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The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
The Devil Wears Thin and Less Hot than Hell
Today I went to the Broadway Mall in Hicksville where my husband and I ate a big lunch at the food court just before heading to the movie theater adjacent to the food court. We took our seats a half hour before "The Devil Wears Prada" came on and were the first ones there. Then came groups of women after women, and I felt that my masculine-minded husband would be obviously uncomfortable at a chick flick where he could have been the only man in the theater. And he was while watching the movie with a blank stare on his face. But wait. Before showtime, two other men came along, and they were elderly men with their wives who wanted to see the movie. My husband was really the only young man in the theater. All the other patrons were women who felt it was better to leave their husbands or boyfriends at home, or groups of teenagers. During the movie, there was barely any laughter in the audience.
I never read the book, and I am not so much a fan of "Chick Lit," but I thought that "The Devil Wears Prada" was going to be a funny, sexy, fast-paced, smartass "Chick Flick" in the tradition of "Death Becomes Her" (That starred Meryl Streep as well in a wickedly funny comic performance as a self-centered 40ish actress working well opposite Goldie Hawn, the queen of funny middle-age chick flicks) and "The First Wives Club" (again with Goldie Hawn, taking it all as a faded screen diva). Instead we see Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway playing blunt, expressionless women in a slow-paced vehicle which makes good use of New York and Paris cinematography, but nothing else.
Streep as Miranda Priestley, the Cruella De Vil-type editor in chief of "Runway" and Hathaway as Andrea "Andy" Sachs, a Northwestern University graduate and Miranda's newest employee, don't shout insults or go head-to-head against one another at all in this movie. Occasionally, Miranda will throw down fancy clothes at the preppily dressed Andy on her desk. Miranda takes terrible advantage of Andy. So does Emily (British actress Emily Blunt), the first assistant of Miranda. Then Emily suffers her fate from job stress by getting hit by a cab, leaving Andy for the difficult task as working with Miranda in Paris for the most important fashion week of the year.
Being the good girl she is, Andy does everything she can to please Miranda to keep her job to the point of getting two manuscripts of a Harry Potter book for Miranda's young twin daughters. Andy's friends and boyfriends are put off by the sudden change of Miranda from size six preppy clothes to her size four glam model outfits. That leads to a friendship with a guy from a rival fashion magazine who has a crush on her, and although they don't kiss, she and her regular boyfriend temporarily break up. Also breathing over Andy's shoulder is Stanley Tucci as Nigel, Runway's obsequious fashion director, who encourages Andy to be a slave to Miranda and also does everything to please Miranda as well. No matter how well one does a job for Miranda, it's just not enough.
So do not expect any physical comedy, quick-witted quips, hair-pulling, bickering or any other banter. "The Devil Wears Prada" is a very quiet, almost too quiet, nap inducer where Streep and Hathway show emotions internally rather than externally and act very suppressed. In the movie "Nine to Five," Dabney Coleman was a devil of a boss who really let it hang out, and all of Coleman's nasty characters do just that. Not Streep as Miranda Priestley. She would talk in a flat monotone and get orders out more subtly. Also in "Nine to Five," Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton were the secretaries who'd loudly wreak merry vengeance on Coleman, their meanie boss. Hathaway, a soft-spoken actress who stars in many gal movies, would act submissive and then leave her. As the proverb goes, "Living well is the best revenge."
I did look at my husband from time to time to see if he would fall asleep. He didn't, but he would stare at the screen with a blank stare and his eyes looks as though he could fall asleep and snore. I didn't fall asleep, but I found myself yawning in spots. No wonder such guys like my husband should be left at home from slow moving "Chick Flicks."
"The Devil Wears Prada" may sound like a spark-flying sitcom, but it is really plays like a TV dramedy.
The Best Movie So Far This Year
The first half of 2006 has been a very lackluster year at the movies. There hasn't been too many big hits this year. So far, "The DaVinci Code," although it broke the $100 million mark, was a confusing mess, and I found that when I read the book to prepare for the movie, the book moved even faster than the movie itself.
But we can always rely on Disney/Pixar for a solid midyear hit. This year, it's "Cars," and like many other Pixar movies in recent years ("Monsters Inc.," "Finding Nemo," and "The Incredibles," to name a few), it has every Pixar element to offer - a great big-name voice cast of stars from varied backgrounds and the cast voice characters that best match their personas, colorful, cheery animation, and a story that evokes emotions. Pixar just never disappoints. We hope that Pixar, whether sided with Disney or not, just gets more hits flying.
In "Cars," the main character is Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson), a self-absorbed red racing car that after departing a big NASCAR race, travels the legendary Route 66 and gets stuck in a small, forgotten town called Radiator Springs. He makes friends and learns various lessons about life, love, and the meaning of being a car. This sounds all-too familiar in the "Toy Story" movies, which deal with the philosophical meanings of toys' lives, but now the story is transferred to cars. He makes friends with the hillbilly tow truck Mater (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy, a comic hoot), the pert blue Porsche Sally (voiced by Bonnie Hunt), and in a strong performance, a has-been race car Doc Hudson (voiced by Paul Newman, a race car driver in his own right as well as a legendary actor.) Mater delivers the laughs with that southern accent, Sally delivers common sense, and Doc Hudson tells Lightning McQueen, that he once crashed, and there is more to life than just being a race car. Once lessons are learned, Lightning McQueen must go back for one more big race.
Other actors voicing colorful characters in small but pivotal roles are Cheech Marin as the Hispanic car Ramon, Tony Shalhoub as the hilarious yellow car Luigi, and Michael Keaton as Lightning McQueen's rival Chick Hicks, who ties with Lightning McQueen in the race in the beginning of the film.
I thought it was amusing to see that at the race track, everyone is a car. There are no people. The spectators are cars, the press are cars, and the models are cars with feathers on their roofs.
Cars is absolutely wonderful and perfectly fast-paced, the whole ride through.
King Kong (2005)
The Ape is High: The Best Picture of the Year
"King Kong" should definitely be nominated Best Picture and win that Oscar. This is no mindless monster movie at all. Peter Jackson, fresh from his "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, takes the whole picture seriously and so will you. The cast, Jack Black as the overambitious film producer Carl Denham who lures his film crew to Skull Island to shoot his latest movie, Naomi Watts as heroine Ann Darrow who suddenly finds herself in the arms of the mighty ape, and Adrien Brody as the screenwriter who wants to kill the beast, all make it work and they should receive Oscar nominations, hopefully wins.
What makes "King Kong" more than a monster movie filled with special effects is the mix of emotions. There are laughs, there are tears, there are chills, and all around joy. Jack Black mostly plays it straight, but will sneak in his trademark comic relief here and there. Naomi Watts is an emotional powerhouse, first afraid of the monster after a ritual sacrifice by the natives and then sees him as a protector and lover when Kong saves her from the brutal dinosaurs. Adrien Brody has the most serious work in this picture since he is a more serious actor than the other two.
Parents of small children should be warned of the gigantic insects and bats. But for adults who are taken away, these insects are not disgusting, they are appropriately done for the movie. The computerized 25-foot ape is amazing, especially when he over-towers Watts in the love scenes. All the computerized beasts and bugs look astonishing real and don't look phony or pretentious in the least. Nothing or nobody goes over the top.
Hail,hail King Kong! When the Oscar nominations are handed out at the end of this month, this masterpiece shall be saluted.
Wedding Crashers (2005)
Crash This Wedding
"The Wedding Crashers" has all the elements of a "Frat Pack" comedy. It stars Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn in the leads, and has a cameo by Will Ferrell near the end of this funny flick. There are plenty of "gross out" jokes that will leave you laughing, if you have this sense of humor. All that is missing is Ben Stiller.
Vaughn and Wilson are John Beckwith and Jeremy Klein, two carefree Washington-based womanizing divorce mediators who meet and bed with young women at every ethnic wedding in town that they aren't invited to - Jewish, Italian, Irish, Indian, etc. Surprisingly, they are the most sought-after guests that women and children take to (in fact, one difficult boy stubbornly demands Jeremy to make a bike out of balloons). These guys lie and cheat their ways at weddings to get the girls they want.
Then it's the big social event of the year. One of the daughters of Treasury Secretary Cleary (Christopher Walken, once again in one of his "eccentric" roles every director demands him to play) and his slinky 50ish wife Kathleen (Jane Seymour, who displays middle-aged sexuality and keeps her modesty, in an implied nude scene with Owen Wilson later on) is getting married. They crash this wedding. Then they are invited by the sisters of the bride, Claire (Rachel McAdams) and Gloria (Isla Fisher) to their Cape Cod house for the weekend. Claire is engaged to hunk Sack, who has such a violent streak he knocks down Jeremy so hard when they play football. But John has a liking for Claire, and then gets her at the end of the movie. Gloria falls for Jeremy. The faithless Kathleen ("Call me Kat") wants John to fondle her breasts. As Kathleen, it would appear that Jane Seymour told the director not to display her breasts, just the top part, and then when it came to the breasts, Owen Wilson would block them with his hands covering them completely. The younger actresses boldly get the full frontal nudity, as in the case of the more comfortable Isla Fisher tying up Vince Vaughn. Also, the Clearys have a brother named Todd (Keir O'Donnell), a gay young man who falls for Jeremy. Then, there is a foul-mouthed grandmother played by Ellen Albertini Dow, the elderly rapster from Adam Sandler's "Wedding Singer" and now in "The Wedding Crasher," providing her comic relief. Ms. Dow is a spunky old lady who loves a riotous wedding.
This is the laugh-riot of the summer. Will Ferrell gives his support as Chaz the funeral crasher who falls for young, crying babes and gets both mushy and horny wherever he goes. Henry Gibson has never lost his deadpan "Laugh-In" style as the reverend for the Clearys' weddings. Wilson, Vaughn, Walken, Seymour, et al, display their talents at what they do best - seductive, eccentric, and very funny in their comic roles. The film is very reminiscent of "There's Something About Mary," which also came out on July 15th seven years before. Both movies have sex, foul language, and dirty jokes throughout. And "The Wedding Crashers" is the biggest and best film of the summer of 2005, where most of the other movies (the needless remakes, for instance) make up a movie junkyard this season, which explains the Hollywood slump.
La planète sauvage (1973)
An Animated "Head" Trip
There has been a plethora of adult animated movies in the 1970's, RalphBakshi et al, and many of them have become perennial cult classics.Rene Laloux is the French director of 1973's French/Czechoslovakian masterpiece "Fantastic Planet" and Roland Topor is the animator. The drawings, which are highly artistic and complex, pays tribute to Terry Gilliam, the animator of "Monty Python," though not as humorous, the "head" styles of "Yellow Submarine," and even to Bakshi himself, with the anthropomorphisms and occasional nudity.
The story, supposedly based on the events of the 1968 Soviet takeover of Czechoslovakia, where the movie was partly animated. It is a story of one human "Om" (French for "man") named Terr, who loses his mother in the beginning of the movie, is taken care by aliens who become his captors, and then escapes from his alien captor family known as "Traags" to a race of humans. With his device of intellectual "Traag" knowledge in his head, he passes that knowledge to the other Oms and frees them from the captivity of the merciless "Traags."
This movie is not for everyone. It deals with the topic of slavery, although more subtle in this movie than most. This is one of the more slower-paced animated movies, as most foreign cartoons can be as opposed to the Disney movies were used to, despite it's 71 minutes. The Bakshi movies are fast-paced and in-your-face, as adult cartoon movies go. Also, we see many female characters walk around with bare breasts. But if you like animation that is "different," and I actually do, you may appreciate this flick which was a grand prize winner at the Cannes Film Festival and regularly played on USA's "Night Flight" program 20 years ago. The "Night Flight" program was a late-night cable show that specialized in rock videos and cult films. Check out "Fantastic Planet" and see how fantastic this movie was.
American Pop (1981)
Not a Bad Bakshi Effort, A Very Good Attempt
One of Ralph Bakshi's last animated opuses "American Pop" came out in early 1981 with middling fanfare. I do have to give credit to Ralph Bakshi for making a very serious effort, rotoscoping the animation without leaving it too fuzzy (as in "Wizards," my personal favorite) or for the better word, half-done so you can the characters only half-animated and half-live (as in "The Lord of the Rings," I'd say the worst of any of his works).
This movie should play best as a midnight movie flick. Bakshi's best-known movies - "Fritz the Cat," "Heavy Traffic," and "Wizards" - for instance -would all play as midnight cult favorites at the Uniondale Mini Cinema back in the late '70's and early '80's. Naturally, I would have been much too young to go to that cinema and possibly out of place with a rough crowd had I'd been an adult in that era. If the Mini Cinema still existed today, then I'd say that "American Pop" would be up there too.
As for the movie, there isn't a single bit of humor, but the story is straightforward and allegorical of 80 years of music. We start with turn-of-the century Russian Jewish immigrant Zalmie who makes it America with his vaudeville acts. But Zalmie fails because his voice box is injured from a shooting while serving in the First World War and then gets mixed up in the mob. Then Zalmie passes the musical torch to his illegitimate son, Benny, who had lost his mother, Zalmie's girlfriend Bella to a mob bombing in their household. Benny makes it as a pianist,gets married, but is suddenly shot by a Nazi shoulder behind the back while playing the piano in his bunk during World War II. This depicts the music of the first half of the 20th century.
The era now radically shifts from early days of jazz to the latter-days of psychedelic rock in the 20th century. Benny has an irresponsible son named Tony. Tony, unloved at home, gets on a bus, runs away to California, yet stops halfway to Kansas to wash dishes and fall briefly for his blonde coworker, calling her hair "the color of corn", and makes it big as an acid 1960's rocker. He falls for a boozy redhead named Frankie, gets high on drugs with her and her friends, and bores an illegitimate blonde son with her named Little Pete. Then Frankie, obviously modeled on Janis Joplin (watch her swing beer as she performs), dies of the drugs and alcohol. Pete is confused about his familial background and doesn't know that Tony is his father. Tony abandons Pete on the street and Pete, the lone musical survivor, makes it on his own where everyone else failed. This fourth generation child has the best out of everyone as a David Bowid lookalike of a rock superstar. His "Blue Suede Shoes" wins the admiration of worldwide fans.
This movie is best understood with a historical and musical background so one could identify with the four generations of music. It is the most profound and realistic of Bakshi's work, and some felt that he toiled too much. Bakshi's works always carry social mores and he always includes Jewish references because he is indeed Jewish, although the surname sounds Indian. In addition to the four musicians, he also juxtaposes them with real life songs, singers and rock groups of each era, such as Cole Porter, Eva Tanguay, The Mamas and Papas, Jimi Hendrix, Pat Benatar and the Sex Pistols. Sounds crammed in, but it's hard work.
"American Pop" is an animated movie that rings truer to life than any other animated movie. It is indeed rated R due to occasional vulgar language, implied nudity, and frequent drug use. In addition to Bakshi's rotoscoping (his best done here), look for historical live action footage that blends well with the animation.
Fritz the Cat (1972)
This Adult Cartoon is Very Funny and has a Brain
I'll take back every negative thing I said about Ralph Bakshi. I gave "Wizards" a second chance and now, instead of saying it was "An Animated Mess," it is a cult classic that works as comedy. It took me a while to warm up to Bakshi, but the more I got used to him, I am now declaring him not only as "The Bad Boy of Animation," because that's what he always intended to be, but also as what I really want to think of him as - The Mel Brooks of animation - because his style is really hilarious, whether he intended on this or not. Take this as a compliment, Ralph, you are a very funny guy. Your work seems angry, but you make me laugh.
As for his movies, many of them are not for children, especially young ones. "Fritz the Cat" is his first, his foremost, and one of his best. But it is rated X, and the first theatrical cartoon to be rated X with all the cartoon nudity, graphic violence, and foul language. Here's a piece of trivia: Would anyone guess that the man doing the voice of Fritz the cat is actually Skip Hinnant, the same guy from the children's PBS educational show "The Electric Company" who played Fargo North, Decoder, and Hinnant worked on "Fritz" and "The Electric Company" in the same year? It's true, two vastly different worlds, but Hinnant has pleased both children and adults, and not necessarily at the same time.
Now let's cut to the movie. It may seem like a dumb adult cartoon, but it does make a statement about the hedonistic lifestyles of the 1960's and there is a lot of allegorical symbolism. Fritz and his fellow felines (looks at his three females in the bathtub scene) represents the sexual revolution, the crows represent low-life Negroes who engage in crime, rioting in Harlem, and pot-smoking, the pigs represent cops who chase Fritz everywhere and are out to bust Fritz, and there's a sadistic witch-like lizard who represents radical culture of the hippies and enjoys watching her rabbit friend beat up Fritz and his donkey girlfriend Harriet with a chain in a sanctuary.
There's something to offend everyone in Fritz, right down to the bathtub orgy in the beginning of the film, heavy dosages of full frontal nudity, hallucinations of bare breasts, Big Bertha, the floozy black crow who seduces Fritz by stuffing marijuana into his mouth, rabbis who get interrupted by Fritz fleeing from the police, a typical 1960's riot in Harlem started by big-mouthed Fritz, pigs as rogue cops (Notice that Ralph Bakshi does the voice of one of the cops who says "Duh. In fact, he mentioned he does all the "Duh" voices in his movies as part of his commentary track from "Wizards." In "Fritz," Bakshi calls his fellow partner, "Ralph," so no one will think that Bakshi is doing the voice of "Ralph," so to speak.), lizards as evil witches, and the list goes on.
The best thing about "Fritz" is that Bakshi seemed to have a lot of fun doing this, and everything worked. He really added the fun to "Heavy Traffic" and "Wizards." When Bakshi really wanted to do an adult animated film, it can work. It only got deadening with latter overproduced efforts such as "Lord of the Rings" and "Cool World," and one can easily see that Bakshi labored everything, rather than the naturalism in "Fritz," "Heavy Traffic" and "Wizards."
Today, adult animation is popular now on TV. In the 1970's, adult animation was used for the theater. Younger animators such as Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of "South Park," and Seth McFarlane, the creator of "Family Guy," appear to be working under the influence of Bakshi, incorporating every bit of lewdness they could think of for their shows and characters. But it is really Bakshi who fathered adult animation, and Parker, Stone, and McFarlane are like his sons, and father knew best.
Basic Instinct (1992)
Another "Fatal Attraction" for Michael Douglas
Michael Douglas's career is best known in this day and age for two erotic hit thrillers. Can't remember what they were? Well, if you guessed "Fatal Attraction" and "Basic Instinct," then you are 150 percent right.
"Basic Instinct" has a lot in common with "Fatal Attraction," and here are the ingredients. We take one Michael Douglas, a lawyer in "Fatal" and a cop in "Basic," the hero or antihero, depending, who makes a very impulsive mistake of falling for the wrong woman and getting into dangerous trouble for that. We add one lethal sexy blonde. For "Fatal," that is Glenn Close, kinky curls and all, and Douglas' mistress who stalks him persistently after wanting to let her go and return to normal family life. For "Basic," that's young Sharon Stone with straight hair in contrast to the older Close's curls, in a starmaking role as the femme fatale who wears no underwear, flashes to Douglas in the interrogation scene, and will do anything to do him in. Then there is a dash of the brown-haired good wife or spouse of Douglas, both who share the name Beth and both of them cheated on by Douglas with the bad blondes . Yes, Anne Archer with curls was Douglas' nice but cheated wife who is willing to protect him and his daughter against Glenn Close in "Fatal." In "Basic," young Jeanne Tripplehorn, also with straight hair in contrast to the older Archer's curls, is Beth, not a homemaker, but a police psychologist who has a stint of rough sex with Douglas and is more tense about him than Archer was in "Fatal". And for comic relief, Douglas had two rotund best friends and colleagues in both movies; meek Stuart Pankin in a small but funny role in "Fatal" as a lawyer who spurts one-liners but cops out in the library scene where Douglas tells him his troubles, mumbling "It ain't good.", and macho, hilarious George Dzundza in "Basic" in a larger part as Douglas' urban cowboy partner who cusses, charges about, looks to nail Stone and it would seem that Dzundza, with both weight and muscle, could easily squish Pankin anytime. But there are no small children or boiled rabbits in "Basic," unlike "Fatal."
As far as "Basic" goes, this movie, as well as "Fatal," goes without controversy. This one has a tougher edge and deals with lesbianism and kinky sex. Stone as Catherine Trammell is a bisexual novelist who is charged with murdering her boyfriend a nightclub owner with a icepick in bed in the throes of passion. Douglas as Nick is assigned to the case, and beds with her of course. All his colleagues are worried about him, including Dzundza as partner Gus and Tripplehorn as Beth, but Nick carries on with the affair and here, unlike in "Fatal," won't let go. Then there are other suspects, such as Catherine's lookalike girlfriend, Roxy, and even Beth herself. Hmmmm, seems tricky now. And the plot thickens then on.
"Basic Instinct" is a very hot movie, with Douglas giving an even harder edge, and if I had to choose between "Fatal" and "Basic," I'd think I'd take "Basic" anytime, because in "Fatal", the characters for Douglas, Archer, and Pankin seemed somewhat mousier than Douglas, Tripplehorn, and Dzunda in "Basic." Yes, in "Basic," Douglas toughened up his character as Nick in contrast to lawyer Dan, because although they are both adulterers, Nick takes a walk on the wilder side than Dan has. Yet, Douglas handed the steamy stuff to both Close and Stone as those two hot femme fatales, and Stone, who may have lacked Close's witchy curls, is scarier than Close.
The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977)
The DVD of "Kentucky Fried Movie" Outshines "Airplane!"
In our millenial DVD culture, we demand plenty of extras and insights. "Kentucky Fried Movie," the little movie that could, delivers it. Regrettably, its successor "Airplane!" didn't. Both movies were made by the famous comedy moviemakers David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker, best known as ZAZ. "Kentucky Fried Movie," or KFM as it is known, was directed by John Landis, who went to big projects as "Animal House" and "The Blues Brothers." As a small movie, KFM would pave the way for the filmmakers successes. But in DVD terms, KFM did a much better job than "Airplane!" with extras aplenty. "Airplane!" only had a trailer and ZAZ's mediocre commentary track, which ZAZ did much better in KFM. As for KFM's extras, they included a hilarious 8-minute home movie which ZAZ proved to their relatives they were making a real movie in Hollywood, a clear-cut photo gallery, bios of ZAZ and John Landis, and the best commentary track they have done so far.
As for KFM, what makes this small movie so special? Although much of the movie is done tastelessly, it is fun tastelessness that everyone in it is enjoying it. There is a lot of nudity and foul language, but it had it's heart in the right place. And as for the cast, there are mostly unknown actors, and many of them are quite attractive and talented, with cameos by more famous actors such as the late Bill Bixby in a headache sketch, Donald Sutherland as a clumsy waiter in a sketch spoofing disaster movies, and "Leave it to Beaver" stars Jerry Mathers and Tony Dow kidding themselves as bickering brother jurors in the courtroom sketch.
This movie, I think, is the best spoof of pop culture I've ever seen, outdoing its predecessor "The Groove Tube," made 3years earlier than KFM and featuring bits by a then-unknown and pre-Saturday Night Live Chevy Chase. One of my favorite skits are "A.M. Today" with a gorilla rampaging the studio, scaring off everyone, while a calm anchorwoman (played by the lovely little-known actress Janice Kent)continues her duties of reporting the news. Another favorite is"Sex Records," with a black couple being instructed on lovemaking by a record until the woman is whisked away by a black muscleman, Yet another favorite is "Feel-A-Round," where a theatre usher listens to the dialogue of a movie, gets out his props to feel a movie goer, even scaring him with a knife when the actress announces she'll cut up her lover with a knife. Then there is the final skit where a newsman from TV has the power to peer into the living room of a young couple having sex, and his crew (well-played by ZAZ themselves) leer on. But the best sketch of all is "A Fistful of Yen," a 17-minute takeoff of Bruce Lee Movies featuring a lisping Karate champ fighting against the master despot Dr. Klahn, who wants to take over the world, and ends with the Hero in Dorothy drag spoofing "The Wizard of Oz."
If you like your DVDs, and of a low-budget movie, KFM delivers the goods. Hopefully, there will be a special edition of "Airplane!" in the future for fans of that movie who were disappointed in the DVD treatment of that great classic , but let's not hold our breaths. But for ZAZ fans, KFM was the best DVD work they have done so far, and it's a special edition in its own right, outshining and outselling "Airplane!" by a substantial margin.
Les triplettes de Belleville (2003)
A Very Strange Animated Trip and the Slowest 80 Minutes
"The Triplets of Belleville" is a very different kind of animated movie that is not conventional in any way. My sister, brother-in-law, and I are all fans of animated movies, but clearly not this kind. We saw this movie at Manhattan's Lincoln Plaza, and for sure, there wasn't a single youngster there, so naturally this was not made for children in mind.
The film was conceived and directed by Sylvain Chomet. The drawings are from the old-fashioned Disney pen-and-ink mainly from "101 Dalmations" in an age of computer-animated films, the sensibilities are borrowed from those of the Betty Boop cartoons and some classic Tex Avery cartoons, and there is a surprising amount of pervesity a la Ralph Bakshi (always remember that the name Bakshi means "no kids cartoons) such as a topless dancer and animal cruelty, which I'll get to later.
As for this slow-moving 80 minute movie, to make this long story short, it is about an orphan raised by his doting grandmother named Madame Souza who gives him a bicycle and then trains and feeds him rigorously enought to compete in the Tour de France races, and naming him Champion. Once there, a tired Champion walks into a truck driven by two men both drawn to resemble the Men in Black. These men work for the French Mafia and kidnap Champion all the way to Belleville for the Mafia's own version of the Tour De France, where they bet on Champion and two other victims for self-profit in a gambling hall. When Madame Souza learns about this, she and her dog, Bruno, leaves Paris and enters Belleville, where she encounters her favorite dance hall trio a la the Andrews Sisters from the 1930's, now haggard old crones, and Madame Souza, the triplets, and the dog search everywhere for Champion.
Now what makes this movie so strange? This movie first begins with the triplets singing and dancing, and in the middle of the act, Josephine Baker comes in and dances topless, and Fred Astaire comes in and dances, only to be eaten alive by his shoes. As for the town of Belleville, it is a strange metropolis that looks like New York, with many fat denizens, and their Statue of Liberty resembles a fat man eating a hamburger, thus making fun of the obese. The Triplets live in a squalid fly-infested apartment and live solely on an all-frog diet, blowing up all the frogs at a nearby swamp and cooking them to death. Also the animal cruelty comes in as well as the treatment of frogs where Madame Souza is seen riding on her dog.
I would also like to add that my sister and I kept looking at our watch, although the movie is short. What makes it slow is that there is minimal action, minimal dialogue that almost plays like a silent movie and has only one line uttered (Remember when mime Marcel Marceau had the only speaking part in Mel Brooks' "Silent Movie?"), one song and dance number sung in French, and one has to figure out the plot through its actions. The two interesting parts in this movie were where Madame Souza blows her whistle to rescue Champion from the race, and the French Mafia, the coolest mafia who upstages all the bland main characters. I liked how they all wore oversized shoulder-pads, looked like the Men in Black, lit cigarettes stylishly, and walked to ominous music. Other than the Mafia, forget it!