Won't Somebody Think of the Children?

Hi! I'm 37 years old! OK, now that that's out of the way, let's talk about kids' movies! Animation has been having a very good time of it, lately. Though it can be difficult to balance story, comedy, and appealing to audience members of all ages, studios have pretty much been knocking it out of the park lately, give or take a Cars 2. I mean, I see a lot of movies over the course of a year, many of which are designed to win awards, and what winds up landing in my list of favorites? Animated kids' movies. I just saw another trio of contenders, so how did they stack up? Let's find out!

Big Hero 6

Big Hero 6 is the latest from Disney, who has taken to copying a lot from the Pixar playbook. That's not a complaint; I've been enjoying the new style quite a bit. In this newest movie, protagonist Hiro is a precocious, science-minded kid in the near-future city of San Fransokyo. His older brother is also an engineer, and when he's killed in an explosion (not really a spoiler - it happens towards the beginning, and c'mon: Mufasa, Anna and Elsa's parents, Nemo's mom, Tiana's father, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.), Hiro takes up his project, an inflatable health-care companion named Baymax. Hiro's own inventions come back to haunt him, so he teams up with his brother's colleagues and Baymax to combat the new threat to the city.

Good stuff first. This movie is gorgeous, and the design of San Fransokyo is a flawless, futuristic meld of American and Japanese culture (I do wonder what happened in World History to create this city. Someone get on a novelization of that). The characters are nicely diverse. Baymax is adorable, and I'll be imitating his fist bump for days. Also, I should mention that Feast, the short in front of the movie, was terrific (though I don't know if I'd think as highly of it if it didn't feature a Boston Terrier. Buuuuuuuuuh cuuuuuuuuute.) All in all, it was a very sweet movie.

That said, when stacked up against its siblings (Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen), it suffers a bit by comparison. Every story beat is overly telegraphed. Though Baymax is a memorable character, none of the humans can claim the same. I'm glad I saw it, but unlike those other movies I just mentioned, I doubt I'll ever have the urge to revisit it.

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2

Next up was this 2013 sequel to 2009's Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. I was surprised by how much I liked the first one, but even given that, I was a little skeptical of the sequel. I shouldn't have been. This time, Flint Lockwood and pals are tasked with dealing with the malfunctioning FLDSMDFR (Flint Lockwood's Diatonic Super Mutating Dynamic Food Replicator, silly), which is spitting out food/animal hybrids. I cannot believe how many pure, deep-seated belly laughs this movie got out of me. And it wasn't just the low-hanging fruit (*rimshot*) of food puns! There are actual, story-based jokes that had me almost falling off the couch. The story is a little predictable and thin, but it almost doesn't matter. I got a huge kick out of this one.

The Boxtrolls

Finally, I took in this past September's The Boxtrolls, which was cleverly deployed before Big Hero 6 could steal its thunder. Of the three movies, this one was the weakest, though still not bad. It involves a cheese-obsessed society of humans who lives above a sewer-dwelling race of trolls who are named after whatever product is advertised on the cardboard boxes they wear. The two groups are bitter enemies, but things begin to change when a boy raised by the trolls attempts to reconcile them, with the help of a strong-willed girl who wants nothing more than to see scenes of grim carnage. The stop-motion animation style of this one was extremely well done. In fact, I have zero issues with anything about the technical design of this movie, which is beautiful. But the characters are not particularly engaging, the story is not particularly intriguing, and despite a few shining jokes, the humor is pretty lacking. It sure did make me want to tear into a big pile of cheese, though.

Big Hero 6: B
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2: B+
The Boxtrolls: B-


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