I snuck in a quick late night solo viewing of OTH. Why? Well, because some slacker behind the counter at the ice-rink didn’t sign my name up for a goalie spot in pick up hockey like he was supposed to so that when I arrived they’d given my spot to somebody else. So, with a couple hours to burn (along with my ire) I decided to take in Dreamworks’ latest offering.
OK, full disclosure time: I’ve not been terribly excited about this film. The trailers just haven’t been ‘doing it’ for me. (I’m having a similar problem with Pixar’s Cars.) The production design just never grabbed me by the collar and said “Look!”. It suffered from a case of “Grass is Green/Skies Are Blue Syndrome”. It just felt kinda so-so artistically. But I’ve been hearing from folks inside DW that the story was solid and they were liking this film. So, with that in mind I went in hoping to find it a fun film.
The narrative structure was pretty solid. There were relatively decent motivations all around, nice set ups, a decent flow to the thing. It slowed down a bit early in the second act, but sheesh- which animated feature doesn’t anymore? It was certainly a stronger story than their last 2 shows (Madagascar and Sharktale). I give the production design on Mad much higher scores, though. Sharktale was a waste of my time and money all around. Lots of talented people worked on ST, but it watching it was hard. Sorry if that tweaks anybody the wrong way, but what can I say? Jeffrey K. didn’t bring his ‘A-game’ for that one.
The animation in OTH was quite nice, though. But then I went in expecting it to be solid. A lot of good animators work at DW, guys and gals who know their stuff. There were some very nice acting choices and I really enjoyed the different and unique styles of motion for each character. The porcupines had a nice waddle, Hammy was well done (Scrat on steroids), RJ and Verne had nice things going on as well. I think they were quite successful in giving each type of character their own motion sense that helped set them apart from the others- a good sign that somebody in animation has been asking the right questions and coming up with good answers. The water balloon head thing didn’t bug me as much as it did in earlier trailers- maybe it had been toned down in retakes? Dunno. The bear was a lot of fun. I liked Nick Nolte’s take on that character. The humans seemed to have that same problem all studios have with CG toon-humans. Outside of The Incredibles- and even many moments in that film- and some stuff in Nemo it’s been a bumpy ride. And I include my own work as well. We haven’t quite conquered that problem just yet (I think it’s a design issue, personally). But overall the animation was very nicely done with some very fun and unique character performances. It’ll be a good DVD to keep on hand for inspiration.
I enjoyed the movie. I’ll certainly take the kids to see it. The use of Ben Folds’ distinct musical vibe in the soundtrack didn’t feel tacked on and it fit the mood of the show. I’d say it was an overall solid effort, a good family flick. The opening weekend take of $37mil means it will be an OK money maker for DW, but it won’t be anything near Shrek-like in its presence. With Cars coming in just 3 weeks OTH might take a bit of a hit, so the overall domestic on OTH will probably settle somewhere between $110-150mil. Not shabby, certainly good enough to mean it’ll make money once it gets out in DVD, but nothing to make Wall Street go ga-ga over DWA stock.