manny is so defensive around other animals and getting close to anyone. It might not be unique, due to what we have gotten in future films, but it’s an impressive scene that is way too good to be in such a franchise. While the quality did start to go downhill as the movies went on, I did enjoy a few characters. Simon Pegg’s character Buck is easily the highlight of the third and fifth film. All of his lines might not be gut-busting funny, but he brings an energy to the role that makes it work. You can also tell in the newest movie, Collision Course, that his scenes got much more effort put into them. I liked Peter Dinklage’s character, Captain Gutt. He was pretty much the only character who was consistently entertaining throughout the entire running time of Continental Drift. I also found Wanda Syke’s character funny. Like everyone else, her humor might not hit all the time, but her delivery and how she executes the lines is humorous and entertaining. Heck, a couple of the actors throughout this entire series make bad jokes work. I will also give respect to the animation getting better and better as the films went on, specifically the most recent one.

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Now then, I was nice to this franchise for the first part of this review, but it’s time to talk about why the franchise is one of the worst in the big budget animated film scene. Ice Age really only had one or two movies in it, since there was no real reason to continue on after that. Yes DreamWorks and Pixar may have made sequels to some of their main hits, but what happened for the most part was that the stories continued, the characters developed more, and they were good. Yes, the Shrek franchise went on too long, and I’m not fully on board with a reboot to said franchise, but I can tell you much more effort was put into them than the later Ice Age sequels. The third Ice Age film was so boring to sit through, and while Simon Pegg’s Buck was amusing, it was nowhere near a saving grace to the overall experience. The third film is also the jumping off point to some of the biggest problems the franchise has going against it.

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Where do I even start? I could list them off, since this review is already going on long enough, but I think I will start with one of the biggest issues I have with this series of films, the continuity. It’s blatantly obvious when you jump into the third film that there are going to be some things that don’t make sense. One, how did the dinosaurs survive underground? When the gang sees the T-Rex mother above ground, how does Elli know what a dinosaur is? Where was this dinosaurland this entire time? How was it not affected in some way or another when the ice was melting in the second movie? Due to how far underground they are, why are they not at the very least baking to death? It gets worse when in the fourth film, the continents get split apart, so that leads to questions like how the dinosaurland was still there in the fifth movie, unchanged from the events of the fourth movie. Like, did nothing at all happen to them? That’s just one major example of the continuity issues. The continuity also leads into a lot of little problems that I don’t think the filmmakers thought through, because they will introduce new characters and villains that are new species, but will never show up again. What happens to Captain Gutt’s ape species? It’s never seen again. What about Josh Gad’s hedgehog/mole character from the fourth movie? He is never seen again. What about those teenage mammoths played pointlessly by Drake and Nicki Minaj that added nothing to the characters? They vanished, and are never seen again. Why introduce these characters when they aren’t going to be important or add anything to the overall world? Just to get big names out there? I’m sorry, but that’s painfully distracting and cynical of Blue Sky Studios.

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It becomes very apparent that the story writers had no idea what they were doing, and had no talent behind them. As you watch the films, you will see that character subplots either result in them being predictable, boring, annoying, or don’t really go anywhere. It leaves us with main characters that have no real personality, or any personality and character arcs they did have were spent by movie two. They don’t take risks, and or challenge the viewer, and yes, I know not everything has to be Pixar good, but I don’t like going in with a film not treating me like I have a couple of brain cells. It results in there being more focus to the annoying side characters, potty humor, and the little squirrel character taking up most of the time and focus. I don’t feel like I’m watching a movie in this series, I feel like I’m watching Blue Sky Studios tell me how good their animation is getting, like a kid showing a picture they drew to their parents. It’s nice that you all upgraded your tech and have beautiful animation, but it’s not enough. Heck, that squirrel character, Scrat, has become a very distracting element of the films. Due to how little or any plot each film has, more sequences with Scrat become fillers. The people making the film know they don’t have much, and only have enough substance to make the Scrat sequences entertaining, but time-consuming due to how boring everyone else is.

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I know some people will say that Blue Sky Studios get to make these movies so that they can work on other projects, but I’m sorry, that’s not a good excuse for having lackluster film after lackluster film in a series that probably only had two movies in it. Say what you will about Toy Story, Kung Fu Panda, and How to Train your Dragon, but their sequels actually got better and better. Ice Age got worse after the first movie. The original movie was unique for its time, due to how low-risk the competition was in terms of CGI animation, but due to how much competition there is in animation now, you have to step up and improve your game. Whether you want to be fun and entertaining or mature and complex, you can’t just be pretty visuals, while being lackluster everywhere else. People are going to catch on, and it surely did with Ice Age: Collision Course underperforming and bombing in the states. If I had a recommendation for any of the films in the series, it would definitely be the first one, but even then, there are so many amazing animated films I could recommend over the original Ice Age. I really hope they don’t make any more of these films because if they do, people will not be forgiving to them. If I see that a new one is being made, I am going to be much tougher on it. Well, we got this massive review out of the way, how about we end on a high note with GKids Phantom Boy. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed this rather long article, and I will see you all next time

Rating for the first film: Rent it. Rating for the second film: Rent it! Rating for the rest of the series: The Worst/Blacklist

The Other Side of Animation 59: The Wild Life 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!)

Hey everyone, Lionsgate a.k.a #AntiGKids is back again with another nauseating and, to no surprise, horrible movie! Yeah, I know this might be picking on the studio, but they tried to con people out of money for Norm of the North and this movie, The Wild Life. The Wild Life is a French/Belgium collaboration that was originally called Robinson Crusoe. Ironically, this film has very little to do with the actual character, and focuses on the animals instead. It’s directed by Vincent Kesteloot and Ben Stassen, which explains a lot if you know about Ben Stassen’s filmography. It was produced by Illuminata Pictures, nWave Pictures, and UFilm. The only film that I can think of that is remotely well known in terms of what these companies and directors worked on was the incredibly mediocre Fly Me To The Moon 3D. Even though it’s not a huge bomb of a film from the other side of the world, it’s one of the biggest flops in terms of first weekend CGI film releases in the states. So, is it as bad as I, and many others, have made it out to be? Well, we shall see.

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The story revolves around this Parrot named Mak/Tuesday, voiced by David Howard Thornton. He tells the story about life on an island with his friends that include a tapir, a goat, a chameleon, a pangolin, an echidna, and what I think is a kingfisher. Believe me when I say that the types of animals are much more interesting than their actual names. One day, they see that a human named Robinson Crusoe, voiced by Yuri Lowenthal, has been stranded on the island. Now the animals have to find out if this human is trustworthy, while avoiding the evil cats that sadly came along on the ship Crusoe was aboard.

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Man, this movie is horrible, but why? It looks just as cynical as most mediocre animated films, and it doesn’t look as bad as Norm of the North. So, what’s the problem? Well, I can describe this movie with one word, boring. This film is a chore to sit through, and that’s because of the characters. They are a bore. Each character has one trait, and they milk that more than NBC Universal milks that Illumination advertising budget. The goat is old, and that’s it. The tapir is fat, and that’s it. The pangolin and echidna are pointless characters, and you guessed it, that’s it. No one is worth remembering in this film. Oh, and they are all rather stupid. Like, Norm of the North levels of stupid. Listen, people, stupid characters don’t make a good movie. You can have one well written stupid character, but the entire cast can’t be as dumb as the person who thought Nine Lives was a good idea. In the end, I did not care what happened to anyone, and I was just ready to get off my seat and curse the people who brought this into theaters. It doesn’t help either that the film essentially had about three climaxes, overstayed its welcome, and characters acting inconsistently. Seriously, the kingfisher character wants the human off the island, but then in one scene of the movie, she attempts to ruin Crusoe’s S.O.S signal to keep him on the island. Like, do you want him gone or not?!

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The biggest sin this film has going against it is that it is completely pointless. There was no reason for this film to exist. It’s not smart, clever, funny, interesting, and it is soulless. Heck, it doesn’t even really focus on Crusoe, and granted, some things from the original book they probably couldn’t do, but it’s also another film that had no freaking reason to be in theaters. I seriously question moviegoers, when the great Kubo and the Two Strings has to continually suffer in the box office. I saw no advertising for The Wild Life besides a poster for it a few months back. That’s it. Why does Lionsgate keep thinking that they can bring over any animated film, and people will love it? You know what? We don’t!

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The animation definitely looks better than Norm of the North, but only in terms of textures. It had more money and talented people working on this film than Norm of the North, but the animation is still very robotic. No one moves naturally. Well, maybe the chameleon moves the most naturally due to them already moving like robots, but I digress. The voicework is also annoying. On one hand, they got mostly voice talent for this film. It really doesn’t have big names to back it up (which makes it a mystery why it got to be in theaters in the first place, but still). It’s somewhat nice to see a film not rely on big names to sell its movie. On the other hand, the actors aren’t that great, and you can tell the English dub team wanted bigger names than what they could afford.

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So, out of this incredibly boring and annoying trainwreck, what does this film do well? Well, it only does one thing really well. What is it? It only has one or two really bad stereotypical kids film jokes. Yeah, the rest of the humor is horrible, not funny, and the two butt jokes are lousy excuses for humor, but to their credit, I do have to say that this film stays far away from the modern children animated film joke tropes. I was shocked by this because this was distributed by Lionsgate, which as you all know, released Norm of the North, which they should still be ashamed for making.  Anyway, The Wild Life has bland and boring humor, but it’s not super-condescending and cynical like Norm of the North or Bling. I was actually surprised, since it’s so easy for studios to get the note from higher-ups to put in these “wastes of space” jokes that make kids who have no sense of humor laugh, and adults who were unfortunate enough to take them to see it roll their eyes. I will also give credit that the animation looks decent. It’s still bad, but it’s not immensely mediocre. More Ratchet & Clank, than Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return.

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Man, I really hated this film. I don’t hate it as much as Norm of the North and Underdogs, but it’s a vapid pointless film that had no reason to be in theaters. The film will be out in a physical format in November, but don’t pick it up. Instead of getting the dvd for this film on November 22nd, go purchase Kubo and the Two Strings on the same day. You will thank me. Now then, this is my 4th worst movie of the year. What is my 3rd worst animated film? Well, stay tuned.

Rating: The Worst/Blacklist