Thursday, June 11, 2015
Azu At The Movies #5: Re-Animated
Release Date: December 8, 2006
Runtime: 85 minutes
Director: Bruce Hurwit
Production Company: Cartoon Network Studios
Tagline: They're out of Jimmy's head and coming to your television! (Sorry I had to make one up since there wasn't an official one.)
Hey ladies and gentlemen remember when CN REAL was a thing? Remember when Cartoon Network had live action programming? I do. It was a dark time. Anyway, the film that started this "Live action" craze on CN is none other than Re-Animated! From what I've read, this movie has gotten nothing but scorn and ridicule from just about everybody who has reviewed it. Even when the movie was released, it still got a ton of backlash. Hell, some people have even dubbed this movie as "Cartoon Network's suicide note". But is this movie's bad reputation deserved or is the backlash just out of stigmatization of a live action film on an animation network? Well let's start with the story.
Twelve year old Jimmy Roberts is the kid everybody ignores and uses. One day, while visiting Gollyworld for a class field trip, he gets into a freak accident with the theme park's train. The only way for him to survive is a brain transplant. He gets the brain of Milt Appleday, a famous cartoon creator and founder of the theme park. When Jimmy wakes up, he can see the cartoons that Mr. Appleday has created while nobody else can.
After watching the movie again, I've discovered that there are good elements in this film.
For example, the live action mixing isn't that bad. The animation in this movie was made with flash and vector graphics as opposed to traditional hand drawn animation. I think with the tools they had to work with, they seemed to do a pretty good job of making sure that it looked like the animated characters were in the same room as the live action actors. Not once in the entire film do they look flat or stiff. In fact, the animation allows the characters to perform their comedic shtick without looking awkward.
Another good element in this movie is the concept. I'm not going to lie, I think the concept of somebody having the ability to see animated characters in real life is quite interesting and somewhat original. It's one of those ideas that is, what I like to call, a barrel of Miyazaki. There are so many things that you can do with this concept like how it affects the person's daily life, the physical and emotional impact of having this ability, the pros and cons that come with this ability and much much more. While the idea may not be fully explored in this movie, I still enjoy the concept because the writers could've just easily made a cliche concept with nothing new added instead of putting effort into doing something original.
I also find most of the main cast of cartoons that Jimmy interacts with to be very enjoyable. While some may see these characters as blatant ripoffs of other cartoon characters, it seems to me that they're parodies of cartoon characters that make it clear who they're satirizing. For example, Golly and Dolly are satires of Micky and Minnie Mouse, Crocco is a satire of Goofy, Prickles and Pickles are satires of Tom and Jerry, and Tux is a satire of Harry Scary from Casper and The Angels. The actors who play these characters seem to enjoy the roles they've been given, especially Paul Rubens as Golly. The only character I had trouble getting into was Tux played by Tom Kenny but I'll elaborate more on that in a bit.
One last element that's good is a few of the film's jokes. To the movie's credit, there are a few jokes that made me chuckle. The jokes I'm talking about occur when the class is at Gollyworld. For example, when the class is at the entrance of the Hall of History, it's built up as this really awesome exhibit with trumpets playing and a large crowd of children sprinting into the building. When we cut to the inside of the hall however, the audience is completely silent and unimpressed. There's also this scene where we see Jimmy's best friend witness a guy in a Golly costume carrying Jimmy and someone in a Tux costume come up to him, takes off his headpiece and says to the best friend: "Don't worry, your friend will be taken care of by the best medical doctors in our fully functioning hospital...Zing!" We then see the guy walk away as soon as he finishes that statement.
Unfortunately, every film has elements that don't quite hit it out of the park and this one is no exception.
One of the movie's biggest flaws is characters like Jimmy, Tux, and Sonny Appleday. These are characters who I just couldn't get invested in for various reasons. Since I talked about Tux earlier, I might as well start with him. While Tux's voice actor, Tom Kenny, really puts a lot of energy and effort into the role, the character becomes annoying after awhile because every time he's on screen, he shouts nothing but bad puns. I understand that Tux's puns are bad on purpose for satirical reasons but it seems like the character never takes a break from saying them. Because of this, the gag for this character runs thin pretty quickly. As for Jimmy, I found that his awkwardness and constant stuttering seemed rather forced. I think this is because he goes way too over the top with it and It seems like that wasn't the intention that the movie was going for. In other words, he seems to be trying way too hard to act awkward. Some may argue that trying way too hard is better than not trying at all but I find that "Trying too hard" acting can be just as bad and distracting as "I didn't care" acting. Last but not best, we have Sonny Appleday who's the main antagonist of the movie. This is the guy who wants to steal Jimmy's new brain and conjures up various cartoony ways of doing so. My issue with this character is that he seems so inconsistent. On the one hand, the actor wants to be over the top with this character but when he tries to do so, it seems so restrained. Yeah I know I complained about Jimmy's acting being over the top but here's the thing. Unlike Jimmy, the role of the villain in this movie is supposed to be over the top and should allow the actor to be over the top. So if that's the case, why is there still restraint?
Overall, Re-Animated is a very hit and miss movie. It has some elements that work while others fall flat on their face. But at the very least, this film knows what it wants to be. It wants to be an homage to cartoons while satirizing them at the same time. In fact, if you take a look at the script, you'd swear that this was supposed to be a cartoon. Does that make this movie good? Not necessarily. However, I do respect the film for what it was trying to do rather than the final product. I think this movie could've been good if not great with just a bit of retooling, especially when it comes to expanding upon the ability to see cartoon characters in real life. At the end of the day, is this also the worst thing Cartoon Network has done? Honestly no. If I was given a choice between watching this movie and watching almost any CN REAL show, I'd probably pick this movie over the latter.
Overall Grade: C-