Disenchanted Movie Review

Most fairy tales end with the words “happily ever after”. While this is certainly a satisfying conclusion, there is always room for more.

The new DisneyPlus movie, Disenchanted, was released last weekend. The sequel to Enchanted, it has been fifteen years since the first film ended. Robert (Patrick Dempsey) and Giselle (Amy Adams) are happily married and have a baby girl of their own. Robert’s daughter Morgan (played by Gabriella Baldacchino) from his previous marriage is now a teenager and dealing with what we all went through at that age.

The story starts when the family leaves New York City for the suburbs of upstate NY. The nice way of describing their new home is that it is a fixer-upper. While Giselle tries to make friends with Malvina (Maya Rudolph), the town’s unofficial social queen, they are visited by Edward (Jason Marsden) and Nancy (Idina Menzel).

The gift they bestow leads Giselle to make a wish for her previous fairy tale life. As usually happens when this kind of yearning, it all goes to h*ll in a handbasket. It is up to Giselle and Morgan to save the day and return their world to what it was before.

I loved the movie. It was entertaining, funny, and the perfect follow-up to its predecessor. The easter eggs are fast and furious in the best way possible. As with Enchanted, Disney is lovingly mocking itself while recreating a narrative that fans know and love. My favorite character is Malvina. Rudolph is clearly having fun with the role, hamming it up to the nth degree.

All in all, it was a blast to watch and well worth the fifteen-year wait.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely. I would also not be surprised if it was on any top ten lists at the end of next month.

Disenchanted is available for streaming on DisneyPlus.

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Throwback Thursday: Pinocchio (1940)

Disney has been part of our collective culture for almost a century. The characters and narratives have become part of who we are as individuals and as a society.

The original animated film Pinocchio (1940) is one of the company’s earliest classics. Based on the fairy tale of the same name by Carlo Collodi, it is the story of a man who wants to be a father and a puppet named Pinocchio who wants to be a real boy. Guided by a Jiminy Cricket, Pinocchio must learn right from wrong and how to trust his instincts.

Though the message is a bit simplistic, it certainly sticks. What makes the movie for me is the story of family and growing up, two subjects that we can all relate to. Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Throwback Thursday: Toy Story 2 (1999)

In a film series, the second is the most important. It is a litmus test of two important questions: 1. Is there an audience appetite for the sequel? and 2. Is there enough of a narrative to warrant a second movie?

Toy Story 2 (1999) is the second tale within the Toy Story franchise. After Woody (Tom Hanks) is stolen by a toy collector, it is up to his friends to save him. While Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) works on the outside to free Woody, Woody makes friends on the inside. Jessie (Joan Cusack) is a cowgirl and a part of the wild west line of playthings.

I enjoyed Toy Story 2. It has everything that made its predecessor great and then some. It is funny, entertaining, and suspenseful, and the addition of the new characters provides enough stretch to make the story plausible.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Hocus Pocus 2 Movie Review

Movie sequels have a tenuous reputation. They can either further a beloved narrative (i.e. The Empire Strikes Back), or they can be a supposedly easy cash grab that nearly destroys the reputation of its predecessor (i.e. Independence Day: Resurgence).

Last weekend, fans of Hocus Pocus were finally rewarded for our patience. The long-awaited sequel, Hocus Pocus 2, was released on DisneyPlus. Nearly thirty years after the Sanderson sisters, Winifred (Bette Midler), Mary (Kathy Najimy), and Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker) were vanquished, they are brought back again by a couple of teenagers.

This time it is Becca (Whitney Peak) and Izzy (Belissa Escobedo) who light the black flame candle. The only way to stop the witches is with the help of their friend, Cassie (Lilia Buckingham), who has been spending all of her free time with her boyfriend. Working with the sister’s fanboy Gilbert (Sam Richardson), they know that Winifred, Mary, and Sarah must be stopped for good this time.

I could not help but smile during the film. The wait was worth it. It is as if the last 29 years have not existed. Midler, Najimy, and Parker slipped back into their roles as one would put on a beloved piece of clothing. The narrative is an organic continuation of the 1993 movie, taking the story in new directions in regard to the main characters.

The new characters also work well and are a nice extension of the original teenage protagonists. Becca, Izzy, and Cassie are an interesting mirror image of Winifred, Mary, and Sarah. For his part, Gilbert represents the myth of the witches that have grown within this world and within the fanbase.

It is a fun, exciting ride that takes the audience on a ride and ends in a manner that is lovely and unexpected.

The only thing that would have made it better would have been cameos from the original kid actors.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Hocus Pocus 2 is available for streaming on DisneyPlus.

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Thoughts On the Disenchanted and The Little Mermaid Trailers

It’s easy to be cynical in an adult and complicated world. Then you put on a Disney movie and you become the child believing that anything is possible.

Last week, the trailers for Disenchanted (the sequel to Enchanted) and the live-action reboot of The Little Mermaid were released.

The premise of Disenchanted is as follows: It’s been ten years since Giselle (Amy Adams) and Robert (Patrick Dempsey) had their happily ever after. But when Giselle starts to question that happiness, things go horribly wrong.

When it was announced some time ago that Halle Bailey was taking over the role of Ariel, I was not sure about that casting. To be perfectly honest, it was simply about the hair color, nothing more. If it came off as racist, I apologize. That was not my intention. Ariel is such an integral part of my childhood that she is a part of my essence. I just feel very protective of her.

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Though it is only a teaser trailer, I have seen enough to be excited. Bailey has a beautiful voice and I look forward to seeing the film when it comes out next year.

Disenchanted will be released on DisneyPlus on November 24th. The Little Mermaid will be in theaters next May.

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Pinocchio Movie Review

Within every fairy tale is a morality tale. The purpose is to teach our children (and our adults) how to behave.

The new film, Pinocchio is a live-action reboot of the 1940 film of the same name. Based on the story by Carlo Collodi, Geppetto (Tom Hanks) has one wish: for a child of his own. He gets his wish when the Blue Fairy (Cynthia Erivo) brings Geppetto’s newest creation, a puppet to life. Named Pinocchio (voiced by Benjamin Evan Ainsworth), he wants nothing more than to be a real boy and make his father proud.

But like any child, temptation pulls him in other directions. Jiminy Cricket (voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) tries to guide his charge to do the right thing, but he can only do so much. Will this puppet become a real child or is his fate to be just pieces of wood that only slightly resembles a human?

There is a nice balance of updating the narrative for our time while remaining true to the original cartoon. As usual, Hanks is the MVP, playing a complete 180 from his last film.

I noticed a couple of things that I obviously would not have seen as a child. The first is praying to a higher power or the universe (whichever one believes in), may actually bring in the desired results. The second is that you have to work for what you want. Pinocchio was not automatically turned into a human being, he had to earn it.

I haven’t seen the 1940 film in decades, but the message came through loud and clear. Though the story could be seen as slightly moralistic, the idea of listening to your gut applies to anyone of any age.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Pinocchio is available for streaming on DisneyPlus.

P.S.: Keep an eye out for easter eggs.

Flashback Friday: Toy Story 3 (2010)

When we are very young, we play with a certain group of toys. When we grow up, our toys change dramatically.

Toy Story 3 is the third film within the Toy Story franchise. Andy (voiced by John Norris) is just about to leave for college. The toys he once considered to be beloved friends are supposed to be taken to the attic. But instead, they are donated to a daycare center.

The treatment they receive from the children at the daycare is a complete 180 from how Andy loved and treasured them. Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Tim Allen), and co are now being handled by sticky-fingered toddlers who lack the respect of Woody and Buzz’s former owner.

If they are to get home, they must convince the disillusioned Lotso (voiced by Ned Beatty) that they were all once loved. Helping the boys in their quest is Barbie (Jodie Benson), who is working with her counterpart Ken (Michael Keaton) to free them all.

This movie is adorable, funny, and fits well into the overall story within the franchise. It also speaks of the fact that we all grow up eventually. What we once loved will eventually be consigned to the past and will be replaced by something entirely different.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Throwback Thursday: Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

Perception is not always everything. How we see ourselves is not how others see us. This can apply, in writing terms, to how we see antagonists. We, as the audience, know that they are up to no good. But this character believes that they are doing the right thing.

The 2012 Disney movie, Wreck-It Ralph, is the story of an old-school video game villain who wants to be seen as a hero. Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) wishes that he was seen in a good light by the residents of the game he inhabits. The problem is there can only be one protagonist, Felix (Jack McBrayer).

He sees his opportunity to change his reputation via Seargent Calhoun (Jane Lynch) in a first-person shooter game. In doing so, he lets loose a virus that may shut down the entire arcade. The only way he can save himself and his world is through an unexpected ally: Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman).

Can Ralph change his self-image and his entire world before it is too late?

I love this movie. It is funny, it is supremely entertaining, and it has heart. It also has a message about self-esteem and trying to prove that you are more than what others think you are.

I also love that the female characters are equal in terms of narrative and image to the male characters. They are not confined to “traditional” female roles.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Throwback Thursday: Moana (2016)

Ancient myths make for great stories. They are human stories about human characters going on extraordinary adventures that challenge both the protagonist and the audience.

The 2016 animated Disney movie Moana tells the story of a young lady named Moana Waialiki (Auli’i Cravalho). She is the daughter of a Polynesian chief who must save her island and her people. For time immemorial, her people have traveled the seas. But now the crops are dying and the sea is not yielding fish to the fisherman.

Believing the myth that the g-d Maui (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) is responsible for this curse, she goes on a journey to find him and force him to return the heart he carries to its rightful owner.

This movie is really good. It is charming, entertaining, and completely adorable. The Rock is at the top of his game and Cravalho is a lovely addition to the Disney princess line. Moana is determined, independent, fearless, and perhaps a little naive about the expedition she is about to go on.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Moana is available for streaming on DisneyPlus.

Lightyear Movie Review

Every narrative and IP has its limits. Though a movie studio may want to test its limit, the audience may feel differently.

The new Disney/Pixar movie, Lightyear, is an origin story/prequel within the Toy Story franchise. After being stranded for years on a mysterious planet, Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Chris Evans, taking over from Tim Allen) is looking for a way to return home. His friend and co-pilot, Alicia Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba), tries to be supportive while also being realistic.

As Buzz continues in his efforts to get his crew home, time moves on. When he finally achieves his goal, he discovers that it has been sixty years since his first attempt. An army of robots led by Zurg (James Brolin) is doing everything they can to steal his power source. Leading a small band of misfits that includes Alicia’s granddaughter Izzy (Keke Palmer), Mo Morrison (Taika Waititi), Darby Steel (Dale Soules), and the animatronic cat Sox (Peter Sohn), they must save the day and stop Zurg.

I have mixed feelings about this film. As a standalone narrative, it’s not bad. I appreciate the diversity and representation of the characters. But I also feel like Disney and Pixar are perhaps becoming a little too reliant on a known quantity instead of trying out something new. The lessons within the story are universal and ageless, but that does not take away from the fact that this is the fifth time that we have seen Buzz on the big screen.

Do I recommend it? I am leaning toward yes.

Lightyear is presently in theaters.

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