For me great animation is a marriage of two other big loves of mineóbeautiful art and captivating storytelling. You nail those things and it's almost guaranteed that you'll have my eyeballs glued to the screen. I grew up on Disney films like Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast so my tastes tend to unconsciously lean that way, however I love seeing animation that breaks new ground and really shows where the medium can go.
drawing, painting, animation, absorbing pop culture, animation, web design, writing, animation...
Animation that I love:
How to Train Your Dragon, Mary and Max, Tangled, Princess Mononoke, The Incredibles, Nightmare Before Christmas, Rescuers Down Under, ... etc. etc.
This film is just all over the map in so many ways. Even though a little wikipedia research confirmed that the father-son relationship between Mr. Peabody and Sherman is exactly the same in the original cartoon, I still found myself just not buying into it. Intellectually. Emotionally... it just didn't resonate with me. Unfortunately, since the threat to the father-son relationship is the central pillar in the entire movie, it turned the story into this long and involved... well, dog's breakfast.
Also... the movie just isn't funny. I mean, given the time-travel source material, there was so much potential. As it is Mr. Peabody is such a stuffy, high brow character that he seems out of place in his own movie. Plus the kids are kind of just brats.
All in all... it almost blows my mind that this came from the same studio that brought us "How to Train Your Dragon" and "Rise of the Guardians"... even "Kung Fu Panda" had more genuine humour and heart.
The first big issue I had with this movie is how they handled the flashback of Puss' backstory. I completely agree with starlac that it feels incredibly long and the movie seems to grind to a screeching halt. I think the filmmakers must have known it too since at the tail end they show Kitty Softpaws has fallen asleep somewhere in the midst of Puss' story. Sure it's a gag, but to my thinking if the characters in your film are that bored, it can't be a good sign.
The other problem I had with this film is that Puss still somehow feels like a sidekick in his own story. He's supposedly headlining this movie, but in the backstory he's basically Humpty's sidekick who doesn't say a whole lot. And later in the film he's tagging along on Humpty's quest in order to redeem his tarnished honour. No matter what he does in this film, he can't seem to crawl out from under his sidekick status.
There's a brief moment toward the end where I felt a little emotional resonance for the characters, but generally it suffered from the problem that so many films in the Shrek series seem to... too many smart asides to the audience and not enough actual story that I feel invested in.
I liked the first Shrek at the time of its release for its novelty, but at this point I sincerely hope this is the last we see of its characters.
On some level, the story of Don Quixote is a story about illusion and delusion. Don Quixote is a knight, except he isn't. He has a squire who isn't really a squire and a true love he hasn't actually ever met. In this animated film however it's like they take that level of illusion and delusion a step further so that virtually all the characters are somehow either lying about who they are or cast ridiculously against type. However, when everything and everyone is essentially a lie of some variety or another, the whole thing gets painfully confusing. Also, as an audience, it becomes very difficult to invest in anything that's going on.
It's a shame because I found that I wanted to like this movie. The donkey is a pretty likeable sort of character in his quest to become a noble steed and Don Quixote himself was likeable in his extreme naivete. The animation and character designs aren't half bad and had a quirkiness to them that was in places quite charming. I will warn you however that the soundtrack is fairly awful in the sense that the English version has popular pop songs shoved in willy-nilly that have basically no relationship to what's happening on screen.
All in all though... not something I could recommend sacrificing your time to. Find a trailer to watch if you're curious, but then move on.
Now I grant you, one does not usually think of the Downey Jr. factor as being essential to an animated film's success, but in the case of Iron Man it is hard for a layperson like myself to watch this without comparing it to the far, FAR superior live-action version.
It's a tricky business to write/play a character like Tony Stark who is one part charming, billionaire playboy and one part action hero. You get that first part wrong and there really isn't much left to sit the rest of the character on.
This DTV's rendition of Iron Man simply felt dull. None of the characters grabbed me. Tony Stark's playboy personality was characterized by a single hot tub scene and walking into board meetings late. Penny Potts was marginally better, although for some reason she reminded me of Janine from the Ghostbusters series. The villains were silly. The fight sequences unimaginative. The integration of the 3D Iron Man suits and villains into the 2D film was not great.
And, most telling of all, I fell asleep while watching it.
Long and short... skip it.
There is nothing really wrong with the story or the concept of the film... boy, who doesn't believe in Christmas, goes to visit Santa Claus... as a book with beautiful pictures that is all of 32 pages, I'm sure it worked out fine.
However, as a movie of 100 minutes, there is so much filler that it stretches what plot exists to something paper thin. I think it would've been better off as one of those half-hour holiday specials on TV.
But then, of course, we couldn't have EPIC... yes, in the absence of plot, character development and coherence, we have instead sweeping camera moves and demonstrations of CG brilliance... which isn't even all that brilliant. I lost count the number of times around during the closing minutes when the camera would go from a close up of some piece of action to a landscape size wide shot of the square around Santa's giant Christmas tree. It was as if, short of a more original idea, we'll just show yet another picture of 10 zillion CG elves standing about in the crowd.
Also, all action sequences in the film are basically rollercoaster shorts... exciting perhaps the first time, but not really on the fourth, fifth or sixth iteration.
And, as I'm sure has been previously mentioned by other reviewers... there's the creepy, glassy-eyed kids.
I'm sure this film was a lovely R&D exercise for the company, but as a piece of entertainment it is infinitely skippable.