For me great animation is a marriage of two other big loves of mine—beautiful 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.
Thus I was genuinely surprised how much I enjoyed this film in its own right. Wonder Woman/Diana is a strong character whose tough Amazonian persona comes through without her coming across an unlikeable, uber-feminist. The supporting cast is solid and features many strong performances. The animation is sharp. The writing is good. The action sequences are gritty and interesting. I think the fact that Wonder Woman has an unusual arsenal of weapons (her cuffs, her lasso and her boomerang crown) really forced the studio to come up with some less traditional fight sequences--although there is still the requisite amount of knocking people through walls.
All in all... if you're a fan of the super hero genre, I think this one is well worth watching.
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.
The story has a good message without coming across too preachy--essentially, don't be afraid to be yourself. The animation is really quite impressive and the characters surprisingly expressive as well as sympathetic. Pixie Hollow comes across as a lush magical place filled with wonders.
In short, it feels like a well-crafted film that I can see a lot of little girls out there quite enjoying.
You follow all that? I'll admit, I barely did and I enjoy movies like Memento.
Also worth noting is that the opening song. While upbeat and bouncy, it is totally useless in its goal of establishing the movie's overall theme. I mean, compare Tom Jones singing "Perfect World" in the original New Groove with lyrics like 'he was born and raised to rule, no one has ever been this cool'. The song clearly tells you about who Kuzco is--or at least, who he thinks he is. Compare that to poor Kronk's song... I have no idea what that woman is saying! I actually turned on the subtitles at one point just to try and figure it out... okay, I get it, 'true to your groove'. If you're going to have a song that's stating the mission statement of the movie, at the very least make sure I can understand what it's about!
And yes, Kronk, while a loveable sidekick was really stretched here to carry the entire movie on his own. We loved him in the original New Groove because his total innocence was a wonderful counterpoint to Yzma's manical objectives. On his own though, Kronk just doesn't pack the same punch.
The entire 'true to your groove' theme was perfectly addressed in Kronk's portion of the epilogue of the original movie. Unfortunately, Kronk's New Groove takes that small catchy moment, throws in ten times more complexity than is really necessary, to ultimately get us right back where we originally started from. If there was ever a definition of a largely pointless exercise, that would be mine.
I didn't care about Timon's plight... largely because we never saw why he was such a terrible meerkat digger. (Although I'll agree with the other reviewers on this one--good song.)
I didn't care about Pumbaa's plight... largely because it's hard to believe that the other animals can cast off his generally likeable character just because of his smell... and yet, Timon has no reaction to it whatsoever. Horrible, crippling odor? Nope, can't smell a thing! I love ya, buddy.
This movie is a sidedish when I really wanted the full meal.