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Is this cartoon revival worth it?

Posted : 4 years, 7 months ago on 5 January 2013 09:44 (A review of Alvin and the Chipmunks)

*There are spoilers in this review.*

Alvin and the Chipmunks is about the story of Dave Seville and three unexpected permanent house guests, Alvin, Simon, and Theodore. The trio of chipmunks ends up in a boy band.

If you're wondering about the answer to the question above this review, allow me to answer it with a big N-O. While Alvin and the Chipmunks was a box office success thanks to reviving an old property adults grew up with and making it pander to children, it all comes at the expense of quality. Alvin and the Chipmunks is another one of those high-grossing-yet-terribly-unfunny kid's movies like Cat in the Hat and Shark Tale, and when you sit through the movie, you're just angry that a movie like that did so well in the box office.

There were three writers to this movie. Two of them, Will McRobb and Chris Viscardi, both co-wrote forgettable films like Snow Day, The Tale of Despereaux, and My Boss's Daughter. The other one, Jon Vitti, wrote mostly children's films with varying quality (I'd hate to use "varying success" in this sentence because it can apply to both critics' reactions and box office sales). While he wrote the surprisingly great The Simpsons Movie, he also wrote mediocre films like Ice Age 2 and Dinner for Schmucks.

Keep this in mind. Three writers wrote Alvin and the Chipmunks, and it ended up being the worst movie (quality-wise) of each of their writing careers.

The plot stinks with every cartoon adaptation movie cliche ever created. Takes place in our real world? Check. CGI? Check. Banal human characters? Check. Love subplot for two of those human characters? Check. Lowest-common-denominator pandering towards children? Of course.

There are two plots of this movie: the plot revolving around Alvin and his chipmunk pals landing a singing career but eventually regretting it, and the plot with Dave and his love interest, Claire. The plot with the chipmunks is forgettable, unfunny, and cliched, consisting of terrible jokes centered around yelling, pop culture and potty humor. In other words, typical kid's movie fare. The chipmunk plot feels like it should be in an episode of Alvin and the Chipmunks instead of a feature-length movie. The other plot with Claire is even more cliched, forgettable, and unfunny, and on top of that, it fails to be the least bit romantic. You'll find better romantic subplots in cartoons on Nickelodeon that air at 7 in the morning.

However, this film has some redeeming qualities to it. The CGI looks great, save for a few scenes (such as when Alvin is showering in the dishwasher). The animation for the chipmunks is very expressive and achieves to make the chipmunks cartoony while keeping them out of the Uncanny Valley. The chipmunks' voice actors (Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler and Jesse McCartney for Alvin, Simon and Theodore, respectively) manage to make the chipmunks sound like they should sound when they are talking or singing. Unfortunately, these are the film's only strong points, and kid's probably won't notice or care for them.

I do not recommend Alvin and the Chipmunks to anybody who was a fan of the original cartoon, as they're better off watching old episodes of the show on DVDs or VHSs instead. As I said before, no one over ten will enjoy Alvin and the Chipmunks. Still, unless you really need to keep your children quiet for an hour and a half, do not show this to children, as their is far better children's entertainment out there.


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Does whatever any other "______ Movie" can.

Posted : 4 years, 7 months ago on 3 January 2013 03:19 (A review of Superhero Movie)

*This review contains spoilers.*

Superhero Movie is about how a teenage guy is bitten by a radioactive insect, gains its powers, and uses it to stop crime. In other words, a spoof of Spider-Man.

I'm not a very big fan of the "_____ Movie" series that was started by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Setzer. All of their movies boil down to shallow parodies of numerous cinema franchises. By no means is Superhero Movie a unique entry in the series that abandons this formula, as you can see from the poster and DVD box art. However, while Superhero Movie is yet another forgettable entry in the series, its director, Craig Mazin, is actually a much better director and writer than the founders of the series themselves.

For one thing, Craig Mazin actually does other things beside making parody movies like Superhero Movie. He worked on the Hangover sequel, for example, which wasn't too terrible. The only other "Movie" movies that he worked on were Scary Movie 3 and 4, which were still bad, but compared to Meet the Spartans and the aptly named Disaster Movie, they're not as bad. Another small merit that Mazin has over Friedberg and Setzer is that the latter two's movies, such as Disaster Movie and Epic Movie, have only a couple of disaster or epic movies lampooned and the rest are other films that came out at the time. These other movies not relevant to the parody's title are less apparent in Mazin's "Movie" entries, though they're still there.

Sometimes, Superhero Movie has some decent gags in it, like the parody of Steven Hawking and a few others, but these instances are very rare and it requires the audience to sit down for more than twenty minutes with this movie. The rest of the gags range from generic to dated to unbearable. Many of them are poorly done sex jokes or pop culture references, though when I say "many", I mean "almost all of them". There's a scene in the movie with two human-shaped balloons in a...suggestive position as the main character is walking by. That's the joke. There's no buildup, no punchline, just two balloons making love to each other, no rhyme or reason. Trust me, this is how a lot of the jokes in this movie are going to turn out.

The plot is a parody of the original Spider-Man movie: kid gets superpowers, things don't go so well at the beginning, villain shows up to do something horrible to the hero (in this case, it's killing his aunt), hero wins against villain, hero gets the girl. Everything else is irrelevant.

Drake Bell stars as Rick Riker, the main character in this movie, and Sara Paxton as Jill Johnson, his love interest. They're not that bad in this movie, but not too good either. Drake Bell has certainly seen darker moments in his acting career (Yours, Mine and Ours and College come to mind), though this is probably the darkest moment in Sara Paxton's (Even Shark Night 3D was better than this garbage.)

If you're a fan of the "Movie" series (though I don't think there are many), you may like this. If you're a big superhero fan and want to see someone parody Marvel Comics properties, there's a slim chance that you'll like this. Other than that, Superhero Movie has a strictly teenage target demographic. It's too mature for kids, yet too immature for adults. However, even if you fall into the target audience, you probably won't like this movie. There's much better parody out there.


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A total strikeout.

Posted : 4 years, 7 months ago on 3 January 2013 03:15 (A review of The Benchwarmers)

The Benchwarmers is about three adults who, after feeling that they should take a stand against a bunch of bullies, creates a three-man youth baseball team.

I'm beginning to see a growing trend in the reviews for this movie: the reactions for the movie are either "This is the funniest thing ever!" or "This is the worst thing in humanity!" To be honest, I don't like this movie, but I'm not angry about it. If you're looking for a so-bad-it's-good movie or a movie that you want to just get all mad about to release some pent-up rage, the Benchwarmers is not for you, as you will watch about five minutes, turn off the TV, and say to yourself, "What kind of person would even agree to direct this movie?"

Dennis Dugan would, apparently. If you don't know who Dennis Dugan is, he is the same person who, while directing the surprisingly entertaining Happy Gilmore, is also the director infamous for Grown Ups, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, and Jack and Jill, which received too many Razzie Awards to count.

The Benchwarmers, while it is rated PG-13 and has numerous jokes on homosexuality and alcoholism, is very juvenile with all of its other jokes. The first scene of the movie is some kid farting in someone's face. It sets the simplistic and juvenile tone for the rest of the movie, but not in a good way, or even in a mediocre way at that. The comedy is a mix of stuff you would find on children's television at the time and the worst episodes of Family Guy.

While the comedy (or lack thereof) will make you experience a mixture of boredom and hate, the plot will make you feel like that as well. The Benchwarmers is about as generic as an underdog movie's plot goes, save for an abysmal ending. Even the Bad News Bears remake that came a year before it was better than this.

None of the characters are likeable at all, and instead they show off how low making comedy characters at the expense of actual personality, development, and common sense can go. Rob Schneider is at least mildly like a sympathetic human being as far as his character Gus goes, but that's like saying a Big Mac mildly has the contents of actual beef. Gus is only played off as the cool guy because everyone else is just stupid. Howie, played by Nick Swardson, is annoying, stupid, and only there to make really juvenile jokes. Clark is pretty annoying as well, cracking unfunny jokes and being an unlikeable pervert.

If you're looking for a sports movie which makes you want to root for the underdog, watch Dodgeball. Watch the original Bad News Bears. Heck, even watch the remake of Bad News Bears over this turd. Don't show it to your kids, as there are far too many jokes about sex and alcohol and other adult themes in this movie that they'll be bothering you about shortly afterward. Don't show it to any teens or adults, as they'll probably hate you for it.


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Furious fun, or just plain balls?

Posted : 4 years, 7 months ago on 3 January 2013 03:13 (A review of Balls of Fury)

*There are spoilers in this review.*

Balls of Fury is a 2007 film about the former greatest ping pong player in the world, Randy Daytona, who is sent on a mission to stop the evil Feng's tournament to the death.

From a movie called "Balls of Fury", I can't say that this movie being bad is a disappointment because its core concept is lackluster while the film being as bad as you would expect. This is the same main problem other film failures like It's Pat and Accepted had (though I'll have to save up my feelings for those movies for their respective reviews): a wacky premise followed by a couple of sub-plots stumbling around the movie in a vain attempt to try to make the movie taken more seriously. However, this movie is called "Balls of Fury", I think any people who wanted a serious sports movie have exited the theater ten minutes in.

Often times, the ridiculous main plot, which focuses more on comedy, and the two subplots, which focus more on action and romance, intertwine with each other and it just becomes both over-dramatic and unfunny at the same time, though each plot still fails to achieve comedy, romance or action all on their own. For example, the finals match to the death with Randy Daytona against his love interest. Randy doesn't want her to die, so he throws the match by making it so she hits the ball unintentionally and Randy doesn't hit it back. However, this is both played for laughs and being taken seriously, resulting in the audience being confused whether to laugh, cry, or stare in awe at the scene before them, and the audience ends up painfully bored.

Many of the jokes in this movie, while not being offensive, miss far too much and are just very lowbrow. Balls of Fury just tries to appeal specifically to teenage audiences, what with gay jokes and the constant stream of "Oh Crap!"s in the dialogue, but any teenager with an I.Q. of over 30 will get very bored of this movie's ridiculous premise very fast.

Randy Daytona is supposed to make the target empathize with him, because the target audience would know how he feels. Instead he comes off as an unfunny frat-boy with an annoyingly loud voice. Christopher Walken and George Lopez did surprisingly good jobs with their acting as Feng and Rodriguez, respectively, but just two people with good acting isn't worth the price of the DVD.

Unless you really like sports movies, action, and romance in one movie, I'm not guaranteeing that you will enjoy this movie. There are so many other better sports movies out there, and I recommend you watch those instead.


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