9, Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs, and Dragon Hunters – Capsule Reviews

Recently I’ve seen a few animated movies, and while they don’t have anything in common, I thought I’d present them together in a set of capsule reviews.

9

When Elijah Wood last played a diminutive hero courageously seeking to save the world (in Lord of the Rings), it took over 10 hours to tell the epic story. In 9, Wood voices another little hero, but unfortunately the tale is told in only 80 minutes. With the support of such box-office-friendly geek-gods as producers Timur Bekmambetov (director of Wanted and Night Watch) and Tim Burton (director of Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline, etc.) newcomer Shane Acker gets to turn his Oscar-nominated short animated film into a full-length feature. The animation is wonderful, and the characters interesting and fun, but unfortunately the world he has created deserves a much longer treatment. (Granted, 9 II and 9 III would have been extremely confusing titles if there had been sequels.) 9 is the name of the last of a group of rag dolls created and imbued with life by a scientist trying to pass on a legacy as the human world comes to an end. As 9 awakens, he discovers others of his kind, each with different personalities and skills, who have formed a tribe. #1 is the self-appointed patriarch-leader (voiced by Christopher Plummer). #2 is the old shaman (Martin Landau), #5 is the crazy one with a touch of insight (John C. Reilly), #7 is the warrior woman (Jennifer Connelly) and they all play a role in discovering more about themselves and why and how they were created. I enjoyed these characters and their world a lot, and I wish we could go back to get more of their story, but the ending does kind of wrap up quite tightly. Maybe Acker will follow Peter Jackson’s footsteps and release an extended version on the DVD. If I learned anything from this movie, it’s that we must not give up hope.4 out of 5

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs

Even from the 30+ character title, you can tell that Cloudy is going to be different from 9. This is a more kiddy movie (though 9 was also kid-friendly), the premise of an unsuccessful inventor catching a break when he invents a machine that turns rain into food is not exactly high-concept. However, contrary to first impressions, this movie does have a respectable number of “jokes that go over kids heads” (I know because I found myself occasionally laughing alone in a theatre full of kids.) The animation is nothing too spectacular (even in enjoyable 3D) but this movie definitely does a better job at depicting the cartoonishly big-headed characters than Monsters vs. Aliens. Bill Hader is charmingly knebbish as the nerdy scientist Flint Lockwood. Anna Faris (even her voice is cute) is perfectly cast as the perky weather girl Sam Sparks, and the definite scene-stealer is Mr. T as the gruff cop Earl Devereaux. This movie is not quite up to Pixar’s standards, but it’s a whole lot of fun and definitely worth checking out (even if you don’t have kids to go with) 4 out of 5

Dragon Hunters

This movie is not in the theatres (it might have been, but I missed it) but it’s out on DVD. It’s a French-produced animated film that takes a traditional quest to slay a dragon and tells it in a slightly different way. Lian-Chu is the big-hearted bruiser and Gwizdo his sarcastic buddy. Together they look for ways to make a living in a world of little islands floating in the sky (with plenty of monsters to fight). Unfortunately no one takes them seriously until Lian-Chu happens to save little princess Zoe from a couple of lightning dragons. Believing him to be a knight like the ones she’s read about in fairy tales, she recruits them to help her blind uncle defeat the dragon that plagues their kingdom. What follows is a comical and heart-felt adventure that is surprisingly enjoyable. 4 out of 5

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