Category Archives: animated

[s] Igor: The Paris Years (Quay br., 1981)

Igor: The Paris Years is an animated short by the Quay brothers that tells about Igor Stravinskiy living in the 1920s in Paris. It touches upon his contacts with Mayakovskiy (who is called simply ‘bolshevik’ here) and Jean Cocteau, as well as his fasination with pianola. The animation is in cardboard cut-out technique, but the film consists mostly of music. It also includes inserts of historical footage.

On the one hand, it looks rather simple and kind of crude – all the ‘dolls’ are just photographs folded in a particular manner, the setting is bright and mostly fixed; on the other – the physics of movement is really well-done. I liked how the cacophony of voices sort of fuzes into something comprehensible. The music is pretty nice.

But even though it’s a decent work, I didn’t find it very interesting. At the end of the day it’s a depiction of a casual episode from the life of the composer, coupled with general representation of his life, which combination seems pretty random; if there are deeper implications, they remain unclear. You probably need to go into this film already prepared, and I don’t think it’s the best approach anywhere.

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Ice Age: Continental Drift (Steve Martino, Mike Thurmeier, 2012)

Continental Drift is the 4th film in the Ice Age series of full-length animations. As the story goes, the existing mega-continent suddenly splinters into smaller ones, which forces the mammoth family apart: Manny, the head of the family, along with Sid the sloth, Diego the saber, and Sid’s granny, finds himself on an iceberg drifting away from the mainland, while his wife and daughter, as well as lots of other animals remain on the continent in mortal danger of moving land. Manny then tries hard to reunite with his loved ones, but that  proves to be more difficult than he thought, especially when the company of heroes runs into a band of pirates led by vicious captain Grunt. In parallel to the main story arc, the proverbial squirrel still chases the nut.

Well, this was boring. Which is, probably, the worst thing that can be said about an animated film for children, as it should be the embodiment of entertainment. The large story, of course, doesn’t make any sense, but that’s not really important – it never had with Ice Age movies anyway, and it’s actually okay, as long as the small story is internally consistent, interesting and funny. And while the 1st element (consistency) is more or less alright, the rest is not so much. I don’t even care that it’s all about family values, the most tedious subject ever, the fact that there is nothing new, – no fresh angle, no challenging conflict, nothing at all, – is way worse. The characters are merely functional, and some are quire grotesque. None of the jokes are funny – amusing at best. The movie doesn’t have a single acute element, which means it would be erased from a viewer’s memory in a matter of hours after the showing, if not minutes. All in all, this film seems absolutely worthless to me.

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[s] The Blacksmith (Veselin Efremov, 2015)

The Blacksmith is a fantasy short about a powerful entity in the situation of defending his status from an infinitely inferior human. It is not so much a story as a teaser to one, – on top of demonstrating the power of the Unity engine, of course. The animation is incredibly detailed; the overall execution, with the music and the context that is deeper than the appearance, is really great. I hope it would result in something bigger.

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[s] Adam. Episode 3 (Neill Blomkamp, 2017)

 

Third episode of the Adam project maintained by Neill Blomkamp digresses from the story shared by the first 2 episodes (but stays in the same universe of discourse, of course). A sick woman comes for help to a miracle worker, a priest who is known to have cured others. He agrees to help her, but for a dire price: she has to not only declare her loyalty to the priest’s cause, but to make the ultimate sacrifice. Too bad that might just be for nothing…

Well, the story is pretty interesting – a little bit cruel, but that’s only a good thing. I think that in the fact that the android just so happened to be woman’s brother is too much of a coincidence, but the story is so ambiguous that it might work after all. The animation is rather great, but it seems to me that daylight is a problem for the Unity engine, as the image kinda looks like a video game at times. Of course, it’s my subjective view, and I’m probably wrong about it. I wonder what would Blomkamp bring out next, but so

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[s] Simon’s Cat ‘Off to the Vet’ (Simon Tofield, 2015)

Off to the Vet by Simon Tofield is a Simon’s Cat special created within the framework of the project but aimed at the offline audience. As it is quite usual with Tofield’s works, the story is very simple and revolves around the cat’s minor injury that still required a visit to a vet.

If you haven’t yet seen Simon’s Cat’s movies, you should – they are funny and smart and inventive; if you need to cheer somebody up, this would be a good way to do it. This special is in line with the rest of them, only a little brighter, maybe, with animation more refined, – which is no suprise, considering how long Tofield’s been doing that.

I didn’t quite like the human sounds solution, though, – I think it could’ve been done better, but the human is not too important in any of these aminations, so it doesn’t really influence the overall result all that much.

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[s] Adam. Episode 2: The Mirror (Neill Blomkamp, 2017)

Second episode of the Adam project keeps exploring the weird world of people turned into machines. Supervision is overtaken by Neill Blomkamp, but continuity is preserved. After long and exhausting journey through the desert, a group of newly freed androids learns about the world they found themselves in, and why they don’t have any memories. They meet the Mirror, an odd entity able to find out and disclose certain details of their respective past lives.

Like 1st episode, this one looks pretty amazing. Unity engine (which is used in both cases) is definitely something intersting. The story evolves in a logical manner; as distinct from the previous chapter, it is mostly told through the words of the characters. There are still a lot of questions about the universe of discourse, and it’s rather obvious that the writers make up that stuff as they go, but so far they’ve been doing a pretty good job. And, like I said, the image and the animation are astonishing.

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[s] Gdansk (Neill Blomkamp, 2017)

Gdansk is short animated film set in some fantasy version of medieval Europe. It’s not really a story, not yet, – basically, it’s a sample of one. But it gives you a good taste of what it might become. It’s dark and violent, and also pretty realistic despite obvious fiction – at least in regard to ordinary people standing in contrast to military.

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[s] The Noise of Licking / A nyalintás nesze (Nádja Andrasev, 2016)

A nyalintás nesze is a silent animated short about a woman who lived alone, and a neighbour’s cat who liked to watch her watering the flowers. At some point the cat stopped coming, and then re-appeared as a man.

The animation, although obviously not everybody’s cup of tea, is quite interesting; it’s certainly distinctive. The story is not the easiest one to read, but it is curious. I’m not sure, if this style can be applied to a larger story, but even if not, it doesn’t make this work any less curious. Have a look for yourself:

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[s] Adam: Episode 1 (Veselin Efremov, 2016)

Adam: Episode 1 is an animated CGI short set in futuristic scenery. According to the official annotation, “A convict awakens to the grim reality of having been transferred into a mechanical shell,” which corresponds perfectly with what is happening on the screen, although one would never surmise this disposition from the 1st episode alone as nothing of the sort is stated there in any form; rather it serves as grassroots for the plot environment.

The animation is quite perfect: it looks beautiful and feels very nice; physics seems to be in order as well. The story, as you can imagine is very subtle, maybe a little too much; but even though some of the twists and characters remain a mystery to the viewer after watching it, it is obvious that they are in harmony with each other and the story, and the continuation (already available) would probably cross all the necessary ‘T’s. Here, see for yourself:

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[s] Black Holes (David Nicolas, Laurent Nicolas, Kevin Van Der Meiren, 2017)

Black Holes is a pilot short film about an astronaut on a mission to Mars. Shortly before tha launch, he was informed about a change in his menu: instead of his favourite snack he will be given a watermelon. Even the news on its own unhinged the hero a little bit, but what followed after was much, much worse. Very quickly it was established that the melon not only can think and communicate (courtesy of the technical progress), but is actually much better at it than most humans, which is why his status on the mission gets upgraded from food to a full-fledged partner.

Well, I think it’s brilliant. The animation is kinda weird – it seemed unpleasant to me at first, but it’s actually pretty great, albeit a little too original, plus the physics is perfect, plus there’s a ton of humor that smooths everything even remotely thorny. The story is weird, and very lively at the same time, which is a fun combination. All in all, it’s a wonderful work of animated cinema – funny, interesting, bizarre.

The finale is open – something appeared before the heroes when they reached the destination point, but we don’t know what; that is done intentionally as the authors want to make this into a full-featured series. For this they launched and successfully concluded in the spring of 2017 a Kickstarter campaign, which means that right now they are probably working on the said series. You can still help the team by going to the project’s website and buying some swag from there. You decide if it’s worth it:

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[s] Louchebem (Laprade, Masson, Grard, Girettes, 2012)

Louchebem is a short about a grieving butcher who escapes his memories in a dance when he sees a fly.

It’s more of an artwork, than a movie, and as such it’s pretty well-done – at least, I find the animation quite curious. But, instead of a story there’s a lot of blues, which may be poetic but doesn’t make it interesting to watch. In other words, there is something in this for the eye, but almost nothing – for the mind.

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[s] Sam (Emmanuel Aurengo, Mickael Bonfill and Romain Protet, 2014)

Sam is an animated short about an office worker who gets himself into some sort of science fiction drama when attending an expo about future technology, and is trying to handle the consequences since then.

First thing that arrests attention here is the animation, which is extremely poor in quality and elaboration of details. The story at first seems quite boring; the development with the expo was pretty good, but then it turned out it’s only to justify at least somehow all the subsequent science-fictional bullshit like the gun that restructures the matter. And then there was open finale, i.e. the film was basically suggested as a prologue to a full-length feature story, which was so obviously speculative and groundless, it really pissed me off. It’s not really worth it, but you have the choice anyway:

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[s] Alike (Rafa Cano Méndez, Daniel Martínez Lara, 2015)

Alike is an animated short about the resemblance children and their parents bear on so many levels, with a clear message that everyday routine, however tiresome, must not become the reason to allow indifference into the family relationships, because it would probably destroy it altogether. The characters are schematic, there are almost no individual traits in any of them, everything about them screams “placeholder”. Which, I guess, makes it not a story, but rather a parable – one that strives against didacticism and tries to be entertaining instead. And it sort of is; the animation, notwithstanding the crudeness of people representation, is pretty subtle, which can be seen in small details, plus there is certain humor intrinsic to the narrative – it’s not much, but still. All in all, it’s nothing really special, nor original, but it may briefly elevate your mood, so here goes:

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Rise of the Guardians (Peter Ramsey, 2012)

Rise of the Guardians is an animated movie about a team of guardians consisting of Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy, Easter Rabbit and Sand Man, all of whom has to abandon their ordinary duties to fight this great villain (name’s Pitch Dark) who returns after centuries of absence to conquer them all. The Man on the Moon, who organized the guardians team in the first place, also decides the team should be reinforced with a new member – Jack Frost, who has been wandering the Earth for 3 hundred years by then. The five heroes manage to overcome their differences and join forces in the fight against the mighty enemy.

I see 2 significant drawbacks in this movie, – significant enough to make it unnecessary and even potentially harmful. The first that comes into attention is, of course, the animation. To some degree it’s probably a matter of habit, as thanks to the efforts of Disney, Pixar, Miyazaki and others, we got used to faces less gnarled, lineaments – smoother, colors – more balanced. But even adjusted for the habit thing, the movie still would leave a weird impression because of the characters: Santa Claus, for one thing, is Russian with a stupid accent, who uses classic music composers’ last names for expressing his amazement; Tooth Fairy looks really bizarre, and she’s surrounded with tiny fairies who do all the job for her; Sandman never says a word; Rabbit looks like a kangaroo (which, to do them justice, is embraced by the authors, and in a funny way, too). Claus’s elves look quite repugnant, plus there are many small details in the animation style and execution in general that kept throwing me off all the time.

And then, there’s the story. There is nothing original about it; it is the story of the evil returning in the most basic form of all possible only slightly (and loosely) sugar-coated here and there with gimmicks that are either middling, or crude. The set of primary characters is an indicator strong enough as it is, but in combination with the primitive, predictable, childish story, it becomes an alarming signal.

Also, I wouldn’t recommend showing this to the children, albeit they are the only ones who may take it seriously, – simply because it may educate bad taste in them.

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[s] Black Tape (Michelle Kranot, Uri Kranot, 2014)

Black Tape is a tiny little animation with no particular plot, but a far-reaching concept. Swift-passing characters here are broken down into pairs who are engaged in a sort-of dance, a tango of oppression. Everything happening is in absolute harmony with the music, and looks absolutely stunning. There are probably some elevated ideas this movie should (and surely can) awaken in a person’s mind, but me – I just enjoy the precision and the beauty. Here, you try it:

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[s] Wire Cutters (Jack Anderson, 2014)

Wire Cutters by Jack Anderson is an animated short about 2 autonomous robots extracting mineral resources on a distant planet. They worked each on their own at first, then they met and managed to form a sort of cooperation to enhance the outcome, but soon slithered into unhealthy competition, which led to both their demise.

Although this film was clearly inspired by Pixar’s Wall-E, its story still is pretty original, but most importantly – it’s really well-elaborated and consistent from beginning to end. There is nothing superfluous about the situation, individual robots’ operations, as well as their relationship, develops in a logical fashion and leads to a natural, albeit tragic, outcome. The animation is quite brilliant, too. All in all, this is a wonderful work of art, no doubt about that. But go on, see for yourself:

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Short Anthology

Alien׃ Covenant. Prologue׃ The Crossing

The title of this one speaks for itself. I’m not sure why they present it as a short when it’s more like a trailer. Doesn’t have any artistic value on its own.

Time: ~3m
Released in: 2017
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Entertaining quality4 out of 5
Art quality:  – out of 5


Big Catch

Big Catch is a really stupid story about a shark trying to get to a fisherman. Very crude animation style, too. I’m guessing it’s supposed to be funny, but really it’s just dumb.

Time: ~4m
Released in: 2010
Directed by: Moles Merlo
Entertaining quality3+ out of 5
Art quality2 out of 5


Dust Buddies

Dust Buddies is a CGI short about so-called dust rabbits (i.e. random lumps of dust) who are fighting with evil represented by a french-looking maid with a vacuum cleaner. Animation is fine, but the story is commonplace and ridiculous at the same time. Nothing really interesting.

Time: ~5m
Released in: 2016
Directed by: Beth Tomashek, Sam Wade
Entertaining quality:  3+ out of 5
Art quality:  4- out of 5
IMDB page: link


Oktapodi

Oktapodi is a short animation about a couple of octopuses who are fighting with a delivery driver for their life. It is a little bit funny, although mostly it’s ludicrous. Animation is okay, but hardly more than that.

Time: ~3m
Released in: 2007
Directed by: Julien Bocabeille, François-Xavier Chanioux, Olivier Delabarre, Thierry Marchand, Quentin Marmier, Emud Mokhberi
Written by: Julien Bocabeille, François-Xavier Chanioux, Olivier Delabarre, Thierry Marchand, Quentin Marmier, Emud Mokhberi
Entertaining quality:  3+ out of 5
Art quality:  4- out of 5
IMDB page: link


In a Heartbeat

In a Heartbeat is a short story about a boy who fell in love with another boy, and whose heart showed him the way. Literally: the heart here is a separate character and main driver of the story. All in all it’s pure, undiluted romance, without a hint of originality or significance. It’s so upbeat and romantic, there’s hardly any place for intelligence left there. I suppose, some brainless little girls would love it, but it doesn’t have any value whatsoever. Except, maybe, for animation, which is okay, but nothing special.

Time: ~4m
Released in: 2017
Directed by: Esteban Bravo, Beth David
Written by: Esteban Bravo, Beth David
Starred by: Nicholas J. Ainsworth, Kelly Donohue
Entertaining quality:  2 out of 5
Art quality:  1- out of 5
IMDB page: link


Launder Man

Launder Man is a horror short about a woman who went to do some laundry in a laundromat and got lured and attacked by a mysterious disguised man. Most of its frightening power (if it’s even a proper term here) comes from loud noises and weird makeup and props. There is no context to the story, and that makes it kind of empty, un-scary. It’s only 3 minutes, but still not worth the time.

Time: ~3m
Released in: 2017
Directed by: Landon Stahmer
Written by: Landon Stahmer
Performed by: Sean Brison, Belinda Gosbee
Entertaining quality:  3+ out of 5
Art quality:  2 out of 5
IMDB page: link


Winter’s Here / Zima prishla

Zima prishla is an animated short film about how the change of seasons. A boy dreams of the world turning all white as the winter takes over. There are characters in that play, which are traditional heroes of Russian fairy tales – the fox, the rabbit, the bear, – but no particular story outside the theme. The style of animation is exceptionally vivid and includes claymation and string art. The picture is strange and beautiful; the music is in great harmony with the image; and the overall result is quite impressive. It is sort of meditative, too. I believe, it’s worth checking out:

Time: ~6m
Released in: 2012
Directed by: Vassiliy Shlychkov
Written by: Vassiliy Shlychkov
Entertaining quality: 4 out of 5
Art quality:  4 out of 5
IMDB page: link

(v. 4.8)
®shoomow, 2017

[s] Klementhro (Sue Dunham, 2015)

Klementhro is a very short animated film about a guy sailing on a float in the middle of the sea. It’s totally surreal, and as it often happens with surreal stories, there is no plot per se, but something large emerges from the separate events that constitute the narrative here. All in all, this is a simple, weird, and uplifting movie.

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Short Anthology

Pigeon: Impossible (Lucas Martell, 2009)

Pigeon: Impossible is a short animated parody on Mission: Impossible film series and heavily equipped cinema spies in general. It is sort of fun to watch, but only sort of, because the story is basically an anecdote: it is completely improbable, it doesn’t have a grain of truth in it, it is based on ridiculous prerequisites, and develops in even more ridiculous way. The animation is a bit too smooth and a bit too bright. All in all, it is irritating and entertaining in more or less equal shares. Not recommended (waste of time, I call it), but check it out if you want:

Time: ~6m
Released in: 2009
Directed by: Lucas Martell
Written by: Lucas Martell, Austen Menges, Scott Rice, Gopal Bidari
Entertaining quality4 out of 5
Art quality:  3- out of 5

IMDB page: link


A Perfect Break-Up (Abhinav Pratiman, 2014)

A Perfect Break-Up is some kind of an ad; it explores movie stereotypes connected to the process of breaking-up a romantic relationship, and suggests some new ones. It’s pretty fun to watch, although there’s nothing here that could make it stick in memory for longer than 10 minutes after it’s over – no story, no characters, no real drama.

Time: ~1m
Released in: 2014
Directed by: Abhinav Pratiman
Entertaining quality4 out of 5
Art quality:  3 out of 5


A Single Life (Marieke Blaauw, Joris Oprins, Job Roggeveen, 2014)

A Single Life is an animated short about a girl who received a mysterious package with a record that can manipulate lifespan of a particular person when played. There is no actual story here, but the idea is bright and funny, and its implementation is quite befitting. It’s really short, but manages to elevate the mood nonetheless:

Time: ~3m
Released in: 2014
Directed by: Marieke Blaauw, Joris Oprins, Job Roggeveen
Written by: Marieke Blaauw, Joris Oprins, Job Roggeveen
Entertaining quality5+ out of 5
Art quality:  4 out of 5


(v. 4.8)
®shoomow, 2017

[s] My Home / Chez moi (Phuong Mai Nguyen, 2014)

Chez moi is a short animated film about a drastic change in the life of a little boy, whose mother brings home an alien person one time, brings him to stay, and that leads to certain estrangement between the mother and the son.

This is a delicate film about a very subtle story. The event in the center of it is not big, but it is significant, which is great to see appreciated – the finesse of this kind is a rare treat. Allegories constitute a large part of the implementation making the movie organically symbolical, but all the symbolism here is merely a means of storytelling and doesn’t have any value outside of this purpose. The animation style is quite notable, with colors dimmed and beautiful; one of Phuong Mai Nguyen’s strongest suits is delicate and precise re-creation of physics, especially that of movement. There are no dialogs, but all the necessary sounds are in place; the overall organization of the story makes the absence of the words seem pretty normal.

All in all, this is a sublime work of animation, totally worth checking out:

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Monsters University (Dan Scanlon, 2013)

Monsters University is an animation film produced by Pixar studio, a prequel to the earlier Monster Inc., and it tells a story of how the friendship arises and forms between Mike Wazowski and James P. “Sulley” Sullivan, two inhabitants of the Monster universe with a shared dream of becoming the most respected thing a monster can be – a scarer. When they first met as co-students in the Monsters University, they took definite dislike to each other, but circumstances forced them to join forces in order to come back to the Scarer program. Together with a looser-fraternity Oozma Kappa they enter the Scare Games, which usual prize is weighted even more with a wager: if they lose the Games, they drop out of the establishment for good, all of them. If they win, however, all of them would be welcomed to the Program.

Well, there’s not much to say, because the movie is pretty much perfect. The story is everything: serious, intriguing, funny, captivating and significant; the direction is amazing; and the acting is even better. The dialogs are quite brilliant, as well as various small findings (like the tunes the monster mama listens to while waiting in the car). The animation is flawless, and it’s style appeals so strongly to that thing in everybody’s soul that seeks comfort combined with wonderful riches of imagination and mastery.

Naturally, I cannot but recommend this beautiful film to everybody. It is absolutely delicious.

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[s] Double King (Felix Colgrave, 2017)

Double King is an absurd and surreal amination, but not without a narrative, which appears to be about a guy who loved attributes of power so much he literally devoured every competitor he ever met, even when he died and went to hell.

Very interesting animation style – not completely developed, but quite outstanding already. Other good qualities include incredibly rich imagination, flawless technique, and good sense of humor. All in all, it’s a powerful work; I have no doubts that future Colgrave’s films will be even better. For now you can enjoy his currently latest work here:

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Short Anthology: Kirsten Lepore

Kirsten Lepore is an animation artist of new generation. Here’s her YouTube channel, and here’s her IMDB page. This Short Anthology edition is dedicated to some of her works that for this reason or that do not exactly fall under the definition of cinema as I understand it. Names and figures

[s] Move Mountain (Kirsten Lepore, 2013)

Move Mountain is another top-notch animation movie by Kirsten Lepore. Like most of her films, this one is without any dialogs (that seems to be a characteristic trait of her style, actually), which makes it not very easy to understand what the story is about – in fact, there may be different interpretations; my hypothesis is that it’s about the importance of the environment when it comes to hallucinations.

Ambiguous or not, the movie is a true work of art, – beautiful, truthful and deep. It was exceptionally delightful. Maybe you’ll like it too:

Names and figures

Despicable Me 2 (Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud, 2013)

So, Despicable Me 2, obviously, is a continuation of the first part. Gru abandons evil and becomes a father and not very successful entrepreneur, but then he gets recruted by the special enforcement agency that specializes on global threats to help with a case. He partners up with a female agent, gradually become attracted to her, as she – to him; at some point, a she gets abducted by the villain, and Gru rescues her. And everybody lives happily ever after. Except for the villain, of course.

I’m retelling the story in such detail because it’s completely obvious from the very beginning (with a certain wiggle room, but nothing significant), and in lack of anything more or less original. It’s a 100% kiddy film with no edge whatsoever. The animation is cool, that’s undeniable, but there are plenty of other movies out there with animation not in the least inferior to this work; the sad truth is this quality is no longer a distinction, which is why the competition takes place on a totally differet field, and that field is the story, like with everybody else. And when it comes to the story here, it’s way too soft, way too warm, way too kind. That’s probably good for little children, but it weakens the grounds for this film to claim the status of art, pretty much destroys them altogether.

By and large, it’s a decent entertainment, – I guess. Frankly, it was pretty boring to me, because of all the predictability and all. But I suppose, there is an audience for cinema like this.

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