Tag Archives: Children’s Films

Heading Home: A Review of Abominable

Everest the yeti cuddling with the three teenage protagonists of Abominable. Content warning: vomiting and references to the death of a parent. I will not be discussing these things in my review.

Abominable is a 2019 American animated children’s fantasy film about three teenagers who travel from Shanghai to Mount Everest in the Himalayan mountains to return a kidnapped Yeti they nicknamed Everest to his home.

They must accomplish this while avoiding the wealthy businessman who wants Everest back and the zoologist he hired to track down this rare and valuble creature.

 

Characters

Chloe Bennet as Yi
Chloe Bennet as Yi

Yi was a violin-playing teenager who lived with her mother and grandmother. Their family could afford the basics in life but had to budget carefully for anything beyond their simple lifestyle. 

The cool thing about Yi was that she was always looking for a way to pay for her own treats. She wasn’t afraid of hard work if it would get her access to things that her family couldn’t otherwise afford.

Albert Tsai as Peng

Peng was a friend of Yi’s and Jin’s cousin. He was a playful, fun-loving teen who sometimes had trouble thinking through the probably consequences of his actions before trying something new. 

Tenzing Norgay Trainor as Jin
Tenzing Norgay Trainor as Jin

Jin was a friend of Yi’s and Peng’s cousin. He’d always lived in a very financially stable home and sometimes had difficulty understanding why other folks were cautious with their possessions and money. 

Joseph Izzo as Everest
Joseph Izzo as Everest

Everest was the the young, impulse, friendly Yeti at the heart of all of this conflict and adventure.

Eddie Izzard as Burnish
Eddie Izzard as Burnish

Burnish was a wealthy man and head of Burnish Industries. He wanted to have a pet Yeti all to himself. 

Sarah Paulson as Dr. Zara
Sarah Paulson as Dr. Zara

 

Dr. Zara was a zoologist working with Burnish to capture a Yeti for him. She was an intelligent and resourceful woman who looked for every opportunity to get what her client wanted.

My Review

What an adventure this story was!

Yi was such a memorable main character. She had a sweet but sometimes stubborn personality that shone through no matter what combination of emotions she was currently experiencing. I thought the screenwriters did an excellent job of capturing the ups and downs of being a teenager, especially one that had already been through as much adversity as she had.

I enjoyed Pen’s innocent approach to the things he and his friends experienced. He seemed young for his age in the sense that I wondered if his parents were much more protective than the parents of his friends.

It took me a while to warm up to Jin because of how different our childhood experiences were as far as knowing the cost of common items and our expectations surrounding the shopping process go. I couldn’t imagine shrugging off some of the financial stuff he did, but his maturation in this area went a long way in endearing me to him. Some kids genuinely do grow up in families that buy them anything they want. I envied those kids a little when we were peers, but this film did a great job of showing the eventual downside of that sort of lifestyle.

The storytelling itself was marvellous. I loved the way all three main (human) characters reacted to Everest and how compassionate they were when they realized he needed to be protected and brought back home. There were so many heartwarming moments between all four of them.

The Yetis in this film were quite different from the ones I reviewed in Smallfoot earlier this month. I’d better not go into detail here, but I would recommend taking the time to compare and contrast them to anyone who watches both of these films.

Abominable Snowmen are fascinating creatures in general, and I’m glad to see them getting more attention in the media. Every reinterpretation of what they might be like if they were real creatures only pushes them into the limelight once again, and I like that.

This tale was filled with adventure from beginning to end. I had such a good time following along on the main characters’ trip to the Himalayan Mountains. The only piece of constructive criticism I can give to it is that I wish it had spent more time showing what Yeti society was like in general. Smallfoot did a great job of showing Yetis at many different ages and stages of life.

Everest was a very young Yeti, and there weren’t too many examples of other members of his species. So there were a few times when I wasn’t sure if his behaviour was due to his species or the fact that he was probably the equivalent of a preschooler or young child as far as his development went.

With that being said, this is a minor criticism. The rest of this film was well written and entertaining. I am planning to rewatch it and hope anyone else who gives it a shot enjoys it just as much as I did.

 

Abominable is available on Crave and Apple TV.

Seeking the Truth: A Review of Smallfoot

Film poster for Smallfoot. It shows the main character holding up an elusive smallfoot (aka human) while other members of his yeti village look on in fear, pride, and/or excitement. Smallfoot is a 2018 American children’s animated fantasy film about a yeti who is convinced that those elusive creatures knowns as “smallfoots” or “humans” really do exist.

Against the better judgement of the leader of his people and nearly everyone else in the village, he seeks out the truth about these mythical beings no matter what the cost may be to him or to his people.

As soon as I saw the trailer for this film, I was intrigued. Critical thinking and skepticism aren’t topics that are typically covered by stories meant for children.

No, this wasn’t written for or against any particular belief (or non-belief) system if anyone is curious. Instead, it was about using critical thinking skills to analyze the evidence, determining what it’s saying, and then following those clues to their logical conclusion(s).

In this case, that meant accepting the possibility that Yetis may not be alone on this planet after all.

Characters

As always, I speak of characters in the past tense to avoid spoilers in my reviews. I also needed to leave certain characters out of this for spoiler reasons, so be warned if you google this film before watching it!

Channing Tatum as Migo
Channing Tatum as Migo

 

Migo was a young, intelligent male yeti who was determined to prove the existence of the smallfoot. His father was named Dorgle.

Zendaya as Meechee
Zendaya as Meechee

 

Meechee was a young, intelligent female yeti who yearned to discover the truth. She was the Stonekeeper’s daughter and Migo’s love interest.

Common as Stonekeeper
Common as Stonekeeper

Stonekeeper was the condescending yeti chief and father of Thorp (not pictured) and Meechee. His role in their village was both a spiritual and political one. The stones he wore on his body wrote the laws his species followed, but he also had the ability to speak to the spirit world and discover new laws when it suited him.

Danny DeVito as Dorgle
Danny DeVito as Dorgle

 

Dorgle was a dependable middle-aged yeti who was the village gong ringer and Migo’s widowed father. He took his work seriously and was always on time for it.

James Corden as Percy Patterson
James Corden as Percy Patterson

Percy Patterson was a British human filmmaker of wildlife documentaries trying to get back in the spotlight. Sometimes this desire for fame pushed him into making unethical choices like bending the truth in order to get more views online.

Yara Shahidi as Brenda
Yara Shahidi as Brenda

Brenda was Percy’s co-worker for his show. She didn’t believe in Yetis, but she did have a strong moral code that guided her every move even when Percy thought she was being too much of a stickler for the rules.

My Review

The premise of this film was amazing. Not only were the yetis the protagonists which was a wonderful change from the typical, human-centred approach to stories about mythical creatures, Migo and his people had a well-developed and unique culture that I was eager to learn more about.

One of the most interesting things about their culture were the stones that the Stonekeeper wore as a sort of cloak around him. Each stone contained a different pictograph about something that happened in their past that had taught them a valuable lesson about how they should live.

Discovering and interpreting them was a major facet of the Stonekeeper’s job. I loved the way his reaction to that responsibility was portrayed, especially during the earlier scenes before Migo began his quest to find out if the legend of the smallfoot was true.

A large group of yetis gathered around a fire listening to stories.
Story time in a Yeti village.

I also enjoyed the reactions of the various villagers to Migo’s quest. Some of them supported him, while others were suspicious of his intentions or horrified at the thought that the stonekeeper might be wrong about his interpretations of certain stones.

Yes, there are obvious parallels between these scenarios and our world. I’ll leave it up to all of you to put the pieces together. What you should know is that despite the strong fantasy setting this film is ultimately pro-science, pro-logic, and pro-truth.

It didn’t bash anyone or anything. It simply asked the audience to think critically about what they’re told and compare it to what they’ve observed about the world around them. That is something I find incredibly refreshing.

With that being said, I did feel like the filmmakers never quite knew what to do with all of these big ideas they broke down into concepts that small children can understand. The beginning and ending were well done, but the middle sagged for me.

While I do expect animated stories to include silly scenes, there were so many of them in this film that the plot dragged on in places it should have kept up the pace in my opinion. This made it hard for me to keep paying attention even though I was interested in how everything would be tied up in the end.

Was this worth watching? Yes. Would I watch it again? Probably not. But it is something worth putting on for small children or while you’re working on something else.

 

Smallfoot is available on Crave and Apple TV.

Thankful for What We Have: A Review of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

Poster for A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Image shows Charlie Brown and Snoopy standing next to table with a turkey and pie on it.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is a 1973 animated Thanksgiving film about Charlie Brown, the famous animated character from the Peanuts comic strip by Charles M. Schulz, throwing an impromptu Thanksgiving dinner for all of his friends.

The other films in this holiday trilogy in it include A Charlie Brown Christmas from 1965 and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown from 1966.

They all work as standalone stories. There is no need to watch them in a specific order.

I decided to review A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving because it’s the least well known part of this trilogy. It wasn’t something I was aware of growing up even though I knew about and liked the other films.

This review won’t contain a list of characters for spoiler reasons. The run time was only 25 minutes for this film, so I don’t have a lot of wiggle room when it comes to discussing the plot without giving away what happens in it.

My Review

The premise was one of the other reasons why I wanted to review this film. I can’t imagine throwing together a Thanksgiving dinner on the same day I discovered such a thing was expected of me. Ugh!

Charlie Brown (who is pictured in the film poster above) didn’t even have the advantage of knowing how to roast a turkey or make all of the traditional side dishes for this holiday. He was a child who was just beginning to learn to make simple dishes like toast and popcorn, so his predicament was even worse than I originally assumed it would be.

I was intrigued by what a Thanksgiving dinner cooked by a kid his age would be like and if he’d figure out how to get everything warm and on the table at the same time. Seeing what that process was like for him was a great deal of fun.

One of the other unexpected twists in this film had to do with what happens when Thanksgiving doesn’t turn out the way you thought it would. That message is just as relevant now as it was nearly fifty years ago. Honestly, it’s even more relevant now in some ways than it was when it first came out!

I loved the way the filmmakers approached the concept of feeling disappointment about the holiday festivities you’d planned and how to handle that emotion.

There are so many more things I want to say about the expectation of having a “perfect” Thanksgiving…but they’ll quickly wander into spoiler territory if I’m not careful.

It was also interesting to note how the culture of Thanksgiving has evolved since 1973. The ways the characters talked about the first Thanksgiving and this holiday in general weren’t exactly the same as they’re often discussed these days, although they did remind me of how these topics were handled when I was a kid.

I wonder what kids today would think of this tale?

Do note that the preview I included below for this short film is an original one from 1973 and does include some spoilers.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is available on Apple TV.

Wholesome Adventures: A Review of Frozen II

Film poster for Frozen II. Image on poster is of Elsa using her powers to create ice against a purple background.Frozen II is the 2019 animated fantasy sequel to Frozen. It is about Elsa and Anna’s attempts to figure out the origin of Elsa’s magical powers and save their kingdom from being destroyed by the elemental spirits of Earth, Fire, Water, and Air.

It isn’t strictly necessary to watch Frozen before checking out Frozen II, but I do highly recommend the first film in this series to anyone who loves the fantasy genre or animated films in general.

In order to avoid spoilers, I will only be discussing characters who were also in Frozen.

Characters

Idina Menzel as Elsa
Idina Menzel as Elsa

Elsa was the Queen of Arendelle and Princess Anna’s elder sister. She possessed magical ice powers whose origins were unknown. While she’d grown quite comfortable with using them, she had a deep longing to understand where they came from and why she had them.

Kristen Bell as Anna
Kristen Bell as Anna

 

Anna was the Princess of Arendelle and Elsa’s younger sister. She was deeply in love with her boyfriend, Kristoff. 

Josh Gad as Olaf
Josh Gad (right) as Olaf

Olaf was a sentient snowman created by Elsa’s magic who was first introduced in Frozen. He was as intelligent and silly as always.

Jonathan Groff as Kristoff
Jonathan Groff (centre top) as Kristoff

Kristoff was an ice harvester and Anna’s boyfriend. He was strong, loyal, and determined to help the people he cared about in any way he could.

Sven was his pet reindeer. He was a good reindeer.

My Review

Prepare yourselves for a story filled with wholesomeness and joy.

I love a good adventure that ramps up quickly in a storyline, so I was glad to see this film move so fast in the beginning. That snappy pacing was exactly what Elsa, Anna, Olaf, Kristoff, and Sven needed before setting off on their journey.

Yes, there was a brief summary of what happened in Frozen for anyone who isn’t familiar with this franchise. It was shared by Olaf and was as hilarious as it was accurate. As mentioned earlier, I think anyone who hasn’t seen the first film would have no trouble getting caught up to speed if they jumped straight into Frozen II. The nice thing about film series written for kids is that they tend to be pretty welcoming of new or distracted viewers, and this one was no exception to that rule.

Every sequel has to live up to the story that began that series. I had high expectations for Frozen II based on how much I loved Frozen. While this was a fun story, I thought it didn’t quite have all of the magic of the first one. Many of the jokes in it were references to things that happened in the first instalment, so they had to be explained for people just tuning into this series. I did find myself wishing the screenwriters had spent more time developing new, original jokes, especially when it came to characters that hadn’t been introduced previously. With that being said, I still enjoyed Frozen II and do recommend it.

Olaf was by far my favourite part of this film. Just like in Frozen, he was a regular source of amusement for both the audience and the other characters. His understanding of how the world works was childlike in certain ways and yet quite mature for a snowman of his age in others. I desperately wanted to include one of his jokes in this review, but I think it’s best if you discover all of them for yourselves.

If you need a lighthearted distraction for viewers of all ages, Frozen II is a good place to start.

Frozen II is available on Netflix and Apple TV. It is no doubt quickly attempting to catch up with Frozen and become available everywhere else in the known universe as well.

A  True Selfless Act Always Sparks Another: A Review of Klaus

Last year I blogged about my to-watch list of science fiction and fantasy films. Since then, I’ve been periodically reviewing science fiction, fantasy, and other speculative fiction films. Previous instalments in this series include Into the Forest, Annihilation, CocoWinchester, The Little Stranger, Astraea, The House with a Clock in Its WallsA Dog’s Purpose, and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, and Downsizing.

Film poster for Klaus. It shows santa with Jesper and a village child. Theyre surrounded by other characters who are looking at them with emotions ranging from adoration to annoyance. No content warning is necessary. I’d recommend this movie to viewers of all ages and backgrounds.

Klaus is a 2019 animated children’s film about a young, wealthy man named Jespen whose father sent him to a small, freezing cold town called Smeerensburg in order to establish a working postal office there.

I’ll leave it up to you to learn why his father decided to do this. It was something addressed in the opening scene, but it was so important to the plot that I’d rather not give away any hints about it.

Smeerensburg was a community filled with families who were feuding with each other. Their grudges were so enormous that none of the children were even sent to school lest they end up sitting next to the child of a family their parents hated. This meant that many of the young citizens of this town couldn’t read or write!

Needless to say, this wasn’t an easy assignment for Jespen. Luckily, his budding friendship with a toymaker named Klaus provided one bright spot in his new life.

 

Characters

Jason Schwartzman as Jesper
Jason Schwartzman as Jesper

Jesper was a postman who’d never actually finished postman school. He could be selfish at times, but he was also a creative and intelligent person.

J. K. Simmons as Klaus
J. K. Simmons (right) as Klaus

Klaus was the village carpenter who made toys that no one had ever played with. He was a deeply kind and generous man.

Rashida Jones as Alva
Rashida Jones as Alva

Alva was the town fishmonger who had originally trained to be a school teacher. Since it’s hard to teach an empty classroom, she’d been forced to change occupations and was not particularly happy about it. Her biggest wish at the beginning of this film was to move somewhere far away from Smeerensburg once she’d saved up enough money.

Needa Margrethe Labba
Needa Margrethe Labba as Márgu

Márgu was a Saami girl whose family lived on the outskirts of town. She did not speak English, but she did love visiting Jesper and playing with the other children.

 

My Review

I’m writing this review as someone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas or enjoy the sentimentality of the holiday season, so what I’m about to say may come as a surprise: I loved this film!

Jesper was a wonderful protagonist. There was a lot of information about his backstory that I couldn’t include in this post for spoiler reasons, but he was a pretty well-rounded character…especially for something written for kids. I found it entertaining to see how he adjusted to life in dreary Smeerensburg. This wasn’t a cheerful place to live to say the least, and Jesper didn’t have a lot of experience in weathering unpleasant circumstances.

I also appreciated the lack of sentimentality (for the most part) in the story. Life in this community was hard for a lot of people, and the filmmakers showed as much of that as was appropriate for the age group they were marketing this towards. The fact that they managed to pull that off without including anything scary or too mature for kids to watch was impressive.

Honestly, some of the best scenes in this film were the ones that explained how the legend of Santa was formed.

For example, when and why did people first start believing that his sled was powered by flying reindeer? That question and many more were given funny, heartwarming answers that fit the tone of the plot perfectly. The photo near this paragraph gives a hint about another winter tradition that was explained in the plot, although that’s also something best left to each new viewer to discover for themselves.

A  true selfless act always sparks another.

Speaking of Santa, I’m guessing you can all guess which character he was in this tale. The storyline began long before he or anyone else knew what his destiny would be. There were so many lovely hints about who he was becoming along the way. I’ve never seen a story that focused on his origins before, so it was a ton of fun to check this one out.

The quote I shared above and in the title of this post came from this character. He had a lot of wise things to say, but this was my favourite line from him. It captured the essence of this film beautifully. Smeerensburg had so many problems that fed into each other that it was hard for the people who lived there to imagine how anything could change.

I really liked the idea of focusing on small things individuals could do to make the lives of others better without expecting anything in return. That’s the sort of philosophy that I think would make the world a better place if it were followed by everyone.

There were plenty of humorous moments as well. While the message itself was a serious one, the characters had no problem cracking jokes to suit every age group. I enjoyed that mixture of serious and silly content.

This was one of those children’s films that I’d recommend just as highly to adults. Watching it was a wonderful experience.

Klaus is available on Netflix.

Second Chances: A Review of A Dog’s Purpose

Last year I blogged about my to-watch list of science fiction and fantasy films. Since then, I’ve been periodically reviewing certain speculative fiction films that I enjoyed and thought you all might like, too. Previous instalments in this series include Into the Forest, Annihilation, Coco, Winchester, The Little Stranger, Astraea, and The House with a Clock… Read More

My Review of The House with a Clock in Its Walls

Earlier this year, I blogged about my to-watch list of science fiction and fantasy films. Since then, I’ve been periodically reviewing certain films that I enjoyed and thought you all might like, too. Previous instalments in this series include Into the Forest, Annihilation, Coco, Winchester, The Little Stranger, and Astraea. This is a spoiler-free review.  The… Read More