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With this year being very popular for animated films big and small, it’s definitely showing that the movie industry and media distributors are grabbing animated properties left and right to be able to call their own. Sony Pictures Classics bought the rights to distribute The Red Turtle, GKIDS got their hands on Miss Hokusai, a popular 2015 entry from the Annecy Film Festival, and Netflix bought The Little Prince when, for some unknown and quite frankly stupid reason, Paramount dropped it. Sadly, that means that some companies are going to pull a Central Park Media or LionsGate, and buy up any animated films they can, not caring if it’s good or bad. This is why I’m looking at one of Google Play’s exclusive films, Bling. This is a Korean CGI-animated film produced by Digiart Productions, the studio behind the infamous rip-off film The Reef. The writing on the wall, in terms of quality, is no better seeing the writers, who worked on films like Alpha & Omega, Outback, and The Reef. Yeah, this is going to be one of those movies. Let’s dive in and see what the damage is.
The story revolves around a young man named Sam, voiced by John Carter himself, Taylor Kitsch. He is a robot maker, who lives with his three robots, Wilmer, a pig robot voiced by Jon Heder, Kit, a monkey robot voiced by Jason Mewes, and Okra, a frog robot voiced by Tom Green. Throughout his entire life, all Sam wanted was to marry the love of his life, Sue, voiced by Jennette McCurdy. However, when an evil mastermind named Oscar, voiced by Jason Kravits, and his robot, Victor, voiced by James Woods, wants to take over the city, it’s up to Sam and his robotic friends to take them down.
Let’s get the bad out of the way, first. In the first few minutes of the story, you get a lot of the film’s biggest problems. First off, the moral message. In the first five or so minutes, the movie basically says, “to be a good piece of wedding material, you need materialism!”. Forget about actually knowing about one another, bonding over dates and social sequences, and after a while seeing if you are into each other enough to want to spend the rest of your lives together. Because you know, you can simply marry anyone if you just pimp out a hugely expensive ring showing your self-worth. And this theme is everywhere in this movie, making a lot of the characters rather unlikable, and having an incredibly cynical drive to them. I don’t know if this was the intent, and the writers had a stupid moment that made them skip over this huge issue of the film, because I would like to know, but holy macaroni, this brings the film down immensely. Like I said, the characters don’t really have personalities, and some of their dialogue sounds incredibly forced and contrived, especially with the monkey robot that is obviously inspired by the Journey to the West story. The other characters are simply forgettable or oddly tame, compared to their actors. Like, how do you have Tom Green, infamous for Freddy Got Fingered, and somehow make him act like he got hit with a sleeping spell or some kind of tranquilizer? In the end, that may be a blessing if you have ever seen Freddy Got Fingered, but I digress. He brings no energy to his snarky cynical robotic counterpart. This film also has the failure of comedy. I just recently rewatched The LEGO Movie, and it made me realize how incredibly funny that film is, and how animated films can have good comedy, but nope! There is no excuse for this film going for low-brow humor, like its excessive amount of fart jokes (all of them coming from the pig robot), when other animated films are raising the bar with their wit and clever writing, like in Zootopia. Why would you just have okay writing and not hit it on the mark every single time you deliver a line or joke? Seriously, there needs to be higher standards in animation and filmmaking, in general. Apparently, someone loved the fast-forward button, because the first part of the movie moves at a really fast pace. It doesn’t let us get a breather or a break to be embraced into this film’s world, or learn about the characters (you never learn why Sam decided to make robots at all), which is really generic and not interesting or memorable, like the city in Big Hero 6 or again, Zootopia.
In terms of animation, it looks more appealing-if-generic to look at than Norm of the North and Underdogs, but it’s also not technically impressive looking. It’s slightly better than what we can do with TV show CGI animation these days. Some of the action scenes are decent, but not super-engaging. After watching Kung Fu Panda 3 and The LEGO Movie, you can do action in animation, and for a film that tries to have so many fights, the sequences are not up-to-par. This is also when we have seen Kubo and the Two Strings, and how that film is being ambitious with a more action adventure-oriented experience. I know I sound harsh in saying “well, they aren’t trying hard enough when others are showing how much effort they are putting into their movies”, but I’m being honestly harsh. There needs to a level of quality these days due to how many people aren’t going to the theaters anymore, but that’s mostly because Hollywood thinks we will watch anything, and just ignore the super high quality effort put into some movies.
I don’t want to come off like an utter jerk, because I do have a few, if minor, positive comments to say about Bling. Even though its animation is not good, I will say it’s more pleasing to look at than Norm of the North and Underdogs. It’s rather impressive that Korea and China are upping their animation budget, even if it still won’t reach Pixar or Disney levels, yet. It might have this plastic/soft clay look to everything, but it sort of works for some of the robot designs. I found the only actor to actually put any effort into his or her acting is James Woods as Victor. Honestly, he has the most interesting personality and development as a character.
While it might not be as bad as Norm of the North or Underdogs, it’s still the third worst animated film of this year. I’m rather surprised that I found something worse than Ratchet & Clank, The Wild Life, and Ice Age: Collision Course. I think it saves itself only because of the effort put into the animation, and it decided to only stay in theaters for like, three days, and then go through Google Play for its distribution. Avoid this movie, and if you want to watch Asian animation done right, you are better off buying any of the Studio Ghibli or Mamoru Hosoda films or any of the Japanese-animated films from GKIDS. Well, Halloween will be upon us, so let’s check out some Halloween-centric films like Hotel Transylvania 2. Hope you are all ready for some spooks!
Rating: The Worst/Blacklist