• August 27, 2016

Please save me from films with talking animals

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Posted: Friday, May 14, 2010 12:00 pm

By Taylor Short

The Cove Herald

With early voting and elections over, and with summer festivals in full swing, this week has been exhausting for most of us reporters.

So, as I was writing an in-depth column detailing how to solve all the world's problems while simultaneously building the first functioning time machine, my sleep-deprived mind was jolted back into reality by a commercial for an upcoming movie, which of course, featured domesticated animals singing current pop hits.

The movie was the adaptation of "Marmaduke." You know, because a live-action rendition of a 50-year-old comic strip has dollar signs written all over it.

Now, I'm not a big movie buff. I never saw "Avatar" and I've still not seen "Iron Man 2," but I think I can discern which children's films are thoughtful and offer a message as opposed to the ones that fill the screen with anthropomorphic puppies singing "Who Let the Dogs Out."

For the record, I never cared who let them out but I would like to know when exactly the suits in charge of producing these hour and a half digital babysitters went creatively bankrupt.

Why after "The Wild," "Open Season" and two "Madagascar" films did we need "Barnyard?" - a film whose lead character is a bull with udders. How dumb do they think kids are?

That's not the only biological misinformation being cast into plastic toys for Happy Meals. Since "Antz" and "A Bug's Life" weren't enough, we needed "Ant Bully" in 2006 to show more walking-talking macho ants even though males are somewhat rare in colonies.

Don't take this the wrong way; I enjoyed several films in my youth about dogs, cats, lions and bears. But in the '80s and '90s, Disney was on top, with hand-drawn animated classics like "Fox and the Hound" and "The Lion King."

With computer animation, these intelligence-insulting family films are pumped out with little regard for innovative comedy entertainment, opting instead for having a screaming Brendan Fraser try to remove a wolverine from his face.

I suppose these abominations are paying the bills for movie stars looking to make a quick buck without throwing on makeup every morning. I guess Ray Romano plays a decent woolly mammoth, but do your children care that Don Knotts played that computerized turkey in "Chicken Little?" Do they even know who he is?

As for the music, I'm fully aware by now that American kids know who Smash Mouth is. Every one of their lame Monkees and Beatles covers in "Shrek" are slapped on top of montages or jammed in between mindless action sequences because an executive thought the audience would lose interest despite the massive screen in their faces.

I guess it's not all bad. Maybe these films are duping children into adopting animals, only to have them find out their new stray Schnauzer will never yell "yo dawg!" in George Lopez's voice.

Out of this trend comes some real gems, too. "Finding Nemo" was funny without being obnoxious and "Kung Fu Panda" had a great visual style and thrilling fights. "Ratatouille" was nominated for a ton of awards and even took home an Oscar.

Also, to be fair, these films aren't aimed at me. My favorite Pixar film is "The Incredibles" followed closely by "Up" - two animated pictures that feature humans as main characters and create a cohesive world where things make contextual sense. Watching these, I'm never wondering why the humans never notice every animal in the zoo hula dancing.

So, as I try to calm down after this rant, I have hope that Pete Docter and Brad Bird of Pixar continue to do what they do best. And Dreamworks, leave those jabbering animals on the cutting room floor.

Contact Taylor Short at tshort@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7476.

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